Firstly I would like to start with a picture that I was sent by Adam’s wife, Kim. Adam took several pictures and forwarded them as the trip progressed to share his experience. I am extremely grateful and honored to be able to share them with you:

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On one of our first nights at Dolma Ling, the nuns performed a butter lamp lighting of one thousand butter lamps. They spent a long time in the preparation and arrangement of the lamps, and then it took a surprising amount of time to light all of the lamps. We were able to help with the lighting, and we were also able to give names of those we’d like to send blessings to. I wrote down the names of my parents. Later, the same names were used in the Tara puja which we were also extremely blessed to be able to attend. Adam stayed for a long time, as a couple of us did, reveling in the beautiful smell of incense (it was dipped in melted wax and then used to light the lamps) and the welcoming glow of the light as its myriad reflections multiplied over and over in the windows. Soon it grew very dark outside, and still the nuns tended the burning lamps. I watched in fascination at the flickering ocean of light. It was one of the most beautiful things I have seen. Coupled with the peaceful and gentle faces of the nuns caressed in the golden glow–I think I could have stayed there, right there, forever..

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I took this on my phone. My freshly shaved head. I felt numb as they did it, but afterwards I was strangely ashamed. I felt as though no one (except Maggie–who gave me a present of a beautiful mala as a ‘rebirth’ gift) truly understood. As I sat with the door locked in my room, I quietly pulled the covers over my head and sobbed. I was crying for me. I was crying for the little girl I had been. I was crying for the pain I caused everyone, the pain I caused myself. I was crying, finally, as a release. It was strange, because I had wanted this release so much. I had wanted to be set free–I just wasn’t ready for the initial lack of feeling, only to be replaced with a sudden urgency. I was repugnant. Or so I felt. Every emotion coursed through me, tearing me apart. There was no going back now… I was, essentially, bald.

Eventually I plucked up the courage to go and investigate dinner. I wore a bandanna and a hat. I felt extremely vulnerable and as though I could be struck down with a single glance or word. I was bare. I had nowhere to hide. I was bereft of my old identity and had to suddenly create a new one. No longer could I rely on the ‘me’ I had been before. Now I would have to (quickly) reinvent a persona to uphold a startling lack of hair. Nervously, I walked into the dining room. I almost immediately walked out. The chatter was too much. The people were too much. I felt like I was naked, breasts dangling perilously close to the table… I almost tripped I ran out in so much haste.

Later, we had another movie night and this time it was movies made about Dolma Ling itself, including one of the inauguration. I was one of the first there, soon followed by Maggie and Adam who came and sat close to me. I felt better then, as though perhaps they at least, understood. Adam looked at me and cleared his throat several times. Suddenly he spoke and his deep voice shocked me out of my melancholy state; “You were beautiful before,” He said. “You’re still beautiful. I wish someone had said those words to me sometimes, so I understand how it hurts to feel no one can see.” I couldn’t help it. The tears flowed. I smiled despite it and said thank you. I couldn’t believe that out of our group of nine, only two people actually understood and offered any kind of words at all.

The next day I wore only a hat and even then I took it off in the car. It’s amazing how one or two small gestures can make all the difference to someone who is confused and feeling lost and alone. I’m glad Adam is here… his love for his wife coupled with his obvious gentle and caring nature is such an offset to the sometimes bitchy and aggressive nature of some of the women.

At least one thing is clear; I really AM glad that I shaved my head. The next step is my own fire puja with my hair and the incinerator…

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