Add a Little Color

Prayer flags in the Himalayas

I don’t know what it looks like outside where you are, but today is a classic sunless-everything-looks-dead day in the Texas Hill Country. It’s also very windy and c-o-l-d! All the makings for a bleak day.

My imagination started wandering to other bleak places on the planet. I realize that there are many things that contribute to “bleakness”, so I considered only landscapes. I discovered that what constituted a bleak landscape was the absence of color.

This is where my brain really took off (wouldn’t your’s?). ┬áHere’s some of my inner conversation: What is the absence of color? Black. Why is black the absence of color? Without going into a whole physics lesson, black doesn’t reflect any light. Then color would certainly help in a landscape not appearing so bleak. What do you suggest? Prayer flags!

Now I’m wondering if anyone is still with me!

Prayer flags are a blending of two traditions in the Himalayas. Buddhism was introduced to Tibet around 800 AD. The Tibetans already had a shamanistic tradition of hanging colorful flags in the five colors representing the five elements:

  • blue – sky or space
  • white – air or wind
  • red – fire
  • green – water
  • yellow – earth

Over time, Tibetans blended the sacred Buddhist mantras with the colorful flags, hanging them in high places so their messages of peace, compassion, strength, and wisdom would blow to peoples and places everywhere. The flags don’t carry prayers to any “god”. Tibetans believe the prayers and intentions of the mantras are blown by the wind and carry their intentions of good will and compassion into all pervading space.

Prayer flags are prevalent in the mountain ridges and peaks of the Himalayas. Besides the beauty they bring to that harsh, bleak area, the prayer flags are an outward symbol of the Tibetan hopes for this world, an acknowledgement of life’s changes, and a reminder of the ongoing cycle of life.

Yep, prayer flags would totally liven up the bleakness outside. Instead of the absence of color and the grayness the seems to permeate everything, these flags would not only add color to the landscape, but be a gentle reminder that we can spread peace, compassion, strength, and wisdom throughout our days.

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