Kathy is a well traveled and well respected yoga teacher who owns and operates Yoga Vermont, a studio in the heart of Burlington, Vermont. In the fall of 2014 we partnered with Kathy and Yoga Vermont and together we operated a trek through the foothills of east Nepal where each day on the trail was bookended by a sunrise/sunset yoga session with superb views of the top of the world. These are her notes to herself along the way, her thoughts, lessons learned and things to remember for next time.
I expected to see a colorful culture. I expected to see people living in a way that supports their life, their family and gives them some freedom. I expected to see shrines, stupas and religious dedications. I expected to meet a few people and share a smile or two.
The culture took me over immediately. As soon as we landed I found myself being taken care of. We were swooped from the airport with ease & celebration to Hotel Tibet. It was my first place of stillness. I smelled the air and listened to the city.
My bed was lovely, but I was too excited to sleep long. I woke up after just a few hours to discover we were within a block of Boudhanath. I went out to explore with Sri. I asked many questions and he answered them all. He is a walking fountain of kindness & information. We became fast friends as we circumambulated the stupa, chanting. I was at home. I was on vacation in my new home. It was glorious. It was amazing. It was normal.
On the streets there were lots of people, everywhere, coming and going. Street dogs traversed the city with purpose. People were sharing time and space in a more intimate way than normally happens where I live. It was a holiday, so most men had bright flower malas on as they rode their motorcycles. Most women were smiling and decorated. It seemed like everyone was flamboyantly, spiritually out of the closet.
That first day Lisa, Sri & I took a cab to visit Milk Baba. His apartment was tidy and sunny. He was happy. I was happy. Many visitors came by. Babaji shared tea & tobacco. The conversation lasted all afternoon. He made his famous spicy vegetable soup. My heart was full.
I slept just a little longer the second night.
INTO THE MOUNTAINS ....
There is no word for "bad" in Nepali.
I could contemplate this for years. No word for bad. That means, no complaining, always keeping my chin up, being tough. It also seems to mean that the base line is not skeptical or cautious, but something much, much more positive. So much to mull over.
Always hand things with two hands.
There are a million ways to use both hands to hand off tea, sugar, food, yoga mats. Same for receiving. It feels very respectful, very connected, very artistic.
Whenever possible, have a guide with me.
I would think I knew what was going on in a situation only to find out I had missed more than half of the nuances. The social culture has so much depth and I have none of the tools to read it. The symbols around every shrine and stupa are very intricate and again, I have very few tools to understand it all. I felt like I was at University every waking moment. Sri & Pemba were always available to fill me in on what was going on. Lisa was amazing at conveying her overarching understanding of Nepal in the 21st century.
On the trail walk slowly and look around.
If I took the same trail every day for a year I would notice more layers of life every time. I walked past a cow. I can't believe I walked past a cow and didn't see it. I also walked past a couple of orchids. This goes back to whenever possible have a guide.
Don't pick up too many stones.
Stones are actually rocks. They are heavy. Carry them yourself out of principle.
Listening is magic.
Waterfalls. Footfalls. Dry ground. Moist tara cotta. Rocks. Pebbles. Yaks' bells. Sheep and goats. Baby pigs. Chanting. Fire crackling. People talking. It is all beautiful and cleansing to my ears.
Trekking is walking meditation. No rush. Everything I need is with me. See what comes. Milk Baba calls it Jungle Walking.
It is normal to be Hindu & Buddhist. Really. Be anything. Be nice. Be happy. Be aware. Be innocent. My patched together beliefs were totally acceptable. It felt so good to be understood.
How many Hindu Deities are there? 330 million. Oh. Ok. Well then I'll stick to Ram & Sita, Hanuman, Ganesh, Shiva, Parvati and my other favorites.
I am collecting questions for my next visit. I love when people have an answer about the Yugas, rather than running down the top three contending ideas. Any question about yoga, philosophy, history or religion were fine topics of conversation. I learned sooooo much.