My travels through the Solu Khumbu (Mt. Everest) region of Nepal challenged my beliefs about 'home’ and offered a welcome new perspective. Previously, I had accepted the fact I might never experience the concept “home, wherever I am”. I am somewhat obsessive/compulsive about my space. I like a cozy nest, that’s just so; everything in its place, even if its place is a messy cupboard. Having my home be aesthetically pleasing and under my control is really important to me. I moved a lot as a child and no doubt my hang-ups stem from that. To the best of my recollection, I lived in 15 different homes by the time I graduated from high school. Home is my base from which I reach out to the world. When my home is unsettled, I reflect that aspect and vice versa; we are in sync. In the past I held a limiting belief that home was a purely physical space where I retreated for rest, cooking, eating and keeping myself clean; a place where my stuff and I holed up for safekeeping.
While on trek, my home was a tent shared with another woman. It wasn’t always the same tent every night. They varied in color and condition of zippers, a small lesson in non-attachment. Every evening I went through a ritual of laying out my belongings in a similar pattern, hanging up my lantern and adjusting to my home for the night. I placed considerable value on my possessions, which weighed less than 40 lbs. In sharp contrast, the porters that accompanied our group had only a small bundle of things to call their own and seemed very casual about what I took so seriously. My assumption was that the Nepali culture raised people less focused on self and possessions than me (and many other westerners); food for thought. As I walked the rocky trails I viewed Nepalis’ mountain homes. They ranged from humble shacks to exquisitely built rock homes with slate roofs. The slate was all cut by hand and then transported on human backs. Trims were painted in vivid colors of yellow, green, turquoise, or blue. I became enamored of these fine Sherpa homes and with their inhabitants.
On one particular day, my beliefs shifted profoundly. Our group was having a rest day. We were camped below the Tibetan Buddhist Monastery 'Thubten Chöling'. After washing ourselves and some of our clothes (a rare treat), we walked up to the monastery. We received a warm welcome from the monks and anis (nuns). Hand gestures, smiles and laughs replaced language. A tour around the main temple square included a special room housing a huge prayer wheel. I went inside and walked around the wheel, turning it, and felt an eerie turning back of time. We asked permission to take photos of the maroon robed devotees before they went into the temple for chanting, tea and prayer. A small group of anis motioned me to come sit with them. At first I thought they were kidding but they became insistent. Shyly, I did go sit with them and my friend took photos of us. One ani took my arm and pulled it around her neck. In that fleeting moment a flood of emotions engulfed me: kinship, blessed, accepted, joyous, and HOME! Later one of my friends told me I was beaming and radiant. And I felt that way, from the inside out.
We were invited to sit in the temple with the monks and anis and observe their rituals and prayers. It was wonderful to be there, a time for my feelings to settle, and an opportunity to soak in their spirit. In my usual way, I tried to analyze why the anis had wanted me to join them. I thought maybe it was because of my skirt with the peacock print, peacocks are a symbol of enlightenment in Nepal…or because overweight people are assumed to be wealthy in Nepal. In the end it didn’t matter why they wanted to connect with me. What was important was how I felt about being with them. This shift was sensory, heartfelt and I couldn’t intellectualize it away. My idea of home had been transformed to something expansive.
Perhaps I lived at Thubten Chöling in a previous lifetime, which could explain my sense of being at home there. While not discounting that possibility, I believe I was in a space emotionally and spiritually where all that was required of me was to be open and feel home. This experience alone made the whole trek worthwhile. Home is now more than a house and a noun; it is a way of being in the world. I am so grateful to have gotten a glimpse of what it means to be “home, wherever I am”.
May all beings be at home, Namasté.