Month: February 2012

Through the Eyes of Someone Else

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Too often we go through our day, not completely convinced that what we are doing is enough, too aware of our own inadequacy.

Too often we let ourselves – and each other – know, that we are not entirely satisfied, that we are the cause of disappointment, the source of frustration.

We strive to do better and be better and we gradually create a person and a life to be proud of. But every time we listen to that voice of disapproval, something is broken.

And then once in a while we see ourselves through the eyes of someone else. Someone who sees something pure and beautiful and perfect.

And if we are conscious enough to  notice the remarkable effect, maybe we can accept it as the truth.

And maybe we can try to remember the power we have to create something beautiful. Remember that every time we direct our attention towards each others positive qualities, we create happiness and we help rebuild what was torn down.

And maybe we can show ourselves just a little more compassion – because most of the time, we are doing pretty well.

Momo Making

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Okay so it’s not really a secret that I have fallen completely in love with the Tibetan people – and their food!

I’ve made some new friends and yesterday I was invited home to one of them to hang out with him and his friends and learn how to make momos – a kind of dumplings, little packages of dough filled with whatever you like and then either steamed or fried.

We started with going shopping for different vegetables since I’m so difficult to not eat meat. When we got to his place, his friends were already working on preparing everything.

The whole thing was a very different cooking experience – with not much space and not all the fancy tools we have, everything took place on a small coffee table and a big scarf laid out on the floor.

First you mix flour and water into a dough – simple.

All the ingredients are rinsed and cut – equally simple.

Then the dough is first rolled into a long sausage shape and then divided into small pieces. Each piece is shaped round as a ball and then flattened to small pancakes. 

Now the tricky part; you put the pancake in your hand and place a spoonful of the filling in it and then you use your thumb to keep the filling in place while the other hand works its way closing the momo, making a rippled line.

I tried every step of the process and we all agreed that I’m a fast learner :D But the momo technique might take a little more practice to be perfected.

Once all the momos are made, they are put in a big steamer and steamed for 20 minutes. First thing I’m going to do when I get back to Denmark; buy steamer.

Final result is a huge portion of the most delicious food ever. You eat the momos with a hot chili sauce mix, dipping each bite of yumminess – I’m a fan :)

And the thing is, you can continue eating forever! We were talking and learning chinese and I was asking loads of questions about their escape from Tibet and different customs and so on all the while eating and then eating some more..

It ended up taking all afternoon and one of the things that I’m so fascinated by in the Tibetans that I’ve met, is the natural ease they display in everything they do. No hidden agendas, no ego play – just very pure and simple being.

Tibetan Losar

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Today, Friday, is the third and final day of Losar, the Tibetan New Year. For the past three days, there have been mass prayers and ceremonies around town and at the temples. On a more selfish note, for the past three days all the Tibetan restaurants has been closed, leaving only limited selection for dinner – really can’t wait for tomorrow.

This year, there has been no celebrations like usual. Instead, to commemorate  the self immolations, the Tibetan people have been wearing their traditional clothes as a statement. There have been hunger strikes outside the temple and the Tibetan Youth Congress has held several events to create attention and support for their cause.

This morning I went to a mass prayer – it wasn’t something I’d planned, I just wanted to walk down to a smaller temple just south of the big Tsuglagkhang Complex, which houses both the Namgyal Monastery and Temple as well as the residence of HH Dalai Lama. It’s a very beautiful walk through pine forest and all along the path there has been put stones engraved and painted with the Buddhist mantra “Om Mani Padme Hum”.

 

When I got to the temple, there were so many people and after making sure that my presence was accepted, I sat down and joined the prayers. Well, I didn’t know the words but I listened and focused my intentions, in awe to participate in such a moving experience. In the middle all the monks and nuns were sitting and were leading the chanting and spread out on both sides were everybody else. Sometimes only the monks and nuns were chanting, then it was like everybody else answered and they chanted back and forth, sometimes quiet, sometimes louder and more energetic. Children were running around playing, cookies and chai were being passed around, a few tourist walked by and there were some press photographers and a camera crew – such a relaxed and peaceful atmosphere and never without losing the chanting.

It went on for another 30’ish minutes (by then my butt was really cold from sitting on the ground) and then everybody stood up and received a small handful of flour, me included. I wasn’t exactly sure what to do with it but was told that it was for throwing. We were now all standing, facing the temple and a new prayer was said while holding out the hand with the flour. Twice we lowered the hand and raised it again while the prayers continued and on the third time we threw the flour up in the air and everybody wished each other happy new year, laughing and covered in white :)

That concluded the ceremony and everybody started walking back towards the main temple, most also making a round in and through the temple. The whole thing was such a beautiful experience and I’m so grateful to have been a part of it.

Later in the afternoon I went to the Namgyal Temple again (I live right next to it) and another mass prayer was going on. It was actually the same chant as in the morning – I still didn’t understand the words but recognized it just the same.

Around town as well as inside the Tsuglagkhang Complex, big posters have been put up with pictures and stories of the recent self immolations and also posters showing the latest killings of peaceful Tibetan protesters. Tibet has been pretty much sealed off and it’s practically impossible to enter or leave. Many people here in Dharamsala have family and friends still in Tibet, some of them escaping themselves by foot across the Himalayas.

It’s heartbreaking that after som many years, the situation has not improved and it’s almost incomprehensible that the Tibetan people are still so full of smiles.

And they have beautiful smiles.

Mcleodganj

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There’s a peace and a stillness here that fills me with gratitude.

When the mind is quiet the heart speaks.

View over Kangra Valley…

Best offer on the mountain…

Himalaya foothills…

Serenity…

Dried up Bagsu stream…

Tibetan prayers blowing in the wind…

Monastery entrance – shave your head and come on in…

Looking out over the world…

Contemplating Impermanence

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Facing the challenges of letting go of the past while being immersed in Buddhist wisdom naturally inspires some elaborate thinking..

Why are we holding on – and what exactly is it we’re holding on to? To the illusion of belonging somewhere or with someone? To a false sense of identity? To some pseudo security in our own ability to control anything? Well, all of the above probably.

But doesn’t it seem just a bit silly when we know (at least if we really think about it and are honest to ourselves) that it’s pointless, that it brings us only stress and sorrows and that it stands in our way of true freedom? Yes, that was a rhetorical question because the answer is obviously “DUH!”

So why is it so freaking hard?! I mean, everything is changing all the time. And so it should. Imagine a world gone completely stale and moldy and, even worse, predictable. Yuck!

So better learn to embrace change, to be safe in change.

I’m actually not a complete beginner in this area but still the layers keep peeling and the complexity of the challenge increases and I find myself trying harder. To comprehend and integrate. Reassess and proceed.

Okay, so how does it work.. Like, really work… I guess first of all, I need more self observance. And then every time I notice attachment, I let go. Easy, right? Apparently, not really. I’ve come to the realization that I need to dig deeper, to get to the bottom of this letting go business. Not just mentally understand it or grasp the general idea of it. I’m talking about fully embracing the nature of impermanence.

I feel pretty certain that this task is not something I’ll be able to complete rapidly and I also suspect that I would do better with a teacher.. I must admit, right now I have a strong urge to shave my head and join the nunnery, fully commit to the process. I’ll start with the less extreme approach though and see how that goes.

And so I’m contemplating impermanence.

Autobiography in Five Chapters

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I’m reading The Tibetan Book of Living & Dying. It’s a great book so far and it makes so much sense that I’m reading it now, surrounded by Tibetans, looking over at Dalai Lama’s Temple.

In the beginning of the book, Sogyal Rinpoche is talking about impermanence, how to embrace change and not be a slave to habits (very short description).

I’m not sure if this poem is by Nyoshul Khenpo but nevertheless, it’s wonderful!

 

Autobiography in Five Chapters

 

1)

I walk down the street

There’s a deep hole in the sidewalk

I fall in

I am lost… I am hopeless

It isn’t my fault

It takes forever to find a way out

2)

I walk down the same street

There’s a deep hole in the sidewalk

I pretend I don’t see it

I fall in again

I can’t believe I’m in the same place

But it isn’t my fault

It still takes a long time to get out

3)

I walk down the same street

There’s a deep hole in the sidewalk

I see it is there

I still fall in… It’s a habit

My eyes are open

I know where I am

It is my fault

I get out immediately

4)

I walk down the same street

There’s a deep hole in the sidewalk

I walk around it

5)

I walk down another street.

Love it :)

Chandigarh Re-energizing

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Chandigarh gave me just the break I really really needed and nourished me back to my balanced self – some had to do with the non-touristy feel to the city and a lot had to do with my wonderful host. I ended up staying there for 4 days, got some good nights sleeps and some long talks about life and love (what else is there to talk about). Soniya, my couchsurfer angel and our neighborhood :)

It was a couple of strange days, very conscious about being fragile but on a deeper level very clear and in touch with my heart and I gained some profound insights.

Just one day was very difficult – I was pretty much crying the whole day and of course that was the day I had chosen for sightseeing. Others might have postponed playing tourist but I was pretty damn determined that I was going to see the damn sights. So I went to the Rose Garden – it’s a park and there’s a lot of roses.

And I went to the Rock Garden – it’s a big park build like a fantasy out of rocks, very surreal and kind of cool. At the Rock Garden I almost broke down though – it’s hard enough to feel like shit but when you have an audience at all times, it really does add to the challenge. At one point an entire family is following me and I just know that they want a picture. Earlier that day I had said no for the first time when someone asked me if they could take my picture, I really wasn’t up for it. So this family follows me while talking loudly together and one of the men then starts calling me. I should just have kept walking but I turn around and he asks if they can take my picture and I apologize and says no. As soon as I have said that, several of them takes out their cameras and goes paparazzi on me. It was very uncomfortable. I get so angry and shout at them, which doesn’t impress them at all and then I walk off, immediately starts crying but keeps walking and misses out of quite a bit of the fantasy due to very blurry vision.

After that experience I was pretty exhausted but also wanted to see the lake. It’s an artificial lake and for some reason I thought it would be tranquil and with some beautiful nature relaxation. It was not. Maybe because it was Valentines Day or maybe because it was India, there was loud music, boat rides and a million people. I tried to just stay in my own quiet zone but honestly, it’s hard when people are giving you so much attention and photographing you when they think you don’t notice. I felt like the loneliest person in the world – or the loneliest animal in the zoo.

Well, I did survive and went to the university to meet with Soniya. Waiting for her, I spent some time in the university rose garden. I was walking around smelling all the different kinds of roses and at one point I took just one step out into the dirt to reach a really beautiful one. It turned out that they had just watered that section and so my left foot got completely drowned in mud – it looked great :)

I found Soniya and we got into her car and started driving – and I started crying – again. What a day. We had decided to go watch a Bollywood movie – you can’t go to India without having a Bollywood experience and it really turned out to be a perfect way to escape reality for a while. The movie was in hindi of course but the plot is so simple and they use a lot of English words so I had no trouble following. Bollywood is so cheesy and pretty cool!

I guess that day was another turning point, cleaning out some old to make room for some new. The next day I had clarity and balance and connection with my heart and was ready to move forward.

On Thursday the 16th I had decided to leave for the mountains and so after a day at home being cozy and taking care of some practical stuff I went to the bus terminal to catch the bus to Dharamsala. It’s an 8 hour ride in an old Volvo bus. Not really luxury but the seats does recline – mine was a little broken so that was actually the only thing it could do, be reclined. I had brought snacks and my iPod was charged but I hadn’t realized the falling temperature. Some of the windows were a little broke and as we ascended, the temperature descended and I kept pulling stuff out of my backpack to wrap and cover myself with. We arrived around 3am and thank god I happened to know someone who was there for the weekend so I got picked up at the bus terminal and had a place to crash and didn’t have to be bothered with finding a place until next day.