Monday, October 22, 2012

Jade Dragon Snow Mountain Shines, an Unexpected Messenger, Yodeling Monks & Bounding Yak, Qigong & Joy‏

Greetings Friends!
YAY! Gosh, I so LOVE being here in CHINA, and so love this opportunity to share with you! As I mentioned in my last update, I’ve been living in the most awesome youth hostel in the little, ancient town of Shuhe in Yunnan Province, K2. I get to meet people from all over China each day, share the most amazing, fulfilling conversations with them, hang out with the friendly staff while I’m doing my writing work (not to mention eat DELICIOUS Chinese food!!), and play with their adorable giant black poodle dog named “Qiaokeli 巧克力” – Chocolate! Ha! Yum :) He’s probably one of the luckiest dogs here in China as he is free to roam the whole hostel and has friends and admirers from around the world :).

And I’m definitely getting known as I’ve been in this little city for ~ 3weeks now and have developed some daily routines. For example, each morning I hop out of bed, grab my umbrella (as we’ve had a LOT of rain this month though now we’re heading into the dry season) and purse and head through the cobble-stoned streets up into the nearby mountains to practice qigong. While Shuhe is a small town, there is still quite a bit of hustle and bustle, so getting up into the surrounding foothills of Jade Dragon Snowy mountain (Yu Long Xueshan 龙雪山)is a wonderful, rejuvenating daily treat. I’ve found a little pathway that goes up into these foothills, and have a spot with a beautiful view of the whole valley, surrounding mountains and… clouds! :) (Yunnan as definitely lived up to its name in my time here…meaning literally “Southern Clouds” or “clouds of the South”.)

A Surprise from Jade Dragon Snowy Mountain
A few days ago, however, I had an especially stunning and precious treat! I woke up to a clear day. It is like fall with the air crisp and clean and… the sky is a deep beautiful blue. I climbed my usual mountain to practice qigong....BUT, when I got to the top, I turned my head and…. my mouth dropped!!! YuLong Xue Shan, Jade Dragon Snowy Mountain was towering right before me clear and crisp and absolutely majestic!!! For 3 weeks I had not even known it was possible to see this mountain from here, as there have always been clouds in that direction!! I was so moved I started to cry! This mountain is the one I dreamed about visiting a few nights ago...and here is was right before me!! I had a wonderful qigong practice and felt such strong Love in my heart. (This is also the mountain that I then biked up a couple days later – see pics below). I LOVE receiving from our Land in this way. Our Lives are truly an opportunity to touch into something so much bigger and deeper than ourselves….and I LOVE the Beauty, Magic and Mystery of it All!!!

Veggie Porridge is Back!
So back to my usual morning routine, after such special early morning practices, I begin to make my way back into town. On my way, I daily pass a local Tibetan monk who burns incense and recites beautiful mantras :). And by this time the town once again starts coming alive, and begins humming and bustling with the local elder Naxi tribe women setting up their beautiful stands of fresh local fruit (with some of the BIGGEST and most delicious crisp, juicy and fresh peaches I’ve ever seen and tasted!), walnuts, peanuts and sunflower seeds, local horsemen and women coming in to entice the day’s visitors to enjoy a horse ride around town, breakfast places steaming with large vats of rice porridge, freshly made “doujiang”- soymilk and large woks of oil for deep frying the popular “youtiao” ‘fried bread sticks’. I make my way back to my usual 1 of 2 breakfast places and order my ‘cai zhou’ – vegetable rice porridge and a hard boiled egg with salty veggies. Well the restaurant owner and his workers all know me by now….and yesterday when I walked up, about to do my usual thing of asking the owner for a bowl of veggie porridge, he smiled at me and then shouted back to the cooks in the kitchen, “Cai zhou lai le!” They all laughed. Basically he said, “Veggie porridge has arrived!” :) – letting them know this foreigner who always orders ‘cai zhou’ is back and ready for breakfast :).

A Messenger for Qigong & another way of Life…
So in my time in Shuhe, I have found myself in one of the most unusual positions. Basically, even with me being a foreigner from the West, I am being approached by many people, mainly young women, who are sharing their stories with me and asking me to teach them qigong! While I love sharing qigong with my communities in the West, I certainly did NOT expect to come to China and be asked by the Chinese people to teach them one of their ancient arts. Yet I am noticing an interesting phenomenon happening amongst the young people I’m encountering. Many are questioning the normal path of Life that is presented to and expected of them and searching for new paths…. Many have said they see me and feel I'm embodying more of what their 'ancient' culture offers and teaches than they do, or than they feel they can or know how to, yet in their hearts they are searching and know there is another way to live.
For some background, I'm seeing many, many city people; and the people here are worked soooo hard. Some of young people I’m talking to, while on the surface are happy, also have much stress in their hearts. They feel the pressure to get sucked into working a job....that here in China often means 6 LONG days a week...sometimes needing to work part of Sunday too. And even before working, the stress of getting into a good college for the youth all comes down to one test! I had one young 22 year old guy point to all the white hairs on his young head as testament! And I've seen more young women smoking here than ever before too. Also, as I mentioned, these women are the ones who are coming to talk with me. For example, one young 22 y/o woman I’ve become friends with is Hai Dan, – she’s the awesome woman who was the 1st other woman to jump onto the dance floor with me last week and ‘Rock da house’ together at our Ecstatic Dance in Shuhe!! :)-- She is now taking 2 months away from her job to travel and "find herself". While she has a "good" job, her heart is not happy. She knows there is more to life than working from 8 am to 10 pm. She started learning martial arts and her once overweight body has now become strong and fit...she's learned a fighting art which she thought would help solve this building aggression and restlessness in her being...yet she says her mind and heart are still stressed. She asked me to teach her qigong so we practiced together and she loves it!

Another young woman I’ve met and become friends with, Xuemei, is from Chengdu and works 6 long days a week. I met her while she was working for a couple weeks at her boss’ new restaurant in Shuhe. She really wanted to come learn some qigong with me while she was here but was working even longer hours as she worked everyday from 9 a.m. – 10:30 p.m. I could just go visit her, as she was a host and greeter at this restaurant. She shared with me that while she feels she has a good job, she has no time to exercise, travel, or pursue her own interests. She asked me, “How can I stay fit and healthy?” “Wo de shenti dou hen lan,” she exclaimed. (“My body has become soft or is ‘rotting.’”) She said too many people in the cities now just stay inside. They have no time to go out. She knows it’s not healthy, and wants a find a different way to live.

A young woman from Guangdong came to me and shared her story of being a lawyer. When in law school she dreamed of doing civic law and being of service for society….but she now finds herself in law firm helping business owners solve petty disputes. It’s not her passion, yet to get further, there are major exams she would have to study for and take…and with so many people in China, so much competition, she doesn’t feel it’s worth trying. She gets 10 days of vacation a year and saves it all so she can have about 2 weeks of travel. This is her time for her heart to soar, to see and be in the mountains, see new places, meet new friends, and gain new perspectives. She shared that this is her salvation, “yaoburan, wo de xin jiu hui sidiao” – “or else my heart will die.”
Mutual Inspiration
I’m finding that the same patterns we see in our own country of people becoming more sedentary, going indoors and becoming more and more separated from the natural world and being burdened down by the stresses of city living is happening all over the planet. Yet this illusion of separation is also causing a restlessness in the hearts of many, particularly the youth. And I find it encouraging that there are so many coming out to these mountains to explore, and “find themselves.” A new trend too is for these youth to get on their bikes and bike across vast areas of China to Lhasa, Tibet, for example from Chengdu, Sichuan, to Lhasa Tibet. And more and more youth are also getting into backpacking. (YAY!!!) Indeed one day while doing my writing work in the K2’s café, another friendly lad started chatting enthusiastically with me. (Note, this is a common daily occurrence once people realize I speak Chinese – in fact I’ve had several new arrivals checking into K2’s Youth Hostel come up to me and say, “Oh you’re Kailun! We’ve heard about you! Your Chinese is so good!” And many people have come up to me and said out of all the foreigners they’ve met throughout China, my Chinese is the best…Wow!!!  I really think I was Chinese in a former life…and/or that my qigong practice is also helping me…or I have Chinese speaking Angels around me :)…as at times I get the sense that I’m “remembering” the Chinese language, like it’s in my blood and being. I just love the exploration and adventure of being here!!)

Okay, soo.. back on track here..I was saying about this lad I met in the hostel’s café…Geziqi is his name. He was so excited to talk with me as he also heard I’m a writer…and he’s a writer and meeting me he said inspired him to hold to his vision of creating his way of life of traveling and writing,..and gave him hope of finishing his writings. :) And,…I was mutually inspired by him!! He shared that he had just biked from Shanghai all the way to Lhasa, Tibet!! OMGoddess! He talked about it so nonchalantly, but after seeing and experiencing the conditions of some of the mountain roads (by bus, mind you, not by bike), from Kangding to Litang, this is an extraordinary feat and adventure! :)
Time for Qigong Class!
In the last week, I also had a group of 4 young women from Hong Kong share with me. I had just returned from my morning qigong practice in the foothills and they were just waking up in their bunk beds (we were sharing a 6-person dorm room). As soon as they realized I could speak Chinese, they too were so excited and started bombarding me with questions, like “what do you do? and why are you here?” When I started to share about my life, they became intrigued and asked me, “How are you so happy? How do you stay so healthy and fit? How is it that your eyes and face are glowing?”!! These questions surprised me. Yet, I found myself sharing almost immediately about Qigong, and about training in the mountains. They were also surprised by my response and immediately asked if I’d be willing to teach them qigong!! A few hours later I was leading to my 2nd qigong class in the courtyards of K2 Youth Hostel. :) And the next few days also took some of them up into the foothills to practice there…

The Lands Teach…& wisdom of the Naxi people
Most of these young people have recently graduated from college, started working and have quit their jobs to travel for 1 to several months, or are taking an extended leave from work. This is also a relatively new phenomenon, I’ve been told, and is greatly influenced by a recent TV series called “Beijing Qing Nian 北京青年” where a group of young people working in Beijing all quit their jobs and came to Lijiang/Shuhe region of Yunnan Province to travel, return to the mountains, and find themselves, their joy, their true calling in life. And…gosh…I could share a whole blog full and more just on the majesty and majestic energies and qualities of the Land here in Yunnan… I see why many, many youths are making their happy “pilgrimage” to these lands. The Lands have much to share and teach….and the native peoples have lived in harmony with these lands for thousands of years.

Just two days ago on my way back from my bike ride up to YuLong Xueshan, my friend Zhen Li stopped through on of the ancient Naxi villages called Baisha. It’s a beautiful, beautiful place, similar to Shuhe except it’s mainly Naxi locals who live there. It has cobble-stoned streets, some mountain water running through town, old, 1 and 2-story Chinese homes and buildings and a growing number of open-aired Naxi restaurants and shops. Zhen Li and I stopped for a few yummy plates of local sautéed mushrooms, lotus root and taro root flower stems :) at a cute little restaurant. I started talking with the owner, an elder Naxi man with bright, twinkling happy eyes. He was excited to talk with me and explained that he was a writer and anthropologist too and was working with some PhD anthropologists from Kunming on some research projects. He proudly brought out an old, well used and read magazine article he had written. :). I just read a little but the essence of the beginning of this piece was talking about the Naxi culture…and their recognition of their health, waters, food, happiness and way of life coming from and intimately connected to the beautiful Jade Dragon Snowy Mountain, YuLong Xueshan. From what I observe, the Naxi people are happy people who work sustainably with their local lands, waters, animals and always in the presence of their Mountain, YuLong Xueshan.

Back to the Mystic Lands of the Tibetan Plateau….
So in my last update, I left off with my dream the night before hiking up to Lengu Monastery and our backpacking trek further into the highlands….

This land is some of the most purely pristine, majestic and infused with spiritual “Qi” I have ever been in! Really, to be in nature and in the energy field of mountains over 20,000 feet high is already most amazing. And then to be in a community of humans who revere the Sacred spirits of the land, carve mantras in the stone boulders, hang prayer flags high on the mountain tops, in meadows, and on canyon walls (we saw one right next to a waterfall high up on a sheer 1,000+ foot cliff and have no idea who or how it got there!!), honor their beloved yak animals by placing the skulls of the deceased large animals on meadow boulders with bright colored prayer flags around them….is a most moving experience….

Stella and the Young Monks of Lengu!
Dave, Szu-ting, Reidun, Rinchen, Annie and I had a day camped at Lengu Monastery before a few of us headed up further into the highland on our backpacking trek…and it was sooo fun and amazing to be at this monastery with over 700 years of history and a community of 200+ monks!! As I’ve mentioned, they are an age-diverse community, with many, many cute young monks from ~5-15, and many older monks too. They were very welcoming of us and often walked down into the meadows where we camped to “hang out” or play. Attached are some pics of several young boy monks who came down to play. I had a blast with 3 of them as we jumped around, made funny poses and took pictures :). Later, I had my journal out, in which I have 3 pictures of my beloved furry friend, Stella :). One of the boys found my journal and the pics and was super intrigued with them and asked if he could have one. All the other boys came over to see too. I told them all about Stella, what a wonderful friend and companion she is, and how much she LOVES the wilderness and mountains, and how she would love where they live. I gave one of Stella’s pics to this little monk and told him that if he would like, he could ask her to visit him in his dreams, and they could be friends. He then took the pic and placed it by his heart under his robe. :) Oh I’m so happy Stella is now also a dear friend among these young Tibetan monks on the other side of the world too!!

A Monk’s Art of Cell Phone Music and Videography
Many of the older monks came to chat with us (and observe us, as they were just as curious about us as we were about them! :)). One beloved monk is a “professional” videographer!! He is so great! He loved to video tape us and our play with the young monks and made several “home movies” complete with music and all by holding his Chinese cell phone (with it’s tinny music playing) next to his video camera :)! What a great idea! (See pic below)

We also had the privilege of joining one of the monks’ chanting sessions in the monastery temple and while 4 of us were in the backcountry, both Reidun and Rinchen were honored in a special ceremony and also invited to meet with the high monk to share ideas on how we could help them, their community and mission succeed :). So amazing to have this cross-cultural exchange, mutual admiration, honor and respect and love!!

So after a day at Lengu, 4 of us packed our backpacks and headed further out into these sacred lands. Gosh, I feel so honored and grateful to go into, explore, and be in these Lands. Almost no one else but yaks, nuns and monks ever come out into these lands.
Few ever get to Lengu Monastery, and those who do usually stop there and don’t venture further out… Our hike out was with the grand, towering sacred Genyen Mt. to our left and other towering cliffs to our right, with a beautiful blue-green-silver glacial waters river flowing past us down the valley.

Visit to a Living Meditation Cave
During our hike, Dave led us to a meditation cave off the main trail…. Wow! I have only read about such places…and here we found ourselves at a cave that monks/nuns had fixed up with a door made of fallen twigs tied together, a fire place, a sleeping mat, a supply of yak butter, a little grass-made broom and several pictures of the “the Big Double H,” the beloved Dalai Lama. This is a place where a monk or nun can do a solitary retreat, and yet still be within a days walk of the monastery so supplies can be delivered when needed. Dave was thrilled to see this cave so inhabited…his first trip to Genyen was about ~5 years ago and there were only 7 monks at Lengu Monastery…and this cave was pretty much abandoned. Now there are over 200 monks at the monastery and this cave is well loved and used :). Further up on our hike close to our high country base camp we also found another little home with a nun living there on her own retreat. We stopped in to give our greetings when we passed by, but the nun was in the middle of one of her chanting meditation sessions. As we left, she finished her session and popped her head out her door to wave to us with a big warm smile. :) The 3 of us eagerly waved back with warm, enthusiastic “taishi delai” greetings to her (the Tibetan greeting for “Hello!” :)).

Yodeling Young Monks and Bounding Yak!
During our time in the high country, we continued to enjoy delicious oatmeal made by Dave in the mornings, and amazing Chinese bean noodle and veggie soups made by Szu-ting at night. These were both a real treat as the weather was rather wet and chilly and we burned up so much energy hiking in these high altitudes. One day, while enjoying a bit of sunshine and watching the magnificent Mt. Genyen begin to reveal Herself to us as the clouds parted over Her peak, we all of a sudden heard some whistling, some young yodels and a bunch of trampling. Looking straight up the mountain side from our camp (the mountain side I had just thoroughly huffed and puffed my way up and down – such a different experience hiking at such high altitude!!!), there were 2 little red and yellow robed monks bounding over the hillside working together as a team herding a whole herd of yak over the mountain side and down into the river valley below us….and guess what? We were camped right smack directly in their path! Ha! Well it’s not such a big deal to be camped right in the path of two joyfully, and skillfully bounding yodeling young monks…..BUT it is quite another thing to be right in the path of 20+ large yak quickly making their way down the mountain side toward us! And oddly enough I seemed to be the only one who was a bit nervous! :) Dave and Annie were taking pics! So,…I decided that these young monks surely did look like they knew what they were doing; they didn’t seem the least bit concerned; and so I took my camera out too :). And sure enough these yak did walk and run through our camp within feet of us, continuing down into the river meadow below. What beautiful animals!!!!

Qigong & Joy
In the late afternoon of one day in the backcountry, I had some time to practice qigong in one of the meadows behind our camp. It was such a treat to just be with the mountains. There was no time schedule, no agenda….just me and the amazing snow-capped mountains all around me, a large glacier up to my left, the glacial waters flowing river below and a large boulder with Tibetan covered prayer flags over it next to me. I started to practice qigong and felt my whole spirit and body simultaneously relax and soar. I got quiet and receptive. And as I became so, I finally got fully present to the Land and mountains around me. Oh So Magnificent!!!! And then I remembered my dream of my gift to give of Divine Joy….and my heart and being immediately filled and overflowed with so much Love and Joy for this Land! I was sooo happy I started crying. As I continued to practice, the large wide mountain right in front of me looked more and more like a happy, laughing Buddha! I was smiling, smiling, smiling as I continued practicing, giving and receiving Qi from these mountains, and I felt so connected to and thankful for these vast sacred Lands….

Mouse in the Tent!
Okay, one more funny story as I complete this travel update and my recounts of our Tibetan Plateau trek :). When up in the high country, we didn’t have any trees in which to hang our food, so we chose to just wrap it all up and put it in our tent with us. Our tent was more of a teepee shaped tarp in that it had no bottom. So we lay our mats on the ground and some of the outside air could get in through the sides of the teepee tent on the ground. Well as we were all sleeping soundly, I woke up with a start, feeling as if a mouse just ran across my face!! Yikes! In my startled, yet half asleep state, I blurted out, “Was that a mouse that just ran across my face?!” At the time I had my earplugs in and thought I heard Dave say, “No, that was just Szu-ting’s hand.” “Oh,” I thought with great relief, and went easily back into my slumber for the rest of the night. Well, it wasn’t until breakfast the next morning when everyone was talking about the mouse running across us that I realized it was a mouse that ran across my face!! Thank goodness for earplugs – they guaranteed I got a good sleep that night! :)

Oh goodness…another long sharing! Thank you so much again, for all of you who made it to the end of this update. And THANK YOU again to all of you who have written to me during my trip so far. I so appreciate your notes and emails and You! And even if I haven’t written back yet, please know I send much love and so love hearing from you!!!

Much, much Love and Joy!!!
Kailun 凯伦
to view this post's video click below
Joy in Beijing Video

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

DJ-ing in Shuhe!, Deeper Purpose of Travel, Rockin' to the Dalai Lama, & Dreams Speak‏

Greetings Friends!!
Oh my, so much to share!!! I have so much to share from all that’s happening since my trek….and so much to continue to share from our trek…
Dance Party in Shuhe!! 
So to start with a snippet of this week…I’m currently…..SO THRILLED!!!! I'm staying at a super cool youth hostel in the old town of Shuhe, Yunnan province and have made friends with much of the staff (as I'm about the only one that hangs around during the day doing my writing work)….and this week enrolled them all into having their 1st ever dance party!!! And I was there DJ! YAY!!!!! The Dance party happened Wed night and was a HUGE success!! Oh it was sooooo FUN to play some of my favorite dance music and they LOVED it!! At first I just had a few brave souls get up and dance with me…but I explained it didn’t matter whether they “knew” how to dance or not. This was about having fun and letting their JOY soar through their bodies and spirits! Soon more and more people hopped into the dance circle and,….just like what happens at our ecstatic dances in the states, we had so many spontaneous dances/games arise through our dancing together! And we had several at first ‘hidden’ super dance stars come out on the dance floor and strut their stuff too! What a hoot!! Towards the end of the evening we ‘cooled down’ with singing Chinese songs. Well…really, they sang Chinese songs and I listened.….. That is until they all demanded I come up on stage and sing the one Chinese song I know…’Moli Hua’ ‘Jasmine Flower’! :) My pics didn’t come out well of the dance (too dark!) but I do have one of the beautiful poster one of the young women who works here, Xiao Lu, made to announce the dance! :) This was hung up outside so all the passersby during the day learned about the dance happening that night.

Adventure of being an immediate 'Super Star'! 
So I’ve mentioned before that everything in China is an opportunity for adventure. Even the other day sitting at a cafe outside by one of the streams that runs through the old city of Shuhe, I felt someone watching me. I was so into my writing that at first I didn’t look up. But I continued to feel it, …so when I looked up I saw 2 men with their cameras…and one caught in action taking a picture of a “waiguoren,”…a foreigner who happened to be me! :) “Oops!” He immediately pulled back his camera and giggled, obviously embarrassed. Well I just smiled and had both of them come over one at a time and take their pic with me. They were super sweet and happy ….and this same scenario has continued to happen with people of all genders and ages! And…just last night I went out to a café with a new friend I’ve made from Xiamen, Fujian Province (we met on the dance floor – she was one of the first women to come out and really ROCK it on the dance floor with me! :) She’s AWESOME!) Her name is Hai Dan. We went to go see a friend of hers sing (this is such a COOL little old city!! I love how most of the restaurants, cafes, stores are all open-aired …and in the afternoons and evenings, most cafes and restaurants have people that sing popular Chinese songs :))…So we went to Hai Dan’s friend sing. Well, as soon as we sat down, I had a crowd of young Chinese come up to me to tentatively practice a “hello” or “where are you from?” in English…until Hai Dan blurted out, “Ta hui jiang Zhongwen, erqie, ta jiang de feichang hao!” “She knows how to speak Chinese, and she can speak really well!” Well, then there was a series of squeals from all these young girls and boys, and before I knew it there was a whole group of about 15-20 Chinese people around me wanting to talk with me. Hai Dan was just laughing and saying in English, “You are a super star!!” Soon the restaurant/café owner came over, though, to break up the group so people could get in and out of the restaurant as we were blocking the doorway – oops! :)….. So, you see, if you’d like to add being treated like a major ‘super star’ to your adventures, again…come to CHINA! :)

The Deeper Purpose of Travel
And while adventures such as these are super fun, at times just plain hilarious, and exciting, there are also other reasons for adventure, for travel. Coming into the highlands of the Tibetan Plateau, a land with pristine deep blue skies, towering mountains, clear blue/green glacial flowing rivers, spectacular monasteries and a presence of the Sacred so palpable in both the people and the Land, I am reminded of these other reasons. My Qigong Grandmaster, Xu Mingtang several years ago spoke of travel and its role in our spiritual, energetic growth and development as humans, as Souls. With our qigong practice, while it is good to practice at home and to have a consistent training for building energy, developing ourselves, travel is also a very important component. When we train/practice in new places, especially in Nature, we both gain energy, and gain information.

Grandmaster Xu explained that if he had never gone to Tibet, visited the grand mountains of Alaska, meditated with the high monks in the temples of Shaolin Monastery, or practiced at Lac d’Emosson in Switzerland when I was with him in 2005, he would not have all the information he’s gathered, absorbed from those places. Through meditation and practice/training, we “digest” this information. Grandmaster Xu is still currently using much of this information he’s digested in the development of this herbal and medicine research at his Kundawell Institute in Beijing. One of his new herbal formulas, “Sea King” which is having tremendous results is directly from the information he gathered while meditating in Alaska.

The Opportunity of Being Human  
Being human and having our physical bodies offers us a profound opportunity for development in our lifetime and to tap into and begin ‘digesting’ the Grand Mystery and Mysticism of Life. As Grandmaster Xu is pointing to, our bodies are extraordinary vessels, so much more than just physical baggage that allows us to ‘get through’ life. Qigong practice offers many simple, powerful tools to cleanse, refine and develop our physical, energetic and spiritual bodies. Having good health, feeding ourselves a clean diet (this includes food, thoughts, energy we ‘take in’), giving ourselves good rest and exercise lay the basic foundation for further development. With this foundation and continued training (either qigong or other similar disciplines), we begin to refine our vessel, our body - like a fine tuned instrument. We also develop our sensitivity and receptivity…..and then we can receive, receive oh so much more!

Receiving from Nature & Other Spiritual Teachers
As I’ve shared before…Nature is one of our Greatest Teachers and has so much to give. Just like the saying, “When the student is ready, her teacher will come” – when our bodies, our sacred vessels are ready our Teachers will come – we will be able to receive more deeply from Life’s Mystery, from our Mountains, our Wild Lands and other Spiritual Teachers. Traveling, bringing our practice out into Nature, and in my case this fall, visiting another Land, a land high up in the Tibetan Plateau, is an essential component of this receiving and of our Soul’s development. Each Soul is guided in our Hearts as where to go, and I find the more I listen, the more confirmation I receive on how important it is to do as the saying says, “Trust and follow your Heart.”   .....And, our analytic mind doesn't need to understand the why, how of where to go....and doesn't need to understand the 'details' of all we receive and digest....this is some of the beauty of the Grand Mystery of Life.

Back to Litang ~ Bean Cakes, Pigs & Prepping for our Trek in the Tibetan Highlands
So I last left off with us safely making it to Litang after our harrowing 14 hour bus ride. …And I could take a whole blog entry just to talk about the beautiful people here, the super cute pigs walking in the streets and sleeping together as a family on the sidewalks at night, not to mention a family of pigs in which Dave almost promptly tumbled right into their slumbering pile when walking down the dark street to get some hot food! :) And the amazing green bean cakes (gluten-free!! Made with mung bean flour! :)) that Annie and I found and are both currently lamenting the fact that we’ve eaten our last ones, the stunning new monastery with its large population of compassionate, affectionate, happy monks, and more! And…I’m going to dive right into our next part of the journey….

After a day of rest and gathering an eclectic array of snacks for our backpacking trip in between eating green bean cakes :), we all piled into 2 jeeps with our Tibetan drivers found for us by our wonderful Tibetan guide/interpreter and dear friend, Rinchen, and….headed for the beautiful wild wilderness of Genyen Massif. One thing I’ve noticed in all our bus, van and jeep rides so far is that all the drivers have small to big altars on their dashboards. Many in this region have big pictures of the Dalai Lama (which Rinchen told me early on in our visit that all the Tibetans refer to as “The Big Double H” – kind of as ‘code’ language instead of saying the Dalai Lama’s name out loud or in text or email messages, etc). Well our driver had a piece of red cloth on his rear view mirror and as soon as we started out, he whispered something to Rinchen in Tibetan. Rinchen promptly took out his lighter and lit the red cloth just enough so it started smoking. I thought…”oh, this is incense?” But…then it didn’t smell great,..just like burnt cloth. Reidun then asked Rinchen asked what it was for and it turns out this cloth is the piece of a robe from a high monk. Lighting it is a way to show respect and to ask for blessings for a safe journey. :)

Intuition Test
So with our journey blessed, we continued on our way…and soon made our first stop at our driver’s home so he could drop off some medicine for his mom. While we were stopped, a man dressed all in black came up to talk with Rinchen; I was suspicious. He spoke Mandarin so I could understand what he was saying. He said we can’t go to the monastery (Lengu monastery). The police closed the road. “What?!” I think to myself. “Why would they do that? And…how did he even know that’s where we’re going?!” I didn’t trust him. Rinchen immediately looked concerned because there is only one road for us to get to the Monastery. Then this man said, “Look, you can ask the police yourself. They’re right here.”

This situation points to another odd thing we observed in our short time in Litang. In one of the most peaceful cities I’ve been in (Litang…that is mostly Tibetans), there are police EVERYWHERE. It seems so crazy b/c it is a small and peaceful population (a large portion of whom are monks). Yet there are these police vans and little portable police booths all over. And on our grueling bus ride, we saw soooo many army trucks, some of which are heading to Lhasa with banners saying “Tibetans and Chinese under one government.” We also saw many subsidized Tibetan housing developments (where the government is encouraging nomadic Tibetans to ‘settled down’ so they can keep better track of them) with banners saying to give thanks to the Communist party. While I don’t sense much animosity among the Tibetans we’ve met, there is a level of distrust with the government/police. ….So back to my story, Rinchen went over to the portable police booth and sure enough is told the road is closed.

….Well…after Rinchen had a short powwow with our driver, they promptly concluded to continue driving and be on our way! What else are we to do, right? …Yay! I didn’t believe that man and apparently Rinchen didn’t either. I’m glad we didn’t because as we continued to bumble and bounce up the dirt road, traveling ever higher into the now rocky mountain tundra terrain at 15,000 feet, we saw fewer and fewer cars, and no police….until we were one of the only vehicles on the road…. And, most important, the road was open! We also came into some of the most stunning terrain I’ve seen….Huge mountain mounds made up only of boulders and stone (reminded me some of the Upper Enchantments in Washington state) with views of huge, huge snow and glacier covered mountain peaks! And eventually as we turned the corner and summited the pass, both our driver and Rinchen broke out in joyous Yoddling!!! :) What a great tradition this is! (I had a first thought something went horribly wrong with our jeep…until Rinchen promptly explained they were yoddling, of course, b/c we just reached the pass! :))

Rockin’ to the Dalai Lama!
Our first day and a half out in this glorious wilderness was spent camped at the site where the new Lengu Monastery is being built. It’s about 4 miles from the old monastery which is only accessible by foot and…motorcycle :) – used to be foot and horses but now motorcycles make their way up to the new monastery. On a side note, I found it so amusing seeing these monks putts around on the motorcycles, that are, just like the inside of cars, decorated with beautiful cloth and pictures of the Dalai Lama. Also, each one is equipped with some sort of round plastic radio strapped to the back of their seat. Sometimes it blares some tinny sounding Tibetan music,….but often times it’s “blasting” dharma talks by the Dalai Lama!! Ha! Yeaya!! That’s the kind of ‘rockin’ out ‘ I’m talkin’ about! :)

The old monastery is amazing!! It’s over 700 years old, built at the base of the 20,000 foot towering sacred Genyen Mountain, and is the oldest monastery in China that wasn’t destroyed during the Cultural Revolution…precisely b/c it is so remote. (Even in our modern day of transportation….you’ve already seen just how long and grueling a trip its been for us!) Over 200 monks of all ages live there now and as they have some well-known Dharma teachers from India visiting, more and more monks desire to come. Hence they are building the new monastery down the road that is accessible via vehicle, and easier for transporting in supplies.

We Are Family!! ~ Family of Monks & Wood Carvers
Down at the site for the new monastery we got to witness some of the stages of one of these great monastery structures being built and meet the people who build them….especially the wood carvers. Wow! What a sweet community!! They are all men ranging from 17 – 47 years in age that travel from near and far villages to work on such projects. 

Here, they work under a wooden structure with yak-hair tent tarps over them to keep out the rain. (I haven’t mentioned all the rain we got on this trip!! I think somehow I took all of Seattle’s rain with me!...still raining here in Yunnan too :)…and I know you all in Seattle are enjoying one of the driest, sunniest autumns ever!! :)) And they have a head monk who oversees the whole operation.  He is the head designer who first sketches all the drawings, and then “dots” them (pokes dots on the drawing lines) so that the carvers can use some sort of chalk over the paper on the wooden pillars and then have the Master’s drawings sketched out onto the wood. 

The carvers then work from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. carving away these amazing, ornate, detailed and beautiful images into what will be the massive pillars and archways of the new monastery. They are all working so hard so they can put a roof on the new monastery before winter comes.

And they are the most loving and affectionate group of men I’ve ever met. It may be the influence of the monks too. Several monks, including the head artist monk are overseeing the operation and they so take care of everyone! Monks are often seen with their arms around the younger carvers, taking a fatherly or uncle-erly (new word!) role. And the carvers to me look like a bunch of girlfriends in that they are so comfortable with each other! So friendly and loving. One carver shared his camera with me so I could see his photos (as we had been sharing ours…indeed the main entertainment that afternoon on their lunch break was looking at all of Annie’s photos on her iPhone…which she remembered after they had it…had several bikini shots of her and her girlfriends in the states. They were quite intrigued!). In looking at his photos, they were all of him and his carver buddies, posing for different shots in the tall grasses just as I would normally do with a bunch of my girlfriends in the States :).

The monks were so welcoming of us and intrigued too. While we were camping and cooking in the rain, they came by and invited us to warm up by their fire and to drink their hot water and yak butter tea (an acquired taste for sure! :))

An Intimate Exchange ~ Why is the sun getting hotter?
On our 2nd evening before we headed up to Lengu Monastery for our 2 of 3 basecamps, 3 monks came to join us while we were sitting by our….well, I’d like to say campfire…but it was too damp!…so we were sitting by our camp stove. :) We, being curious travelers, proceeded to ask them all sorts of questions about their lives here…and Rinchen was our gracious interpreter…as they were most comfortable speaking Tibetan. Once our curiosity was well satiated, these 3 monks proceeded to ask us several questions. The first was, “Why did you come so far, travel around the world and then on such long, arduous roads, at least 2 days of buses, one day of jeep rides to finally come here? Why?” We each answered….to come see them, to see their beautiful monastery, to learn from them and the Land, to practice with and in the presence of these Sacred Mountains….Dave shared that he has traveled all around the world and this is one of, if not the most beautiful place he has ever been to. Then they asked (many of whom have lived here at Lengu for many, many years), “Why is it the sun is getting hotter and stronger? Why are the glaciers melting and the springs starting to dry up?” They have been noticing these changes in the last many years and are alarmed. While they still have plenty of water, they know that these changes can become very dangerous in the not too distant future. We each, through Rinchen, shared our understanding of global warming, how out of balance we humans are with our carbon emissions on this planet and the clear cutting of trees, etc. They all listened intently. They also shared of the government mining, the destroying of much land, especially now in Tibet too. These pristine lands are being destroyed, raped for minerals. They said they hope we, America, people in the West can help them and the Land.

Dreamtime, Dream Spirits Speak
My heart was full, and had many emotions. We had just shared a deeply touching and intimate evening and connection with these 3 monks as nighttime closed in. As the cool dampness turned to cold, we soon all wished each other good dreams. They left for their monks’ quarters and we went to our somewhat soggy tents to sleep. That night I again wrote in my journal and asked a posed a question for my dreamtime….”How can I be of service here at Lengu Monastery and Mountains of Genyen Massif?”

I woke up early, the sky was still dark and remembered my dream clearly. I was deeply moved and still had tears in my eyes…. In my dream I had come back to Seattle from China to attend the last session of a 10-week seminar I was taking at Landmark called “Velocity.” (I was actually in this seminar before coming to China :)). My seminar leader, Justina was surprised to see me (as she had known I had already left for China), but said that she had also prepared something for me that was on my seat in the seminar room. She had actually prepared something special and specific for everyone in the room. On each of our seats was a sheet of laminated paper with a reminder of who we really are and what our specific Gifts to the World are. I walked up to my seat, picked up my sheet, and turned it over. It said and radiated “Divine Joy” in beautiful rainbow colors. Below it had a bunch of text, all still in beautiful rainbow colors (that I wish I had read in the dream!). I immediately started crying. I was so deeply moved. Justina gave me a few more things that I couldn’t recall when waking up…but she also then promptly reminded me to go back to China, as that is where I am to be right now. Oh yes, I thought in my dream, and I went to buy my plane ticket to head back…..  That was my dream. I awoke knowing what my gift to bring and share with the Land and the people here was/is….Divine Joy. Thank you, Thank you, Thank You.
….So this may be one of my longest updates yet. I’m going to save the rest of the trekking trip up to the Lengu Monastery and our trek into the high country for the next one….:)
Thank you for those of you who made it through this long update :)....and for this opportunity to share!!

So much Love and Joy!!
KarenJoy ~ Kailun 凯伦