Tuesday, September 23, 2014

One Long Exhale: India & Nepal Part 4

We woke up early on Christmas morning and traveled by private vehicles from Varanasi, India to the border of Nepal.  Travel and border crossing took the majority of the day and due to my lingering chest cold, we called it an early night after sharing Christmas dinner with our fellow travelers.  

The next day, we boarded a bus for the short trip to Lumbini- the birthplace of Siddhartha Gautama who would later become known to the world as Buddha.  More than anything, this had been my most anticipated stop on our journey and a large reason we picked our specific tour.  After our visit to Sarnath, I was mildly hesitant- nervous that this too would be lackluster and uneventful.  As we drove, we saw the countryside of Nepal was similar to India- stunning yellow mustard fields and farmland stretched for miles.  New feelings of peace quickly blended with my already present anticipation as we approached the sacred grounds.
Endless Prayer Flags- Endless Prayers
As we walked near the grounds, prayer flags scattered through the trees amplifying the intensity of the sacred nature of the area.  They waved gently in the wind while we walked- brushing our arms with remnant air of others' prayers. I found my way into a small temple outside of the grounds and without much thought, took my shoes off and went in for a moment of quiet chanting.  As I was finishing, a monk entered. After exchanging pleasantries and talking for a few minutes, he looked at me with twinkle in his eye "I like you." "I like you, too" I replied with a smile and giggle.  He then tied a white piece of string around my neck, offered a blessing of health and love. I was on my way. I would wear that string until it fell off long after we returned home from our travels and to this day, this was my single most favorite interaction of our whole trip.

Monks & Motorbikes 

T.J. met me outside and we walked to the Gardens of Lumbini to see the exact spot that Buddha was believed to be born.  The entire area must be walked barefoot- no shoes are allowed within the walls. I'm convinced the act of walking barefoot in this area helped further ground visitors to the profound energy of such a beautiful place.  You could feel it in every cell and it was unlike any sensation I have ever experienced.  It was a peaceful living energy that washed over everything. Nothing seemed more appropriate than to meditate and pray. In those moments, we were still for the first time in over a week. Although I'd found time to pray during our trip, this was the first time where it felt truly out of thanks instead of necessity.  

India had been a beautiful assault to every part of my senses- challenging me, forcing me to jump head first out of my comfort zone and into a new culture and let go. The excitement was both invigorating and exhausting.  The visit to Lumbini was the beginning of one long meditative exhale that would last the duration of our trip.

Next Post: Chitwan, Girl- Go 'head Chitwan 

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