Atop the mountain, prayer flags connect trees, sway in the wind, and radiate vibrancy to the dirt path we walk along. Red, blue, green, yellow, and white flags, withered and faded with time, proudly light up the valley. Mesmerized, I watch as all 12 of us disperse across the peak, fascinated with the view of the untainted landscape. I walk further down the orange-dust path until finding a clearing in which I can take a seat and soak up all that I see: mountains larger than life, trees that reflect decades of experience, and young, curious students. This month, I decided to replace sky-scrapers with mountains, New York City with the Himalayas, and a lack of spirituality for a love of prayer flags and mala beads.
Perched here, I notice a lone dandelion out of the corner of my eye. Reaching for the lucky flower, I begin to ponder what it is that I would like to wish for. My mind is racing, looking for a wish to represent something I truly desire. Just then, I remember where I am, lift up my head, and realize that, maybe for the first time, I feel I have everything I could want: mountains that inspire me to dream big, tall trees that teach me to be resilient, and peers and instructors that push me to think critically and embrace adventure. Letting a gush of air flow through my lips, I wish to never forget this feeling of infinite freedom and to keep Bhutan in my heart forever. Watching the white wisps of the flower follow the breeze into the mountains, I realize that now, not only will Bhutan be with me, but that my dreams will also live on in Bhutan. Long after I descend from this mountain, my wishes for lasting freedom will remain linked to sustaining Bhutan’s thriving landscape.
Taking a deep breath and a “soul photograph,” I am aware of the ways in which this experience is both impermanent and everlasting. My view of these mountains is temporary, but it will continue to inspire me even when all I can see are concrete streets and traffic lights. These prayer flags will be replaced by brighter ones, but the merit and vibrancy will continue to spread throughout Bhutan’s people and environment. My dandelion is already beginning to wither away, but this freedom will never leave my heart.