“If you’re not living good, I beg you to travel wide, travel wide.” – Bob Marley, Soul Rebel
“Feel them Spirit…I rule my Destiny.” – Bob Marley, Put It On
As Paulo and I walked out of Namche Bazaar on a stunningly clear morning towards the west and our eventual destination for the day of Thame, we looked up at the mountains surrounding us, very short by Khumbu standards, but wonderfully adorned with a fresh snow from the previous evening’s storm. I asked Paulo, “what do you think the frame is for this trek, what is the general theme?” We had been in Nepal adventuring about for over two months at that point, and to us it had felt like each thing we had done and place we had visited had been imbued with a special purpose as it related to our own journey. By the time we had walked out from Annapurna Base Camp we understood the meaning of our pilgrimage there, and had left the past up there in the snow, in the past, where it belonged. As we followed the long circuit around the Annapurna Massif we spun the wheel of our lives back into action from the stagnant, stalled state which they had degenerated into. Upon our return to Pokhara we felt like we had a purpose again, there was a path in front of us that we understood and could follow, life had motion. A week of intensive practice at Sadhana Yoga Center had taught us some methods by which to implement our quest for self-betterment, and had more importantly intoxicated us with a fresh breathe of progress. So in a way, as we embarked on another 20 days of wandering around the mountains, something we were getting fairly proficient at, I wondered if perhaps this mission would merely entail sightseeing, if perhaps the mountains had given us all that they could for this go-around, and hoped that as we walked we wouldn’t fall into some form of spiritual holding pattern, a bardo.
The path we walked in the early morning sunshine traversed along a south-facing slope through pine and rhododendron forests. The rhododendrons were in full bloom at this particular altitude, which was incredible because it seems that everywhere we have walked in this mountainous country, for three months, the rhododendrons have been blooming. Instead of the ubiquitous pink and sometimes dark, rose-like red, this day we experienced a pale off-white interspersed with yellow, a color grouping we had not yet seen. Trampling the carpet of fallen blossoms below his feet and strolling beneath the canopy of still hanging blossoms above him, Paulo replied something like, “I’ve been thinking about that. I’ve been waiting for it to hit me, what this trek is supposed to be all about, what we are supposed to learn. But we didn’t know at the beginning of the other trips either.” Patience: ponder it and walk on, through meadows, under rocky peaks, across clear brooks, past monasteries, and through our minds…
The next day we attempted to climb Sunder Peak, a little brown protuberance lost in the landscape of icy skyscrapers which surrounded Thame village. But in this crazy land, scale is skewed, things that look small are actually really big, and things that look big are, well, we never challenged any of the really big mountain spirits. What we thought would take a couple hours to surmount actually ended up entailing over 5,000 feet of rocky, gasping ascent, and the clouds boiling up from the hotness of India to the south caught us far below the summit. Without views we found ourselves without motivation to continue, so we sat down at a rocky knoll to enjoy our cracker snack instead. Buzzing, buzzing, buzzing–high thin air somehow left more space for inspiration, ideas began flowing… At one point Paulo said something similar to: “I think maybe I know what this trip is all about. You know how practicing yoga is meant to clean out your energy channels so that the prana can flow through your body better. I think wandering around the Khumbu is meant to clean out our mental channels. Our minds are being cleaned out so we can feel the inspirations we are supposed to in order to move forward towards our goal: self-betterment.” Brilliant!
The next day we hiked along under crystal skies towards a distant pass which would cross over into Tibet. This might have been the emptiest valley I had ever navigated, the vastness absorbed my self, it felt as if the vacuum sucked at my thoughts, my consciousness strove to expand large enough to occupy the everything around us, but it doesn’t seem that I succeeded, for alas, I am still here. I thought about how Paulo’s idea evoked the language and purpose of the Ho’oponopono mantra (cleaning, cleaning, cleaning) even as I chanted it internally, in tune to my breath, my steps, my heartbeat as I walked: “I love you, I’m sorry, please forgive me, thank you.” Over and over and over, walking, thinking, feeling, loving, apologizing, begging, thanking… Cleaning is to emptiness as dirt is to memories (hang-ups, obstructions, self-limits…).
On day _____ of our trek, I forget which, I must have left my sense of time in that other valley, we walked by lakes that we had envisioned the previous night in our dreams, visions of fairies floating around our heads, zen expressing itself perfectly in rocks, grass, water, everything… We climbed up a million steps to the summit of our first high pass of the trek, the Renjo La, which left us, well, out of breath at 17,500+ feet. As at all high points in the Himalaya, the summit was adorned by tibetan prayer flags blowing in the wind. After taking in the incredible distant view of Mt. Everest, tallest mountain on earth in case you hadn’t heard, Paulo and I sat around laughing, loving, taking pictures, convinced as always that we may be the smartest people on earth. After all, we’re on a mission from God. We drop that reference to people we meet sometimes, and sometimes they get it and realize how cool we are; other times they stare at us like we’re weird… Up high, thin air, yippee, here comes the Buzzz again! The feeling very much evokes this quote which I had read the previous night in perhaps the best Buddhist travelogue ever written (although I’ve only ever read one), The Way of the White Clouds by Lama Govinda. “A strange transformation takes place under the influence of this country…It is as if a weight were lifted from one’s mind, or as if certain hindrances were removed. Thoughts flow easily and spontaneously, without losing their direction and coherence, a high degree of concentration and clarity is attained almost without effort and a feeling of elevated joy keep’s one’s mind in a creative mood. Consciousness seems to be raised to a higher level, where the obstacles and disturbances of ordinary life do not exist, except as a faint memory of things which have lost all their importance and attraction. At the same time one becomes more sensitive and open to new forms of reality…” Cheers to that, couldn’t have said it better myself if I tried, which is why I didn’t. It couldn’t have got much better, but then a group of happy Israelis ascended from the opposite side of the pass and proceeded to brew up an amazing pot of espresso, which they shared with everyone in tiny ceramic espresso mugs, what a nice treat!
On the other side of the pass we lost a couple days around the crazy green/blue lake of Gokyo in a fog. We weren’t hungover or confused or stoned or anything, it was just really really foggy. We set out one day to find our way across the glacier to reach the base of the next pass, but got lost in the denseness of the fog and spent all day wandering around in a whiteout. Eventually we returned to Gokyo for more fortifying stew and another nights sleep. On a day which dawned clear, Cho Oyu, the world’s sixth tallest peak, stood glowing white at the head of the valley and the trail across the glacier was so easy to find a yak could have done it. Then again, nobody can actually define how smart a yak really is. And so we embarked on a climb up the second pass of the journey – the Cho La. Unfortunately, by the time we reached the top of this pass we were enveloped by those same clouds blown in from India, and instead of feeling the big empty buzz, we cowered on the lee side of the pass, imagining what the view looked like, before wisely choosing to follow a Nepali porter down into the murk of the glacier below us, so as to not become lost and fall into a crevasse.
A couple days later we woke up in the pre-dawn and tested our lung’s absolute capacity as we raced the sunrise to the top of Kala Pattar, a little black hump of a hill which is never-the-less over 18,000 above sea level and commands perhaps the most famous mountain view on the planet. Paulo and I arrived alone on the summit, prayer-flag adorned, and had the great good luck to enjoy one of the finest sunrises ever seen. We also proceeded to take about 40 of the exact same photos of Mt. Everest as everyone on earth has seen, but since the little dials on top of our cameras were positioned in “mountain mode,” our photos naturally turned out better than any you have yet seen. Inspired by the Israelis, we also dragged a giant thermos of black tea to the top and for many hours served people who wanted a drink. Perhaps the tea contributed to the now fully understood, fully embraced, fully anticipated Buzzz, cause with very little ado Paulo was throat chanting “OOOOOOOMMMMMMM’s” into the nothing, and yeah, well, I won’t pretend I am too cool for that sort of thing, we were both chanting OOOOOMMMMM into the nothing. And let me tell you, this nothing was a nothing that you wanted to envelope you, were hoping would consume, were loving while it ate you alive, not like the Nothing that Atreau and Valcor were screaming into the wind to get away from…
Fast forward, or backward, or most appropriately around in a circle to another time on this journey and we are chanting, screaming, hugging, laughing into the wind on top of Chhukung Ri, another insignificant summit in this range which still took us hours to ascend. The Buzzz has hit again, and we are contemplating the meaning of our Himalaya, for now it is almost over. We have had the greatest time of our entire lives here in these tuning fork mountains, they have picked us up off the ground, shown us how to love ourselves, shown us what is important and what does not matter, taught us that in the quest for a best friendship we need look no farther than our own blood. They have given us hope and spirit, made us to understand that deep within ourselves we are truly and already a manifestation of the Most High, taught us to fly…and these are things we will never forget. So it was hard to look out at the great spirits of Lhotse, Nuptse, Makalu, Cho Oyu, Ama Dablam, the sun, the moon, clouds and rivers, people and yaks, and know that every step from this moment onward would be downhill bound. Then again, from another perspective down is up, and we are already returning here before we have left…
So are we cleaner? Have we been emptied of the memories, hang-ups, self-limiting thoughts which impede us from becoming the future selves that we are destined to become? Was Paulo proven to be a profit and a seer, like a character in a Paulo Coelho novel? Well, certainly not in the physical sense, as neither of us took a shower for 20 straight days, we were not clean. But in the emotional and spiritual sense? Yes, I think it worked. Sometime during the circular time warp of the Khumbu a few very clear thoughts had crystallized into my head, pointing me in the harmonious direction and foretelling much of my future. Like Zarathustra descending from his mountain cave, ready to share his revelations with the world, I will share mine with you if you are still reading:
1) I believe that each and every one of us is an infinite being of light with literally no conceivable limit.
2) I believe that my destiny is to live my life in a way which Inspires myself and others to fully recognize and understand our limitless nature.
3) The only thing I have to do in order to fulfill this destiny is to Follow My Bliss!
And you know what, I think that these realizations hold true for absolutely everybody, no matter who you are. Imagine how great all of our lives will be once we are all living this way! I’m on my way to finding out, I’ll keep you posted!
Due to crazy slow internet speeds here in Nepal, I couldn’t upload photos to be viewed in this blog. If you would like to see photos from this trek, click here to check out my Public Facebook gallery.