Sacred Journeys: A Tibetan BlessingKim Elkington April 1, 2004
I was discussing with a friend the auspiciousness of the Spring Equinox having arrived with a New Moon on March 20th, as both of these events represent the seeding of new things, and connote strong creative opportunities for the coming year. As we know, spring is when the hours of light and darkness are in balance, and therefore symbolically, we are encouraged to reflect on the integration of the inner and outer world.
I am reading a book, Shadow Dance (Shambala, 1999), that addresses the “positive” shadow, which in psychological terms, is our life potential waiting to be activated. The author, David Richo, suggests that the positive shadow is two-fold, personal and collective. The personal, psychologically, is our healthy ego such as our gifts and talents. The collective level, spiritually speaking, is Self, and expressed in actions such as being true to our Buddha nature, our ability to heal ourselves and others for example. The book suggests ways of both identifying and liberating those qualities within oneself, as they are bursting to express themselves in the outer world, to bloom. As this is the season to “activate” I have decided to marry the ideas which are now percolating, a result of what I am reading, with those aspects of my potential I wish to seed and bring into the light this year. The fun part ahead is thinking of a creative way of expressing this birth while the moon is with us and the turning of the wheel supports us.
At the Vitality office I found a beautiful book Blessings On the Wind (Chronicle, 2002) about the prayer flags of Tibet. It is a striking book published as a fund raiser for Tibet House. Inside an inner compartment contains a prayer flag handmade in Nepal with symbols and words pressed on the coloured cotton from ink rolled on wood cuts. I immediately pulled the flag out and strung it in the air.
For years I had a photograph by my desk of Tibetan prayer flags draped on a piece of driftwood that faced a great mountain in the background. The location of the photograph was higher than the tree line and captured a plain, stone beach expanse, a silver white lake and grey mountain. This was a photograph of the wind brushing invisibly against the bare bones of the earth, and the prayer flags that recognized its power and presence. What better way to birth my future self than on the wind, and have my intentions carried to the highest peaks.
Tibetan flags have regrettably ended up on clothing in the west, but they are very powerful tools when respected and used properly. Tibetan prayer flags are filled with symbols and meaning that aspire to enlighten and instruct the five realms: water, earth, fire, air, space. As the universe is built from sound it is the tonal qualities of the words and symbols that is most important so the flags are dense with both. Each flag contains similar mythic symbols and mantras, but on different coloured cottons that send the information and prayers to their distinct realm. Yellow represents water; green with earth; red with fire; white with air; blue with limitless space (or mind).
The book contains instructions for a monk’s blessing of a prayer flag, which they suggest might be used by well-intentioned others. The elements that I can observe meaningfully follow: Cover your head, scatter white mustard seeds, and speak to the four directions with a mantra of your choice, three times in each direction. Visualize the elements drawn on the prayer flag appearing and then entering the flag. See the words or prayer flowing out of the flag written as gold dust that scatters on the wind in the four directions. Raise the flag. Say a prayer for the spirits, for the world and all the beings here, that all support the enlightenment of each one of us. Say your mantra three more times (the one you offered the four directions). Traditionally the ceremony ends with “May we all achieve the glory of virtue which will be just as white as a lily-like moon.” I like the idea of bringing the moon into it at the end, and that it has been said millions of times, and a song that the wind already loves.
My symbols will be meaningful to myself, rather than Tibetan. The four directions, stars, spirals and seeds becoming flowers or fruit will feature strongly, and words of intention, poems, lines from songs that bring additional tone to the words’ intent. Printed on fabric with pen, potato prints, paints and string, my flags will hang in the back yard apple tree, which will soon blossom and bear fruit.
Tibetans tend to burn their flags after a while, westerners like the romance of it being eaten away by the wind. It’s all fine. One important tradition to adhere to, is not letting your flag touch the ground, so that it can remain a sacred tool of the wind.
To contact the publisher of Blessings on the Wind, check their website at: www.chroniclebooks.com
To learn more about Tibet House, check www.tibethouse.org
Kim Elkington is the co-founder of The Algonquin Tea Co, a line of quality teas made from organic wildcrafted Canadian herbs. These days, Kim works with Local Sustainably Wild-picked Canadian herbs to make organic herbal, black, green and chai tea blends. Find these products online: www.wildcanadiantea.com, or www.algonquintea.com Email Kim at: firstname.lastname@example.org