A friendly and beautiful mind (I wanted to write ‘man’ here but I think this Freudian typo should not be corrected) offered me to guide me towards the main road. For some reason the bus that we should have taken had left half an hour earlier than normal so we just missed it. He invited me to his house. Turned out he was a 68-year-old Tibetan medicine doctor. I asked him for the meaning of life. He said “life simple, help others”.
What’s on my mind? I feel rested and ready for a new trip. Today I will go to Nubra Valley. The things we do are alternatives for the ‘real trekking’ because the mountain passes are not open yet. This is a bit of a bummer but also not because I don’t know what these treks are like so I don’t know what I am missing. I have let go of the idea that I can or must see everything two weeks after the start of my journey.
Yesterday I visited a monastery and an old royal palace. I both place there were huge statues of the future Buddha Maitreya. It was impressive. Also the locations of these buildings are pretty impressive: always on the most impossible top of some mountain. I don’t know why. Maybe because of strategical reasons, maybe because they didn’t want to make it too easy on themselves. But the places are certainly powerful and the views are overwhelming.
Although I am approaching the summit, I am getting more and more exhausted. I am wondering, either Ladakhi’s have a completely different concept of a baby trek or I am on the wrong path. And if I am on the wrong path the buildings that I can barely see at the top could be a deserted monastery and I will have to sleep in an improvised place. I found some melting ice and an old hunters hut so I would have some water and shelter. I would be cold but I was sure I would be ok. The other thought that crossed my mind was: what if I make to the buildings and it indeed turns out to be a monastery and I am welcomed by some ultimately cool enlightened master?
I also feel in good hands. The hospital is certainly not the cleanest and most professional I have ever seen. But there is something very soft and gentle about the Ladakhi people and thus the staff. They have a kindness that is quite rare. There are quotes and pictures of the Dalai Lama and the Karmapa everywhere. I took the wrong way to the Tourist Ward (yes, I have the ability to get lost everywhere) and I peeked into the ward where the pregnant women are. The hospital is poor in the sense of equipment and the walls could use new paint. But there is something very peaceful in the way patients, nurses and doctors interact here. I felt no stress and anxiety, just life taking its course. From an economic point of view I was fortunate to have been born in Holland but I feel being born here is karma technically not too bad either.
I am amazed about how different this place is compared to Mumbai or Delhi (although I have spent only 36 hours in Delhi). First of all it is cold of course, about 33 degrees colder than what I was used to. But more interestingly, the people are a lot less submissive. Until now it was hard or even impossible to connect with waiters, rickshaw drivers, maids or street vendors. It almost felt they were a different species; the poorer they were, the more stripped from their humanity and dignity. Many of them had looks in their eyes of wild and abused animals: hollow, exhausted, afraid and powerless. Here it is different. People are friendly, helpful, and polite and try to get you in their shops in a charming way. I wish I were a better photographer because they all do great in pictures.
People often say “this comes on my path” or “that person crossed my path”. I never really felt it that way. Sometimes you meet somebody interesting, often not. Often I have heard that I’m sent from God. This is also quite new to me because in Holland religion and God is not so much woven into culture and speech. But in Israel, the Arab countries and here in India that is very different. Of course this is flattering to hear. But it is not part of my own mental framework.
If I’m correct the idea of a Divine plan is strongest in the Hindu tradition. Everything has a reason, everything is pre-planned by God. I don’t like it so much when it is used as a justification. When I say I met an interesting person on the beach and somebody says with an air of self-evidence: well son, this is what God has planned for you. They make it into a statement that makes them ‘right’ and the conversation stops.
Today was my last day on the beach of Gokarna. Tomorrow I will catch at train to Goa and a night train to Mumbai. I will arrive Friday morning very early and will give a workshop on Saturday. After the workshop I will head North, in the direction of the Himalayas. That sounds cool, doesn’t it?
My favorite part of the day was my stroll to the restaurant at the other end of the beach. It is dark, everything has cooled off enough to make it gentle. You can still remnants of warmth in the sand. It is sweaty nor chilly, everything is quiet. I am aware of my feet, the water and the sand. I make steps on the planet. I am not behind an office, figuring out ways how to make money. I am not caught in traffic. I am not even working. I just exist: breathing, being.
When we are open to it our days are filled with all kinds of little surprises and miracles. Who would have guessed an hour ago that I would sit outside writing my blog (now with two dogs trying to play with me. Ah, the dogs kicked sand all over my precious AirBook. That’s it, Mr Adventurous is going back inside). Where was I? We have a choice. We can either try to control, manipulate, avoid or decrease our experience (as we generally do, just observe your inner commentary on everything if you don’t believe me) or we can embrace it as it is presented to us. We can open up to the moment. It is not a nuisance that the moods of your co-workers can differ every day; it is a miracle. The sun comes out: people start to undress and flirt. It rains: people become moody. Isn’t it fascinating? The world becomes a field of play.
The challenge of warriorship is to step out of the cocoon, to step into space by being brave and at the same time gentle. You can expose your flesh and wounds, your sore points.
Usually when you have a wound, you put a Band-Aid on until it heals. Then you take of the bandage and expose the healed flesh to the outside. In this case you expose an open wound, open flesh, unconditionally. You can be completely raw and exposed with your husband or your wife, your banker, your landlord, anyone you meet.
Out of that comes an extraordinary birth: the birth of the universal monarch. The monarch is somebody who is very raw and sensitive, willing to open his or her heart to others. That is how you become a king or a queen, the ruler of your world. The way to rule the universe is to expose your heart so that others see your heart beating, see the red flesh and see the blood pulsating through the veins and arteries.
Day three of my solo retreat: 3 hours of meditation, a hike, a swim and healthy food. I just came back from the restaurant. Everybody warns you about things that could involve tap water but by now I have found out that salads, ice coffees and fruit shakes are fine. Yes, sometimes being a warrior means you daringly try the salad in India even though the Lonely Planet tells you not to. The outcome was a relief. I ask the waiter to leave out the French fries and to double the veggies. Now I am happy.
It is interesting to see the influence of sunlight, healthy food, nature and peace and quiet on my system. Obviously, it is very good for me. Also, all these cliché thoughts come up. Like: we don’t need much or all that running around in the city is senseless. I catch myself fantasizing about which paradise island has decent Internet. With the help of Skype and PayPal I can sustain myself and be of service to others simultaneously. Why work from a rainy and chilly place if the reception is good under the coconut palms? I will roam the planet until I find the perfect place for my retreat center, all sustainable and eco-friendly of course.