Surreal World in the Shadow of the Himalayas

This morning I took a yoga class where every downward dog I had an upside down view of the morning sun hitting the Himalayas. In addition to the wonderful view, the class was one of the most helpful ones I’ve taken, with a lovely and knowledgeable teacher.

I’m there again tomorrow morning, but not for the rest of the time here because I plan to attend the Dalai Lama’s teachings that are this coming Monday and Tuesday.1

The whole experience of Dharmasala… from the terrifying (read: awesome, I’m a sick sort of adrenaline junkie) experience of careening around curves of a mountain in a bus going way too fast, only two wheels on the road and hundreds of feet below your window (at 3 am)… to doing yoga in the shadow of such breathtaking beauty to actually getting to see2 the Dalai Lama has been so surreal. I spend a lot of time thinking about how blessed I am to be here, in this present moment, experiencing all of this.

Yesterday I was present for the Dalai Lama’s speech where he ceded his political role as leader of the Tibetan Government-in-Exile to a democracy (Link to the Washington Post Article). I wasn’t allowed to bring my camera or cell phone, so there’s no photos of the event on my end, though you can view the official ones here. The Dalai Lama looks like an elderly grandfather that you have this impossible urge to hug. The speech was in Tibetan, but an English translation was handed out. When I got to the point where he made that announcement… well, it’s an odd feeling to sit there and witness history, regardless of the scale it is on. And I realized that I want more of that. I don’t just want to study history, I want to be there for it. I thought for a moment about the squad of journalists and if maybe I was going in the wrong direction, career wise. I’d make a decent journalist, if I could muster being more outgoing. (It doesn’t help that I’m reading a lot of journalist memoirs right now.) But just as quickly I dismissed this. I want to do more than record history – I want to be a part of it. I’d much rather be one of the anonymous suits on stage, one of the people who shaped the event, the policy, the decision that some other central figure is presenting.
Witnessing history is an awesome sort of high, what would making it be like?

Dharamsala is different from every other place I’ve been in India. It doesn’t even really feel Indian. Most of the faces you see here are Tibetan and the others are mostly foreigners. I’ve seen a few Indians here, including a large representative of Kashmiri men (taller, finer bone structure, reeking of that womanizing air3). Indians are definitely the minority here. I can easily see how a foreigner could run here, and hide from what feels like the real world in a haze of weed (“shanti”), philosophy courses, and yoga. It is a lot more peaceful and a lot less chaotic than the rest of India – something that I think is a mixed blessing, as I’ve grown to love the chaos of India.

I’ve taken two Tibetan cooking classes (a third is tomorrow evening) from a lovely Tibetan refugee4. He escaped from Eastern Tibet in 1997 as a twenty-two year old with his friend, pretending to be businessmen when they encountered soldiers. They took a bus to Lhasa, then walked to Kathmandu (which took them 28 days). For years he couldn’t send letters or talk to his family back in Tibet until a tourist couple from Canada took his cooking class and then went to Tibet shortly afterward with a message and his phone number. Now, he can talk on the phone with his family but he cannot talk politics or mention the Dalai Lama. In Tibet, his family needs police permission to use the internet and get questioned at the police station if they send too many emails. Some of his friends were jailed for 12 years for writing FREE TIBET on the side of a wall. With the new Maoist regime in Nepal, it has become more difficult for people to escape as Nepal becomes closer and closer to China philosophically and politically. His escape route would not be possible now.

I am presently full of Tibetan bread and cookies from my second cooking class, and totally blissed5 on how absolutely lucky I am to be here presently. This is my life and, Universe, I very much appreciate how it’s turned out of late. Thank you.6

1 “Teachings in Dharamsala, H.P., India on March 14 & 15: His Holiness will give two-day teachings on Gyalsey Thokme Sangpo’s 37 Practices of A Boddhisattva (laklen sodunma) & Kamalashila’s The Middling States of Meditation (gomrim barpa) at the request of a group of Thais at the Main Tibetan Temple.” The Dalai Lama is coming to DC less than a week after I am back in the country for a multiple day event. Tickets start at around $400. I paid 10 rupees to register for three teachings over two days. That’s 22 cents.

2 See, not meet.

3 Like the one from the coffee shop I’ve frequented who tells me I have a beautiful voice, one that is not only easy to understand but like “music to my ear.” He also asked me to join him on a hike to the local waterfalls today. I got out of that by him getting distracted by something else – which is easily enough for him as I’ve started mentally calling him Shanti Man. I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone more stoned more often than him.

4 There will be a party where I invite y’all over to help me make momos. Because flattening 70 of them into the right size disks would take me too damn long.

5 Actually blissed. I do not need (and have not partaken in) “shanti” for this feeling.

6 However, it is a struggle for me to remain in the present. I get suspicious of too many good things happening at once and find myself waiting for the other shoe to drop (like getting a no from Oxford, who I should hear back from relatively soon). But… I don’t know, I think how I feel now, and the gratefulness that comes with it, outweighs most of the negative possibilities of the future. Namaste.

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