Place of Joy
For centuries many sages, gurus and enlightened beings have found refuge in the Himalayas as a place for meditation and realization. Towards the end of last year my plan B suddenly became plan A; unexpectedly. I was supposed to go back to India and practice in Mysore for my third year with Sharath, I was in a relationship and it all seemed like it was flowing really cool and then boom! I didn’t get accepted to practice and my heart got broken. Things can change in a split of a second; just like that. How beautiful the nature of impermanence is! At the time I was so sad and frustrated. This triggered old feelings related to my depression and in the midst of all my pain I decided to do something I had been dreading for a long time: what if I finally do Vipassana and what if I do it at the source of Tibetan buddhism in Dharamsala, India? There are two main centers there and I applied to Tushita Meditation Centre, which was founded by Lama Yese and Lama Zopa Rimpoche , two Tibetan monks that escaped Tibet and are disciples of your Holiness the Dalai Lama in the tradition of Mahayana. I submitted my application and two days later I received my confirmation!
Oh my…….What a challenge this adventure was going to be! Not only the weather turned out to be brutal, with temperatures below zero, but also the centre had no heating system. Because Tushita; which means Place of Joy or the Heaven where Bodhisattvas live before attaining enlightenment, is located approximately at 2500 m. above sea level on the Himalayas, there are a lot of power outages, hence there was no hot water, ouch! And the showers were located outside the tiny room I got with just a bed and an indian style toilet. The gong sounded everyday at 06.00 to wake me up and there were days I had to get ready with candle light because there was no electricity. My first meditation started at 6.45 am everyday. I had to give up my phone, laptop and camera and talking! Yes, me who is chatter box was supposed to be in silence for 10 days! I thought, I won’t make it! Hahaha! Also, because I am a tropical fish the weather was really hard to handle. There were a couple of nights that I was in bed and thought: “I will die here because it was so cold!” My karma job was to wash the dinner dishes for 85 people. I hate washing dishes and it was no coincidence that this job was assigned to me. So every night after dinner I washed the dishes in silence but felt so much joy and gratitude to be useful to others. The teachings of the Dharma are very precise and rational. In Buddhism your heart, mind and soul are considered to be one. Day by day our teacher Honorable Drolma, an awesome nun guided us through the teachings of Lord Buddha and got us prepared for the increased meditation sessions which were longer each day.
I practice Ashtanga yoga which is very physical, intense. The hardest part for me was not only the silence but also sitting down for the meditation sessions. The mind is like a wild horse. You need to tame it. And Buddhism has excellent methods to this. The teachings are so profound and beautiful that I had no option but to surrender. I took the 8 Uposatha precepts, which are guidelines to follow and renounced to use makeup and wearing my jewelry. It was hard. The weather was -5 C for most of the days and it finally started snowing one day. And when it started snowing and it all turned white I went outside and stood there in the woods. Just contemplating the snow, feeling it falling on my face and then the silence made so much sense. I felt so alive! So free! That silence exists within us and has so many answers. Westerners we live in such busyness; usually filling our minds with so much bullshit. So that is why the teachings of the East are so hard to understand sometimes. We must empty that mind that’s filled with useless thoughts and let new ones in. Meditation is an amazing tool for grounding ourselves and to be more mindful and also learn that everything changes. People, places, things. That is why getting attached to them only creates pain and suffering. Life is a learning process that never stops. I am beyond grateful to have the teachings of Yoga and Hinduism in my life. And now the teachings of Buddhism. I was born and raised Catholic. I haven’t renounced to my faith and I know that I am protected by my Angels and my Gods. But now those Gods have new friends. My Hindu Gods and they all get along with no problem because they are the same energy manifested in different ways. So, yes I have become Hindu in many ways. My rituals, my chanting, my practice and my prayers too! My heart is very Indian. India changed my life in such a positive way! This was my third trip and I am ready to come back to the source. The powerful spiritual, chaotic energy that only India has.
So after 10 days of no talking, no phone, laptop, camera, no pictures, tv, make up, eating once a day sometimes and lots of cups of chai and no yoga practice I realized that my true essence is the one I discovered sitting there in the Gompa every morning meditating. My goal is to make other beings happy and free from suffering. My life is a precious gift. My eyes have seen the most beautiful places and people around the world. I have met so many different cultures. I come from a tiny country with only 4.5 million people. But we are all connected despite our differences. We are not separated; at the core of it we have the same heart and we suffer the same. We must celebrate each other instead of destroy each other. This has been one of the hardest things I have done in my life, yet one of the best ones. When you go deep you must forgive others and most importantly yourself. With forgiveness comes compassion and finally you let go of the pain. As they say; we all are fighting a battle that you don’t know about.
We each have a Place of Joy the resides in our hearts. Please look within, go deep and you will find it. That is your true nature. An open heart. A kind heart; that is all you need……….Love is all you need <3