Centering Amidst Sweeping Sands

By: qwerty53

Nov 13 2010

Category: Cahaba River Society, Drepung Loseling monastery, Sand Mandala, Uncategorized

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Aperture:f/5.6
Focal Length:116mm
ISO:800
Shutter:1/59 sec
Camera:NIKON D300S

It was a perfect fall day to see the Tibetan monks from the Drepung Loseling monastery in their colorful robes bless the waters of the Cahaba River with the sand from one of their famous sand mandalas created at the Alys Stephens Performing Arts Center,

The Cahaba River at the Grants Mill landing in Irondale received the ceremonial blessing and protection. “The Cahaba is especially in need of a blessing for a return to health,” said Beth Stewart, Executive Director of the Cahaba River Society.

Upon entering, I viewed the intricate red, green, blue, yellow and white mandala itself, but most unlike myself, did not take a close up photo. I emerged from the mandala lecture by Gala Rinpoche to realize that this is an event of interest to many people. And most of these people own cameras or recorders. And most of them were very proactive in positioning themselves for photo ops of the closing ceremony.

I found myself two rows behind a burly 6-foot+ guy with a huge backpack, monopod, full DSLR with flash attachment and Gary Fong diffuser. (Later I heard that was Beau Gustafson, aka ‘The Big Swede’  Birmingham photographer who told the lady near me that ‘he was working’ when she teasingly told him she should have seen better in front of him.) To the left was a photographer sitting very properly on his walkstool, whose gray head nonetheless was in the corner of almost every shot I was able to squeeze off.

To my right was a woman with a good quality video camera blocking my view whenever the guy with his camera phone on the left was not. The crowd was dense—no room to jockey for a better position—and no place to avoid the definitely  smelly odors that wafted through occasionally.

I reconciled myself to the fact that this was a competitive event for the viewers, something of a conundrum at a sacred ceremony that should not be afflicted with such energies. I focused on remaining centered, but allowed my eyes to roam & appreciate the diversity & interest of the crowd, while occasionally being able to actually see a part of the chanting, the instruments and the ceremonial way the mandala was dispersed.

A bright yellow flower blossom was placed in the center of the mandala. With his fingertips, a monk first swept from edge to center from north, south, east and west. Then four more times in between these areas. Then he began to make arcing sweeps that methodically touched every piece of sand and formed it into another circle swirl of dispersed colors.

This was the point I was really disappointed not to be able to photograph for myself in a more controlled manner. But I got over it.

So was I was there to learn patience? To learn it’s ok to accept there are things one can’t control and simply be?

Yes, and no doubt a few other things that will rise to the surface of my consciousness as time goes by.

Or not.

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