Sunday, 3 April 2016

Tibetan Images

"Tibetan Mother with Child", drawing by Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2016

As are many people in the West, I am fascinated by the mystery that once was Tibet with its unique religious traditions, inaccessible mountain heights and beautiful, ancient temples filled with orange-robbed monks. Sadly, much of this culture is now destroyed since the invasion of the Chinese with their Communist ideology which does not easily tolerate ancient traditions and religious inclinations.

Tibetan woman shepherding yak herd
(source: Image by © (C) Zhang Jiang Tao / 

Still, there are vestiges left, I understand, out in the country-side where the prayer flags still snap in the cold winds off the mountains. This is the sentiment I am trying to express in today's first featured drawing.  The mother is dressed as Tibetan women have dressed for eons and her child is being carried in the traditional way.  As she walks the steep fields, the mountains are ever in her sight and the winds carry the sounds of flapping prayer flags and the tinkle of the bells worn by the yaks the woman is shepherding.

Tibet is a region on the Tibetan Plateau in Asia. It is the traditional homeland of the Tibetan people as well as some other ethnic groups. Tibet is the highest region on Earth, with an average elevation of 4,900 metres (16,000 ft). The highest elevation in Tibet is Mount Everest, earth's highest mountain, rising 8,848 m (29,029 ft) above sea level. 

Tibetan Sand Painting

"Mandala -- Tibetan Sand Painting", drawing by Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2016

"Tibetan representations of art are intrinsically bound with Tibetan Buddhism and commonly depict deities or variations of Buddha in various forms from bronze Buddhist statues and shrines, to highly colorful paintings and mandalas."

My drawing, above, is a very simple representation of a type of mandala that could have been created by Buddhist monks using coloured sands as their medium. Normally, however, traditional Tibetan Buddhist sand paintings picture much more complex designs filled with religious symbolism (see photo below). 

Tibetan monks applying sand during the
creation of a meditation mandala
The creation of a sand mandala follows traditional guidelines. 

First, various coloured sands are carefully placed on a large, flat table. Then the ceremony begins with the lamas (Tibetan Buddhist priests) consecrating the site and calling forth the forces of goodness. They chant, declare intention, do visualizations, play music, recite mantras, etc. After this, the lamas begin drawing an outline of the mandala to be sand painted on a wooden platform. 

The following days see the laying of the coloured sands. This is effected by pouring the sand from traditional metal funnels called a chak-pur. Each monk holds a chak-pur in one hand while running a metal rod on its serrated surface with the other hand. The vibration from this action causes the sands to flow like liquid. The finished mandala is formed of traditional, prescribed iconography that includes geometric shapes and a multitude of ancient spiritual symbols. The sand-painted mandala is used as a meditation tool or as an instrument for innumerable purposes such as social/cosmic healing of the environment. 

The destruction of the mandala after
the meditation is finished. 

(Source: )
Once the meditation is complete, the image is ceremoniously destroyed (see photo at left). The sand is then collected in a jar which is wrapped in silk and transported to a river (or any place with moving water), where it is released back into nature. While the destruction of such beauty seems strange to those in our culture, it is done as a teaching tool and metaphor for the "impermanence" of all things -- part of the teachings of the Tibetan Buddhist culture. 

Portions of the above were taken from Wikipedia and other Internet sources.


Everlastingly hopeful, Suki waits, each
morning, by the front door ... seeking
the answer to her burning question:
"Will Joycelyn be coming back today?"
It's a good thing that I am not an overly-possessive type person or I might be beginning to feel just a bit jealous right about now.  I mean, after all, I am the one who has fed, cared for and cleaned up after this cat for the past six years and here she is acting as though she is the loneliest cat in the world just because her playmate is on holiday!

Fortunately, I understand that what Suki is feeling (and how Suki is behaving because of those feelings) is not personal.  In other words, she is not acting this way because she wants to hurt me or doesn't like me -- she is acting in this manner because she has an addiction.

That's right -- you read the above correctly -- an addiction.  If she was a human person, I would be trying to get her to attend AA type meetings about now.  Sadly, I am pretty certain that there are no RDAA (Red Dot Addicts Anonymous) meetings for cats!

In all seriousness, I have become convinced that the coloured dot of light created by a laser pointer somehow affects the brains of certain cats -- affects it so much that these cats actually become "addicted" -- meaning that they actually crave to have the constant brain stimulation created by that bit of coloured light.  

I mean, here is poor Suki who, until a few months ago, had never even seen a laser pointer. Yet, from the very first time Joycelyn shone that red dot on the floor, Suki became obsessed with it.

Think about it... in one way or another, Suki has begged for that red dot every single day since that first day.  Her begging has mainly taken the form of waiting and watching every day in the hope that Joycelyn will suddenly appear.  Why is this?  Because Joycelyn is the one who makes the red dot happen. 

I mean, I have never known of anything else which captured Suki's attention in this way.  Even on the rare occasion when she finds a fly that has gotten into the apartment through the balcony door, she remains interested for only a limited amount of time.  She may chase the fly for a while, but then gives up and takes a nap.

On the other hand, I have never seen Suki lose interest in the red dot. Even when her joints are hurting so much that she simply cannot run anymore, she is quite happy to lie on the floor watching the red dot move back and forth in front of her.  Nor does she ever give any indication that she wants the red dot to go away so that she can eat or take a nap.

One of the career paths I have always thought would have been exciting is that of a research scientist.  Had I chosen that path, I am sure I would be able to set up the parameters for a research project on whether that red dot of the laser pointer actually has any lasting effect on the brains of cats and other mammals, including humans. Oh, and just so you know, I would find a way to do the research so that no cats or other creatures would be harmed in the process. Ah, well, that's enough daydreaming for one posting. 

As for me, I had two medical appointments this past week. The first appointment was with one of the pain specialists. Fortunately, at the moment, the pain situation is not too bad -- so long as I take plenty of opioid and neuropathic pain medications and don't move around too much, that is!

Then, once I finished there, I went over to the respirology unit where I had my semi-annual breathing test (I won't have to do another one now until early October). Unfortunately, the doctor was not pleased with the results which were about 5% lower than previous tests.  If my next one is the same or worse, he is threatening to change my puffer regimen to the really serious stuff. Yuck.  I really dislike having to use those things at all even if they do help a person breathe more easily.

I have one appointment this coming week, but it is just a follow-up so it should be easy. As well, a dear friend is stopping by for a visit. 

Speaking of friends and visitors, I was honoured by the unexpected visit this past week from a very dear friend.  Why do I say that I was honoured? Because even though she is unwell and suffers from chronic pain and dizziness, she made that long trip into the City, using public transit, to visit with me. I know what a trip like that would cost me in pain and suffering and so I am honoured by my friend's generous spirit. 



"Icon -- St. Thomas Encounters the Risen Christ", by the hand of
Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, rev. 2016

A portion of today's Gospel:
... Thomas, called Didymus, one of the Twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples said to him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands and put my finger into the nail-marks and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.” Now a week later his disciples were again inside and Thomas was with them. Jesus came, although the doors were locked, and stood in their midst and said, “Peace be with you.” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands, and bring your hand and put it into my side, and do not be unbelieving, but believe.” Thomas answered and said to him, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus said to him, “Have you come to believe because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.”  John 20:24-29

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