I look at my hands,
Nails ragged, and earthy
From planting tomatoes.
And I've been thinking again,
But not saying anything out loud …
About changing lives, changing places.

In my thoughts … I could cut my hair,
And change my name to Ani,
No, not Annie …
An ani is an ordained buddhist nun.
Yes, I know I've never said it,
But I've often contemplated
Leaving the endless cycle of Samsara
To follow the Dharma … the true path
To Nirvana. Peace of mind.

Selflessless … not self-cherishing -
No more 'But what about me?' -
Is the missing piece to the enduring puzzle
Of why life makes us suffer so.

I used to see them in Kathmandu,
Ani … walking the streets purposefully
In their magenta and orange robes,
Shaven heads making them mindful.
Worn-out Chinese tennis shoes
On their feet,
They looked happy, peaceful …
And I envied them their serene simplicity.
Living in the present, their days spent
Acquiring merit from alleviating the suffering
Of all sentient beings.
No daily beating themselves up like us,
About whether we're good enough,
Adequate, or perfect in the eyes of others.

What started this train of thought …? Well,
Just now, I felt remorse when my garden fork
Accidentally speared a snail
And the shell shattered.
There was a perfect creature,
Just being itself, knowing nothing else,
And my carelessness snuffed it out. Just like that.
It made me wonder if that small being
Would now be reborn as …
Something better, further up the ladder
To enlightenment.

Are lamas better than llamas?
I've always felt an affinity to both,
But I couldn't tell you why …
I just liked the sound of the word.
But then I look around me,
At the images on my walls.
And suddenly my inner eyes are opened.
They're mainly of buddhas … and some of angels …
Tibetan thangkas full of rinpoches and taras,
Lotus flowers, boddhisatvas, and iconographic mandalas.
And they're all serenely smiling,
At peace with themselves and the wheel of life.
And I think maybe I got the message
A long time ago,
But, ignoring it, I hung these images unknowingly,
Because the colours pleased me.

When I lived in Kathmandu -
It seems too long ago now -
I went to Bodhanath Stupa with a buddhist friend.
And I knelt before the Lama,
Wisdom and serenity personified,
Whose name I can't recall.
I presented him with a kata …
White ceremonial offering scarf …
And in return he blessed me,
Putting it back round my neck,
And he gave me a sacred string
To protect me always.
It's 21 years old, and I've always kept it close.
But perhaps the power is dormant …
Because I don't feel safe now.
And he gave me a Buddhist name
Which I still bear, but I've forgotten it …
Redundant, like so many other things.
And I gave nothing back to him. What could I give?
And somehow back in England, the feeling wasn't right.
And life continued its crazy dance …
Mainly a downwards spiral.

So, now ... I put on 'Be Not Nobody',
And I think about all my pretty babies.
And I wonder how they would cope without me
If I just upped and left.
Ironically, they'd think it selfish
If I were to leave them to be selfless.
And if you knew me you'd think it impossible,
That I could relinquish this world.
But I need to retreat … more than ever it feels,
From these endless cycles of pain
That keep repeating themselves.

Samsara. Dharma. Nirvana.

So, I take the coward's way out and go back to the garden,
Putting it all out of my mind for another day.
And I plant some courgettes, (that's zucchini to you),
And I try not to kill any more snails.

But later, I am curious.
I want to remember my name.
I go to the locked desk drawers
That contain my buried past.
I sift through the paper that chronicles my life,
And eventually I find it.
It says: Karma Drolma Sangmo
Which means Karma Excellent Tara The Female,
Whatever that means …
And it's signed:
Cho Kyi Nyima Tulku Rinpoche
19th January 1984, Kathmandu, Nepal.
And I take the white kata out of its envelope
And my fingers caress the sacred string …
And I think back to that year
When I felt I was closest to heaven.