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The Tiger's Nest in Bhutan. Photo by Chelsea Ferrel.

Feet on the ground, head in the clouds

Inhale. Exhale. I can barely contain my rapture as I step out of the bus onto the white-lined pavement. Our guide Tiger la tells us that this is the highest elevation most of us have ever been, 3000 meters. I breathe in the cleanest air in the world as I gingerly walk to the edge (sorry, Mom). The landscape disappears not too far off from where I stand. The thick, black outline of trees stands out against the opaque clouds and one thought stands out in my mind.

Inhale. Exhale. In my life back home, I rarely take the chance to stop and take a breath, to be fully aware of my surroundings. My dad gave me one piece of advice for this trip: to live fully in the moment. I’ve always found that this is easier said than done. As I step slowly over rocks and roots away from the group, I find my way to the forest and his words return to my mind.

Inhale. Exhale. I know this moment will stay with me forever as I listen to the myriad of birds chirping and flitting through the trees, as I see men chatting outside a rust blue house with a tin roof, as I feel a sprinkle of warm rain land on my upturned face. I will return to this place in my mind whenever I find myself forgetting to inhale. Exhale.

Inhale. Exhale. Prayer flags–red, yellow, green, blue, and white–are strung from trees and rocks, seemingly floating in the clouds. In Nepal, we learned that each represents one of the five elements, white symbolizing the air. In this place in the Himalayas, the air seems to take completely different form, misty and thick with moisture. My hand out the window of the bus coats with droplet of water as I reach out to touch the clouds. As we descend lower into the valley, I continue to feel the fog lifting from my constantly clouded mind.

Inhale. It took being in the clouds for me to learn how to be present in the moment, and our journey is only beginning. Exhale.