A taxi driver in Ubud, Bali sat on the side of the road with a laminated piece of paper that read ‘TAXI’ – so I gave him a high five. He asked where I was from and I told him Nepal (what can I say – it feels like home more than anywhere else) and he told me how lucky I was to not be there because of the earthquake. I asked him if he was talking about the earthquake that happened a couple months ago – the small tremor that shook the ground for about 6 seconds and caused no damage. Thats how I found out. I had already left a piece of my heart in the mountainous landlocked country and that day another little piece broke. Here is a small part of the lessons Nepal has imparted over the last 9 months.
It’s takes a guy named Dan 8 months to walk from Singapore to Nepal. This is true.
One of the many great joys of traveling for any period of time is ending up in a space to connect with others. This is also true.
So one evening at a late night ceremony of earth worshiping, complete with fire dancers, a hang drum, harmonica, a flute and of course some bongos, Dan asks me “what is Nepal for you?”
And I say ‘Well man, that’s a question.’ Its one that I hadn’t thought about until a response came pouring out of my mouth. ‘For me, Nepal is a place for learning.’
The last four months floated by as I was nestled up on the shores of Lake Fewa with a beautiful vision of the Annapurna range to fuel my dreams. The evening before my departure from the country a friend told me of an experience he had where it became clear that people are star-gates, or portals into another place/dimension/time. The memory of someone we know or knew can transport us. It can allow us to see something from their world. The other side of the portal doesnt need to have anything to do with the person, it can be totally impersonal, but meeting new people opens up new worlds. Now that I have finally left Pokhara and feel some distance it continues to reveal itself as a galaxy – a space saturated with amazing people from all over the world, or star-gates as it were.
I arrived on Sept. 1, 2014 after having done some trekking in the Trans Himalayas of northern India. This trekking involved me walking with two poles, one in each hand, to take the load off of my ‘bad knees’ and admittedly they helped me keep my balance as well. My first two months were spent in Kathmandu, until I could resist the day dreams of mountains and wide open spaces no longer. It was perfect. I proceeded to walk for almost a month in sandals through some of the most beautiful terrain in the world. I was still using those poles to walk. The Annapurna circuit is a world class trek, historically regarded as the best long distance supported trek in the world. The world. The world… So after seeing countless numbers of people trekking in skillfully hand crafted Italian trekking boots while I had holes in my Tevas I decided to challenge myself a little more. If by the measure that most people trek in boots and I’m perfectly comfortable in sandals than I was curious to see what it was like to run. Most people run in shoes, so why not try going without them? A couple months and countless bruises and cuts on my feet later I have come to realize the reason I needed these sticks to help me walk while trekking was because I didn’t know how to walk. I spent 24 years trudging around on this big blue ball with no idea what was going on from the knees down. I was clunking through life with long strides, striking the ground with my heels. If you have a couple days (or maybe weeks) to sit and recover – try running barefoot like that; landing heel first with long over reaching strides. It doesn’t work. The body is not meant to move that way. Through experiencing the way the foot works while running unshod I now walk lighter, have seemed to eliminate most of my knee troubles, and have no need for trekking poles/sticks. So whoever said we must learn to walk before we run can keep on saying that, but it may not be so true. Oh, and about that bad posture my mom was always telling me to do something about, running barefoot seems to have straightened that out too…
Jump forward some time and im slowly being pulled toward meditation. A truck barreling down the road hit me a few years ago and some back pain lingers. There’s also mild nerve damage from a past hip surgery. With these blessings I would hardly consider myself a prime candidate for sitting cross legged for hours on end. But then again, let us not underestimate the teaching power of Nepal and the star-gates of Pokhara. Vipassana meditation is something I first heard of in India last year. In the time since then a few influential friends have shared a little more here and a little more there – sounded great but I never thought it was right for me partly because I couldn’t sit cross legged for more than 2 minutes. Then one night at a place called Hidden Paradise – located on the side of a mountain overlooking the lake, a friend asked me if I cared to join him for a vipassana meditation retreat. If I tried to come up with my own definition of an omen it would be long winded, but this definitely felt like an omen, so I signed up. The sitting was hard, but not as hard as the mental work that needed to be done. Vipassana is the direct teaching of Sidharta Gautama or ‘the Buddah’ and it allows us to understand the law of nature, that all is impermanent, within the confines of the body. That means as I sit and observe each sensation I do so with the understanding that whatever I am feeling, good or bad, pleasant or unpleasant, it is impermanent so I should not react to it. My back, hips, and knees had lots of sensations. Sensations that I would most certainly have called unpleasant before I learned this technique but after a while these ‘unpleasant’ sensations dissolve into a flow of energy throughout the body. Now I can sit. Problem solved.
Lessons aren’t always easy to learn, but every obstacle can teach us something as long as we are open to listening. Its a country thats never been conquered or colonized, and its beautifully resilient people are undoubtably part of the magic that is stuffed into the little piece of land where Buddah was born.
Thanks Nepal. <3 <3 <3 Anyone who is interested in donating to a relief fund I am happy to give a recommendation to my friends at www.KarmaFlights.org. The folks on the ground leading the relief efforts are saints, no one if getting paid and 100% of the money is going to aid the locals whose lives have been shaken.