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 玉龙雪山)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 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!!!
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.
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.”
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!!!
to view this post's video click below
Joy in Beijing Video
to view this post's video click below
Joy in Beijing Video