A Peaceful Retreat

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March 17th 2019
Published: March 17th 2019
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I’m facing a stupa, with the Dhauladar mountain range hovering behind it. Snow still resting on the top peaks, with one mountain falling into the next. It’s a pretty incredible place to write a blog! Taylor and I have sat here in meditation everyday since we arrived (I think only 4 days ago but its so far removed from Goa that it feels like its been months). He seems to feel the same contentment that I do here…he calls it “my nunnery”. He doesn’t ask to leave, ask for new toys, he doesn’t ask for anything here. The entire 5 weeks we stayed in Goa, a place he loved, he called our apartment by his friend’s name…the friend who lived on the bottom level of the house. He never referred to it as his. Yet here, he immediately adopted this place as his home. He’s satisfied…as am I. Within an hour of arriving, I already felt my nervous system taking a deep breath and just relaxing. No more buses to avoid, or cows to ram into us. I don’t have to be on alert here for any danger, at all. And the energy of the center, with its Tibetan prayer flags hanging overhead and Gompa (temple) right in the center, just exudes peace. It’s hard to get impatient with taylor here…with being “on” as his sole parent at all times. I feel the strength and capability of handling anything that comes up. It’s a strange feeling, to just be able to handle things, at every moment, in this sort of escape from the loud, busy world. It’s been a wonderful transition between busy Goan tourist town and the quiet but still touristic mountain village life we will enter next. Almost like a restful vacation….even though it comes smack in the middle of what is essentially a vacation! But aside from not having to work, this is still daily life, of raising a toddler, alone.

At the nunnery, I get to just be….to be with Taylor and have no responsibilities. Despite not having a job in Goa that took me away from taylor, I still didn’t feel as though I had the whole day to devote to him, like you would think. With few items of clothing each, I hand washed clothes daily. There was always some grocery item that needed to be replenished, since storage space is limited here and items are sold in such small quantities that they run out quickly. Bags of milk are only half litres and the expiry date is always 1-2 days after they are delivered to the stores. So buying more than 1 at a time is a gamble…and we drank some every morning in our chai. I cooked 3 fresh meals a day and prepared 3-4 different snacks for the beach so we wouldn’t have to buy any greasy restaurant food there. In between all this there was theoretically plenty of play time…and Taylor spent it all playing…but I sat out the majority of it…partly so taylor could experience playing alone or with other kids and partly so I could sit quietly, alone. This allowed me to read 2 books in the 5 weeks, and chat with old and new friends, but that always meant I was not with taylor in those moments. So even though taylor was always nearby, the time I spent doing the chores especially, was not quality time together.

That’s why this time at the nunnery has been exceptionally great. It’s reinforced all my parenting beliefs…the ones I begin to doubt through the incessant questioning from concerned people…about co-sleeping, daycare, his socializing…etc. I am getting to spend every minute of the day with my son. (except this one right now, writing…while he's napping!) watching him, learning about him, learning from him. Bonding. They say sleep begets sleep. I feel like time begets time. The more time I spend with him, the more time I want to spend with him. I don’t crave time away, like I imagined I might. I’m happy to shower with him. To go to sleep with him at night, even though here it’s in a single bed. The space heater only points towards one of the beds at a time, we only have 1 hot water bottle and Taylor is a heater himself. So it only made sense, to sleep together. I thought we’d last 1 night, since he'd kick and I'd hardly sleep. But it’s been cozy and warm, I sleep soundly and he sleeps longer hours…13 to be exact! and I only fell out of the bed once, as I tried to gently role out to pee in the middle of the night and instead ended up misjudging the lack of space and landing on my ass instead! at least it didn't wake Taylor up.

This time here has truly been a gift…for us both it seems.

Taylor has definitely enjoyed his hour or so everyday with a little boy who lives here and all the nuns want his attention. It seems we get what it is we need. he mostly asks me to play with him. He is shy and for the most part ignores the nuns…except the ones who manage to wait out his silence until he turns back to his loud, playful self. It confuses him that there are so many girls, who look like boys to him, with their shaved heads, wearing the exact same robes. I can’t tell if he recognizes any of the ones we see daily or thinks they are all the same or perhaps always different people approaching him. He is comfortable with the other 2 single western ladies that are staying here, maybe just because he can recognize them!
We’ve also had time here to colour together...a lot. As I write him words, he’s Started to recognize many letters and shapes, pointing out the ones he knows when he sees writing in front of him on the streets. But mostly he spends hours colouring his cars...which he then gives car washes to with his water brushes and can colour again the next day! So happy I stopped myself from saying no to colouring them...I would have missed out on this quiet activity that can entertain him endlessly!

We were lucky to have come here while Tenzin Palmo, the British nun who founded this nunnery herself, is present. We've run into her a few times, walking around. and were lucky enough to arrange a private meeting with her. She is a special woman. She detailed her journey to Buddhism in the book A Cave in the Snow. She's now 70 and when she arrived in India about 50 years ago, she became the first ordained nun of Tibetan Buddhism. She has since spread her delightful energy and knowledge of the gap between Tibetan practices and the western mind, to people interested in Buddhist philosophy, all over world. every time I've met her, I've left with a feelings of giddiness, like I just met a celebrity! So I was really excited for Taylor to meet her and gauge his reaction. Not surprislingly, she was the only nun he engaged with immediately! playing with her and sitting quite quietly during the half an hour we chatted. It was interesting to hear a nun say "the man has such a short, small contribution to creating a human, in comparison to the mother carrying it around and caring for it for 9 months...it doesn't surprise me that some men don't connect with their babies." so there it is...the summary of our discussion about my last 2 and a half years. she made it seem so simple..."just be happy, no need to worry." and like that, we were able to chat about more relevant topics!

Last year the 2 day journey to the mountains wiped me out! Took me a few days to recover. But this year, traveling alone, rather than with the expectation of help from the friend that joined us, was much more relaxing. Arriving at the nunnery with a room booked in advance also made the journey more relaxing. We were welcomed into our big room, overlooking the mountains and I loved having all our meals cooked for us! Simple, tasty Indian vegetables and lentils with rice, everyday. Leaving 6 days later, was just relaxing, albeit more eventful. The day before checkout, I saw a familiar taxi driver park in front of me as I sat outside during taylor’s nap. He lives in Dharamkot and had brought a new guest to the nunnery. I jumped at the chance to have him drive my bags back and be delivered to my pre-booked room (same as last year) and opted to give taylor a bus experience we won’t have again. So with our few remaining items, the next day I pushed Taylor in the stroller the 20 minutes to the bus and we hopped on to an already jam packed local bus (oops, we traveled on a Saturday), that would only take us to the next big town. I immediately regretted the decision to save the $20 from taking a taxi directly…as I wondered how we would fit on that bus with our stroller. But my worry was quickly assuaged, as a lady grabbed taylor and held her close on her lap, while an old man found an empty corner to rest the stroller. And within a few minutes, someone got off the bus and gave me her seat. The second bus turned out to be exactly the same…as again a woman grabbed taylor. But this time, she didn’t hand him to me as I took the seat beside her. She squeezed him and cuddled him the entire ride and he fell asleep on her! The hospitality extends here beyond the home and the community that comes together in every space warms my heart. I am again in awe of the selfless mentality here…where everyone is treated as family, rather than leaving each to his own.

And now, for Taylor’s latest:

“be careful Mommy, don’t hurt yourself” (he says this every time he thinks I’m in any danger!)

He ran. He fell. He said “why me Shalled?”

“why me did that?” as he chokes on water.

T: “when I’m big, I’ll drink coke too”
Me: “it’s really not good for your tummy or your teeth. Mommy shouldn’t drink it either”
3 minutes later: T: “mommy, it’s really not good for you, you shouldn’t drink it.” And I’m done!

T: “oh no! its broken. Somebody broked it. Maybe I broked it.”

He often starts sentences with remember, like…”remember you did Zaidy’s toes?” “Remember Nana did yoga with me?”

He bumped my head with his and he was fine but my jaw hurt. I told him to be more careful and aware of where his body and mine were. After 1 minute he said “I’m sorry I made a boo-boo to you mommy.” I’ve never asked him to apologize before, but my sensitive little boy gets it.

T: “I blow on your chai a you”
Me: “thanks, you take such good care of me.”
T: “you take care of me too”

We see a dog and her puppies. I say “there’s the mommy, you can tell which one she is by her nipples hanging down. That’s how she feeds her puppies milk.” T: “like the teats on a cow.” Haha

Someone offered him a ride on her dog’s back. He replied “its not a donkey. A donkey is bigger, I can ride on him.”

T: “mommy, sit back, don’t sit like this (leans forward) – as I’m watching tv on my phone – it’s not good for your eyes. I don’t like that.” I told him this once, about 3 weeks ago, last time he watched tv!

And for the highlight of his little life so far:

T: “I had the best day”
Me: “I had the best day too”
T: “I had the best day with you”

Oh my god!!! Does it get any better than that???! Even the stranger who happened to be walking passed as taylor said this, looked at me and his eyes melted with awe!

Our adventures in the mountains continue...as we find our rhythm in Dharamkot, my home away from Montreal.

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17th March 2019

Trish, you write so so beautifully. I was just thinking yesterday, have I missed the blog? I love every bit of your blog, of course the incredible relationship you have with Taylor is so special. Keep doing what you are doing , everyday, tune out the naysayers. School, beds, whatever it is, his growing up will come fast enough on its own. I’m in awe of you and so proud of you, happy for you. I love you and cant wait to see you in June. XO , AK
17th March 2019

As always I knew many of your stories.but as always there were many more that interest me and give me a different perspective on you and your travels. When people ask me why you go to India I now have even more reasons to give them.what an amazing experience and Taylor just enriches it,what a boy and what a mommy
17th March 2019

Hi Trish, another wonderful blog. So happy you and Taylor are having another fabulous year in India. Your two hearts Taylor and India. Xoxo

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