Spinning the Wheel

“…More than just going with the flow, joe; conscious living means remembering the flow goes always through you, and your healthy needs and wishes, creativity, imagination, aspiration and dreams are also a part of it.” – Lama Surya Das

A long rock wall, stacked by hand and held together only by belief, adorned and sheltered from the weather by a slate stone roof split the trail leading out of town. Prayer flags – yellow, white, red, green, blue – attached together by a long string dangle from wooden pole parapets. Some ends are tied to nearby trees or rocks, other ends of flags blow loosely in the wind, frayed, discolored, old. Inset into the wall at head height for an average Tibetan, or perhaps low chest level for an american male, is a seemingly endless bank of prayer wheels – hollow circular copper drums about 1 foot tall, stuffed with prayer flags, attached with a spindle on the center above and below so they spin, and stenciled on the outside with the ubiquitous prayer: Om Mane Padme Hum. According to Buddhist tradition you pass these prayer wheels on the left, so that with your right hand you spin each wheel as you walk by in the clockwise direction. It is said that spinning the wheel one revolution releases the prayers inscribed upon it and contained within to the wind, liberating them for the good of yourself and all the world. So I walk down the row, spinning each wheel as I walk by, leaving them clattering and praying behind me. Paulo follows, liberating more divine prayers for our benefit. We stroll out of town along the worn path in front of us, continuing our circular walk around the giant powerful mountain, rarely and fittingly even visible to us, like the meaning of life. We set each small wheel spinning as our footsteps around this mountain set our internal wheels spinning as well. Spinning, changing, growing…

On our previous pilgrimage to Annapurna Base Camp, Paulo and I embarked with confusion, wounds, and thoughts of the past clouding our hearts and souls. At our destination, the overwhelming sanctuary of mountain gods, we found the meaning behind our pilgrimage, and thus liberated ourselves by symbolically shedding the painful and confusing past. Unencumbered, we felt light, light, full of light. I say we, because although our burdens were different, they were never-the-less still possessed by each of us. But our return to civilization still left us in a difficult place, not sure of the present direction. Time had come to a stop. There was no past, but now there seemed to be no future as well, we were in a vortex, lacking meaning. The wheel was no longer spinning… So we embarked on another trek into the mountains, another journey into ourselves, to set our internal prayer wheel spinning again.

We walked slowly for days as we circumnavigated the huge mountain of Annapurna. For most of the time we walked alone, lost in our own thoughts, occasionally stopping to point out something interesting to each other or take photos. Sometimes our thoughts hit on a great inspiration, and we marched along babbling to each other, wrapped up in where the dreams might go. In the evenings we relaxed at guest houses which adorn every village along the trail. We met people from all over the world and shared many fine meals with them. Most of the time we ate the same thing – tsampa (wheat) porridge for breakfast, some sort of fried potato dish for lunch, and Dal Bhat for dinner. The Dal Bhat, or rice with lentils and vegetable curry, all mixed together and stirred up and eaten by hand is virtually the only meal that Nepali’s eat, they consume huge portions of this exact same dish twice a day, every day. We were rained and snowed upon, and also baked by the sun and pelted with dust driven up by ferocious winds. We bathed in rivers or streams, drank from the same water, and occasionally took a shower at one of our evening abodes; occasionally these showers were hot. We had crystal clear views and views which were obscured for days by intense smoke blown up from the lowlands of Kathmandu and India. We saw blue sheep, yaks, goats, monkeys, weasels, eagles, vultures, crows, buffalo, and countless animals we don’t even know. We saw monks, children, lamas, Hindus, Tibetans, Gurungs, Sherpas, easterners and westerners. Through it all we had smiles on our faces, we were truly the happiest folks on the trail. We wrote in our journals first thing every morning, and would stop for meditation breaks along the path every day, sometimes having find a quiet place in the dark outside of a village before bed. We walked, we talked, we thought, we read, we wrote, spinning our wheel…

I have already tried to write up the story as it actually happened, and gave up after I realized it was impossible. I am far too full of thoughts and memories to even begin to know how to chronicle what we went through in the amount of time that I have in the transient and busy world of travel. Instead, check out my photo album, which will have to suffice for telling the story from our eyes (you can also check out Paulo’s album). To condense the ideas, revelations, thoughts, inspirations, lessons of each day, I wrote a poem. Each line represents the most quintessential thought or idea riff of that day:

Spinning the Wheel
The power to Inspire a stranger is within your Bliss:
Art is empowered by your vision of Love.
Our past is piles of burnt ashes already blown away,
Loneliness is outside, better to be alone,
As nobody else defines the real you.
Search out places of power, places of light,
Sit still and be: face what you fear most.
Ask questions as a soaring crow, perceiving the future.
Manifest the people who understand your vision, then
Spin around on your own terms, reaping surprise rewards.
You have No Limits, the group thinkers can’t bring you down:
There is always a yang to the yin, only you create disappointment.
Peace is connection: We are all ONE love.
Your convictions will always be proven correct,
Don’t sweat the future, a different you will be living it.
Fly! you won’t unless you try!
Experience is the only teacher, so “lively up yourself:”
No Limits is what it’s all about!