It was probably only our third day in Nepal, though I already felt worlds away from the life in California I’d just peeled myself away from. Sitting in the classroom of the Nagarkot farmhouse with my new family, my sangha, for the next three months, I realized that that was the most peace of mind I’d had in a very long time. Suddenly things just made sense, and sitting there with such ease I couldn’t help but laugh at how silly my all-consuming pre-trip anxieties were. I felt grounded and energized and content – at home in my own body. It was the first sunny day of the trip, and there we were – nestled in that cozy little room of ours, tucked on a ledge of a green and lively hillside, watching the terraced foothills rise from the valley and the layers of blue mountains fade into the unmistakable skyline of the Himalayas.
I was thinking about this moment earlier, sitting on the rooftop of my four-storeyed host home here in Patan. The air can be quite thick with smog and dust here in the Kathmandu valley (wearing a mask has become a must for me as I walk home dodging motorbikes and meandering street dogs). But by the time I make it home, sling a steaming mug of khaalo chiya and climb to the roof, I’m usually lucky enough to find a clear view of the Himalayas in full blush. I sit there, swaddled in my yak wool blanket, and watch as the valley trades its peachy hues into the grays and blues of dusk.
In a number of days, a number of days that barely exceeds that of what I can count on my fingers, we’ll be back in the hills for transference – the fullest of full circles. I read back on those early journal entries and laugh, just as I did in Nagarkot, at how badly I wanted to figure life out. The problem wasn’t in not having a plan or fully understanding myself – I’ll never have mastery over either of those things. The problem, I now realize, was that I had convinced myself I didn’t know the answers, and in pining for the things I didn’t have I missed the things that were right in front of me, right here within me.
During our monastery stay in Namo Buddha I realized the importance of having space in your life (which makes sense because I had more than my fair share of it). For the better part of five days I spent my days in bed, on the john, or in transit between the two in a battle of attrition with a textbook case of traveler’s diarrhea. To have space, in my mind, is to move at a pace in which our senses can actually function – for how can we expect ourselves to see the intangible signs in our lives when we’re walking too fast to even catch the street signs. Just as Edward Abbey once said, “to be everywhere at once is to be nowhere forever”.
Back in Nagarkot I was convinced I’d leave Nepal with some sort of spiritual wisdom, and I guess I’ve gained some insights here and there, but it isn’t the regimented mediation practice I foresaw for myself – no mantras, no mats, just me. And that’s what I’ve realized is the only requirement to feeling nourished at your core. It’s kind of one big sick practical joke – we toil and toil at trying to crack the riddle of the meaning of life, only to find that there are no answers besides the ones we provide for ourselves. With this, I choose not to fall into cynicism, but rather, to confront the reality that this is it, and this is all it’ll ever be – the only lifetime I know for certain I’ll ever have. It’s all just borrowed time, if that. To consciously live with the knowledge that your life is finite is to wake up everyday knowing it may not be grand, but it’s what you got, and that’s the greatest gift of all.