A dog was barking much of the night. I dreamed of making dog soup from that little monster. I knew which dog was barking. It was a puppy tied up all alone, afraid, or whatever puppies feel in an empty courtyard alone at night. My compassion was non-existent for a barking, lonely dog at 2:30am. The next morning, in the puppy’s courtyard was a freshly slaughtered white goat. No blood anywhere, but the relocated head was sitting on the ground looking toward the body. The chopping block sat on the ground nearby, surrounded by five or six local guys anticipating a feast, no doubt. Goat soup, not dog soup. Damn! The dog will be barking again tonight.
Sometimes when I have returned from an ecstatically beautiful trip, I’ll first say something about the pain of the logistics of travel. I have spent a lot of time observing the arts and artists. It seems artists often choose to express pain or angst than to find the words or expressions that transmit beauty, joy, or happiness. Somehow it’s easier to share the hardships or discomforts of travel than the spiritual growth, the connection with strangers, unexpected joys of discovery, or what peaceful joy actually feels like.
I would like to bypass the foolishness of sharing hardships and discomforts and dwell on what the heart and soul of this trip really was. I want to share a taste of the perfect day we had today. It was a day of spiritual ecstasy, wonder, beauty, love, deep cultural connection, laughter, cameos of connection to others, good food, and good will.
Happiness was the river we floated on. The rapids of that river were times of ecstasy, like listening to hours of the chanting of the monks. We inhaled beauty and exhaled laughter. Everything and nothing was sacred.
Love touched each of us. It bubbled up from inside and splashed on the world, like jumping in a puddle with both feet. Alive, we were exploring Mustang’s capital city of 800 souls. We dodged donkey dung, ducked through low clearance passageways, and felt our way up and down pitch black stairways, trying to look up and down at the same time. Dungy shoes and bruised heads were the gift we took back to camp.
We marveled at the 700 year old fresco paintings in a rarely seen Zampa Monastery room. While we were in the back recesses of the huge room, behind the base of a huge Buddha statue that stretched up through 3 stories of the monastery, the entry door slammed shut. We made our way though the now dark room and found it was locked! While the rest of us thought it was funny, our local guide, the head restoration person, was furious. He pounded on the door as we chanted our old refrain: “Bring the keeeeeeey!”
Once freed, we visited the intimate, one room Chodhe museum which was filled with simple treasures of daily life. Our $10 tickets/contributions helped pay for the needs of educating the 70 poor young monks-in-training. The museum monk was both proud of and thankful for what they had accomplished at the school. While a bit shy, the young monk’s passion for the artifacts of the museum and the accomplishments of the school was beautiful. Similar encounters enriched our whole day.
As we walked past another monastery, we heard stunningly beautiful chanting. “Hem! What’s that? Let’s go in!” Hem said, “we’ll be back, don’t worry.” I listened a bit more, then tore myself away, running to catch up with the guys who had just turned into a side alley. We did return at the end of the morning monastery-walk. I have been in many Tibetan monasteries for chanting, from Ladakh to Bhutan, each deeply moving and uplifting, but I was completely unprepared for the impact of this experience. The chanting was so deep, so resonant, so pure, and so absolutely heartfelt, from the first moment, my mouth hung open in mystical wonder. Time stopped and the rest of the universe suddenly had no meaning, no existence.
Only after Hem’s promise to return again the next day, did we agree to move on. John walked slowly out of the monastery quietly sobbing, having been so touched, so deeply moved by this age old tradition, so vibrantly alive today. I now gratefully recall those moments of life when I was completely taken out of myself into an altered space of peaceful ecstasy. These are the most alive moments of life, available when I am.