Everybody sparkles

6.5 mins read.

It was a fine day for an adventure and, leaving the 6 kittens and their mom with Aunty Erica for a couple of nights, I drove into the mountains toward Five Peaked Mountain for my first getaway in a long while.

My Air BnB, “The Snug,” came complete with mountains on all sides and its very own fairy garden. I sat outside with my face in the sun drinking coffee and contemplating snow because there was an awful lot of it around.

When we meditate, we often imagine that we are surrounded by living beings — our family and so on sitting closest to us but nobody left out. Snow reminds me that I am surrounded by infinite living beings, each unique, each dependent on each other. And I am not a big human being surrounded by miniscule snowflakes – I am also just one of those snowflakes no more important than any other.

Because there was snow as far as the eye could see, so there were snowflakes as far as the eye could see – and living beings too really are countless. Even a few square feet is so packed full of snowflakes, and so too is a city, for example, so packed full of living beings. Yet this is just a tiny tiny portion of all the snow/living beings who are alive and feel important.

Given that, why would one snowflake ever consider itself more significant than any of these others, let alone all these others? Even if it happened to be in charge of the few million snowflakes immediately around it, in the grand scheme of things this is negligible. Not to mention that however powerful a snowflake may think it is, or however popular or talented, it is still 100 percent dependent on all the other snowflakes and cannot last for even a second without them. (Ever seen a snowflake on its own?) And soon of course it will melt just like everyone else. 

Caught by the light, snowflakes sparkle – move just a bit, though, and they stop sparkling while others sparkle instead. In the same way, over a period of countless aeons everybody has sparkled for us as our mother, our partner, our child, and so on, sometimes for a lifetime, sometimes for just a moment. And then they’ve gone dark again as we have moved on or moved away, mentally or physically, including at death.

Mountain misadventure

That same afternoon I went looking for Rainbow Lake. Google Maps had a red dot right in the middle of it, but my car got me only as far as a lay by some miles away.

I walked further than I realized along the rainbow trail – as I got higher, the sun got lower, and it started getting quite chilly. I was leaning against a wooden pole in a sunbeam when a woman on cross country skis passed me on her way down. I asked if the lake was just up there, and she said she didn’t think it was. Then she added that she would prefer it if I went back down the mountain rather than go up any further because it was going to get exceedingly cold and I wasn’t going to find my lake. You can’t find rainbows and, as it turns out, you can’t find rainbow lakes either.

I followed her advice, not least because she was wearing red from top to toe, and I was glad I did because I was the last one off that mountain. I saw no one on the way down, and if I’d carried on up the mountain in search of that Rainbow Lake I may not be writing this to you now.

However, I did then get a bit more of an adventure than I bargained for. Having walked for quite a distance, I realized I could not recognize a  thing. The sun was threatening to dip behind the mountains. I was lost.

I couldn’t retrace my steps too far because it was about to be very cold, not to mention pitch dark, and there wasn’t going to be any help forthcoming from that direction. I waded up a hillock in the thick snow to see if I could see anything promising on the horizon, but all that revealed was that the town lights were a rather alarmingly long way away.

A little worried, I kept walking until I was relieved to see a big building in the distance. Hurrying over to it, I called out loudly to a small figure in the parking lot, who told me that this was Summit Hospital and she was a nurse. She told me to keep walking on the trail for about a mile to access the emergency entrance of the hospital, go inside to avoid freezing, and figure out what to do from there. She couldn’t drive me anywhere, she said, because she was just on her quick break. Some break, talking to a foolish tourist! I love nurses.

A little later I was pondering how to get down the large bank of 3 to 4 feet snow and across a low wall to access the hospital below, and what I’d even do when I got there given that Uber wasn’t an option here and I didn’t know anyone in Frisco, when a couple walked past me, the only other people I had seen on the trail for well over an hour. I stopped them to explain my predicament, whereupon Jim said I needed to follow them, he thought he might know where my car was parked, but it was at least two miles away and did I mind walking fast? (It seemed like the opposite direction to me, but I wasn’t going to leave these people now!)

I fell into conversation with Julie, who commiserated with me for having a terrible sense of direction and told me that Jim and her took long hikes every day but were never out this late, she didn’t know how the day had gotten away from her. We were talking about how unbearable it must be to be truly stranded in these teeth-chattering, finger-throbbing temperatures without a house, like so many people in Denver. I was able to reach out to Julie or the hospital or even the police if it came to it, but who can unhoused people turn to for safety and warmth? In Denver, these human beings are not just ignored but constantly swept from place to place, their tents, sweeping bags, and other meager belongings trashed, even during these unlive-able temperatures. It just beggars belief.

Jim had ran off ahead but, meeting up with him again 2.5 fast-walked miles later, we discovered that my car was not here after all. (Sort of a relief – my sense of direction was bad, but not that bad.) Jim was all for me calling the police at this point, but Julie had decided by now that she was not going to let this “young lady” (thanks Julie!) stick around any longer in the mountains in -9 degree temperatures. They called their son in law Chris, who bundled me and Julie in the car and drove us around Frisco until I recognized a road, from where we found my car. Then they waited until I drove safely away. I was very apologetic and thankful. Julie told me she believed in karma and that I would help her one day. How right she is.

Which just goes to illustrate my point about snowflakes. For the skier in red, the nurse in green, Julie, Chris, and Jim — strangers just hours ago — all sparkled brightly for me today.

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Author: Luna Kadampa

Based on 40 years' experience, I write about applying meditation and modern Buddhism to improve and transform our everyday lives and societies. I try to make it accessible to everyone anywhere who wants more inner peace and profound tools to help our world, not just Buddhists. Do make comments any time and I'll write you back!

18 thoughts on “Everybody sparkles”

  1. What a lovely story! Thanks for sharing it. As I was reading it, it reminded me of BBC Radio Four’s “Thought for the day”. I can imagine this being read out on that 🙂

  2. super appealing article, snowflake analogies, rather lost in subzero, brushes with ‘what if’ reality nicely bundled; now to remembering to become the red and green rescuers !) xo

  3. Great story! ANd SO glad you’re safe! It made me think of Geshe-la, Trijang Rinpoche, and the thousands of other Tibetan refugees who travelled (and are still travelling) for weeks through snow, over the Himalayas to India, and without whom we wouldn’t have access to our Dharma tradition.

    1. Wow, i’ve been thinking about this since I read it. Never thought about the deep snow part of their journey! And how without their bravery we wouldn’t have Dharma now. How did they do it?!! Like I said, Wow. Thank you for sharing this.

  4. What a great and edge-of-seat-read and I am so grateful for your sparklers because you are such a big one to so many of us. Whew! As I lay awake 3am worrying about my lack of control over all things samsara, I am calmed by the reminder that one thing I can control is to set my intention to be a sparkle for others. Thank you.

  5. I’m happy you had the chance to go on a getaway/adventure! The mountains are a great place to recharge! You had some very timely and very “sparkly” emanations that day! Thank for being someone who sparkles for all of us! Glad you got back to your car!

  6. Unnerving to read the details. Minus 9 degrees! 2.5 miles in the wrong direction! I think that would make my heart sink. I have been lost in the woods also – and it was my job to work in the woods back then. When it happened (more than once), I would tell myself I was merely “temporarily misplaced” and try to smile – and breathe. Thankfully you (and I) have a reliable protector. I did not know my protector at that time but he was certainly busy keeping me safe. My poor mom. She did not see things the way I did and worried a lot about what she called “risky behavior.” There are family stories of me wandering off at a very young age, just due to curiosity of where some trail would lead. I am a sucker for a trail with a curve it in. And now I am now a real path – to liberation!

    1. I won’t lie, my heart did sink. I was very relieved to see other human beings.

      Like you, this is not the first time I have gotten lost and had to rely on the kindness of strangers. Only been seriously lost once before in Colorado, when I had to trust a couple who looked like they came straight out of the Addams Family and didn’t say a word to me But they were the only people left on the mountain, my phone had died, and they did drive me around silently until we found my car. (They also ignored my first waves for help and drove off but mercifully changed their minds and came back).

      We never know who we are going to need next, do we, both on external and internal paths 😍

      I am also going to start paying a bit more attention to landmarks.

      1. Tense read… And now mind totally changed into laughter at the Addams family generic image lol! Thanks for sharing and do start paying attention to landmarks. We need you around as long as possible.

          1. That happened to me,in montana…hiked up to 11000 ft peak,thru snow(july 4th),then,on way down,snow was gone,i lost the ‘trail’,and wound up on a plateau,that was crawling w bear sign(scare sign!)
            After 4 days,i wandered out,had 1 encounter w a bear(i think it felt sorry for me!)
            If lost,in canada,they suggest ‘start a forest fire,it will be seen!’
            Well! with my luck,winds would close in on me!
            Moral: id rather freeze to death,than burn to death…
            always carry a roll of tinfoil,and bearspray!

            1. Four days Kevin!!! Glad you didn’t have to freeze to death or burn to death or be eaten alive by a bear. Not this time anyway!!! Be safe.

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