Several years ago, I was invited to book a massage appointment with someone described to me as a yoga teacher from Tibet. I made the appointment and didn’t know much other than this was a Tibetan monk and that the experience would be just that – an experience.
A man of small physical stature but obvious strength, massive strength in every way, greeted me on the 2nd floor of a lovely coach house that the property had dedicated to his use while in this particular town. Dressed like an American in casual sweats and t-shirt, he had a long pony tail hanging down to the middle of his back. His skin and facial features distinctive like someone from a beautiful National Geographic photo. This was the Tibetan, the monk.
We talked. He instructed me to the massage area where the table was covered with precious icons, some of which he had carried with him out of his native land. He was intriguing instrument in the room which appeared to be a combination of musical and decorative but my hunch was that every single thing held deep meaning. It suddenly felt very ancient—the room, the experience, the items. He began chanting and walking around the table, slowly collecting each item and placing it to the side. Very ritualistic. I had a strong sense of a mysterious and beautiful history of ritual practices.
And then he walked over to his iPad and started the music.
Moments later I was in the opening moments of what has now been a journey of several years with this man who is no longer a stranger but is a teacher, a healer, and a friend to me. He is also an associate who I have asked to share the platform with me when I do events that are retreats for people who need to learn something additional about how to relax the mind.
He is a combination of modern American, ancient Tibetan, mere mortal, and highly regarded holy man. Knowing this man is a learning experience in and of itself. I see him every other month or so and each time it is a healing ceremony or a house blessing but always a learning and a rich experience that reminds me to love my life, honor my body, and be forever grateful to the universe for what it is that I am and have.
Sometime during the first year of my knowing him, he began telling me about a retreat destination in NY that I should attend. He talked about Medicine Buddha and Dr Robert Thurman, who he referred to as a very important man. I was curious and also a bit hesitant. It took me more than 3 years to get beyond that hesitation and take my journey up the mountain.
There I was, flying to NY, renting a car, and driving to some remote destination in the Catskills nearly 3 hours from NYC. I was only slightly nervous and found myself creating not only funny stories in my head about it all but doing that alongside creating contingency plans for everything I envisioned might be a an issue I would need to confront.
Driving into the mountains of NY is tame compared to Colorado or further West. My journey was relaxing and I was eager to arrive at this mysterious place. The last leg of the road was lusciously tree lined with a broad stream that I suspected ran down from some gorgeous place high up. I rolled the windows down, breathing in fresh mountain air, listening closely to the sounds of a babbling stream just outside my car doors. There were people fly fishing and I found myself wanting to join them.
Later. I was on my journey and wanted to continue my trek.
Slowly coming into my view was an opening in the road announcing the entrance to Menla. Traditional Tibetan flags hanging colorfully. I was right there—right smack in the base of mountains, cradled by tall walls, steep with the dense growth of trees, the stream continuing to wrap its way throughout the property and housing various portions of the beloved creature that Buddhists believe in. The story and the investment of their faith is beautiful and soft and connected to nature in a way that touches my heart.
Being on this journey caused me to think ever more deeply about my own faith and practices. I felt lovely doing so because it brought me closer to my own faith and inspired me to reach to touch the faith of others and relax in the comfort that we are indeed all one people people here and how we believe need not be a dividing point between us.
The people I met solidified all of this. Each person had a feel of calm and deep investment in peace and making quiet connections…some private and some to share. This group of ~20 of us came together with the intention of love and learning. We arose before the sun, gathered to do Tibetan yoga and breathe…and meditate and share. We ate the organic foods grown in the garden right there at the resort, we read books made available for review or for purchase, we took walks, sang, chanted, learned some of the Tibetan language, and admired the two men teaching and guiding us with humility. Dr Robert Thurman and Lama Lobsang Palden were our mentors…..amazing and so smart…….and so willing to be open and fully intuitive.
I get so much from spiritual retreats whether they are Catholic, Episcopal, Buddhist, or Lutheran……they are about reaching beyond ones own self and seeking ways to connect to the earth, our Creator, one another, and find meaning that adds elements to this life experience that are essential.
Join me…..over and again as I make my treks and share my good news with you. Come join me herein cyberspace or at the events and retreats that I conduct……..we all have so much to learn and to share. Each one of us a perfect work in progress–so human.