Nepal - I Have Fallen for You

Good Bye Nepal….until we meet again.

I’m sitting in the departure lounge at the Kathmandu airport as I write this. We’re saying goodbye to Nepal with our hearts full of Nepalese Love. Our time here was short but oh so full. I’m only now just beginning to integrate everything we saw, learned and experienced. This tiny country is deep in history, culture and spirit.

Yesterday was a relatively quiet day. We leisurely enjoyed breakfast in the garden as we had nothing scheduled until 2:00 PM. Over breakfast an Australian man struck up conversation. Our hotel hosts guests from all over the world, many who are stopping briefly before or after trekking adventures in the  Himalayas. JK – our new Australian friend – was enjoying a few days of rest between two such treks. As it happens, he is a guide himself who has trekked many great mountains around the world, including Canada’s Denali in British Columbia. He delighted us with stories of treacherous climbs with close calls and disastrous endings. While we admired his love of pushing the limits, we were in no way inspired to do it ourselves. Hours of taking 3 or 4 breaths just to take the next step up the mountain is not our idea of fun. Even he had to admit that while doing these climbs he asks himself why. Only once it’s done can he fully appreciate the experienc

After wishing one another a great day – with promises to talk again – Emma and I headed out to do the last of our shopping. I’ve developed a deep interest in sound meditation over the years, so we stopped into one of the many singing bowl shops in our neighborhood. Serendipitously we chose the right shop. The owner was not only a serious meditation practitioner, but an excellent teacher with a passion to share his knowledge. He took us through a journey of the chakras, they’re energetic qualities and how each of us are born with a unique chakra strength, that is meant to be cultivated, nurtured and shared with the universe. He explained the differences between the quality of the different bowls and the sound they emit.

His son managed the shop with him and humbly responded to each of his father’s requests. It struck me that this man would not likely get the same respect and reverence in the west, as his passion for old knowledge would be considered unimportant in today’s world. Reminders to pay more respect to our ancestors who are alive or have passed, are everywhere here. My own teacher Yogrishi Vishvketu teaches the same thing.

The rest of our morning was spent visiting shops, chatting with their owners and having lunch at our favorite Green Organic café. We ended the afternoon with a massage for Emma, foot treatment for me, and henna tattoos.

The day before we were taken on an 8 hour tour by our guide Kishor, of areas in and around Kathmandu. Our first stop was a massive Buddhist Temple hidden beyond the busy streets and down a cobbled alley. I gasped when I saw the white imposing structure, of the Boudhanath. Once in the square, we were welcomed by quiet, gentle energy from generations of devotee’s practice. I could have stayed all day, but it was time to move on to the next stop on our agenda.

Kishor next took us to Pasgupatinath, the largest Hindu Temple in Kathmandu. This also where traditional Hindu cremations are done. This is considered the most auspicious way to say goodbye to departed loved ones. The Hindus believe that living an incarnated life is intended to burn off old Karmas, or negative energies. Freeing the soul of the burden of the physical body offers a better chance of eternal freedom. The body is draped in saffron robes, washed with water from the river, showered with marigold flowers as the family says their goodbyes. It is then brought to the funeral pyre, lit on fire and the cremation begins while the loved ones hold vigil.  Once all has become ash, they are placed in the river to make their journey to the mighty Ganges in India.

The rest of the day we visited several other village Durbar (court of an Indian ruler) squares with ancient temples. Many still in shambles after the 2015 earthquake, others in varying stages of reconstruction and some that are somehow still standing in spite of severe structural damage. Kishor tells us that earthquakes typically happen about every 80 years which gave us some comfort that we were safe. Some comfort. 

Reparations and rebuilding from the 2015 earthquake are slow to happen. We’ve been told by several Nepalese residence that the government is corrupt and sadly little of the money donated for rebuilds has been directed to efforts.

Life is hard in Nepal. The level of poverty exceeds India. And yet, there’s a gentleness and sense of pride that has left an indelible mark on my heart. I feel lucky have been able to visit and hope to again someday.  

As a final gift from dear Nepal, I had a clear view of the Himalayas on my flight back to India – including Everest’s majestic peaks soaring through the clouds.

Nepal – I have fallen hard for you.

Day 1 and First Impressions for the 2nd Time.

So many people have asked both Emmanuela – my dear friend and travel companion – and I, why we would travel to India. I typically smile and say, “it’s not for everyone but if you like it, it gets into your soul.

Today was our first full day in here and we spent it touring around the city. One never gets anywhere very quickly is Delhi. The streets are packed with buses, cars, trucks and tuk-yuks – or auto rickshaws as they’re sometimes called. All collectively jockeying for position along with endless scooters, motorbikes and the occasional cow. Everyone beeps to announce their presence and intention to squeeze through any opening they can find. The lines on the road indicating lanes constantly ignored. Why the roads department even bothers to apply them is a mystery.

For me, this is among the multitude of things about coming here that I love. Our driver Bunti – ever the gentleman – never appeared to be even the slightest bit ruffled by any of it. Grinning widely when we praised his driving skills.

I’ll talk more about why I love this country in further entries as I become further reacquainted.  For now, some short updates about the trip here. 

All went exactly as planned. Flights departed and arrived as scheduled. To our surprise the 14 hour flight was far more pleasant than either of us had expected.  No luggage was lost, and our trusty driver was waiting for us outside the Delhi airport to transfer us to our hotel, as arranged. Greeting us with a smile, handshake and cool bottle of water.

As is apparently customary here and much like going through security at any airport, upon arrival at the hotel we were required to have our luggage scanned and clear a metal detector. All repeated every time we return to our hotel after an outing. The trunk and under the hood of the car also checked while a mirror scans underneath. While a little jarring, I hope this leaves everyone back home reassured of our safety. The area our hotel is in is only accessible by those permitted. So a stroll around the neighborhood is perfectly safe.

This morning we took a little walk to explore and found the most wonderful little place called the Fab Café serving fresh juices, almond milk sweetened with dates and other delicacies. We returned for fantastic Indian dinner tonight. We highly recommend it.

This afternoon we hired a taxi to take us to Qutab Minar, minaret dating back to 1192. It, the gardens surrounding and the remains of the mosque are all a World Heritage site. All interesting to see in spite of the 35 degree heat and blazing sun. Nothing that can’t be remedied with a cold glass of beer or two back at the hotel. And to think this isn’t even the hot season.

Off to bed now, in an effort to beat this jet lag. More updates to come.

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Helping Hands For India Karma Yoga

 

Almost five years ago, I traveled to India for the first time and was forever changed. India is a feast, and sometimes shock to the sense. The sights, sounds and smells that abound are nothing like what I‘ve experienced in Canada. All that and the people I encountered have left an everlasting imprint.

As many of you know, I am a certified Akhanda Yoga teacher. Akhanda means, whole, complete and indivisible. Being a member of the Akhanda family means I am part of a global community of teachers, students and leaders.  As my students, you too can include yourselves in this sacred community.

The Akhanda Yoga Family is the force behind Helping Hands For India, a charitable organization founded in 2013 by my teacher Yogrishi Vishvketu and that Anand Prakash Ashram. The charitable organization is dedicated to offering educational opportunities and well-being initiatives to underserved children in rural northern India. For the last 5 years I have supported Helping Hands for India through financial donations and most recently humbly accepted a role on the board of directors as Director of Donor Recognition.

Below is a photo taken of me and some of the children of the Sansar Gyaan Pathshala school in 2013. When visiting the school, these children ran up to me with flowers they picked saying, “Thank You…Thank You!"

This July, the Akhanda Yoga teaching community has launched a Karma Yoga initiative to raise much-needed funds for the school funded by HHFI.

On Tuesday, July 24th, all proceeds from my All Levels Hatha Yoga class at the Carlsbad Community Centre will be donated to Helping Hands for India. Karma means that what we put out in the world affects our personal experiences and those we meet directly and indirectly. When we do something good with right intention – we all benefit from it.

Let your Karmic expression be to support this initiative and the children that depend on us. All you have to do is to show up! As always, newcomers are invited to attend at no charge. Donations however will be most welcome for this special class of course.  Suggested donation amount for drop-ins is $15. If you can’t make it to class that night, but would still like to participate, you can donate the equivalent value of one of your classes. Just let me know and I will stamp your class with deepest gratitude.

It really doesn’t get any easier than that!

In developing countries like India, a little money goes a really long way. Just $10/month sponsors a child to attend school. A little more money funds the uniforms they are all given and/or the books and other school supplies they use.

It is said one of the best ways to uplift an underserved community is to educate the girls. When a girl receives an education she changes the lives of 4 generations in her family.  To help change the cultural barriers that often prohibits girls from receiving an education, Helping Hands for India requests that for every boy who is sent to school, a girl is also sent from the family or village. Enrollment is currently almost evenly split with a ratio of boys to girls. Children that live too far to walk to school are often given a bike to make the journey easier.

Since exclusively volunteers run Helping Hands for India all funds earned go right to managing the programs that are changing lives for these children.

To learn more about Helping Hands for India and the school it supports, check out their website;

http://www.helpinghandsforindia.org/school/

As part of the Carlsbad Community and extended Akhanda yoga community, I know you all have huge open and generous hearts. I look forward to leading you through this Karma Yoga experience, which will deepen our collective connection.  India, this school and these children are very dear to my heart. So, join me on the mat on July 24th at 7:00 PM. Bring a friend. And Thank You…Thank You!

In deepest gratitude and with much Love,

Kathy (Sarva Mangala) Noel

Certified Akhanda Yoga Teacher. 

Some of the beautiful children of Sansar Gyaan Pathshala School

Some of the beautiful children of Sansar Gyaan Pathshala School

Pressure Builds Diamonds

Let this Spring season bring you more joy, optimal health, unconditional love and deeper spiritual connection. 

“The truth is that our finest moments are most likely to occur when we are feeling deeply uncomfortable, unhappy, or unfulfilled.

For it is only in such moments, propelled by our discomfort, that we are likely to step out of our ruts and start searching for different ways or truer answers.”

M. Scott Peck

The quote above resonates with me in so many ways. Turning 50 almost 3 years ago was a profound experience for me. Half century. WOW. How did that happen? How did I get here? This doesn’t feel anything like what I thought it would when I was younger.

I try not to get caught up in the less desirable aspects of aging, but to remain curious about what each year and decade brings. The insights that come with life experience, reflecting on how others seem to perceive us based on our age, and even the changes to the physical body. I’m a grandmother, and yet still feel so youthful. I’ve faced and overcome hardships I never imagined I’d have the strength to. My life has moved in directions I never expected.

One thing that is consistent is that with every challenge I’ve faced - no matter how painful, frightening or unsettling - some kind of growth has always followed.

“Pressure Build Diamonds”

This is something I often say to myself when I’m in a situation that I’d much prefer not to be. It might be when I’m under pressure at work, facing relationship conflict, or even in a challenging yoga posture. The sentiment is a quick reminder that these periods of suffering or discomfort, serve our spiritual awakening.  It’s so easy to look for ways to avoid the unpleasantries of life, but leaning in offers us endless opportunities for growth. We are offered a glimpse into what we’re really made of, what we’re capable of handling and the vastness of the human spirit.

It’s not our experiences, but how we respond to them that defines us.

Let this be your practice this spring and as the remainder of the year unfolds. Or at least consider what shifts in your experience might be possible with this is mind. We cannot control what experiences come to us in life, but we can control how we respond to them. 

I started off the year with the following reflection that I came across in a newsletter from Buddhist Meditation teacher - Jonathan Foust. He begins every year with a review of the previous and uses these questions to guide him. 

What went well last year?

What didn’t go well last year?

What am I working towards?

I found this to be a fun and profound way to honour my victories and accomplishments, reflect on my challenges , acknowledge that I, like all of us, am a work in progress and set intentions for the year ahead. 

“We’re all just walking each other home. “

Ram Das

We’re never too old to learn, grow and move deeper into our true self. As teacher Vishvaji reminds us, our natural state of being is joyful, playful, blissful and fearless. 

I encourage you to take some time looking back on 2017 with these questions, and let them set some groundwork for some Spring intention setting. Perhaps you’d like to take some time to meditate and journal about what comes up for you. Creating a record is a great way to see your evolution from year to year.

Om Shanti

Kathy