‘Blessings’ documentary 1st Tibetan culture event of Steamboat library series | SteamboatToday.com

‘Blessings’ documentary 1st Tibetan culture event of Steamboat library series

Nicole Inglis

Julie Green, right, of Steamboat Springs, stands with a Tsoknyi Nangchen nun in Tibet during a July 2005 trip.

Editor’s note: This story has been updated from its original version to clarify that a reception for the monks at the Depot Art Center is at 6 p.m. Sunday.

For Julie Green, of Steamboat Springs, it was several pairs of weathered hands that helped alter her perception of world culture.

High atop the mountains of Tibet, Green's cold ex­­­­­­tremities were often warmed by the hands of the Tsoknyi Nan­­g­­chen nuns, who, despite language and cultural barriers, treated her and her daughter, Em­­ily Sch­wall, like sisters.

"They all cared for each other in such a beautiful way," Green said, reflecting on the trip that took place in July 2005. "I guess I was so taken by their very harsh lifestyle. They live at 13,000 or 14,000 feet, and yet how they completely do everything themselves with no help from anyone.

"They were the most happy, beautiful, most robust, lovely women."

Now, she hopes others in the community can enjoy a brief insight into the lives of the nuns and other people who live monastically in the mountains of Tibet.

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To kick off Tibetan Culture Week, Bud Werner Memorial Library will screen the documentary, "Blessings," in which Green, a group of Westerners and their Buddhist teacher, Tsoknyi Rinpoche III, lived with the Tsoknyi Nangchen nuns of Tibet for several weeks, recording their lives on film.

The movie screening is just the beginning of a celebration of Tibetan heritage. The Drepung Loseling monks will arrive in Steamboat and begin a sand mandala creation Saturday at the library.

Throughout five days, the monks will outline a design and lay colorful grains of sand one-by-one to create a mandala image.

Visitors can stop by and watch as the monks' creation progresses through Wednesday, after which it will be whisked away.

Library adult program coordinator Jennie Lay said the film and visiting monks are ways to shed light on a beautiful and sometimes misunderstood region.

Tibet "is a really special place that a lot of people associate with big mountains and beautiful landscape — and you get a sense of that in the film — but also what (the nuns) have been able to build and how they're building a beautiful life in this harsh landscape," Lay said.

For five weeks, Green watched how the 3,000 nuns lived. It was a harsh and bare way of life that is disappearing, she said.

Green, her teacher and her group were there to document and assess the nuns' needs and determine how best to provide aid.

"Freedoms for women there are not like they are in the United States," she said. "Female practitioners in Tibet are considered much lower than male practitioners. … It's struck me as a valid thing to get involved with."

She said the nuns' monastic life focused on doing everything for the happiness and well-being of all things.

Witnessing their daily routines and feeling the touch of their hands left an indelible mark on Green and her daughter.

"It's one of the best things in my life," she said. "It's the most enriching thing in my life. It's very meaningful. I feel very, very connected to these nuns."

But one doesn't have to travel to Tibet to feel connected. The movie screening begins a week of celebration, which includes the sand mandala that will open at 11 a.m. Saturday at the library. At the Depot Art Center, an Art of Himalaya exhibit is on display beginning Friday. A reception will take place at 6 p.m. Sunday.

The Drepung Loseling Monks also will perform traditional music and dance at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday at the Strings Music Pav­­ilion. Lay said the cultural influx of Tibetan-themed arts would provide treats for all tastes.

"There's going to be such great eye candy this week," Lay said.

Green said the film could act as a positive introduction to the region and lifestyle.

"I think that there's a curiosity about Tibet all over the world because of the Dalai Lama and just the whole situation," Green said. "I think Steamboat people will be very curious about that. Steamboat people are very open to religions of the world and different philosophies, so there will be a lot to learn about the philosophy of Buddhism and the beautiful landscape of Tibet and how they continue to practice those ways, for the way they have for thousands of years."

If you go

What: Screening of “Blessings” documentary

When: 6:30 p.m. Thursday

Where: Bud Werner Memorial Library, 13th Street and Lincoln Avenue

Cost: The event is free and open to the public. A Q-and-A with Julie Green will take place after the screening.

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