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Jul 20
Featured Stories, Mountain States
All Gifts Are Bittersweet in the End

On behalf of everyone, we offer to everyone.

On behalf of everyone, we offer to everyone.

Lois Lungta shares her experience of offering at the first annual Great Mandala Offering Day, as part of the column Tracking Jewels

Stepping outside after the Great Mandala Offering, a mantra I was whispering was interrupted by shock as a high-altitude sun blazed 98 degrees straight into my pores. But the pleasures of Boulder soon took over as I wandered in the shade through endless rows of artisans displaying their crafts along Pearl Street.

Now, having had two days to live with the profound effects of Saturday’s Great Mandala Offering, I can surely say, “What a practice.” The hours flew by as we delved deeper and deeper into our experience of offering. With body, speech, and mind thoroughly engaged, I found myself contemplating how my life is joined with the heart of the lineage.

As someone who’s lived in seven cities and three countries in the last twelve years, I felt and offered the abundance of the experiences I’ve accumulated: Hippy-town Boulder and the wisdom of alternative living; milk and honey kindness of everyone in Salt Lake City; Philadelphia’s Quaker peace and rootedness; the slower pace and sheer beauty of Vancouver cultivating appreciation itself; the historical influences in London constantly inspiring me; the opulence of Dallas teaching me to shop consignment; and the intense speed and vibrancy of humanity in Manhattan bringing a sense of humor as I witnessed the human race do its crazy thing.

The hand that gives.

The hand that gives.

Offering this lifetime of experience, memories came back in vivid display. What was engaging and fascinating was that while they were occurring, these moments had a definite quality – joy, anger, sadness, etc – which I recalled from my cushion. But as I followed the thread through time, inevitably the memories grew bittersweet and then a profound combination of sad and happy.

Having just adopted a new cat, my mind flitted over all the little meowing fuzzballs that have come and gone. There have been three, but I’ll tell you about my first cat, Ms. Kitto, and the way she thrilled me when I was three years old and tucked into bed, squealing with pleasure as the pouncing, biting, clawing kitten attacked my toes in an endless game.

Then I thought of the two litters of kittens Ms. Kitto had a few years later, and how each time I had followed those first mews to find the naked, pink newborns nursing in a hidden corner of our basement. Both times, I was the first human they encountered.

As I offered and appreciated everything about Ms. Kitto, the thread eventually led me to the morning she died when I had abandoned all preparations for a grad school presentation to tell her of my love through the phone and then send her on her way. I talked to her for only a minute or so before she died — the 21-year-old wonder cat had waited for me to be with her so that she could finally let go of our life together.

Oh yes, tears flowed on the cushion and I’m practically sobbing now, but what I’m trying to show is that nothing is more precious than this bittersweet quality of life and death, gain and loss. At the end of the Great Mandala Offering Day, I contemplated how this itself is what brings us richness, that even makes appreciation possible. Oh, how I loved Ms. Kitto and the great times we had together. But, in my mind, the moment of her death is just as precious.

As I write, I feel my new companion, Kiteya, rubbing the length of her little body against my shins. We have the thrill of getting to know each other now, and one day I will send her on her way. After the day of offering, I can appreciate the entirety of this relationship as a gift of life and rejoice that the bittersweetness is, in fact, a gift of the lineage. My very relationship with Kiteya belongs to them.

The hand that receives.

The hand that receives.

love that these experiences, with cats and in all those cities, has never belonged to me. That this very life is not mine. I love that while I never know what form the lineages’ blessings will take, the adventure that results is worth all the confusion along the way.

After Great Mandala Day ended and I went home, I spent a very hot and lonely weekend in a new – mostly bare – apartment. Three weeks into a new job, I have returned to the Littleton, the town in which I was born. The effect of offering was an intense, almost unbearable weariness. For the last decade, I have been crossing national and state boundaries, accumulating experience in life, work, and relationships. Now I’m tired. Have I come home at last?

As I suffer the heat of high-altitude summer, I remind myself that this was the intense sun I was born beneath: under which I raced through sprinklers and ate popsicles. Its rays have always inspired me to drive playfully with the windows down and music blasting people at stoplights.

On Saturday, as I offered my new job, apartment, car, and cat I found myself asking for a particular kind of blessing. Stability. And on Sunday, as I grieved the way circumstances seem to suddenly uproot and move me over and over again, I recalled the way I landed back in Colorado. I moved here for job working in the mandala, even though it was for a short period. Having long ago offered my career in book publishing up to the lineage — and now having spent a day offering my life and everything in it — in the midst of my Sunday weariness I straightened my shoulders in faith. Reaching for some colored sharpies, I spent the rest of the day drawing and coloring White Tara while wondering what the lineage has in store for me now.

large paper bag, sharpies, and highlighters.

Inspired, but untrained, image of White Tara. Medium: large paper bag, sharpies, and highlighters.

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