Kathmandu, the Nepalese Shangri-la city of dreams.
I share many practices that I learned whilst in Kathmandu, not least gratitude meditation and metta bhavana (loving kindness), as well as the ‘prostration’ version of the sun salute that I offer. I know that some of you reading this will have practiced these with me.
What is Karma? The law of cause and effect? Is it fate or destiny or is that something else entirely? These are big questions! Definitely every action has a reaction, even if it’s not immediate, and we can see this play out in our daily lives if we are observant and aware.
I first visited Kathmandu with my partner in early 2015. It was the end of the winter there, so still quite chilly especially in the evenings. We arrived into Nepal overland from India. The immediate gentleness of the Nepali people was tangible. I felt immediately at home. We explored some of rural Nepal as we travelled overland to Kathmandu. The very first encounter with this mystical land, as is often the case when arriving somewhere new, will never leave me. I will never forget my first glimpse of the ‘mighty Himalaya’. Towering snow capped and majestical. It’s quite impossible to describer the enormity and magnificence of these mountains. No wonder this is a place for spiritual pilgrims.
Eventually we arrived in Kathmandu, a place that just by its very name evokes dream like qualities of magical mysterious adventures and tales to be told. This place, Kathmandu, is such a hotbed of life. There is abject and extreme poverty, thrown together with such compassion and spirituality, and, as in any big city, incredible wealth and opulence, chaos and confusion and a corrupt complex government system, all side by side. The regions faith system is an incredible ‘blend’ of Hindu and Buddhist, oftentimes in the same temple all together. Tradition is fierce and can be very ritualistic and for us with our western eyes and minds, very antiquated.
As a child (this is relevant stay with me!) I loved tomato ketchup, with every single meal. I also loved to play ludo with my grandmother. In Kathmandu I was amazed to see people on the street playing ludo as a common occurrence, and to discover that I was offered ketchup with every meal! I felt that I had always been destined to be there, I felt a really tangible sense of belonging, an acceptance, which for me is very rare. We explored the temples, stupas, ancient sites. The alleyways, streets and buildings, architecture, ancient and often decrepit, layers of smog filled with transport fumes, cigarette smoke and incense, interspersed with Buddhas, prayer flags, Shiva, Hanuman, Kali and a myriad more mind blowing, mesmerising, fantastical sights, sound and sensations. Colourful stalls selling beautiful artefacts, ancient and reproduction. banter and bartering, tuk tuks and scooters, sounds of mellow mantra and funky vibes audible everywhere, people people people, colourful vibrant, alive. All with a definite air of magic and mystery, of seeing beyond the obvious, and of knowing beyond the material. Life completely in the raw, uncut. A true feast for the soul and the senses, just exactly as you might imagine it to be.
We left there in February 2015. Two months later there was a massive earthquake that destroyed so much, people and places, in this magical land. We had so fallen in love with the place and people, we felt compelled to help and so, with Yoga and mediation by donation events we managed to raise a total of $1520 | £1125. In spring of 2016 my partner Terry travelled back to Nepal. Whilst there he distributed these generous donations from our Karma Yoga fund directly in cash to people who needed help. Shortly after he had finished directly distributing these funds to the recipients Terry had a heart attack, which was life changing in so many respects. The compassion and beauty of the people, who have now become firm lifelong friends for me, was so breathtaking. They cared for, fed and comforted him. As if in some kind of serendipity at the same time, I received a book in the post about a compassion practice originating in Nepal, which I had learned whilst there. The universe was clearly trying to give me a message and a lesson of some kind. He returned to the UK and sadly died in summer 2017. He said it was his karma, directly from Kathmandu. I knew that I had to return, to personally thank the people and to be there for them somehow, but I had no idea how.
Kathmandu feels so strong in terms of energy. It always seem to have something to teach me. Whilst I absolutely love it there, it always feels tough in some ways, and yet I cannot get enough of it. My last visit, in early 2019, included a retreat which I left after less than one day as I felt so ‘uncomfortable’. I couldn’t articulate at the time how was I feeling and the swami, typically in such circumstances such as these, saw exactly what was happening for me emotionally and expressed it so freely that it overtook me like a tsunami. However, karma, fate, destiny, then took me to another place where I met a now very dear friend and sound healer, Rajkumar of Divine Yoga Kathmandu. His gentle reassuring presence and demeanour really did help me to begin to heal whilst there, revisiting and walking in my now deceased partners foot steps, meeting with his old friends and dwelling in our memories of the past.
Grief is a slow and strange process. It does gradually shift, it never goes away, but it does somehow change and soften. Part of my forever healing and ongoing learning is to continue this journey with this magical destination, and this is now happening in the most unexpected of ways, especially at a time when I am now unable to visit due to travel restrictions worldwide.
I have recently supported, as much as I can, a charity set up by someone that I met at a Yoga gathering early in 2020. This charity is called The Country That Shook and was set up just after the earthquake. Their mission is to empower Nepali people to live fulfilled lives by providing education and resources. They are committed to collaborating with people around the world, bringing expertise, ideas and funding together to make a difference within Nepalese society. Given all of my connection with this place i was naturally drawn to support this as much as I was able to.
I am so absolutely delighted and quite overwhelmed therefore that I have been asked to be a trustee of this charity. I know that Terry would have been so very proud, delighted and supportive of this work, and so, in his memory, we will continue with the karma in Kathmandu.
This is written in memory of Terry Crockett, love peace and happiness always.