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Posted By Luminous Jewel, Blake Walton

Pilgrimage#1: Origins of the Path

 

Some things are meant to be. My recent trip to Nepal and Tibet falls into that category, as well as the categories of “once-in-a-lifetime”, “dream-come-true”, and “too-good-to-be-true”. Actually, the trip ultimately defied categories altogether; but more about that later.

 

Winter Solstice gif

Winter Solstice Sunrise at Tara Mandala

 

I had dreamed of going to the Himalayas since I was 12 years old, an unlikely aspiration for a girl growing up in suburban Dallas in the 1950s.  My maternal grandparents managed a summer camp near Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado, and rather than loll around the public pool in the sweltering Texas heat, I spent every summer in the cool high mountains of Colorado, hiking, riding my cousin’s horses, and attending camp.  I looked forward to my annual summer pilgrimage to the mountains all year long. It felt like my salvation, my own private Shangri-la, to escape to the mountains from the suffocating confines of school and a dysfunctional nuclear-family life. The summer I was 12, I climbed my first mountain over 14,000 feet. And I was hooked. I voraciously read books from the library about the Himalayas, and settled on Nepal as my ultimate destination to visit in the world. It was not until some years later that I even learned about a place called Tibet, because all the maps after the Chinese invasion of Tibet in 1959 listed the region as China.

So, here I was more than four decades after my original Himalayan dream was born, passport in hand, walking across the tarmac towards the Kathmandu airport in Nepal. It still seemed like a dream; but the hazy terraced fields in the distance, the steamy heat, the cacophonous traffic, and the colorful clothing of the Nepali people were all viscerally real.  How did this Himalayan dream of mine come full circle to reality?  As a middle-aged massage therapist, meditation instructor and counselor, I seemed an unlikely world traveler.

Early in my life, my fascination with things “Eastern” led me to a steadfast meditation practice: Transcendental Meditation in the 60s (along with every other “boomer” it seemed, including the Beatles) and eventually to the study and practice of Tibetan Buddhism in the 80s. In 2005, I started living and working at Tara Mandala, a Buddhist retreat center in Southern Colorado (www.taramandala.org).  The founder of Tara Mandala and author of Women of Wisdom, Tsultrim Allione, organized the trip to commemorate the fortieth anniversary of her introduction to Tibetan Buddhism in Nepal, where in 1967 at the age of 19, she became one of the first Western women to be ordained as a Buddhist nun. Our tour guide serendipitously would be Jerome Edou, a long-time Buddhist practitioner and author of Machig Labdron and the Origins of Chod. Jerome’s Kathmandu-based company, Base Camp Trek (www.basecamptrek.com), would be handling all the logistics of our journey.


Tsultrim
      Tsultrim Allione