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Published: September 16th 2010
I’m literally heartbroken. That’s the only word for it. There are many Tibetans living in Mcleod that would do anything to be on a plane to England right now, yet I’m sobbing my heart out on the bus as I leave to board mine. Leaving Sadhana Forest wasn‘t difficult, it was just hard when I actually reached home to adjust to normal life, leaving Ecuador was relatively easy as I felt ready to go home. But this, I was not prepared for this. I cried on and off for three days in the preparation for leaving and now it feels like my heart has been broken into two pieces. Lame, I know, but it really does.
The reason for this? I have a family, love, friends, a job I enjoy, beautiful surroundings, lack of pressure to be thin and wearing the latest dress and far too much laughter to cope with, right here in Mcleod Ganj. Sadhana Forest felt like home, but not a home I could live in permanently. Too extreme. But here, I have the right balance of everything to suit me. It’s not quite the materialistic west, but you can still buy fashionable clothes, drink herbal teas
in modern coffee shops and eat sushi. At the same time, it’s not hippie village, but you can still do yoga, volunteer, and not be judged by idiots who have nothing better to do than think about what other people are wearing.
It’s not about the ethics of the place though; it’s the people. The people who captured my heart and taught me so much about life. I didn’t think I could grow so much emotionally in such a short space of time, but these people have allowed me to. Lhamo Tso especially. She’s an incredible woman who has touched my heart more than I can say. From how she copes so well with Dhondup Wangchen, her husband’s, unfortunate absence, to feeding 9 mouths, to giving talks and constantly reliving her pain in the hope of helping free her husband and many other political prisoners. On top of all this she’s one of the most giving people I have ever met. She gives me so much; not just gifts, but also emotionally. She’s really been like a mother to me. How can she still have so much emotional energy to give after how hard she works, both physically and
emotionally, everyday? For example, she’s stayed two more days in Delhi, just so she can say goodbye to me as I go. Delhi is a hellhole. Why on earth would anyone want to stay here longer than they absolutely have to? She’s so kind hearted. There’s nothing more to it. She’s just one of those amazing souls that fate brings you in contact with and changes your life forever.
Similarly, two amazing monks, Choedak Lobsang and Phuntsok Sakaya, have also touched my heart. Even if they never said a word to me the entire time I was there, their smiles would have still had a huge effect on me. Luckily for me though, they did talk to me, a lot and I will never forget the laughs, jokes and words we shared. Especially Choedak’s constant and genuine banter about not wasting his time and studying hard. He should be an inspiration to us all. We pay thousands of pounds in England for a fancy education and often throw it all away by focusing more on the bottom of a beer bottle, whilst Choedak is spending every living second studying English at his free school or in his room, lapping
up every opportunity to learn. it’s impossible not to realise that you cannot take anything for granted in the west, when you’re around these guys.
I don’t think many people can say they’ve hung around in a monks home once or twice a week, drinking tea, eating dinner and watching TV. But that’s exactly what I did, mainly because Tenzin also lived with Choedak and Sakaya, but I feel so lucky to have had that gateway. The more you spend time with them, the more you realise they’re just like you and I, but without all the bullshit. They’re the best company to keep. They debate about things, having interesting conversations, crack jokes, don’t talk badly about other people, don’t get angry. Well, I can’t say that about all of them, but the ones I spent time with, taught me so much about how we should be. Is it possible in the west to keep up a Buddhist monk way of thinking? I’ll give it a go.
On top of that I’ve learnt that putting your life on hold for a little while to do what your heart tells you to do, isn’t such a bad thing. I
have Lauren, Marieke and Emily to thank for that. They should, according to our stupid expectations, be back in the west, either studying or making money, but they’re not. They’re helping people in need and helping themselves in the process because they‘re doing what their heart tells them to do. They’re out of the ratrace and loving life. I know that I’ll soon do the same. I’m just not sure how. I have admiration for all three of them and will definitely follow suit.
That leads me to my last day. The day where all these kinds of thoughts were constantly in my mind. The day I cried, laughed, panicked and literally lost my mind a few times. There was too much going on. A sensory overload. The highlight was definitely the small party we had at L.I.T to say goodbye. Marieke, Lauren and I taught them how to dance the Macarena, as we discovered at the wedding that the Tibetans loved it. Then many of the students sung songs, including Yama, one of my favourite students, who sung my favourite song. I even sung a Tibetan song to the students. Much to their enjoyment. As expected, Marieke and
I were swamped in khatta by the students and friends, given gifts, many hugs and took many photographs to try and capture the memories. I was given things that I’ll cherish for a lifetime. Smiles that will be engrained in my memory. Sweet voices that I’ll crave to hear again everyday, until I return.
This was followed by an emotional few hours of frantically making sure I had everything, saying goodbyes, spending precious last moments with Tenzin before I parted, then lugging my bags up the bus station, to be swamped in more khatta and gifts before leaving. Not to mention the tears rushing down my cheeks. I said my goodbyes and held back the urge to jump off the bus and refuse to leave. That was a sad few moments. Marieke and I holding each other whilst I sobbed away as the bus slowly rolled out of my favourite little town. It still feels like a dream. Like I’ll start walking back to L.I.T ready to teach my lesson any day now, or over to Tenzin’s house to say hello, or to the kora to lap up my favourite view. It’s hard to believe I’ve actually left it behind. For now.
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