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

Transitions

The bad news is you’re falling through the air, nothing to hang on to, no parachute. The good news is, there’s no ground.

— Chögyam Trungpa

Life demands our attention. Its process, manifesting in each of our bodies and spirits, is unrelenting. Sometimes that unrelentingness manifests in a welter of joyous overwhelm—and sometimes it wears us down to the nub. Dragons courses are designed intentionally to carry each of us, instructors and students alike, through these ups and downs, and to help each of us learn how to pay better attention to the warp and weft of our own lives.

Sometimes our close attention to our feelings, experiences, and needs can be terrifying. Even if we’re all doing it together, maybe it’s the first time—maybe here in this group of like-hearted seekers, you may have been asked like never before to examine your internal life, and how it lines up with the world outside, and how you show up in it. I say you to each of you, readers, because I know that you, whether you are Dragons students, family, friends, alum, instructors or otherwise, you are reading this because you too are seeking. You too are curious.

Taking the time and space to honor our seeking hearts, our curiosities, and the vastly different warp and weft of the fabric of each of our beings is part of what we’re all here for. It’s part of what the crew of Him A has been working on, and through, these last tumultuous weeks in Kathmandu. From dusty coughing fits to new foods, from jamming into microbuses to discussing ethics, action, and belonging deep into our mornings together, it’s been a wild ride these past weeks.

Today we held a ceremony to mark a transition. Ceremonies play a vital role in Dragons courses—we design them, and help students learn how to hold their own rituals and ceremonies as a way not only to mark transitions but also to honor themselves and each other. Today, as most of the group heads out for the midcourse retreat, they’ve given up their small mobile phones—they have, again, committed to being present in these moments, the whole string of them that will come over the next month, together, and with themselves. From the midcourse retreat they’ll go to Balamchaur village in Lamjung district, where connectivity is adequate for our health and safety but phone and email are not readily available for students.

Ceremonial space accommodates a huge variety of feelings—joy, sorrow, delight, connection, anticipation, struggle, confusion—even within the same ceremony the palate of feelings available to us is vast. And our group needed space this day for those vast feelings and time for the process. The shape of the Him A container changed notably today: I (Charis) have to leave the program to follow up on some medical care. Through all of our conversations with the group about “self care as group care,” and working through the process of making tough decisions, I didn’t anticipate that this would be one I would have to make. The group will be well supported by other experienced Dragons staff who will step in for the midcourse retreat and the remainder of the program.

Though this feels like a big transition for all the students, it is one that each of them is handling with their own skills and sense of self, and their own grace. After all, as came up in our ceremony this morning, there are many modes of connection—though the shape of the group changes, its heart remains, no matter where we are in the world, no matter what stories we are living through or sights we are seeing.

Chogyam Trungpa’s words of wisdom, above, remind us that the process of life can be utterly unnerving—falling through the air with nothing to protect us. But, as he says, there is no ground. Part of what I aspire to offer students on Dragons trips is this observation, that we can’t stop the fact that we are falling and the process keeps rolling no matter how often we ask to slow the world so we can get off—and that learning to love the sensation of falling might be one of the best ways we can go about navigating the ups and downs—weaving the fabric of our own lives.

In the last weeks I and the rest of the I-team has seen the members of this group raise hard questions with each other; hear each other out on matters of the heart; navigate Kathmandu traffic and language barriers together and individually; delve nervously into the world of giving and receiving feedback using nonviolent communication; connect deeply and lastingly with their homestay families, and dive straight into intensive Independent Study Projects of their own choosing.

They’ve said it themselves—they are growing, they are learning, they are examining parts of themselves that, maybe, sometimes, they didn’t know were there before. We are grateful for the chance to witness their work—and for the gift of you, reader, out there somewhere else in the world, on your own journey, weaving your own fabric, curious about the lives of your fellow humans here at Him A. Thank you.