I’ve been a bit torn about putting my experiences in Nepal, specifically Nagi Gompa, the Tibetan Buddhist nunnery, out here in to the webosphere. The place itself is near and dear to my heart and the time I’ve spent there is straight up sacred to me. I want to share it for the same reason I continue to feel passionate about leading pilgrimages there each year – because it feels worthwhile, uplifting, and valuable. The kind of thing where I truly believe deep down that if everyone spent just a little more time in Nepal the world would be a much more peaceful place. So, I’m going to share and I’m going to take my time doing it by publishing a series of blogs over the coming months. I’d love to hear from you, so please submit if you have questions or comments! 😉
OK, so here’s the thing, every year that I’ve done Yoga Nepal we’ve taken the group to Nagi Gompa. In doing so it seems that our connection with the head nun, Ani Gyantara (who everyone refers to as “Ani-la”, a term of endearment and respect), has deepened. This year, like the last couple, upon arrival we were ushered into the main hall – which is highly ornate, colorful and filled with images and statues of the Buddha and other deities – for a Q&A session with Ani-la. We gathered before her in our various cross-legged seats with our trusty guide Bidur – a Nepali who is able to converse with the nuns and serves as our intermediary – and folks began asking questions. During this time I was a bit concerned because this year Ani-la seemed a bit evasive in her responses – somewhat impersonal. I wondered if maybe she just wasn’t feeling us this year. But, then, afterwards she invited everyone up to the roof for a sit (short meditation) in a very special room – the meditation room of Tulku Urgen Rinpoche – the highly revered monk who started this nunnery (he has since passed away). It’s quite an honor to be granted this opportunity. So, I thought, OK, things are looking up. Then, unlike any prior visit, Ani-la was fairly insistent (even though we were running short on time) that we come sit with her in yet another room for a meditation. Well, it was like no other I’ve experienced. She began chanting – her voice being a rather famous one – and it was WHOA, amazing.
Afterwards, when everyone had exited the room, I approached her to express my gratitude. Tears began flowing fast and furious as I approached Ani-la. I bowed and held my hands in prayer, she reached out, took my hands in hers, and pressed her forehead gently to mine. My mind felt so expansive – a rush came over me that is hard to explain. She then looked at me and said “you come back, for retreat”.
Nagi Gompa is a nunnery in the hills outside Kathmandu within a national park called Shivapuri. It’s about an hour’s drive over ROUGH terrain. It is fairly isolated from the outside world and it is a place where Buddhists go for retreat – sometimes for the traditional, 3 years, 3 months, 3 days and 3 hours. Some even longer. I had lunch with a guy who was there for 6 years and the nuns told me about a Russian man who’s there currently and has been for over 9 years. Now, when I say “retreat” here I mean silence, isolation, unplugged, all-in, sadhana – meditation practice. Legit.
When I told Richard (my husband) what Ani-la said, his eyes got big and he said, “you’re not leaving me for 3 years are you?!”. Not yet anyway. But, I did feel that I needed to go back ASAP, even if only for a few days. So, I asked him to head on home without me after our trip was over and then I’d extend another week to return to the nunnery.
I mentioned Bidur before. All Yoga Nepal alumni know and love Bidur – he’s like a living embodiment of the Buddha – all love and joy. We share the exact same birthday – day, month and year – April 5, 1970. We’ve become quite close over these years (since 2010) and we’re both crazy about Nagi Gompa and then nuns. When I told him what Ani-la said his response was, “I’ll call her right now”. He did and she said they’d be expecting me….
Stay tuned. 😉