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

Instructor Birthdays!

Being born in late February is interesting for a Tibetan and a someone from Louisiana who lives with Himalayans, as our birthday often falls near Mardi Gras (final day of Carnival) and Losar (Tibetan New Year). Both festivals honor the re-awakening of life, exuberance of the passing of coldest months, and excess before fasting and hard work on the farm, the road, or higher pastures.

This week marked Losar and Mardi Gras. In Tibetan and Bhutanese custom, everyone counts the passing of another life year on Losar (many older folks don’t even know their birthdays) sharing their annual spiritual rebirth with the entire community. We collectively bid farewell to winter and turn toward nurturing the fresh spring buds, in accordance with the seasons of nature.

And Mardi Gras surely feels like everyone’s birthday party!

On Losar morning, at a frozen campsite 12000ft high, we awoke early and offered a cleansing sang incense puja for our group, dedicated to purifying connections with our teachers who guide us, the awakened ones who display the path, guardians who protect us, those who harbor ill-intent toward us, and all beings who experience pain and joy, that go along with the mystery of being alive.

A Himalayan Red Fox materialized from the forest to show off bushy tail and thick winter coat, sniffing around at the tree line, lingering for awhile. Snow gently fell as pure blessings, and sun emerged warm and bright, shining for over an hour as the snow fell, raising our spirits.

We circled and tossed roasted barley flour in the air, loudly claiming victory for the gods, health and happiness for all, scattering startled mules. Everyone laughed with joy, including the mule keepers. The laughter of the end of winter, of the end of a long night, of putting past sorrow away and looking forward to more bright snowy sunshine.

Happy Birthday everyone. May your New Year be blessed and fulfilling!