Prayer flags are often called Lung-ta or Windhorse in Tibet and Nepal. One traditional prayer flag design has a windhorse in the centre and the Four Dignities (Lion, Tiger, Garuda, Dragon) in the four corners. As some of you will remember, after summiting Denali in 2005, I was still a bit restless and decided to return to Nepal and Tibet for an expedition called “Looking for Windhorse.” where I mountain biked from Lhasa to Kathmandu. It was a 1200 kilometre journey that crossed eight high mountain passes and gave me my first look at Mount Everest from the north side. It was on that trip that I decided to climb Mount Everest.
I recalled these events to a group of teachers this week when I spoke at their inservice. I decided to look back at the factors/experiences/situations/path in my life that brought me to a place where I could make such a momentous decision. My reflection led me to pictures of my family and all the outdoor activities we did together, to friends and mentors who encouraged me through rough times and to all of the teachers in my life who nurtured ALL of my intelligences (many of which I have needed in pursuit of the world’s highest places). I often say that when we are living our lives and working our work, we don’t often get to see the outcome of those efforts. I liken it to dropping pebbles in the pond and sending out ripples. On rare occasions those ripples hit the edge of the pond/puddle and come back to us and we get to see them. I wanted this group of teachers to know that they are doing very good work and that amidst their students may be the individual who discovers a cure for cancer, dives the deepest oceans, or pilots a rocket to Mars.
I’m not sure any of my teachers ever knew I would climb Mount Everest but their efforts and passion for their teaching was a gift I’m working hard to pay forward to those I teach. From Ms. Lecky who came early every morning in track and field season so I could practice my high jump (I hadn’t yet realized that my stature at 5’2″ would become a limiting feature in my high jump career-though I did work my way up to jumping my height) to Mr. Boyko who put up with the group of us who would kidnap his desk chair and take the wheels off to Mr. Hamilton who ran the outdoor pursuits club in my high school where I did my first rockclimbing to Ms. Freedman who showed no surprise when I showed up in surgeon’s scrubs for frog dissection in Grade Ten biology to Ms. Woycenko who received the pain-filled poetry of adolescence with care and gentleness to Mrs. Kennedy, my Grade Six Language Arts teacher, who nurtured my writing ability and who sold ten copies of my book to her friends last year, I am eternally grateful.
I got my second tattoo this week. The first was the Chinese character for courage. For this second dose of inspiration, I turned to Tibetan Buddhism and the Dignity of the Inscrutable Dragon. One explanation of the Dragon is offered by The View on Buddhism Website:
“The Dragon thunders in the sky with the sound of compassion that awakens us from delusion and increases what we can know through hearing. Dragons have the power of complete communication. Just as we do not see sound, we do not see dragons — at least not usually. Displaying a dragon banner is said to protect one from slander and enhances one’s reputation.”
Another view on the Dragon and the other Dignities is provided by Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche in a posting called Four Dignities That Bring Confidence into Everyday Life:
“The dragon’s confidence is prajna, deep wisdom based on knowing how things are. The dragon knows we’re always trying to project a concrete world onto a fluid process, mistaking our ever-changing experience for a self. Like the elements, this kind of wisdom doesn’t need to be propped up. It is a direct experience of reality, empty and ungraspable. As the wisdom of the dragon destroys our illusions, we begin to understand basic goodness, the unconditional purity and confidence of all. With this view, life itself becomes our source of energy, and the enlightened world begins to appear. The wish-fulfilling jewel of wisdom and compassion are liberated, and we can play in the blessing and magic of our everyday existence.”
My hope for 2011 is to cultivate my connection to Dragon energy and enjoy soaring high to/from a variety of high peaks/places…the climbing plan is still evolving. I’m looking for fund-raising ideas for Mount Vinson so please put on your creative thinking caps and send me your brilliant ideas for raising the $40,000 I need to climb Antarctica’s Highest Peak.
Have a good week,