Journal of an Adventure

The following is a web journal Jennifer kept during an amazing journey to Tibet, India, Thailand, and Nepal in the fall of 2006. It is hoped that you enjoy reading about this journey as much as Jennifer enjoyed being able to share it in this special way…

The Journey Begins quan yin heart

hmmm…what day is this? Oct. 9th, 2006
Taipei, Taiwan

hello dear friends, I am writing you from the other side of the world already, and I am filled with joy. We are at the Taipei airport waiting several hours for a connecting flight to Bangkok, Thailand. I was not full of joy running around the last few hours before we left the island, just as we were finishing a four day workshop, nor was I in joy at the Seattle airport at 2am waiting to get on our flight, or cramped into an airline seat for 12.5 hours which makes you feel that your legs will fall off and your head explode. But it was doable, had periods of relief, and was worth it, and honestly it was better than many other world travel experiences I have had…I actually slept on the plane and let me tell you that is amazing for me. Even heavily drugged I usually wait out the hours on that painful fringe between asleep and awake dying to pass out.

Now we are in Taipei and my energy is returning to sustained…I made it over the hump. Taipei, though I am only seeing it through airport windows, doesn’t look all that different from Seattle yet…so it seems surreal that I am so far away from that origin. I am also happy because I am with my beloved and my family and we are embarking on an absolutely incredible adventure. All that and my mom found a little “hot spot” with free wireless and gave me her computer (after getting her fix)…so I can write you all so soon after leaving.

For ten years of my life I journaled every day, and writing has always been a deeply important and reflective practice for me. The first, and only other time I have been to Asia I was nineteen and alone and certainly did not sleep on the flight. Including layovers it took me three days of travel to get to India. This time I get to spend three whole days in Bangkok just relaxing and exploring before the big nepal/tibet trip and then India. What a blessing.

I believe that any experience, with or without travel, that makes the world seem small helps us to remember that nothing is that far apart within ourselves either and that we are never far apart from the divine. May you all be blessed with new vision and experiences today and i will hope to write you all again soon. Love, Jennifer

Blissing in Bangkok lotus bud
Peninsula Hotel, Bangkok, Thailand
October 11th, 2006

Hello Friends…I am having a lovely afternoon today and am enjoying the tropical weather of Thailand…and right now the tropical rains! Last night from my 17th floor window seat (this hotel has 35!) I watched the most amazing storm I have ever seen sweep over Bangkok. Incredible lightning and wild thunder and absolutely torrential rain. I thanked the Goddess we weren’t in the air!

grand palace
We are very blessed to be staying in a very nice hotel for a few days before heading to Nepal and Tibet. There are tropical flowers absolutely everywhere and we are right on the chao priya river, so whenever the rains return and we can’t sip a drink down in the outdoor cafe we just look out the window at all the boats and bunches of green foliage passing by on its waters. It is a huge and crazy city of course, but I am soon going to find out where you can get amazing foot rubs right on the street and a facial from some very nice gay boys at “cuties and beauty” (which I’ve never had!)

So who would have thought my trip to Tibet and India would begin with three days of luxury. Life is sweet, and the blow of crossing the world and being in a big city is softened by the sweetnesses here. Everyone has been so nice. I am thinking of you all and sending love.

Leaving for Kathmandu brahma shrine

October 13th, 2006
Peninsula Hotel, Bangkok, Thailand

I am writing from our hotel in Bangkok for the last time. Our stay here has not been simply luxury and respite but the inevitable, often wonderful and sometimes overwhelming adventure that Asia is. But the joy has far outweighed the physical demands, and it has been a pleasure. Each of these last three days we have gone into the city on one journey or another. The highlights have been making offerings at the Brahma shrine in the middle of high-urban streets with dancers called “angels” who danced people’s prayers, and the stunning statue of Quan Yin at the Palace, flanked by two phoenix.

angel dancersWe have wandered through high-fashion malls and clean city transit, and filthy wild back streets that almost rival India. We are lucky to have had such a wonderful place to come home to each night. As we prepare for an early wake-up to begin our true journey I am filled with many feelings. I pray that we are held and guided through the infinite light so that it is not so bright as looking at the sun. I look forward to experiencing Nepal for a few days, and seeing the himalayas for the first time before heading into them as we enter Tibet. I hope to write you all soon and am sending loving prayers…Love, Jennifer

From the Roof of the World bodinath
October 19th, 2006
Shigatse, Tibet

Dear Friends,

It seems like such a long time since I wrote you last. I am amazed and awed to be able to say that I am actually writing to you from Tibet. A dream has been realized, and something that once existed in a mythical place in my mind has materialized right before me. Thank you to those of you reading my journal here of my travels in Asia. Feel free to email and let me know your thoughts!

Nepal was bizarre and beautiful, the high points being the Bodinath Stupa in Kathmandu which was like a portal to a dimension of ecstasy, a ceremony with a Lama from the Chodde tradition near the burning ghats at night, and the incredible surroundings of the mountains at Nagarkot where we spent a couple of nights trying to prepare for the higher altitude. Try as we did I’m afraid the effects of the altitude here have taken many of us down or put us though a great deal of pain.

All the while planning the project to record the ceremonies and chantings of the nuns, among others, here in Tibet, and planning as a group how to inconspicuously get in our gear. It’s been an amazing adventure.

I knew Tibet would steal my heart…how could it not? It is breathtaking. Exquisite. The people are just as beautiful and warm as described, and the monestaries (we have not yet visited nunneries) are as if they were lifted right out of the movies and images you see of them. They could not be more real. Ken, our guide, says that they seem less real in Lhasa. We haven’t reached Lhasa yet.

yabsangWe spent the last couple of days in Tsedong, from which we were able to have the remarkable experience of a lifetime of meeting Yabsang Rimpoche, a 90-year-old, blind, Bon-po Shaman and Lama. He is thought of as an incarnation of Vajrapani, lord of all the Buddhas. His energy was of the most amazing I’ve felt, and he blessed each of us as if we were his family. His lineage holder, who will carry on his lineage when he is gone, had to perform the actual healing ceremony since Yabsang broke his leg and it has become endemic. Ken and Tom were able to convince him to get to a hospital which was a great relief. He says it is not yet his time, and he has so much to give. He was more an aura than anything else. When we get back I will post his picture here.

tibetan woman The ceremony with his lineage holder was beautiful, as were the pilgrims, stunning older Tibetan women coming for their own healings. We leaned over a trough to release our negativity as he poured golden water over our heads in the sunlight.

Most of us are in a mixture of bliss and great discomfort and we just try to ride the waves. I woke with a panic attack our first night here from the altitude that lasted a half an hour, during which time I could barely breathe. There are headaches and nausea sometimes, and the sinuses bleed. I am grateful for the moments of peace and the beautiful experiences, and the fact that we will all be more acclimatized soon.

There is, of course, so much more I could write. I just wanted to get some of it down before we go away from internet for several days again. The pace of the trip is also sometimes intense, and free time is only spent sleeping or recovering. Ken and Bpae are taking great care of us though. I am so grateful. Now if we can just get my mom well…

I am sending love and absolutely magical energy to you from this place of miracles. Love, Jennifer

Lhasa Blues

Tuesday, October 24th
Lhasa, Tibet

Dear Friends,

Thanks to those of you who have written me in response to my writings or support of my last message requesting anyone’s input on a medical concern. Thank you for knowing I will respond whenever I can. Many of us in the group have been experiencing such concerns. Hence, the Lhasa blues…

elder nun Of course the Lhasa blues are a different brand than most. They are the blues of a city built on a stolen way. They are the blues of the body begging for relief. They are the blues of seeing the mighty Potala paved into a city block. But those blues are only on the surface. Polishing it all you find the gold. You are shoved mercilessly through the Jokang and you see the same faith in the pilgrims eyes that has always been there. And it is not the blues for the two nuns we brought with us from Gyantse for medical assistance. They did shake their heads a few times on the bus in disbelief, but other than that this was all a part of the scheme of life…they are enjoying themselves as always. They are absolutely radiant.

Although I am afraid to say I didn’t get to see their radiant faces today. I had to stay in for the day, as I really need to rest and be well for what is upcoming. It is hard for everyone at times. Every day there are people sick in the group, from flu to food poisoning, to altitude sickness. My mom is better, my sister is on anti-biotics. I wanted to reserves some strength for Nechung tomorrow, temple of the Oracle. It meant I missed a wonderful nunnery, although it also meant I missed a very-rare snowy night which is a good thing.

gyantse nunnery I will have to forever be satisfied with the incredible experience I had at the other nunnery on this trip. The one in which circumstances just happened to come into being that allowed me to sit and chant with the nuns. It was one of the most wonderful moments of my life. There have been so many great moments on this trip. That was also the day Sebastian was bitten by a dog, which has been a journey to follow-up on. I know everything will be okay but good lord I have been tested.

At this point I am filled with my journey here, and wish simply to take care of ourselves until we can make it back to Kathmandu and on to India. Coming out of the countryside was near-shocking, but the richness of the spirit of this place can never, never die. I hope you are all having relaxed evenings tonight, in warm comfortable beds having eaten nourishing meals. If not, eat one for all of us over here, and in return we will send you the ten-thousand prayers of every step. Love, Jennifer

Out of Tibet

October 28th, 2006
Kathmandu, Nepal

Dear Friends,

nechung Today our group should just have arrived here in Kathmandu, and we are to rejoin with them later, but Sebastian and I flew out two days early and have spent them recuperating here. It has been a blessing. It would have been hard to leave Tibet under any circumstances, maybe the necessity of it made it easier. As you can by now tell, Tibet was both almost unbearable and absolutely exquisite. It stole both of our hearts.

Just today we are regaining strength.

buddha light The last day I was there I forced myself out of bed into a freezing pre-dawn after a sleepless night of illness, all just to make my pilgrimage to Nechung. It restored my soul, as did our dear nuns who nursed me and held me during the very long, cold, smoky, beautiful ceremony.

I leave Tibet with more than I can ever tell you in these words, and less than I can ever describe. Tomorrow we depart for India, luckily healed enough to continue onto the second part of our journey. We send love and radiant hope from here to you…Love, Jennifer

Through the Looking Glass eyes bodinath

October 30th, 2006
Kolkata (Calcutta), India

On one side of the looking glass was the waving hands through bus windows as we said our goodbyes to the Tibet group and stayed behind at the Vajra Hotel. On that side of the looking glass there was the last family dinner with friends at Fire and Ice, delicious Italian food in the heart of Kathmandu. There was coffee and pizza and even ice cream, then goodbyes to my Mother, Tom, and Ken, and the taxi ride out to a bustling airport, crammed with people. Next, pushing ahead, help from security, leaning over a counter with eight or ten Indian men waving all our tickets to get seats for an overbooked, shortly-leaving flight. Then there was running and heaving, jet air and the third security check and finally on board. Last, the Bodinath Stupa stretching above the other buildings for one last goodbye, the last snowy peaks of the himalayas among a sea of clouds…and we were gone.

On this side of the looking glass crickets sing. Lush flowers and fruit trees and palms hang everywhere. The air is heavy and wet and hot. We are in India for sure. On the other side of the looking glass the old cab took us down city streets still lined with Diwali festival lights and huge displays like christmas-time, animals, bicycles, rickshaws and city life winding into villages and leaving us here, very luckily at this beautiful retreat center we just happened to pick out of a guidebook. We were so blessed.

Kolkata has been just a stop-over, tomorrow I reunite with the families that I became dearly close to when I lived here nine years ago and I see them again for the first time. It is too much to really even believe. Tibet still wakes me up at night, both with emotion and with the last remains of the coughing from deep in my lungs and sinuses still congested. Sebastian’s wound is looking good and he had his third rabies shot today, which we are carrying on ice for the rest of our trip. When they are done he will have received them in Lhasa, Kathmandu, Kolkata, Bhubaneswar, and Delhi. Five cities in three countries and a lot of stories in between.

I pray that India opens her arms to me the way she did nine years ago…the way that she changed my life forever onward from that point. I will hope to find email in Orissa and to write you all soon. Love, Jennifer

Return to India

November 2nd, 2006
Bhubaneswar, Orissa, India

Dear Friends,

Thank you so much to those of you who write me notes. Even if I don’t get the chance to reply it lifts my spirits and connects me in a special way. Not that India doesn’t have my soul all wrapped around itself with emotion, but just that that is exactly why perspective can be nice.

mukteswar temple The great news is that India is still real…still the India I once knew in what seems like a reality parallel somehow to this one, though inherently different. Sometimes I feel like I am walking through the ruins of a village looking for a broken piece of a pot I once drank from, and at the same time nothing has changed. Most of what is really different for me is the separation of all the people and families I once knew. The neighborhood I lived in is almost unrecognizable, my Didi has an empty nest, and I am staying in a home far from town which is very clean and large, and empty. Thank goodness my Chapala is still the same, and teaching me the sweetest Abinaya (Orissi acting dance), and the temples are still holding their stunning poses all over this ancient city, and the electric green of the land here is like a kind embrace, holding all that I remember for me.

ganesha What stands out for me is how lucky I am. How lucky I am to have had the experience I had here nine years ago which was absolutely magical beyond words, how lucky I am to be able to return, and how lucky I am to have such a sweet life in so many, many ways. In the nine years since I was here my life has blossomed, I have met my beloved angel, and have had so many things become richer and richer. Thank you all for being a part of that light, and for sending such loving support my way. I will leave out the horns and the fumes and send you just the pure nectar of India which runs so deep here. With Love, Jennifer

The Timeless

November 4th, 2006
Bhubaneswar, Orissa, India

Dear Friends,

Sometimes I turn my head and it is as if time hasn’t passed at all and nine years never went by. There are so many places here that haven’t changed at all, and though some people would argue that changes are needed, I find comfort in places that are not modernizing as fast as the rest of the world. Yes, white blonds are still icons and the ads are all the same everywhere, but the streets are a blur of the brightest colors of the rainbow and every kind of face. There is a brilliance that shines like an endless string of lights that runs all the way over India.

jaganath temple Yesterday we went to two of the most special and holy sites in Orissa, Puri and Konark. Puri is one of the four most sacred pilgrimage sites for Indians, and the home of the temple of Lord Jaganath, a once-tribal god who transcends and unifies many religions, and one of the most important sites for Orissi dance. Here the Maharis (temple dancers) performed the Gita Govinda for the divine. Down the exquisite coast of the Bay of Bengal a little further is Konark, an amazing temple to the Sun. It is built like a giant chariot and covered with reliefs of temple dancers and erotic art, and the energy is profound.

puri beach I also had many green coconuts, and we watched the fishing life of Puri beach for a long time, ending the evening with a beach sunset while the moon rose on the opposite side.

We are really lucky to have such wonderful friends here to help us navigate this flipside reality in which I am now sitting barefoot to do internet while being stared at as a very rare white girl in Indian dress, some hybrid of cultures like most of us. It is hard to know where you are from, or where you belong, except based on what moves your heart. The rest becomes a part of a story you have been told about yourself, but may not have written.

konark wheel I am happy, though sometimes there is an ache from the mixture of the familiar and unfamiliar that is so extreme and yet so deeply interwoven that it cannot be separated. Tomorrow at dawn we will participate in our only pooja while we are here, and it was my favorite while I was here last time. We will go out at dawn during the full moon to a temple complex nearby and set a tiny flame onto the sacred lake. I will send also blessings to you all at that moment, and write again soon. Love, Jennifer

Churning the Primordial Ocean

November 8th, 2006
Bhubaneswar, Orissa, India

Dear Friends,

sacred dance It is amazing to be so tired and so full all at once. In the land of extremes and paradoxes, however, it is normal. India has been once again more than I could have hoped for, and has indeed opened her arms in every way. From the loving kindness of Chapala and her husband, to learning my beloved ancient Orissi dance again, and from reconnecting with dear friends, to seeing Sebastian’s drum teacher’s family all making music together last night. From the temples, to the harshest realities you can find on the face of the planet all in the blink of an eye.

Travel for me, be it inner or literal, is like the friction that rubs off the falseness that begins to cling to us and cover our authentic and most natural state. It returns us to ourselves by the means of perspective, though sometimes by way of jabbing our most sore points until we bleed out whatever might be stored there. It is healing often by way of a bitter medicine, that then becomes so sweet as to make one cry at its beauty. I can’t tell you why India feels so much like home, and yet home feels so far away. The hard thing about coming to the far corners of the world is that they are corners, and once you are in them there is no way out but to go deeper and deeper within. It is like the hindu gods churning the primordial ocean to make the sacred soma rise like butter from cream. The soma, that thing desired but felt to be separate or outside the self. This elixir then representing the unity we long to feel at all times, this unity with the true self.

puja bindu sagar There is nothing like having family in a distant world. It is like being invited through an open door into another dimension. It is so sacred to have this blessing, and to find a love still burning that began so long ago and has not been diminished by time or half a planet’s distance. This is the kind of love that I hope to always have in my life, and that I wish for each of us. I am sending you all some of this love today, with a lotus from the road I am living on, and some sacred water from the river near-by. With Love, Jennifer

The Lotus Blossoms

November 13th, 2006
Bhubaneswar, Orissa, India

Dear Friends, sitting here to write to you today I feel as if my heart is going to literally explode at any moment and pour out all around me. There is no other possible way to feel in such a world. By now my two weeks back in Orissa are coming to a close, and feel like a century, or ten lifetimes, or even an eternity. It is so hard to give it words, but I want to share it with you all.

mahari I have been witnessing so much pain…so much more than I even remember. Bhubaneswar has grown, and with that change has come to the capital of a state that is already the poorest in India, though the richest in natural resources. It is also called the “temple city of India” for the remaining 500 of thousands of ancient temples that once covered this area. It is a source point for Tantrism, the spread of Buddhism, and Hinduism, and the richness I spoke of comes from many dimensions. But the ache is almost as powerful, and to co-exist in it all with awareness is asking oneself to be a master, whether one is ready to or not. And the heart can only try to encompass such a vastness and in such a physical and human way.

I have discovered that some friendships have shifted and others have literally become even more golden than I knew they could be. My families still love me, and waited for my return, and now love Sebastian too. My dance teacher Chapala, mentioned in my book, has become even more dear to me as a sister, teacher, and friend. The way we laughed, and danced, and sang together will always be with me. And tonight I will have my last dinner with her older sister, who I call Didi, and who was like a mother to me on my last visit.

me mahari and chapala A couple of days ago Chapala took us to Puri again, but this time to meet one of the last two Maharis of Orissi Dance left in the world. These women were the temple dancers who were married to god, and she was absolutely luminous. She was 85 but as animated as a 20 year old. She was thrilled that we had come, and kept saying how lucky it was that we came when she was doing her Puja (daily prayer and ritual for god) because the people who house her keep visitors away and keep any money they bring. So we were able to visit with her and give her some money and a sari we brought. My joy was so complete. When we come back I will post her pictures here.

I need to go now…Sebastian is waiting outside in the heat with Bobuli, our auto-rickshaw driver, and we have a lot to complete before catching our train to Varanasi tomorrow. Send us your supportive love if you would, as we make this next transition and take a 24-hour train-ride to the city founded by Shiva, and we will send ours in return. Love, Jennifer

City of Light

Friday, November 17th, 2006
Varanasi, India

Dear Friends,

varanasi I hope you can feel the light I am sending you all from this amazing portal to the other worlds. True, some darkness is also drawn here, but it is held at bay from the depth and truth of the illumination at the heart of this place, flowing from the river Ganga. (Ganges)

This is one of the oldest living cities in the world, thought to be the most important tirtha in India. A tirtha is a “crossing point” where an opening to the other dimensions makes it easier to reach the deities, and for them to reach us. It is the most important pilgrimage place in India as well, with the belief that washing yourself in the Ganga here will purify your soul, and that all who die here attain instant moksha and return to nirvana. Of all the times I have sensed darkness here too, it wasn’t at the burning ghats, where some might think. There, where the bodies are burned, I felt a deep clarity and purity somehow. I saw the bodies being readied, and burned, and was told that after three hours what is left of a woman is part of the hip bone, and a man part of the chest, and these are then finally thrown into the Ganga. Meanwhile, just at the next ghat someone is renewing their lives washing in that same water. It is a place of magic that has been at work on the planet since Shiva and Parvati walked hand-in-hand by the river here so long ago. And somehow people still know this, though not all understand it, the collective holds this to be true.

varanasi steps It was so hard to leave Bhubaneswar, and our new and old friends. There were such tears and embraces, and then last views of them running beside the train as we pulled away. It was heart-breaking, both because of the sweetness of sharing such love in a short period of time, and the sorrow of the inevitable distance on the earthly level. We both left forever touched, as we have been so much on this journey.

The train was exquisite and painful, both. There is just nothing in the world like watching life go by from an Indian train. But you find yourself unavoidably filthy-feeling and I was sick in the middle of the night from eating safe food but in such circumstances. We slept little, but our hotel here in Varanasi has been perfect and we were really blessed to meet a great driver when we arrived who has been a wonderful help to us during our time here.

Today we are off again, this time to visit my friend from Bhubaneswar who now lives in Delhi, and she and her new husband will take us to Udaipur, Rajasthan, and then the Taj Mahal, all in just a few days…so today will blur into tomorrow by the time we have taken a flight, train, and bus to get to our final destination. We both send love from this absolutely incredible place in the world, and thank you so much for yours. Love, Jennifer

Living Rainbow udaipur rainbow

November 19th, 2006
Udaipur, Rajasthan, India

This trip, my friends, is proof that you sometimes need to go through hell to get to heaven. Thank goodness it isn’t all the time most certainly, but if you have been experiencing anything like hell lately, take heart, for there is gold at the end of the rainbow, just like the one I am witnessing here.

udaipur doorway Rajasthan is as colorful and vivid as its reputation, and our short 24 hours here in Udaipur have stolen my heart…palaces float on lakes in a special light. Getting here was almost beyond my physical endurance, which was the hell I referred to and which I hope to never repeat, but being here has been magical…from the palaces to the exquisite Jagdesh temple, to the incredible dance and music performance and floating on the lake.

It is almost as if I do everything now by floating…the only way to keep moving forward…and soon this will all be a dream, and at the same time a new dream will be born. Love to you all, Jennifer

Back to Bangkok

November 22nd, 2006
Bangkok, Thailand

Dear Friends,

elephants I can’t decide what feels more like a dream…heading off on this amazing adventure, or completing it and returning to what I knew before. I think many of you must know exactly what I mean, in that not only have many of you traveled this way but also in that all transformation creates some kind of similar feeling. Since when we experience alchemy we always become a new being, and we are constantly experiencing alchemy. We are ever-changing, and only once in a while does the wave become so huge as to consume almost everything you have known. Those are some of the best moments for glimpsing the core of light that never does, and the great void it comes from.

I am writing you back in the lovely Peninsula Hotel where we have rested a bit after an incredibly arduous and rich journey. Our last evening in India at the Taj Mahal is something I will certainly have to share with you in my next entry before completing this journal of our trip. Thanks again for holding us in your thoughts and reveries and I am sending you some thai orchids in the wind. Love, Jennifer

Coming Home

November 25th, 2006
Orcas Island, Washington, United States

What a strange collection of words it seems in naming where I am…somehow connected and yet entirely unrelated. And what a simple title for the entry here that explains such a complex experience. Returning home has been both the comfort I had hoped, and the challenge I could not have known. I remember when I returned from India so many years ago and everything seemed boxed in to neat compartments, isolated, and dark. It isn’t that extreme this time, but it certainly does seem a little too quiet and a little too cold. There have also been some real uncertainties that have popped up since our return, leaving us with change in mind, whether we are ready or not.

The heart of our lives is the same…in each other, with our wonderful pets, and surrounded by beautiful and peaceful Orcas. And it seems we have stumbled right into the holidays without even knowing how to embrace them. Though we have so many reasons to celebrate…

landscape tibet Settling in when you have been so long unsettled is an odd thing. You would think it would come easily since the body has wanted it for such a long time, but the body and mind have gotten too used to awkward situations. I still wake in the night from dreams of long, hard train rides through India where I can’t find out how to get off, or where the bathroom is.

All this and the new horizon is beginning to beckon, like the shift to the upcoming new year. Something arbitrary and yet altogether relevant and meaningful. Something significant is on the universal winds, and I am just getting the first sight of it from this quiet moment in the void. It is a void left behind after such a trip, but not really because anything is missing. It’s more that something is there that wasn’t before, and it is yet to be fully born, so it occupies a space that seems empty until it really takes shape. That emptiness is the canvas and the urge is to begin immediately to paint and cover it up, but the mastery in this moment for me is to leave it as it is, seemingly unfinished, because its own wisdom can only be born from a patient fire.

I want to thank you all again for joining me on this journey through the writing. It was a very special experience that I have never had before. As I did previously I will continue my energy updates and inspirational writings here once a week usually on Saturdays or Sundays. Please keep writing to me about what you think of them, and I so look forward to the sessions I have booked with many of you, and the workshops so many of us will share starting in January. I am also thrilled to be going through the photos of this trip and will add them here for you all to see very soon, since they say so much more about the journey than my words could ever convey. I love you all and send a sweet and deep silence, from the bottom of the primordial ocean, where all is at peace. Love, Jennifer

Epilogue: The Journey Never Ends

taj mahal Friday, December 1st, 2006
Orcas Island, Washington

Dear Friends,

I believe I have arrived. I sincerely thought that I would arrive home at the end of this long, amazing journey, but instead I have arrived somewhere else. Somewhere that I will never return from, and which has shifted the way I walk on the earth. It isn’t something you would see, or even notice in my lifestyle, but it is an emanation in my heart which you all have shared with me in one way or another. I deeply look forward to adding photos to each of these entries so that I can share the things my words will never be able to share.

While I was gone I compared everything to my home, with great gratitude in my full heart. Home became an altar I prayed to when my body was dissolving and the harshness of the landscape absorbed everything but my last tether to god. It was a resource of energy, a reminder of peace, a place I imagined integrating both that harshness and the beauty which had indeed blinded me like looking at the sun.

So when two days before we came home we heard word that we might need to move from our house, a part of that image began to falter. It now seems that things should remain stable after all, but the rug was pulled pretty hard before we touched down again. We allowed the ambiguity of travel to extend into even those furthest reaches that had yet remained untouched…that sense of home in a physical way. And then, just a day and a half after arriving home, a freak storm rushed in, bringing snow up to our thighs, well below freezing temperatures, and no electricity for three solid days. We spent those days and nights huddled around our propane stove, outside a two-foot range of which it was absolutely bone-achingly cold everywhere in the house. Darkness began at not quite 5pm and seemed to last a long time on our single-futon on the floor. Food was in a cooler in the snow on the porch, and had it not been for our neighbors I don’t know what we would have done. We were out of propane and so had no source of heat at all. We walked through the storm to the local grocery store to be able to make phone calls and warm up. We spent an hour there trying to figure out who to call and what to do. We had to navigate around the power lines that were down across the roads and the fallen trees just to get there. Then we had to face the fact that with so many acquaintances and friends around the world and locally, when emergency struck we had no idea who to call in our own hometown. So it was beautiful the way the right people just arrived when we needed help.

Suddenly home wasn’t any different than a long night in Tibet (it was actually colder here than we ever were in Tibet!) or a hard train ride through India, and only since we endured the cold and discomfort of those three days and had the power finally gloriously return, have I felt that I have somehow returned as well.

I was grateful for my life before I went to Asia, and I had seen the other side of the earth and had my own world turned by that before in my life many times, but there is no way to explain the rotation of the heart that just never ends, and can be spurred on or touched by so many different things in this life, static or in motion. And though I experienced the worst challenges to my health of this lifetime on this trip, I find myself somehow healthier now than I was before I left. Another proof that no matter how dark things seem at times, there is a perfection to them that will eventually be revealed.

There was one more reason that I wanted to make another entry to this journal, and that is that I never wrote to you about the Taj Mahal as promised. Leaving Udaipur we were bumped back to second-class sleeper, and I spent a bumpy, chilly night on the most absolutely filthy surface I have ever slept on. I felt that I was sinking in to the layer of grime on that top bunk with no sheets, pillow, or dinner since we had spent so much time at the station assuring our trip could still be made. There wasn’t a lot of sleep for either of us or our friends, but we arrived in Delhi at dawn anyway, and made the taxi trip back to Linu’s house to wash laundry and eat something before picking up Mommi and heading to Agra for our last day in India, to see for the first time the Taj Mahal.

Mommi is Linu’s Grandmother and that makes her Chapala and Didi’s mother, all part of the family that is so dear to me there. The trip to Agra was punishing…hot, longer than expected, and ending in so much stand-still traffic once we arrived that we missed seeing the Taj Mahal in daylight. At first I was crushed, but after being led through back-alleys and little tucked-away neighborhoods by a “guide” that could get us in before it closed and finding that dim outline on the horizon that felt so disappointing, the night set in, and the specialness of the timing became clear. We were almost the only ones there, and the feeling of the Taj Mahal itself was so transporting that it took my breath away.

Of all the places I have seen connected to death in some way, this was the only one in which I experienced nothing but the energy of eternal life. It was like Bodinath in that it seems to literally float among its surroundings, and it was absolutely and indescribably luminous…even in the dark. You could feel the intention of the love that it was built with radiate, as a living and resounding vibration. The Yamuna River, so often sung about in the dances I do about the love of Radha and Krishna from the ancient temple dances, flowed through the misty expanse behind us, and above us the stars seemed closer than ever before. I was even able to sing a melody into the endless echoes of the inner dome because there were just a few other people moving through. It was just incredible.

In the end, as we took the long drive back to Delhi for a few brief hours sleep before flying home, I felt that the Taj Mahal was the perfect embodiment of our adventure. We had not always found what we had imagined or hoped, or wanted to find, and it hadn’t been easy getting there, but what we did find was resplendent beyond words in ways we never could have imagined no matter how hard we had tried, and which would remain with us into eternity.

May any seeming disappointments you find in life turn out to be like the Taj Mahal, and astound you with their surprising and ultimate glory. May your challenges bring you to even greater levels of health, and may loss be a precursor only to coming abundance. May your life resound purely in this, and may your heart be forever blessed. Love, Jennifer
pilgrim

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© 2006 Jennifer Posada. All rights reserved.
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