I’m fresh back in McLeod Ganj after 10 days of many special moments in Manali and The Deer Park Institute at Bir. After a week of no shops I went on the rampage within the first 3 hours of arriving back and somehow managed to spend more than I did over the past entire week! Luckily that’s only about 20 pounds. I’ve come to the conclusion no matter what I do I will always love shopping, it’s just part of me so I might as well embrace it 🙂
I arrived in Manali 4.30am last Monday after a sleepless mini bus journey up windy potholed mountain roads. I was whisked off from many taxi drivers touting for business to a beautiful guesthouse through alleyways of farmers houses right in the middle of a cherry orchard. My room was on the roof top and just had the most amazing view of the glaciers in the distance. I am just mesmerized by snow topped mountains now, after being such a beach person all my life it’s a bit of a new love affair.
After a bit of a sleepy day on Monday I got up early to do yoga on my roof terrace the next day, what a perfect setting to practice I kept having to pinch myself. I was interrupted midway by a face at my door by another yoga teacher who had spotted me from another roof top! He was new to Manali and trying to set up a class. I spent the next few days encouraging him to promote himself, he seemed to have a block telling people about what he was doing. I got chatting to a girl about him in the street on my last day and the morning I was leaving I noticed she had gone to his class. I hope from then on it built momentum and things worked out for him.
Manali is just beautiful and so quiet. I had a beautiful moment one day where I had just
gone for a wander up the mountain and came across the most amazing view. There was no one around so I just sat there on the edge of the mountain staring at the snow peaks and rushing river thinking about all I want to create in my life when I get back to UK. It was perfect, the moment just gave me the clarity I needed and now I have an action plan!
I also had a rather amusing moment when I was taking some snaps of local cows tethered up to their homes. A farmer came up to me and said “don’t you have cows in your country?” . I think he thought I was slightly strange. Cows and I are another new love affair, I am not sure if I am going to be able to go back to eating beef when I return. As for YAKS, well no we don’t have them in The New Forest, they are a whole new animal to me and are pretty awesome!
Next stop was The Deer Park Institute at Bir, which used to be a monastery but is now used for people wanting to learn about Indian religion and philosophy. I dedicated the next few days to learning as much as I could about Buddhism and attempting to sit in meditation for as long as I could. I think 35 minutes was my longest effort.
As soon as I stepped out of the car at Deer Park my heart beat slowed, I felt a sense of peace and I knew I was in the right place right in that moment. It was so quiet, so beautiful and had such a lovely energy.
So what did I learn about Buddhism? Well it’s based around 4 truths:
1) Life is constantly evolving, nothing stays the same. Impermanence.
2) Emotions cause pain. Even happy ones will eventually cause some kind of pain as you try to cling on to them.
3) All things have no inherent existence. Everything is a perception, a meaning we add to it. If you were to cut me open and try to find “Louise” and all my perceived qualities you would not find them, they are from your mind.
4) Nirvana is beyond concepts. Our human mind can not begin to explain what enlightenment is.
It’s a philosophy based around recognizing where you are suffering, acknowledging it and choosing to create positive feelings instead. If you are feeling negative thoughts about another for example envy or hatred you are to counterbalance them by looking at that person with a more positive feelings such as compassion and happiness (if it’s envy) for them instead. If you are simply feeling a painful emotion yourself, the idea is to become the observer of it, be with it, accept it and then replace it with more loving positive thoughts. Buddhists use meditation to give yourself the space to be in control of your mind, to calm it down and to be loving all the time, to yourself and others.
Love, Peace and Compassion is central to the religion. Even the Dalai Lama manages to have compassion towards China who have cruelly invaded Tibet and are destroying their culture. It’s a lovely philosophy and something we can all learn from.
My room in Deer Park overlooked the temple, I just lay there on my first morning with a big grin. It was a beautiful site to wake up to.
Interestingly in my room there was a full length mirror which was a novelty as I haven’t really seen my self in full length since being here. To my slight horror I looked like I had shrunk and gained a stone…..until I realized the mirror was curved, like a comedy mirror. I wonder if they put those in the rooms to help people detach from obsession with self image?! Probably not but it did make me smile. What was even more interesting was that by the end of my stay there I was fully believing that was how I looked, so I got a pleasant surprise when I saw myself again in a “normal” mirror! It just goes to show how your mind adjusts to seeing things a certain way if you think or look at them regularly enough.
I was enjoying the yoga classes there and became friends with a very sweet Tibetan guy from a near by monastery called Tashi. He wanted me to speak to him so he could practice his English, so every night we walked round and round in circles for a couple of hours talking. He has escaped from Tibet with 3 monks when we was 21, he left his family behind. It took them 2 months to walk across the Himalaya’s into India. This was not the first time I had heard a story like this, most of the Tibetans here have done this journey and left their family behind. It’s so sad and Incomprehensible what China has done in Tibet, I am only really learning about this for the first time whilst being here and I just don’t understand why other countries are not helping them.
So now I am back in McLeod Ganj to do some more yoga with my teacher here and to listen to His Holiness the Dalai Lama do 3 days of talks next week on Intro to Buddhism, perfect timing me thinks! It seems quiet here with out all my friends but it’s a good transition to getting me prepared for my trip home. I am already starting to feel excited about seeing everyone back in UK again soon.
A friend here suggested my last intention for June should be “crazy silly fun”, he seemed to think after all these more serious mindful intentions I should just focus on being a bit silly and spontaneous. I of course loved the idea, I am just a little intrigued how it will work whilst being on my own here! We will see…… crazy silly fun here we come.
Lots of love xxx