For the last two-and-a-half weeks, the hubby and I were traveling through what is quite possibly one of the most interesting and eye-opening countries I have been too (and I’ve been to over 30 countries so I’m not just saying that! I have some good comparisons out there). Nepal is stunning. The scenery, the people, the culture, everything just took my breath away.
So why did I choose to go to Nepal? It’s been on my bucket list for a while, and I think the most attractive quality for me was the religious aspect. I’m not a religious person in the traditional sense, however I do have a deep spirituality and there’s something about Buddhism that has always fascinated me. Even when I was at uni when I was 17, I took religious studies so that I could delve a little deeper into it. So to have the opportunity to head to the country where Siddhartha Gautama himself – the Buddha – was born, this was like finally realising a lifelong dream. (Plus you know, I’m vegan. Buddha was vegetarian. I had this idea that I would be heading to a vegan food lover’s paradise!)
And so we arrived in Kathmandu, and driving from the airport to the main tourist area of Thamel, I was hit first by the poverty. Yes, the Nepalese are very poor. (Financially, at least; they are extremely rich in other areas but more on that in Part 2 next week.) But I was kind of expecting this, to be confronted by poverty, and I had seen it before in other countries so it wasn’t too much of a shock. But what I wasn’t expecting was the pollution! The thick black smoke billowing out of the cars and trucks, oh man, I was breathing through clothing over my mouth and nose every time we headed onto the road. Really full on, and really gross. Plus there is litter everywhere. Rubbish all over the place.
Speaking of the rubbish, a yoga and trekking guide I met a week or so later was chatting to me about an idea he had. To offer a trek to tourists somewhere in the Annapurna region where you not only see the mountains but you pick up litter along the way! Kind of like a karma yoga trek. Pretty cool right? You’d get to experience the incredible beauty, and help it stay that way at the same time. Watch this space and let’s see if it eventuates!
But these two issues were just two tiny negatives in a country so full of positives. After Kathmandu we headed off to Chitwan National Park, and I have to say, this was a major highlight for me. This is a massive protected area that goes down into India as well, and inside are all kinds of great animals that you wouldn’t really expect – elephants, rhinos, leopards, sloth bears (which are totally different to sloths), hyenas, and the highly endangered Bengal tiger. Being the animal lover that I am, it was pretty spectacular, we even saw rhinos and a sloth bear! Even our guide had never seen a sloth bear!
Talk about feeling blessed.
However it was away from the animals that I was most touched. We visited a Tharu village (riding an ox and cart, might I add) and these people have been living in this area for about 1,800 years. But what’s really amazing is that their way of living has barely changed! They were living in mud brick houses, the doors decorated with paintings designed to attract Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth, love, prosperity and fortune, into their homes. There was no electricity, no furniture. They milked their buffalo, had chickens and goats for food, and grew their own crops near their homes. These crops change depending on the season, rice in the wet season and other crops once the land dries up.
And they were so peaceful, so happy and content! They weren’t in a hurry, they just did what they had to do when it needed to be done.
It was a real eye-opener. It made me see that we are so busy in Western society. Everything needs to be done now. Everything needs to be done better. Higher productivity! Better efficiency! Work harder, work smarter! I think we’ve forgotten an integral part of life, which is that being productive and busy doesn’t equal happiness, nor does it make you a nicer person. It doesn’t fuel your passion, or your purpose. It doesn’t get you more time with your family or the people you love, and it definitely doesn’t give you better health!!
In fact, I would say it gives us the opposite.
So I walked away from that experience with some new perspective, and I hope it’s one that will stick with me through my life. Funnily enough, our next destination really drove that message home for me.
We journeyed on to Lumbini, the birthplace of Buddha. There’s a huge area here filled with temples and dedicated to this religion, yet there’s one temple in particular that people from all over the world make their pilgrimage too. This is called the Maya Devi (after Buddha’s mother), and it sits on the site of Buddha’s birth. There’s even a marker stone inside depicting the exact place that Maya Devi gave birth.
So of course, I had this vision of coming to this place and having a spiritual experience. It would be peaceful, and the energy would be one of love and compassion and all of those values that Buddhism holds true.
But that perspective I had just gained on ‘busy-ness’ was about to come into play again.
It was so busy!! People were taking selfies, posing in front of various temples and structures while friends took numerous photos to get the ‘right’ picture, making it difficult for others to get by or even take a look at what was in front of them. It was loud, there was shouting and yelling, and the pushing. There was so much pushing, with people shoving in front of others to be able to see something first, the hubby and I were tempted to just get out of there!
So what does this say about us? That we’ve become so busy, and so driven by our ego and need to be the ‘first’ to see something, that we’ve forgotten how to be decent human beings? I was so shocked that people were acting that way in what is one of the most spiritually important sites in the world, it actually left me quite speechless.
It’s not the fault of all the people there mind you. I really just think this is the way that we are moving in our society. It’s all about having it now, doing it now. We’re so busy trying to be super productive and impress others, that things like patience, consideration, generosity, fairness, equality and sharing are all taking a backseat. Who has time to be considerate towards others when we’re trying to get the best photo for Facebook??
This was the perspective that being in Nepal opened up for me. It really made me see some of the flaws in Western society.
Now don’t get me wrong – we have some pretty damn good stuff too! And I love being who I am, with the opportunities I have that Western society has given me. But we’ve created some really bad shit too. And it’s at times like these when it’s staring you in the face, and you think, you know what? I’m going to change that little piece of me. I’m not going to be so caught up in busy-ness, in doing things now, in being first, in competing with others. First off I’m just going to try and be a good human being and offer some of that goodness to other people around me.
I’ll still be productive, I mean, we have to be! I want to be successful in my life and that requires some productivity and some efficiency. But it doesn’t need to take over my life, and it sure doesn’t have to be the way I interact with other people.
So look out for Part 2 in my Nepalese adventures! Next week I’ll talk about our time in Pokhara, trekking around some stunning countryside, visiting a Tibetan village and spending a day at the Himalaya Yoga Institute. Oh, and I haven’t even mentioned the food yet….
As always I’d love to hear your thoughts! Have you been to Nepal? Or do you have an experience with busy-ness that you’d like to share? Please add your feedback below!
With love and learning some patience,