Community Healing: The Monks Are Coming!

 

 

Expect the Extraordinary. The monks arrived November 1st to create a Medicine Buddha of Healing Sand Mandala

Tibetan Monks Create a Healing Sand Mandala for our Community.  Mandala, the Sanskrit word for circle, is a symbol of balance, wholeness and unity. They have been created for over 2,500 years as meditational tool that when contemplated, lead to self-awareness, insight and peace.  Sand Mandalas are created out of millions of grains of beautifully colored sand.

A Video Captures Our Story

Our community needed healing.  Three weeks before the Tibetan monks were to arrive from the Drepung Loseling Monastery, our city was devastated by a”100 year flood.”  Extremely heavy rains caused our rivers to overflow, which caused many dams to break, which caused huge devastation throughout our community.  Homes were destroyed. Our water supply was compromised. Our roads collapsed.  It was catastrophic. Our community pulled together to support one another but the damage will take years to repair.

The monks arrived November 1st to create a Medicine Buddha of Healing Sand Mandala in honor our 20th anniversary. We were paying tribute to the courageous cancer survivors who had participated in our offerings. Midway through the week, Bill Grant of Cinema Couture Film wandered into Vista Studios/Gallery 80808 during his lunch break.  He was beyond surprised to find a crowd gathered around a couple of Tibetan monks who were creating a sand mandala.  WHAT?   He was so “wowed” by what he saw, he asked if he could quickly put together a video story for us.  YES!

 

Holly McGee did an hour long interview on her radio show. Great PR. Thanks Holly.

Holly McGee did an hour long interview with me on her radio show. Great PR. Thanks Holly.

But wait, I am getting ahead of myself.  It had been months of planning and fundraising and logistical details to nail down. We had lots of support from our community!  Baker and Baker, Lexington Medical Center, Blue Moon Pet Sitters, White Rose Artisans all pitched in. The newly opening Hyatt Place, right next door to the studio, gave us a terrific rate so now the monks could walk to “work.”  Our local health food establishment, Rosewood Market, donated lunches for the monks. One of our community sponsors, The South Carolina Dharma Group, provided them with scrumptious dinners. We received lots of publicity and now I could not wait for arrival day!

 

Welcome Arrival

IMG_2174

Bumper Sticker on the backside of the monks trailer sums it up nicely – Loving Kindness is My Religion.

 

Drizzly rain welcomed the monks who were driving in from another “gig” in New York.  Standing in the street in front of the Hyatt Place parking lot, I was thankful the driver for the monks had a cell phone.  He had gotten a bit turned around.  A large van pulling a trailer behind it passed by me.  The bumper sticker LOVING KINDNESS IS MY RELIGION on its backside gave them away.  Delighted, I ran into the street waving them down.

Tibetan monks unload mandala supplies.

There was much discussion over which boxes were to stay.

 

 

A dozen or so red robed monks hopped out of the van, excitedly chatting together as they swooped toward the back of the trailer.  As they unloaded boxes, I was introduced to the two monks that would be staying with us.  Since neither one spoke English, I was given a phone number in case emergency translation was needed.

 

Setting Up

Beautiful table sand mandala we borrow from the Charleston Tibetan Society .

Beautiful table sand mandala we borrow from the Charleston Tibetan Society .

 

As the monks entered Vista Studios/Gallery 80808, they were clearly pleased with our exhibition and the Mystical Arts of Tibet photographs.   After a few minutes, there was a serious conversation that occurred around the mandala table.   The monks leaned on the table.  They shook the table and their heads.  After much hand gesturing, I realized that the table was not sturdy enough.

We took the table apart and just used the flat "chalk" board top.

We took the table apart and just used the flat “chalk” board top.

Fortunately, David Yaghjian was working in his studio, over heard us and came to our rescue.  No, he does not speak Tibetan but he had some ideas on how to make the table sturdier.  After about 30 minutes of this and that, David rolled his metal flat files out.  We dismantled the tabletop and secured the flat chalk board surface to the top of the flat files. Problem solved.

 

Jason's Deli had some delicious soups and noodle bowls.

Jason’s Deli had some delicious soups and noodle bowls that they enjoyed throughout the week.

 

That ordeal worked up a fierce hunger so we walked around the corner to pick up some lunch.  While we were waiting for our order, I wondered if I dared to ask if I could take a “groupie.”  Would that is disrespectful?  We had just met and since we could only communicate through facial expressions and hand gestures, I was hesitant.  I wanted to share a step by step of this experience with our community so I decided what the heck.  My intentions were good and they were delighted.

 

Beautiful sand mandala supplies

Beautiful sand mandala supplies

 

 

After lunch arrived, we walked back to the hotel and I checked them into the hotel. The mandala table was set and we were ready for our opening ceremony the next morning.

 

 

The Tibetan monks are ready to begin our community mandala.

After a good night sleep, they are ready to begin.

Opening ceremony for our community

Deep guttural sacred chants surrounded the opening ceremony for our community.

The chalk lines for the Healing Medicine Buddha are drawn

The chalk lines for the Healing Medicine Buddha are drawn.

Drawn from memory, the creation of the mandala outline takes most of the day.

Drawn from memory, the creation of the mandala outline took most of the day.

The first grains of sands are placed in the center of the mandala.

The first grains of sands are placed in the center of the mandala.

Members of our community drop in all day long to watch the mandala grow.

Members of our community drop in all day long to watch the mandala grow.  The deep prayerful concentration was awe inspiring.

Monks continue to create mandala

“The experience of watching the monks as they worked and the energy they brought help me to find a calmness and peace of mind at a very difficult time for me as I was undergoing chemotherapy for ovarian cancer. During this time I also found a new direction in my life that I am hopeful to journey on in this New Year as I move from cancer patient to cancer survivor.”  Sandra Spears – from a posting on our FaceBook Page.

A group of drawing students from The University of South Carolina spend an afternoon sketching the Monks

A group of drawing students from The University of South Carolina spend an afternoon sketching the Monks.

Tibetan monks continue to create sand mandala for our community.

“Energy… The beauty in it’s movement…. And it’s stillness.  The healing that comes from using that energy… In being patient and mindful.”  Rachel Taylor from our FaceBook Page.

Completed Mandala

” It was an experience of tranquility and mindfulness, as well as extraordinary beauty. There was love there too, which the monks reflected out to those of us keeping them company as they did their work so patiently and cheerfully.” from Yolanda Cardenes Ganong from our FaceBook Page.

Closing ceremony for our community sand mandala

The time has come. Our community gathers for the closing ceremony.

Closing ceremony for our community sand mandala.

Blessings, prayers and gratitude. I am humbled to be blessed in this ceremony, along with two of my “right-hand women” – Christy Clonts and Claudia Smith Brinson.

The first "sweeping" gesture is made.

The first “sweeping” gesture is made.  Profound experiencing of non-attachment and the impermanence of life. Thank you Stephen Chesley for this beautiful photograph.

Sand mandala sweeping

A week’s worth of prayerful intentions of healing loving kindness are swept together…

Afterwards, our community lines up to receive a small bag of the blessed sand to take home.

Afterwards, our community lines up to receive a small bag of the blessed sand to take home.

After short car ride and we gather on the banks of the Congaree river to offer our closing prayers...

After short car ride and we gather on the banks of the Congaree river to offer our closing prayers…

The sands of the mandala are poured into the flowing waters where their healing energies are carried throughout the world.

The sands of the mandala are poured into the flowing waters where their healing energies are carried throughout the world.

The rains had stopped for our ceremony. Filled with a light spirit and a renewed heart, we all knew we were really, really going to miss "our Monks."

The rains had stopped for our ceremony. Filled with a light spirit and a renewed heart, we all knew this was a bittersweet time.  Next week, our community was  really, really going to miss “our Monks.”

Susan Lentz, one of the 13 artists at Vista Studios/Gallery 80808 created this wonderful video of the “sweeping” on the mandala sands.

This remarkable experience helped bring our community closer together.  Everyone who attended felt an incredible sense of UNITY.

What did witnessing this Tibetan Tradition inspired in you? Share a word or two with us all.

2 Comments

  1. Linda DeLeonardis on December 18, 2015 at 3:07 pm

    What a wonderful experience this was, not just for the cancer survivors, but for the community as well!
    Each day as the monks were carefully working on the healing sand mandala there were people from all walks of life quietly observing and feeling the calmness of the monk’s process. Some would leave and return later only to be in awe as they saw the mandala blossom. School children were able to experience and learn of a new culture. Columbia was greatly enriched by Heidi Darr-Hope’s exhibit.

  2. Heidi Darr-Hope on December 20, 2015 at 3:45 pm

    Thanks for your comments Linda! Our community was truly touched by this experience. I have had many people ask if we were going to bring them back next year.

Leave a Comment