Sit like the majestic mountain. Have you ever observed how the mountain sits?
It sits in peace, serenity and majesty. It sits with acceptance of things just as they are.
It is kind, stable, solid and majestic. It is immovable yet it embraces all, no matter what the weather is. It does not react to the unforgiving winds and intense snow storm, yet it does not reject anything either.
It is the magnanimous silent witness, observing all that is without adding or subtracting. It does not reject, criticise, belittle, manipulate or judge.
It sits with its roots deeply intertwined to the earth below. It is grand and solid in its outer structure, yet supple and rich in life force and minerals in its inner chamber. Just like how a healthy spine should be.
,In the midst of our global respiratory Pandemic with lock downs many coined as involuntary ‘house arrest’, we are facing what seems to be a relentless rocky storm, and perhaps, it is precisely this time, we need to be reminded of the noble qualities of the majestic mountain; so we can meet everything in softness and a deep sense of hope despite critical outer conditions. For the nature is our greatest teacher.
After my Zoom mindfulness class this morning, images and memories of Mt Kailash flooded my mind steam, it is as though this majestic mountain wants to speak to us all. I began to remember my pilgrimage to Mt. Kailash in 2005 and my precious time in the cave, near the Didak Phuk Monastery on the Mt Kailash kora (Tibetan for “circle’)
MT KAILASH KORA
Mt Kailash, known as Gang Rinpoche (“Precious Mountain”) to the Tibetans, is a 6,638 m (21,778 ft) high peak in the Kailesh Range (Gangdisê Mountains), which forms part of the Transhimalaya in Tibet. The mountain is located near Lake Manasarovr and close to the source of some of the longest rivers in Asia. It is revered to be sacred by four wisdom traditions: Bon, Budhhism, Hinduism and Jainism.
Mt Kailash is on the bucket list of every spiritual person I know! For a Buddhist like me, I was told that if we make kora (circumvention in a clockwise direction) three times around Mt Kailash, it will help to purify our negative deeds accumulated in the past, present and future lives. I can report to you that I only managed to purify my past and present lives as I completed kora 2 times in 7 days in my trip. Looks there is one more kora waiting for me!
Each Kora is about 56 km, taking the ordinary person 3 days to complete and the elevation is from 4575m from Darchan to the highest peak at 5650m at Drolma La Pass, passing 3 valleys and ending back in Darchan. The hard core local Tibetans who are acclimatised can do this trip in a day, starting their journey at 3am finishing around 6pm.
I completed my first kora in three days with the help of my guide, Ngawang, without whom I don’t think I would have made it. We rested for one day in Darchen, with the biggest foot blisters I have ever had in my life, and it was only on this rest day, that I madly decided to do the kora again! It was an ultimate test of my mind and spirit. Because at the end of the first kora, my body was already in total exhaustion. It was by the power of my mind, spirit and blessings that I managed to complete the second kora, stronger than the first! The conditions of the kora were harsh and extreme especially difficult with the elevation of 1,000m in just 56 km. When I reached the highest peak at Droma-La Pass, I had a massive headache and vomited a few times. I took glucose tablets and drank lots of water and felt better. It was desert in the day – dry, crazy sunny, and relentless sand wind and freezing at night! Food was also a problem for me- I survived on Chinese instant noodles as my stomach did not and still does not react well with tsampa (Tibetan barley).
IN MY CAVE
,My most precious Kailash memory was discovering this dakini cave near the Didak Phuk Monastery, before the final ascend to Drolma-La Pass. I decided to stay in the cave for the rest of the day and night before my ascend to Dromla-La Pass. It was a tiny cave with a narrow entrance (see the picture above) and I could barely stand inside the cave, it was about 4 feet in height. Even though it was tiny and narrow, sitting in the cave and looking out at Mt Kailash, I felt so at peace and so spacious and open in my heart. I meditated and sang songs of offering to Kang Rinpoche. I had goosebumps running down my spine when I saw Kang Rinpoche responded with snowflakes falling down her peak, whispering to me that she had heard my prayers.
To be honest, I was worried of unwanted animal visitors at night and also extreme cold at night, so I blocked the entrance with my daypack and I put on all the warm clothes I had with me! I made sure the monks from the monastery would bring me some hot water in the morning. Fortunately, I had no unwanted visitors that night, and I practiced meditation into wee hours of the morning, and making butter lamp offerings in the cave. I slept only for a few hours as I was woken up by the extreme drop of temperature in the night. In early dawn, I heard footsteps coming towards my cave: the monk came for me with a steaming bowl of noodles, I was moved to tears.
MY MEDITATION JOURNEY
I stated meditation in 1999. To date, I have accumulated 5,800 lifetime practice hours, bulk of which in strict solitary meditation retreats in Nepal. Yes I sat in a room, no contact, no speaking to outer world with an attendant who brought food to me once a day. In total I did 7 months retreat. These retreats gave me a firm foundation to build my practice in my life. In many ways, the current social distancing reminds me of my retreat days, the only difference is my retreat was based on free-will. ⠀⠀
Many people talk about how yoga saved their lives. But for me, it was meditation which saved my life and got me out of my depression and anxiety days from the reliance on medication which in the long run was hurting me.
As with the cultivation of any new habit, the key to success for training in meditation is consistency and less is more. How we train our body (eg in the gym, yoga) is how we train our mind. It is also key to learn from a qualified teacher who embodies the teachings instead of one who is merely repeating textbook verbatim with a certificate (and I mean no disrespect to any certification system). ⠀
There is no overnight success when it comes to achieving greatness and developing a new habit like meditation is no different. So it’s 99% practice and 1 % theory!!
If you feel like having some calm and balance during this uncertain time, please check out my “Hello Me- One Cycle of Breath meditation”. I hope it will bring you some calm and inspire you to choose living in a mindful and awakened way.
May all beings be happy
May all beings be free from suffering.
May all beings never part with authentic happiness.
May all beings stay in equanimity without hatred and aversion to those near and far.
On this precious Dakini Day-
25th of 2nd month of Tibetan Calendar