Feb. 24- Another 10 hour drive, but finally in Kathmandu. The drive, like the others before it, on bad roads, this time a climb to 6000 feet. I am not recovered from the stomach issue, and all I can say is the ride was better than the night before. Benchen monastery in incredible, something like 500 steps up to get to the guest house. We are on the third floor. This afternoon we are off to see a medieval village. I think I would prefer to stay in- a little solitude would be good. My ego is acting up again. I found it troubling that so much money changed hands on the border crossing. I expect it is cultural in this area, but I am wondering where the honor is. One of the girls, looking for an appropriate song, came up with "Money makes the World go Round." I think Pink Floyd seemed more appropriate. While the ego is out, here are some things that have bothered me: 1) the Lama in Sarnath who hurled the piece of pipe in anger 2) the middle of the night border crossing 3) the 8-10 hour bus rides, arriving at a closed monastery at 2 am 5) the ritual. Some things that I liked: 1) the mandala 2) Gishela 3) the stupa and Bodhi tree. Some other things I did not like: 1) the shopping 2) being told to suspend conditional thinking-the ego didn't like this, while if I let go of I, there is no disagreement. Too bad I have not been able to do it. Perhaps this is what I did not like. Did another wisdom journey this evening. Spent the afternoon in a very old portion of Kathmandu, again narrow streets, very old buildings, very isolated from more modern Kathmandu, preserved as it was. It is called Bhaktapur. Many interesting sacred items such as Tangkas, Mandalas, etc.
I have to say that Rinpoche has a certain prescence that I see strangers notice. They see something about him, and often stop to look. It is more than the robes as there is an abundance of crimson robes in Kathmandu. Admittedly he is worldly, and charismatic. It doesn't hurt, or perhaps it does, that he has 15 Americans following him around. I like him. When he is sweet, he is very sweet, and he can be very generous. As he says, however, if he is your teacher, he does not care if you like him, that is not a requirement of his duty as a teacher. I have not asked him to be this, and would not be eligible to ask him at this time.
Here are some other things that I have not liked: 1) nothing works in India/Nepal, a gross exaggeration, but so it seems- rarely is there hot water, and WIFI does not work, though you may pay to find that out. The hotel we were at last night had WIFI for $1 per hour, but could not connect. Benchen has it, but can only get messages, and then in the middle of the night. And this is not to glorify the USA. AT&T sold us an international plan for WIFI hot spots suggesting that you could find them in India. You cannot. The nearest is Sri Lanka.
Here is the crux of my dillema. I don't geel good about myself on this trip. I feel ackward and out of place. I feel good about myself, at least most of the time, at home, or as a guitarist or cyclist. And again I should say this is my ego talking. One should not be effected by where they are standing, and whatever facade I put up does not identify who I am at core. Guitarist or cyclist are relative, on an absolute level, I suspect, I am consciousness. In reality there is not I.
Oh yeah, the other thing that does not work is the handle on our door. It turns round and round in a circle without opening the door. When we arrived, we came in, and locked the door. Julie knocked on the door, and we couldn't open it from the inside. If she had not been there to open it from the outside, we would still be there. I told the head monk about this, and he says: "Oh, No, no, not broken. He really needs to practice his English, and you can imagine how much I hate to be told I am not seeing what I am seeing.
Feb. 25- Great teaching from a monk named Tsoknyi Rinpoche. He is the author of a book that I think is titled "Open Mind, Open Heart." He explained "be with" a feeling using a great metaphor he called the "Handshake." I'll come back to that. Leaving early for Pokhara, a small village at the foot of the Himalayas.
Feb. 26- Another all day bus ride to get to Pockara, a great little, young tourist town, with a great view of one of the peaks called "Fishtail." We are staying in a great little motel that seems like a Swiss hotel to me. The evening started with a walk along Fema Lake in the dark, and we ended up losing half of the group, who then turned up at the restaurant.
Anyway back to the "Handshake" metaphor. Imagine one hand as a problem, might be anxiety, sadness, anger, or a difficult thought or memory. Tsoknyi shook that hand like it was vibrating. Imagine the other hand as "an Indian ladies handshake," very gentle. Imagine this hand just gently touching the other hand, the problem, soothing, assuring-notice the problem, get to know it, develop awareness, until-"okay, I'm okay now." Tsoknyi was vital, incredible energy just flowing through him, as funny as a comedian. I need to think about this metaphor, but it explains what I have been trying to explain for five years. An important practice in Acceptance and Commitment Therapy is learning how to "be with" a difficult thought or feeling. I could never adequately explain what this means.
Pokhara is a crazy, almost Alpine town. As we were walking home last night, out of one bar, came this bluesy kind of electric guitar, with just a touch of Eastern flavor. In the past, I would not have missed this.
Feb. 27- Hard drive by jeep up a mountain road to an ancient village called Dampos right next to the Himalayan foothills. Though it was partly cloudy when we arrived, there is a view of several peaks out the window of the guest house. The landscape is unchanged for thousands of years, terraced farming, very primitive farming using compost, lush valley and the view of the mountains. You could easily forget you're not somewhere in Western North America. The drive up was on a road as remote I've been on since Viet Nam. I am not sure what time it is, and it is easy to lose track of what day it is. This in itself is a new experience for me. I am usually so tuned in to time. When we arrived we took a hike to drop off some supplies for the local school. We are told by a teacher that some kids walk two hours each way to get to school. This is the end of the line for us. We've gone from Indian herd Delhi, to Sarnath to smoggy Kathmandu, to wonderful Pokhara, and now to Dampos. From here we backtrack to Pokhara, then back to Kathmandu and return by Delhi and Dubai.
My plan for the trip was to be productive. I will have to evaluate that based on what I expected. The shock of what India is can never be imagined. There has been no blinding flash of enlightenment, and I don't want to imitate what those who have been here before have. I don't know what that leaves. I have relied on my inner wisdom to get me this far, and the last couple of days have been easier. Today I again feel out of touch with others.
So, either I am not myself when I'm home, or I am. If not myself at home, pehaps I am here. If not here, not there, where? Perhaps nowhere. Perhaps this really works, and I realize I am nowhere, nothing, no thing. Not Tibetan, though I have been given a Tibetan name Loselle Nema, meaning Clear Mind like the Sun; this is zen-the dawning of the sun.
I wish I could continue that paragraph, but I have nothing to add. I am not myself, and wishing I could stay that, just let go, be nothing, simply just disappear. When I was walking back from the hike (into the past?) I actually contemplated going past the guest house, just see where it leads, what happens when the road stops-it apparently does so a couple of more miles down the way. Would I still keep going? Would I just keep walking and disappear? This really is the end of the world. You really could just walk away. Would I survive? Would it matter? Perhaps with the first step past the end of the road you simply deconstruct. Well, anyway, I didn't. Here I sit writing. Obviously the past several pages have been written after the thought, yet did something happen? I continue to feel awkward with others. If we can't connect at a deep level, let's just stop trying. Let go of the conditional thinking and simply sit as the monks who sat in caves. We are told that Buddha sat until emaciated. All you would need is water. But imagine how difficult when your demons attacked.
What a shell aging leaves. You notice. The loss. Gone at least, until you disappear into the next life.
The clouds have rolled in while I meditated to cover the mountains. That has changed. Everything continues to change, yet here I sit at the end of the world, retired, too tired to play the game. Will I just keep sitting. Would that be the answer? What would happen if I didn't leave here-just stayed at the end of the road? There was a Japanese monk in one of the caves we visited recently, chanting, singing really, sitting full-lotus. I could join him. I wonder what his story is.
What is my story? Old warrior, failed human, sinner, phony master, social retard, questionable friend, liar, manipulating food, ass hole. And likely this will go on. We will drive back down that hill tomorrow, and I will resume this "being" learn a tune or two, do a few more hundreds. What for?