When I traveled to Nepal for my documentary film and book, Talking Story, I was blessed to meet with beautiful, kind people who welcomed our team into their homes, their sacred sites, and spiritual practices. Some of them became dear friends. After the 7.8 magnitude earthquake hit in Nepal on April 25th, my first thought upon waking was to know of the fate of all those I had met. I was filled with gratitude for Facebook’s Safety Check feature that marked three of my friends as safe. Over the course of the next few weeks, I was able to remain in contact with my friend, Jigme NB Lama, who was a guide and translator during our journey through Nepal, and later visited me in the U.S. to help in the post-production process of the film.
In the midst of surviving in the aftermath of the devastation of the earthquake, something beautiful emerged: Jigme surprised us both with the writing of a poem. It was the first time he’d ever considered writing poetry, yet it was something that simply flowed out of him. In his words, he expressed the raw emotions that arose from surviving the earthquake, living on the street next to what once was his home, and realizing the true meaning of his Buddhist teachings of impermanence and non-attachment.
In the meantime, I had been wrestling with health challenges and was unable to attend benefit events for Nepal in which Talking Story would be screened in Durango, CO, at Inhabit, a center for learning, growth, and transformation. In my stead, I sent a recorded video message to welcome people to the events and closed with a reading of Jigme’s poem. I am a firm believer in the transformative power of story to heal and inspire, yet Jigme and I had no idea the profound impact his words would have on others. My hope was simply to connect the people of the Durango community not to only the devastation in Nepal, but also to the beauty of the spirit and heart of the Nepalese people.
The earthquake benefit event successfully raised funds for those in Nepal who are struggling to rebuild their lives and communities, but in the sharing of Jigme’s poem, it also created an intimate and authentic connection between people of different cultures, through the voice and words of one individual who was simply sharing his story of survival and hope.
Life After | By Jigme NB Lama (Edited by Mary Angeles Armstrong)
Life, as usual, is shaken to its core.
Faced with destruction,
The foundation we rely on is shaken
until there is no firm shelter and no safe place.
The elemental world crumbles.
Creation folds back into itself
and everything once made, falls apart
revealing the unmade origin of everything: hope.
Lifelong effort for these possessions.
Things, we thought we owned, taken,
leaving Non attachment as our finest possession.
Now, bare earth is a fine bed
and open sky is a solid roof.
When ambitions are finally put to rest,
one sleeps and dreams with joy.
Darkness blankets the scene.
All forms of light have ceased working.
Only a hundred fireflies visit
their illuminated selves bringing light and joy.
After a night of heavy rain and thunder, morning:
Cuckoos sing, Bulbuls chirp and doves groan.
When you sleep with dogs, you rise with birds
and my mind is as clear as morning dew.
People slowly revive,
Vehicles start moving,
Phone calls and emails start to flow
I too wake in this new found home.
Owning and gathering starts over again.
Life, in Kathmandu, starts over again
Until an aftershock scares us into silence.
Originally published in OmTimes.