top of page

A RETREAT IN JHAMTSE GATSAL

GENESIS

Three years have passed since Losar 2021*.


February 2021, my first meeting with the American board of JHAMTSE GATSAL* convinces me to found a new association. 

ELOVUTION**, sistership of Couleurs du Coeur is born on April 7, 2021.

Its story is presented here: https://www.elovution.org/about


Three years of regular co-creative exchanges with the directors of JHAMTSE GATSAL make it possible to consider the best way to promote the benefits of Art within the Community, a vision based on my experience on accompaniment in Art therapy, as a facilitator and a trainer and from my daily commitment as an artist and meditator.

With Mr Lobsang Phuntsok (GenLa), founder of Jhamtse Gatsal Children's Community during a meeting in Talloires (74), France, summer 23. | Photo © Wanchoo, 2023


From this collaboration is born a solid friendship; since then, my respect for the American NGO and the work accomplished at the Community never stops deepening.


JHAMTSE GATSAL located in an extremely remote area on the borders of eastern India, Bhutan and ancient Tibet, is a sensitive and vulnerable place. Its doors have to remain closed during the delicate Covid years.



My joy is indescribable when, at the end of 2023, the American board of directors proposes to me to set up a “Reconnaissance Trip”.


The first chapter of a global proposal, this “initiatory” trip aims to allow me to precisely understand the ethnocultural specificities of the location, and the needs of their teams and children with a view to being able to write a training program about “Art as an Empowerement” in the most appropriate way.

Presenting my art-therapeutic practice is of course at the heart of my vision.


With the Reconnaissance trip, three years of diligent work and development are finally taking shape in reality. Visas, flights, fundraising, purchase of equipment, logistical organization... everything goes very quickly, driven by my unlimited enthusiasm, and the generosity of friends and ELOVUTION sponsors.


With the members of the board of Jhamtse Gatsal, Annecy (74), France, summer 2023 | Photo © Jhamtse



*Losar is the Tibetan Lunar New Year




 

DECONSTRUCTION

?

Everything is almost set up. It seems to me...


I attribute the blind spots that subsequently appear to the meeting of French, American and Tibetan cultural biases and to my natural inclination of always wanting to understand and anticipate. But as my departure approaches, the discomfort of this nebulous dynamic, reinforced by my perfectionism is turning into firm concern.


D - 12: I insist with the American management to have confirmation of the schedule, and adjust the quantity of supplies to take.


I am given this response: “Caroline, nothing will be organized until we are there. Nothing can be confirmed to you. This will happen. Or not."


From my point of view, the project collapses on itself: Three years of work are reduced to a question mark.


A thousand interrogations compete for the forefront of my thoughts for ten nights, ten days. Should I cancel, reimburse the raising of private funds, postpone, allocate the budget to another NGO willing to welcome the project in Nepal…? Where have I gone wrong?


Knocked out. I do not tell anyone about anything.



Fourty eight hours before departure, despite the loss of meaning, the cost and the effort, I finally decide to leave but my heart is no longer beating. Immense disappointment and resignation weigh the heaviest in my luggages.




 

NOT-KNOWING

"Letting go of fixed ideas about yourself, others, and the universe."


Not knowing”, this is the first of the three tenets* of ZEN PEACEMAKERS INTERNATIONAL (Z.P.I.), a movement of American origin of which I am a part of and to which ELOVUTION is today affiliated **


A fervent admirer of Bernie Glassman, founder of Z.P.I. whose work in Buddhist social action daily inspires my call to serve the world, I contemplate this "Not knowing" tenet in the urgency of departure.


Not knowing, therefore, abandoning all expectations... and I do have many aspirations... starting by presenting the benefits of Art to teams, exchanging with them and offering workshops to adults and children alike.



Stepping back, deactivating my dreams... I work hard to rid my mind of its fixations starting by setting aside my project; this posture becomes the only valid passport to a whole, open and creative experience.


At the end of the four days of travel between Saint-Malo and Tawang, my state of mind is freed from the squeezing noose of a forecasted fiasco. The novel born from my frustration is reduced to a blank chapter and I become very curious to see it written without any more plan or summary.


--

*The 3 tenets of ZEN PEACEMAKERS: https://zenpeacemakers.org/the-three-tenets/

**ZEN PEACEMAKERS likes ELOVUTION: https://zenpeacemakers.org/projects/elovution/




— LET IT BE


JHAMTSE GATSAL is developing a "Hosting training section". It is a practical extension of all the loving kindness that the Community shows towards each of its residents, and its guests in particular, on a daily basis.


Our arrival is overwhelming, marked by the warm welcome from GenLa*, the dance of the Snow Lions and the adorable tintinnabula of little children's voices offering “Tashi Delek” by the hundreds.


Right away, I have to learn to let myself be served, which means entering a completely new and unknown space. It is about accepting that I would be taken care of, absolutely, without being able to engage in an exchange: there is no question of getting up to bring back a dirty fork to the kitchen or bring the thermos of filtered water back to my room. Someone would do it for me, with his heart wide open and smiling.

This immediately reactivates the general feeling of impotence that I have tried to put aside: that of not being able to help, interact, be part of the dynamic of the mandala, (... and in particular to draw with the children).


My aspirations crystallize anew, revitalizing the discomfort arisen from abandoning the familiar.


One freezing night however gets the better of my resistances.



At the third dawn, I wake up shivering from the cold and am immediately overcome with infinite gratitude for the hot water discreetly placed the previous day on the table in my room. I look for a long time at the dance of the reflections that the low sun make on the stainless steel, before preparing myself a black tea, with the same meditative attention as for a Japanese ceremony.


The Community is not yet awake and my needs are anticipated, with all the possible loving kindness given from little hands at the service, so that I can feel good and fully welcomed.


In the kitchen, the fairies were watching over to protect me
from a severe allergy | Photo © Maby, 2024


The energies of love, compassion and joy of the residents of JHAMTSE spontaneously soothe the wounds of the soul. Unbecoming heals.


--

*Mr Gen Lobsang Phuntsok La is the founder of the Community: https://jhamtsegatsal.org/about-us/lobsangphuntsok




— TRAIN YOUR MIND


My body rejoices in the miracles of the kitchen, my emotions tune in to the loving kindness radiating from every point of the Community. I discover that we will be intellectually fed too, within the framework of a completely formal Buddhist retreat: GenLa offers on site five days of teaching to its teams and his Western guests on the famous text of Tibetan Master Langri Tangpa.

From what I know about the “Eight Verses of Training the Mind”, I also have to forget everything.


If the entire system - or ecology - of JHAMTSE GATSAL is inspired by Nature, this classical transmission is another one of its founding pillars. I have already studied it according to a very traditional approach.

Genla is revisiting it here with crazy modernity and a lot of humor.


This journey in eight steps, illustrated with visual and mnemonic parables, truly allows me to understand the dynamics at play in the unique paradigm that is JHAMTSE.


Embracing pratītyasamutpāda, humility and gratitude, Tonglen, the Four immeasurables and Loving action... GenLa puts the concepts of this Lojong* into social, economic, entrepreneurial, artistic and ecological new perspectives. 

These become proposals for a concrete and resolutely contemporary practices for the sake of all sentient beings, starting with our loved ones and ourselves on a daily basis.


Mr Lobsang Phuntsok, teaching | Photo © Maby, 2024



Beyond that, this re-reading of the Eight Verses proposed by Genla appears to me to be a profoundly inspiring manifesto to "transpose" JHAMTSE's vision into our own worlds... for my part: Western, French, Breton, Malouin**, and more precisely in what concerns the future of ELOVUTION and the meaning of my Art practice at the studio.


--

*Lojong: Mind training in Tibétain

**Malouin: From Saint-Malo, city in Brittany where I live




 

BEARING WITNESS

" Bearing Witness: to the joy and suffering of the world " (second tenet of ZEN PEACEMAKERS).




— HOLI PUJA*


Full moon in March, night falls early on the edge of the Himalayas. A large fire crackles in the courtyard and the bundled up children gather around, smiling. All of us, adults, synchronize with the happy, burning beats of their palpitating hearts.


I recognize from afar little Tenzin whom I have sponsored since his arrival at JHAMTSE GATSAL. 

An aura of pure light protects him from the night.


As I crouch down next to him, he asks me: “Are you my sponsor?»

He never saw me. He knows, I don't know how. Perhaps my helpless face and my irrepressible smile in front of so much ingenuity and grace mixed together.


He takes me by the hand with his little friend Lumto and we go dancing around the fire.


Lumto is on the left, Tenzin on the right | Photo © Maby 2024


I am seven years old. We run around the brazier, throwing a few grains of rice into which we whisper our wishes. In this smiling round, there is the imprint of solemnity that every ritual carries. Everyone puts meaning into it, and at the same time it’s a celebration that we are dazzled to share together.

To bear witness to this, we mutually leave traces of pigments on friendly faces... Tenzin's little fingers line my forehead with turmeric. Happy Holi! State of pure joy.


Tenzin is a little angel who is light and serious at the same time.

This little boy suffered before arriving here. A veil of maturity marks his gaze, far away, deep behind all the brilliance that his intelligence imprints. He is the one who teaches me the whole wisdom of the world that his ancient soul knows, the right distance, unconditional love, joy and respect.


From then on, every time he sees me, he runs towards me and never let go of my hand until the teacher or his Amala** reminds him a second or third time that he is late.


--

*Holi Festival of Colors is an important popular Hindu festival celebrating the arrival of spring in India and Nepal, the end of winter and the blossoming of love.
**Amala: Mother of one of the 4 Children's Houses. Each Amala takes care of 22 children.



— LITTLE BODHISATTVA


I don't have any children. By choice. I mean no natural child - but I feel a bit like a mother of the little ones and teenagers that I have accompanied with art therapy through drawing for years... in Haiti, in Sri Lanka, in France in the children's homes.


Meeting Tenzin is something completely different. Before this event, I have not invested an ounce of effort in the sponsorship dynamic to which I have committed. It solely consisted of a monthly transfer to an NGO that I trust.

Period.

That these donations may support the education of disadvantaged young children and protect me from spoiling their growth through inappropriate Western interactions was good enough.

Stay far away, keep it abstract, such was the postulate inspired by a concern for mutual protection.


Tenzin in the center, surrounded by children on Holi evening,
the festival celebrating the Equinox | Photo © Maby


And then Tenzin appears, so embodied, so alive and so wise at the same time. It is a kind of karmic recognition, an instant love at first sight in the light of the Holi fire. From soul to soul.

We are happy together, without speaking, hand in hand and with our hearts wide open.


I never feel like I am his godmother, even less one of his protectors.


He does not need it.


Little mindful and delicate Bodhisattva, so elegant at the age of seven, he is my very genuine guide in these Himalayan lands, he who teaches me how to be worthy there, worthy of the Tibetan Buddhist lineage that had brought me this far.


Tenzin shows me how to become fully free, present and receptive again — this, just by his state of being, his quality of presence.


And he is still inspiring me every day since my return to France.





Tenzin meditates before drawing. | Photo © Maby 2024





— AS THE BIRD


This cool, gray Sunday afternoon, the misty mountains are majestic and mystical seen from the plateau where the children gather.


After two hours of “dodgeball” with the older kids, I join five little boys playing hopscotch. Tenzin guides me and carefully chooses the ideal rock for me, the one that will fly with precision and not slip when landing. He also carefully enlarges the shape of the squares drawn for the size of little bare feet and into which my big Doc Martens do not fit.


How quickly these skillful little birds hop!


When I join the group of children, I see myself scanning in a flash all my memories of hopscotch in the primary school playground, to reassure myself, to hide, to hope to impress them too... instead of accepting that I no longer know anything and simply let myself be taught by these enthusiastic and joking little teachers.





Tenzin and his little friends play hopscotch.

Photo © Maby



When it is my turn again and as I am stuck in the third square, they invite me to throw my rocket-rock directly at the eight. I think they are doing me a favor, aware of my lack of practice as well as agility. So, every time it's my turn, they make me skip steps and I interpret that as a lot of diligence towards clumsy strangers. I'm still trying hard not to be too ridiculous, not too old, not too slow, not too..., not enough... me, me! And they jubilate and explode with joy as soon as my magic stone allows me to progress.


It’s only at that moment that I understand that we are moving forward as a team. Three against three!

My tension on my experience memories as a European kid have prevented me from being fully present and letting myself be carried away by the team spirit.


Et voilà! This is what JHAMTSE is: to lay down one's weapons at the same time as one's egocentric, individualistic, judgmental and competitive vision in order to embrace otherness - as it is - and progress together, hand in hand, rejoicing in the efforts and progress of the others who contribute to the success of all.


Out of this simple hopscotch, the children give me a lesson in humility, patience, openness and generosity. 

And my body relaxes and my ranger boots are able to start flying: they offer me the lightness of the bird.




 

LOVING ACTION

" Taking Action: that arises from Not-Knowing and Bearing Witness " (Third tenet of ZEN PEACEMAKERS).


And the sky opens. 

Almost magically, the schedule of the workshops is built in the blink of an eye — thanks to the intelligent listening and coordination of administrative and educational services.

It happens as I surrender to my "ability to be spacious,” fully present to phenomena without any desire for control.


Have I received confirmation of this outcome as I have requested before leaving, it would not have gone any better. Quite the contrary. The program would not be as adjusted to the conditions of the present moment.

Relieved of the plan, the proposal unfolds in an organic and perfectly adapted way.


So I am able to work beyond whatever I have imagined, with a new and present mindset, respectful of the JHAMTSE paradigm. All of the children attend a workshop as well as teachers, members of the American Board of Directors, the administrative team, the kitchen and maintenance staffs.


But picture is worth a thousand words...



--

To discover a more complete photo album on the Facebook page of ELOVUTION: https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.328583603149996&type=3



 

THE WAVES

No one threw these emotions — rainbow or darker colored — at my body, speech or mind. I grasped them, observed them, manipulated them... with, in the absence of wisdom, an effort at honesty. The discomfort, surprise and all the feelings that arose out of the extraordinary diving experienced at the Community quickly made me lose my center... I was carried away by a series of enveloping waves powerful enough to make me lose my footing.

It was the absolute necessary condition to remain naked in "Not-knowing" and to be able to "Bear witness" with the greatest authenticity.


It is up to me today to add a pearl to Indra's net and let it reflect the unique teaching of this holistic and profoundly transformative experience.




— EPILOGUE

Majnu Ka Tilla, New Delhi - April 2024

I have a tendency to fall — literally and figuratively — that is abnormally high. Medicine gives me a neurological explanation... and I have another one of a spiritual nature.


On the long way back to Brittany, in transit in New Delhi, I visit Majnu Ka Tilla, the neighborhood of Tibetan refugees in order to extend my connection with "the Spirit of Tibet". As soon as a tourist steps outside the gate marking the area, tuk-tuk drivers storm them and offer them fare five times the price. Moving away a little, the lull returns and the most diligent pilots who have kindly stalked the visitors return to the charge with appropriate prices. 40 C, not inclined to heat, I present my address on the phone screen. A driver agrees: the deal is done.


Engaged on the eight-lane road between trucks and cars whose horns are stuck, my life prognosis seems clearly compromised and I concentrate on estimating whether the next brush will be fatal or not. I don't pay attention to the path taken, although it is much longer than the previous drive. An acquaintance of the driver sticks around for a few kilometers and this windhorse finally stops... I don't know where, in front of a metro station that the friends tell me is THE favorite of tourists. I should go, they encourage me: « Go, go! »


I'm lost, without a map or mobile access, I'm fuming. The driver obviously did not know how to read Western characters and followed what his experience told him. I leave, grouching out loud and simultaneously seeing myself from the outside, the awful red aura, the heart beating in the temples, the loss of alignment, the fear of missing the plane, of getting lost even more... I see also clearly my condescension and self-centeredness. How much consideration did I have for their intention to do well within their skill space? I am clear about the paradigm. Nevertheless, I am angry, I am hot, I am lost, I, I, I... and I move forward without any mindfulness towards an unknown direction.


I take twenty steps and I fall full length, flat in the dust. My wrists and knees are swollen, my clothes, my face are covered in a mixture of mud and blood, the taste of which I can still precisely describe today.


This fall immediately appears as a masterful strike of a celestial Kyōsaku.


I burst out laughing.


I burst out laughing and thank guides.

I thank GenLa. I thank Mark, Rashmi, Selena, Sandy, Tenzin, Purbali, Ashish and the teachers. I thank the teams, I thank the children. I thank Nature, the elements and their guardians. I thank Tibetan culture, I thank the Monpas. I thank the whole lineage, its protectors, the dakinis. I thank Life.


And very strongly still at a distance, I hug Tenzin, little Bodhisattva, close to my moved heart.






White Tara watches over the valley.

Photo © Maby taken from the Community the morning I left



 

MORE :

To discover and support ELOVUTION: https://www.elovution.org/?lang=fr

To discover and support JHAMTSE GATSAL: https://jhamtsegatsal.org

Commentaires


Les commentaires ont été désactivés.
bottom of page