It was our second night here in Pokhara, Nepal, and as we sat waiting for our bill after our vegetable curry dinner (delicious, our current go-to), we wondered what we should do with our time remaining that day.
It was barely six in the evening, but we knew that once the sun set in the next half hour, our bodies would willingly accept the darkness as a sign to return to the room, to our beds, and to call it a night. Lying in bed to read or write beneath the dim lights would seal the deal, and we would likely be fast asleep by 8:30 p.m, meaning up and awake way too early.
What should we do, then?
We had debated on going to the local shops and buying things: A bag for Jordan to more comfortably hold his passport, monies, and the latest purchase being his Tibetan/English dictionary. For me, a sketch pad and perhaps a local, handmade piece of jewelry.
By the time we left the restaurant, it was dark. We mutually, silently decided we wouldn’t go to the shops, as we walked in the opposite direction towards our hotel. After ensuring that all my things were securely in my bag, I looked up – the moon was full tonight; yellow and so bright, its edges blurred until my eyes could fully process and focus. Wow.
We continued on, me playing follow the leader — he always walks so much faster, that I end up trailing behind.
“Look, they have yoga,” he said as we passed by a hotel sign that read Himalayan International Yoga Center.
Jordan practices yoga regularly, and has continued to do so every day since we started traveling together. Sometimes he would invite me to do it with him, as he used to be a yoga instructor, and it was great for me as a beginner. But in order for him to really get into his spiritual zone and reap the benefits, he needs to practice and meditate alone, which is completely understandable for as much time as we spend together in general. He wanted me to enjoy the benefits of practicing regularly as well, so we’d been casually on the lookout for good places offering beginner classes that I could take.
I followed him inside where we asked the man at the reception desk to give us more details. He disappeared, and out came an Indian man named Krishna.
Krishna, a 60-year-old yoga master who studied in India, holds traditional classes here in Nepal as well as classes back in India. He told me a little bit about himself, his courses, and how Western yoga taught and practiced is very different, and often times very disconnected from its traditional roots. He emphasized that it is not just a fitness class, but a lifestyle change. By the end of the conversation, we established my one-on-one, $6 USD-equivalent lesson the next morning.
“This is going to be really good for you, I’m excited for you,” Jordan said as we walked out the door.
I was instinctually nervous. It’s what I have a tendency to do. Anything new or potentially uncomfortable is met with uncertainty and anxiousness. I had to remind myself to shake off the nerves because this is going to be great for me.
“I know, me too,” I replied.
The next morning I woke up, got ready, and was off to class.
And of course, I got lost on the way. I kind of knew I would. But I find it funny that whenever I go to a new place alone, even though I take the long way, I always end up walking right up to it. My instincts sort of just take me there. So I guess I really wasn’t lost, I just took a different way.
I met Krishna right on time, and we began our lesson.
He talked about the fundamentals. He said we could not begin the actual practice until I understood where it all came from, what it all means.
He talked about the Panchayat Kosa concept of yoga, of the five bodies: The physical body, the vital energy body, the mind body, the knowledge body, and the bliss body. He talked about the soul.
He compared our physical bodies to cars. We need to fill it with gas to fuel it, just as we need to eat to fuel our bodies. But it takes so much more than that to have a healthy, running vehicle.
You have to ensure the battery is charged. You have to maintain the battery well. You can have all the fuel in the world, but if the battery is dead — if you don’t know how to re-energize — the car still won’t function properly or to its full potential.
You need to have the knowledge of how to operate each of the parts, a manual to tell you what to do and what not to do. If you just attempt to go ahead and drive, go through the motions, there is a lot you won’t know, and you could subject yourself to accidents and unnecessary stress.
And you have to put what you learn to practice. You have to develop the habits in order to improve day by day.
The car and its parts have an expiration date, but if you don’t take care of it, it may not live to see it.
He talked about happiness. He talked about how various cultures define happiness, and how they structure their lives around it.
He talked about how he, I, you — the soul, what really defines us as individuals, who we truly are — are the driver of that external entity that is the body. Each of us have complete control.
He taught me how to control my breathing. He taught me how to be in control of my mind and the infinite thoughts that cloud it; to clear it, and focus on one thing at a time. This is definitely a challenge for me.
He emphasized that true health goes beyond the physical body, that it is a collaboration between all bodies. The mind is a powerful thing, and I’ve known that but never really took it seriously.
It’s as if everything he taught me that day was based upon a synopsis someone had prepared for him prior of who I am, and where I am in my life right now.
I have never felt so much confidence in the fact that I am exactly where I am meant to be. It’s like the feeling of déjà vu, combined with the feeling of wonder after discovering a great coincidence, combined with pure, spontaneous joy like that of recovering of an item that you thought you’d lost forever. Just a million aha moments rolled up in to one explosive high.
I cannot begin to explain just how beautiful it is to feel like the puzzle pieces are all falling into place in the order that they were meant to all along. After they were forced and pushed in all the wrong ways for so long.
I am realizing how unhappy I was with my old life at home.
How intensely money ran my life. How I did a lot of things I didn’t want to do — that didn’t make me truly happy — to get it. So that I could pay way too much for a shitty apartment in the city. So that I could pay for the gas to get me to work to pay for that shitty apartment in the city. And to buy all the other things I thought I needed, that I thought were making me happy.
I subjected my body to stress, sitting in traffic for hours. Surrounding myself, at times, with people I didn’t necessarily like. Not having enough time for the ones I did. Sitting in front of a computer screen for eight hours straight. Generating negative energy as a result. Taking it out on the ones that I loved. All for what?
How is that living?
Then I went to Bali, and now here to Nepal. They live simply and only take what they really need. They don’t live lavishly or in excess. And then again, still find ways to give more.
They care about things that are greater than themselves. Take a typical 21-year-old from Bali and then a 21-year-old from LA and I guarantee you will find the motivations, wants and goals are entirely different. I was so impressed by the selflessness and pure intentions of all the people I met.
They are so happy. They live based on their passions, not money. Money is a reality in this world, and we need it to sustain our passions, but it shouldn’t be a main motivator.
The way life has brought me here, to this frame of mind, to this path – the random run-ins, detours, unplanned adventures – is beautiful; the intricacies and specific details, all woven together just so to bring me to this place.
Clarity. Happiness. Freedom. I feel like I’ve just awakened, snapped back into true living after merely existing in a mindless state of hypnosis. Maybe it’s a phase; maybe my life has just changed forever.
This journey has not always been comfortable; I’ve definitely had and will continue to have my moments of doubt and sadness and heartbreak. But I believe in them just as much as I believe in the moments that send my spirit soaring.
I opened my eyes from my last meditation exercise with Krishna, and what a sight to behold:
An Annapurna mountain peak, though off considerably in the distance, overwhelming; it fills the entire frame of the large window. It is so massive that it feels strangely close, like I could reach out and grab it if I wanted. Its white, snowy tops vibrant against the background of the perfectly blue sky, emerging behind the green hills in closer proximity. So majestic, clear and pristine.
I closed my eyes once more, inhaled deeply, and fully immersed myself in this moment of pure contentment, in this sliver of bliss.
I am filled with gratitude in and for this moment.