^^^ Press Play ^^^
Don’t worry, I’m not trying to brainwash you with creepy 12/21/12 end-of-the-world messages today.
Just wanted to share with you this Tibetan Buddhist mantra I was enamored by while traveling through Nepal back in May of 2010. Although I wasn’t (and am still not) in a spiritual place in my life, “Om Mani Padme Hum” blanketed me with tremendous calm in the midst of chaos and crisis.
What chaos and crisis, you ask?
As fate would have it, I had arrived in Nepal on the eve of a Maoist strike that shut down the entire country.
Shut DOWN. Yeah, these angry little commies took over the streets of Nepal and made travel a complete nightmare while I was there. Flights were cancelled. Hotels and restaurants shut their doors. ATM machines were out of service. And even if I could use an ATM, my money was inaccessible anyway because my Visa had a “block” on Nepal – but that’s a whole ‘nother debacle.
To make matters…err, interesting (I wanna say “worse” but that wouldn’t be very nice)…I was traveling with my one of my best friends who had flown in from California. She came out to see me, bless her heart, and this was her VACATION.
You see, for ME, it was another rugged backpacking adventure – I’d been on the road for six months and through six countries by this time, so I was in a completely different head space. SHE was trying to escape a stressful job and a devastating divorce – and dammit, she wanted to relax!
But here we were, stuck with a bunch of commie clowns on the streets, and nowhere to go.
- Our planned trip to Mount Everest was cancelled.
- We could forget about our long-awaited paraglide through the Himalayas.
- At one point, we actually had to push our own rickshaws from Thamel (Kathmandu’s city center) through the political demonstrations, through the police barricades to get to the airport. We pushed those rickshaws about 10 kilometers. Oh, and in 85 degree heat with 90% humidity.
To say the least, my friend was effing PISSED. Me, not so much. I was more amused than anything. If I knew how to whistle, I’d have been whistling “Always look on the bright side of life” a la Life of Brian. But my lah-dee-dah, go-with-the-flow attitude was upsetting her even more.
And so it went. A few days of this in Kathmandu and a few more days of it in Pokhara. More civil unrest. More tensions rising.
We sought refuge at a Buddhist meditation center, although my friend ended up ditching me for a luxury resort on the lake (no hard feelings, the retreat just wasn’t the right place for her).
Immersing myself in yoga, philosophy, meditation, and noble silence for a few days, I emerged from the experience with a renewed sense of calm (and, as you can see from the photo, a silly blue wig which, for the record, bears absolutely no meaning or significance!).
I also found refuge in observing the local community in Pokhara. Despite the obnoxious protests and the frustrations it created for civilians, there was a beautiful soothing energy that came from those who were just trying to live their day to day lives.
I so enjoyed hanging with the locals and basking in their good energy. They were all smiles, and had a way of letting negativity just roll off them with grace.
All the meanwhile, it seemed to me this Tibetan Buddhist mantra was the source, or at least a catalyst, for everyone’s even-keel temperaments. The soothing chant doesn’t have an exact translation but generally symbolizes compassion and wisdom among other things.
The mantra was inescapable. On the streets, in the shops, wherever I happened to be, “Om Mani Padme Hum” hypnotized me with serene lightness everywhere I went. I didn’t always know where it was coming from either; sometimes it seemed to be coming from the trees!
As soon as I hear it, even now to this day, I feel instant peace.
I can’t say the same for the Maoists, however. They ended up with dysentery. No joke. So let that be a lesson to you: communism = diarrhea. Ha. Kidding aside, and regardless of one’s religion or politics, I think we can all use a little Om Mani Padme Hum in our lives.
Here are a few more of my photos from Pokhara and my meditation retreat: