Monday, October 26, 2015

Becoming Nepal

Through the years, I have known the pleasure of visiting many fine locations; beaches, resorts, ski slopes and lodges ...places so carefully crafted that they asked nothing of me, and I in return gave nothing back. To be certain, these were marvelous experiences in a temporal sense, and I would be sad to imagine having no more like them, but the simple fact is that nothing changes in the course of living them.  From food to linens to the very reshaping of the landscape these places sit upon, every aspect of them has been designed to match or exceed the comforts of home. 

It is not possible to visit Nepal. It does not understand your expectations and lacks the pretense to suggest otherwise. Kathmandu will show you her slums gathered just outside the airport, her miserable infrastructure and filthy streets. You will lose power a few times each day. There is little good coffee, and the crush of humanity will dissuade you from seeking it out. The air is thick with dust and smog, and the constant chatter of horns will fill your head as cars and motorcycles converse, weaving an auditory blanket of chaos. Yet the people of Kathmandu will strike you as remarkably warm, kind, and happy. You might attribute this to their trying to compensate for all that this place is not. You would be wrong. This is who they are, in spite of all they do not have, and something about that realization will invite you to bear witness on a personal level, unfettered by the possessions you left at home. 

The Khumbu will show you much fewer people and no motorized vehicles, aside from the occasional helicopter. It is nothing if not peaceful. But this comes at a cost. About 30% of the air one would normally breath is absent at this elevation, the water quality is suspect, and the vast majority of restrooms consist of drop pits below a hole in the floor. The lodges are unheated, the food is mostly freeze-dried, and personal hygiene becomes a battle not worth fighting. Yet here again you will find the most pleasant human beings walking the earth; toothless old men who join their hands in prayer and say “namaste” as you pass, Porters who find the strength to greet you as they toil beneath loads exceeding their own weight, children who extend a tiny brown hand for the sake of feeling your palm against theirs.  

There is no visiting Nepal. You can only become it. And the degree to which you do so will be defined by your ability to let go; let go of all your definitions and judgements, your petty needs and vulnerabilities. Let go of the anger you carry for slights you can’t even recall. Let go of more-ness. Let go of your self-limitations and slavish traditions. Let go of the self-protections that prevent your heart from growing. And with each thing you let go of, you will feel that space filled with warmth as you become Nepal. 

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