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Trek View on Nepal: Himalayan Studies Gap Year Semester with Where There Be Dragons

There Is No Ground

It is with a sense of joy and deep purpose that the Nepal Himalayas A team will leave Bhaktapur Guest House tomorrow morning (Saturday, Nepal time) and head to Balamchaur, west of Kathmandu, in Lamjung District on the edge of the Annapurna Conservation Area. I know I speak for the rest of the Instructor team when I share my utter delight in the people who showed up for this course! Team Him A is, to a person, kind, thoughtful, and curious about Nepal and themselves and each other. We feel lucky to share space with people so deeply engaged with the world around them! Already their willingness to share parts of themselves, their lives, and their observations about Nepal has meant that the whole group is moving towards discoveries they didn’t expect–some of these are challenging and difficult, some are delightful and joyous, and all of them will unfold and deepen as the weeks pass by.

We opened the Him A Orientation last Sunday with a poem by John O’Donohue, around a pokhari or small well, with a few candles lighting the evening as people shared their goals for the semester. Here’s his poem.

For A New Beginning

In out-of-the-way places of the heart,
Where your thoughts never think to wander,
This beginning has been quietly forming,
Waiting until you were ready to emerge.

For a long time it has watched your desire,
Feeling the emptiness growing inside you,
Noticing how you willed yourself on,
Still unable to leave what you had outgrown.

It watched you play with the seduction of safety
And the gray promises that sameness whispered,
Heard the waves of turmoil rise and relent,
Wondered would you always live like this.

Then the delight, when your courage kindled,
And out you stepped onto new ground,
Your eyes young again with energy and dream,
A path of plenitude opening before you.

Though your destination is not yet clear
You can trust the promise of this opening;
Unfurl yourself into the grace of beginning
That is at one with your life’s desire.

Awaken your spirit to adventure;
Hold nothing back, learn to find ease in risk;
Soon you will be home in a new rhythm,
For your soul senses the world that awaits you.

Him A students have embraced, in these last few days, the “promise of this opening,” sharing reflections on such wide ranging subjects as ethnicity in Nepal, their own ancestors’ stories, what it means to travel, how to build a good and vibrant community for learning, and how to use nonviolent communication to resolve conflicts. There’s so much more, too!

Several highlights of the week stand out for instructors, though the whole week has been a bunch of “roses,” as we say in Dragons Speak. We resonated deeply with the group mission statement that students developed after a long conversation about Dragons’ Core Values (Global Citizenship, Awareness of Self, Leadership Skillbuilding), and a collaborative exploration of their own values. You can see in these photo that they worked to collect wisdom from across the group to create a foundation for the rest of the semester, exploring each of the core values in turn and building them into their mission!

And just last night, the rain stopped in the nick of time to hold space for a Fire and Water Ceremony. I won’t go into too much detail (I don’t want to spoil the surprise for future students!) but I will say this, our amazing group of participants held themselves in trust, love, and honesty last night, sharing what they want to let go of, and speaking also of what they want to cultivate in themselves over the coming months.

Both the I-Team and the students cannot be more excited to leave our Orientation time and venture out into rural Nepal early tomorrow morning. Our travel will be long–about a 7 hour drive followed by a 2 hour hike into the village–but we’ll be greeted warmly and embraced into homestay families for 10 days in Balamchaur. Tonight, preparing to set out for Balamchaur and the adventures of the semester, we share in Buddhist teacher Chögyam Trungpa’s inimitable wisdom when he teaches us:
The bad news is you’re falling through the air, nothing to hang on to, no parachute. The good news is that there is no ground.

Watch this space for only very occasional updates in the next 10 days, and more to come when we are back in regular cell service and internet connection!