Is it really a week since I left home? I have to check the calendar to be sure, and yes, this is indeed my seventh day. I wake late, having been writing, reading and meditating during the night. Sometimes it is incongruent for me to follow traditional sleep patterns. Consequently we go to breakfast late and there are few people.
As Rj and I sit down, a western lady at the next table smiles and says something to Rj that I don’t quite catch. Such encounters happens a lot to Rj, I observe. A conversation ensues about our respective reasons for being in Nepal and by consequence our respective occupations. Monica (the name she discloses) tells me she visits every year. Together with two friends, she raises funds for an orphanage. And now she has my attention as undivided as did the shamanic tug, but to better outcomes.
It was necessary to move the orphanage into a new building following the earthquake she says, requiring that they raise £35,000. They have raised over £180,000, opening the way for the children to move into a new dream building, as the web site puts it. Having elevated the standards of the one orphanage to an acceptable level (decent sanitation, no overcrowding, no mould on the walls, no blocked drains), she continues, they have now identified another orphanage in much worse condition than the first. I am as certain I must make a donation to this as activity as I was yesterday that the singing bowl was coming home with me. You can find our more about ADM Nepal Charitable Trust at www.admnepal.org.uk Please donate. Please donate a lot.
We have determined that today we will visit Boudhanath Stupa – or re-visit in Rj’s case, for this is where he has spent his first four days taking further training in singing bowl healing. Today it is difficult to book a taxi, for it is a day of increased celebrations in Deepawali. As we eventually locate transport and make our way out to the stupa, the taxi driver tells us the crowds will grow greater for the next few days, for the President of India is due to visit. Rj is dismayed. Crowds do not work for him. We determine to escape the city to the nearest national park first thing tomorrow morning. Details are arranged with the taxi driver, who drops us at Boudhanath. As we enter the monument, the roaring city is instantly becalmed into an oasis of peace as hundreds of tourists and pilgrims quietly circle the stupa clockwise, spinning prayer wheels.
We enter a shop selling crystal prayer beads. Rj chooses a string of black agate. I am not so minded, for I have worn no jewellery since my 20s, disliking the sense of hard objects against my skin. But as he chooses, my focus shifts to a lapis lazuli pendant. I consider carefully, for I seek to avoid impulse purchases now, even in the case of small items. The questions I habitually ask myself are ‘Why do I want this? Will it enhance or retard my journey?’ The inner answer is surprising. I want it because the energy around me is changing, and yes, this stone is indeed on my route map. I buy. I have long been aware that my journey is taking me in directions I could never imagined. But change brings the opportunity for newness and growth. I am open to change. I am open to growth. I am open to the journey’s moving into new territory.
As we circumnavigate the stupa, a monk stands in the broad pathway, with a silver bowl from which he is throwing food for the pigeons. Their flocking about him draws attention. I among many want to photograph him. There is no restriction, but Rj tells me that it is appropriate to donate if I photograph and I am pleased to do so. I drop a note into the bowl and he speaks to me. Not hearing, in my habitual fashion, I lean forward, and touch his aura, but not his body with my right hand. He is unperturbed. His repeats his question which relates to my country of origin. I tell him and he raises his hand murmuring blessing. I lower my head to receive it. As I return, Rj tells me one must never touch a monk, for it is a gross insult. No, not even his aura. Chastened, I continue my circumnavigation. There is so much I do not know. So much learning I have yet to derive. Lifetimes of learning lie ahead, even if this is merely a cultural issue, for we are all touched by deeper cultural root than we realise for reasons we have yet to fathom.
We proceed into a bowl shop. It is owned by the person from whom Rj has bought his bowls several days previously. I spy a small book in English that will explain singing bowls to me better than my present elementary understanding. I take it down but am dismayed that the cost it R2,000 – about £18.00. This is more than I want to pay. But as I turn to leave, the proprietor tells me he wants to give me the book. I am astonished. Never in circumstances such as these, a third world country, a religious monument, has such a gift been offered to me. I accept the return of energy, marvelling once more at how the cycle works. In perpetuation of that cycle, I leave a further sum, asking him to donate it to the cause of his choice. He writes upon the note and sets it clearly aside from his takings from sales.
Today I have been reminded it is better to give than receive. Today I have learned that I can give nothing, for the energy is not mine. And the energy of the gift always find its way back to reenergise me, even if I do not always recognise it when it arrives, for bread cast upon the waters always returns.