By Carly Sciacca
Last Mother’s Day Sunday, Geshe Lopsang Tseten, an esteemed Tibetan monk traveling from India, visited the South Laguna Community Garden Park as one of three stops on his 48-hour visit to Laguna Beach. It was the third time that Tibetan monks had visited the Garden Park to chant and offer blessings.
When I first saw Geshe Lopsang, he was taking a video of the garden with his phone, focusing on the bright flowers. He greeted me with an open smile and an egalitarian handshake and welcomed the visitors who gathered to see him, setting everyone at ease. He was to lead a walking meditation and a chant. Geshe Lopsang paused, looking over the lower slopes in full bloom and said that he wanted to talk about how the beauty of the flowers inspires our “flowers within.” He said the Buddha always sits on a flower because it represents enlightenment; the lotus depends on the mud of pain and suffering to produce the most beautiful flower.
People gathered around the stage as Geshe Lopsang welcomed the crowd and lovingly dedicated his talk, meditation and chant to his own mother. He explained the practice of walking meditation and its usefulness as a way to remain in the present moment. Rhythmic, precise bilateral stimulation calms the system and urges one to slow down and focus.
He rose and began his careful circumnavigation, and the crowd followed behind. I found myself directly behind the monk and began to mirror his steps, slowly and softly gently touching the earth with each step. I noticed after time that this precise, intentional movement is much more difficult than the rushed, often sloppy walking we are accustomed to.
As we passed by the 52 garden boxes maintained by families or groups of friends that I and a handful of other volunteers are responsible for, I began to realize that this was a wonderful Mother’s Day gift, to have the permission to appreciate each gardener’s work, to be able to marvel at the emerging seedlings and admire the flowers and thoughtful decorations in each box. It’s a gift we should give ourselves more regularly, this permission to slow down and calm the mind.
Afterward, he spoke about the importance of teaching students how to be responsible and kind citizens of the world, stating that this is the key to ending school shootings and damaging our environment. If we change our priorities, we can change the world. Geshe Lopsang believes this so deeply he has devoted himself to creating the Zanskar Girls School, which aims to educate women who he sees as the key to a better future.
He ended his visit with the chanting of the Green Tara mantra from memory, the same that the Dalai Lama instructed his followers to recite for protection during the turmoil of the last few years. The sound was beautifully rhythmic, at times guttural, and at times bright.
He addressed the crowd once more and answered questions before he settled at one of the picnic tables. I was happy when he said that the Garden had inspired him to make a garden at his school, high in the Himalayas. He asked me for advice on which flowers would grow best, and I promised to conduct some research and come up with a plan. Unfortunately, the mail is not reliable, and I most likely won’t be able to send seeds.
To visit the Zanskar Valley, one must fly 30 hours to Leh, then drive 26 hours to Kargill on a road closed five months of the year due to weather conditions. The terrain is craggy and somewhat barren, and flowers are scarce, making one appreciate them even more.
Geshe Lopsang went immediately from the Garden to the airport to start his long journey home but promised that we would meet again. It was a wonderful gift to have the work of so many volunteers acknowledged by a person of such wisdom and importance.
For more information, please visit www.deeprootshimilayan.org
Carly Sciacca is a Laguna native and currently lives in South Laguna with her husband and daughter. She is a visual artist, writer, and assistant manager at the South Laguna Community Garden Park where she has volunteered for 13 years.