Kathmandu: Kopan Monastery Calling

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How do you define a calling? You never did.

Studying at a Catholic school for eleven bloody years. Growing up in a country where the Moslem population is the biggest in the world. Ending up in the high peaks of sacred ancient temples of the Hindu or Buddhist from another civilization. Finding yourself in some shamanistic journey of different tribes in forgotten interiors. You would start question what do you seek in this world?

You feel you are not all that religious being brought up in one of most mixed up family in one of the most mixed up environment, a so called Indonesian, but always puzzled with your own background when they asked you where do you really come from? Those background already at least take 15 to 30 minutes explanation, let alone when they ask you what you believe in?

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For me all of this issues are personal. In this age of confusion, religious or not, spiritualist or not, atheist or theistic or agnostic, whatever, I most feel that our sickness is the sickness of the heart. Often we don’t know what to do with our own heart. To build our walls around it or to keep it open to the world.

I personally don’t know how I ended up hanging out with the Tibetan Buddhist monks. Back in Indonesia or in Tibet or in Kathmandu. Stumbling and finding myself in the many Tibetan quarters. In New Delhi, Dharamsala, inside China, in Tibet and now in Nepal. Some people say I look like one. I don’t know. I stop defining how I look ages ago. As long as a person is not making a racist comment, I go along just fine. It is maybe the nomadic nature of the Tibetan that somehow have some personal connection to my soul. In short maybe I was Tibetan in my previous life.

Though, in May 2014, thinking that I would spend the Vesak day somewhere in Borobudur temple in Central Java or in one of the biggest Buddhist temple in Trowulan, where the old Hindu kingdom was, I ended up flying to Nepal and apply to a 10 days of meditation retreat in the Kopan Monastery. On Vesak day, where they celebrated the Buddha’s birthday, I saw the Boudanath stupa from the high hill of Kopan Monastery, seeing the lights and festive from quiet a far. I remember that night was silent and I seek for the stars and one of the biggest super moon of this year shine from above. The same fullmoon where 2600 years(?) ago that Siddharta Gautama become Buddha under a bodhi tree.

IMG_0864Sunrise at Kopan Hill

IMG_0894Kopan Monastery main hall

I was sitting in the Kopan Monastery hall with around 80 other people from all over the world. Each with their own purpose, questions and process as a seeker in life. Some are so young in age, some are in the mid-life, some are easy going, some are serious. The background was so diverse, it is so interesting how this groups actually made off. We spend days hearing Introduction to Tibetan Buddhism, spending half days in silence and full silence on the last two days, doing meditation and walking meditation, doing discussion on the some major questions in life and share each other experiences, and in some other times just having good time sharing food or travel stories. One Morrocon friend spend his days with his roomies, one a Jew, one an Indian Hindu, one a Christian and they all somehow met in the Tibetan Buddhist monastery. I end up hugging a stranger in one afternoon and she turn to be the only other Indonesian of the whole group. She was crying in that point and ended up laughing out loud with this universal joke. The whole experience has enrich part of my heart and I can feel the beat has somehow calm down than its usually are.

IMG_0442Spending 10 days here :) Sharing the space with 3 other girls

IMG_0912Sharing lunch with the girls

IMG_0467Voluntary yoga sessions on the hill

There are some of major questions in my life that had been answer without me asking my own questions. I found myself doing yoga in the morning because we agreed to have some short class in one the hill of the monastery. I was so thankful with the shared experience. I found a lot of talk session with myself. Looking at the moon at the top of the building late at night and be grateful with all the things in life that had brought me there. It is somehow like counting my blessing and being thankful for all the people who had somehow guided me here.

IMG_0911Initiation session on final day

My major lesson in Kopan was about wisdom and compassion, how it has to go together in order to work. How it is supporting each other. My Morrocon friend, who later become my somehow sangha brother, at the end of our journey decided to get the same tatto reminder in one of the studio in Freak Street. Three weeks ago he managed to message me and said that our two names means the same, Reda and Reza, which means “he/she who prays”. I end up laughing hard in the many coincidences in life that is actually making patterns in my daily life.

IMG_0672Wisdom reminder on the making

IMG_0693Reda, me and our Nepali tatto artist, Sanjay

Post Kopan session, it was not only a calling anymore, it was a real test in going back to the real wild world outside the monastery gate. Finding peace in the middle of a chaotic world and meditate your mind in the ongoing fast pace changing world is a challenge. I realized that this path is the way of going to the deepest mystery of the human heart. May peace be upon us all.

Om Mune Mune Maha Munaye Soha

Om Tare Tuttare Ture Soha

The Journey of Finding Home

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Banyuripan teak forest – our future home, Bangunjiwo, Jogjakarta

In so many ways, everybody need to find their own home. My life has been quiet random in the terms of the places I live in. Since 2012, I had the 10 years itch to move somewhere else. I had lived in Jogjakarta for the last 12 years. A city that I fall in love with since I was 18 years old. A city where I found my skills, gain my knowledge, belonging to communities, finding my ancestral roots, meeting all the beautiful people I love, fall in love, break my heart, again and again, where I deliver my son into the world, finish my degree after 8 years, a city where I build and rebuild my life, over and over. A city where I am most comfortable with. But also a city where I know I would not grow from it anymore. Jogjakarta is my comfort zone and everything has become too easy. Although I am at the utmost grateful with this beloved city, where I feel I answered part of my ancestry calling.

This feeling were answered in the moments I had in Tsuglag Khang Monastery when I went to Dharamsala back in 2012. I had nearly forgotten my travel passion due to all the family matters, motherhood and a faltering marriage. I was kinda lost for a while. Knowing too well that I’m actually best when I’m on the move. That my life energy is based on movement. My ways of grounding myself is often when I’m flying all over the place, doing yoga or just stare at the sea for hours (that goes for mountains too).

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The magical waterfalls of Pupuan, Tabanan, Bali

Photo courtesy of Labodalih Sembiring

Last year I tried to move to Bali, where I live in a beautiful mountain for nearly 7 months. It is a process of slowing down everything in my life. A process of cracking the nutshell to grow. The process to find the blooming of my own heart. It was a process of mirroring each other in the eyes of someone else. It was the process of opening the heart. It was about patient, resilience and perseverance. It is a process to know the right timing for every single thing naturally, something that I’m not so good at. But I learned. The hard way.

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Asabhumy on the way to Kethek Temple, Cetho, Solo

Then, it is my son. It was not easy to move permanently without slowly adjusting about his life and mine. Our own needs and our space. I decided not to go that fast this time. Though Bali stayed as our second home forever. We love Bali and its beautiful nature. His ancestral place and my love affair forever with the island which I need to answer myself. Somehow I’m starting to found Bali as my working base to be, very soon :)
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Me and Asabhumy chilling in Nusa Ceningan, Bali

Despite all things, I’m in my second trip back in Kathmandu this year. Where I found the gracious pace of Tibetan old ladies doing the kora in Boudanath had calm my mind and help me to keep my creative juice flowing through my writings. My days in Indonesia in 2014 were so intense that I need another break from it. I’m currently also helping my friend, Anggi Frisca, who managed itinerary adventurous trips around Indonesia and also Nepal, do check it out and contact them if you want to go to Everest Base Camp this year and next year: http://www.rokaora.com (ROKAORA)
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Tibetan Ladies doing the kora, Boudanath Stupa, Kathmandu, Nepal

I’m currently feeling so home staying around Boudanath Stupa this time. Of course I will share more on all the stories of the Himalayan regions since last year, so stay tune on this blog :) Bless all of you

Om Mane Padme Hum

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Boudanath Stupa under the moonsoon, Kathmandu, Nepal

The Himalayan Effect

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The sunshine above prayers flags – Jergu, Tibet, 2013

It is not the mountain we conquer, but ourselves ~ Sir Edmund Hillary

Everybody who goes climbing the Everest or read about going to Everest would always have the above quote ringing through their lives. For me the Himalayan regions experience offers you just that. The mountain view outside, our own ego in the inside. It is a personal journey, indeed it is the journey of the heart. It is a journey to find ourselves, especially within.

My second trip to Nepal become a beginning to start answering everything myself. Where somehow my life  start synchronising and that the random things that I’ve been doing the last 16 bloody years has finally make sense. I saw that I was not actually randomly doing things, I actually gain knowledge and skills for other greater purpose. One of them is to know my own self. My love of travelling has brought me to completely accept my nomadic nature. I decided to completely embracing it and not making excuse when I know it is the time for me to go somewhere and answer that deep calling from within. And yes, I love travelling solo. I feel naturally being myself when I travel alone.

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The journey to the unknown – Jergu, Tibet 2013

Last year journey to the regions of my dream was one of the heaviest point in my life where I completely went to a blank state for the 3 – 4 months post journey. I need major space in my life to just literally space out. To really understand what I really looking for in my life and keep on doing things that I’m good at. I am now literally all over the place, finding myself all around the major cities in Java and going back and forward back to Bali. And soon come, going back to Kathmandu. I found myself getting lost and not getting so lost in Tibetan monastery, the guerrilla track of West Nepal regions and the dusty alleys of Kathmandu. A city I began to called as another home in my heart. IMG_0595

Kopan Monastery initiation – Kathmandu 2014

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The first view of Rukum landscape – Rukum, West Nepal

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Getting lost in the Rukum forest – Rukum, West Nepal

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A Nepali lady on the side of Sanamberi River (aka Uttar Gangges) – Rukum, West Nepal

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The always all seeing Buddha eyes of Boudanath – Kathmandu 2014

If this is another start, it is a blessed one. With the many gratitudes on this journey and my life until today. This journey of wisdom and compassion has just open a new chapter. Om Ah Hum.

May all beings be happy. May all beings be free from all sufferings.

Om Mane Padme Hum 

Back to Kathmandu

I know, I know. I owe a lot of stories last year but after 9 months I decided to go back. It is a bit unplanned, but I’m here again :)

We often go back to some places to answer the most unexpected things in life.

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 Swayambunath Temple aka The Monkey Temple at sunset, Kathmandu – Nepal

20140522-031059.jpgA greetings from Kopan Monastery, photo credit by Anggi Frisca

Indeed I am home. Namaste _/\_

Landing at the Ancestral Land

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“Do the difficult things while they are easy and do the great things while they are small. A journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step.” ~ Lao Tzu

After meeting a dear old friend again who share part of her Nepali experience a couple of days ago, I realised my blank state mode was actually quiet normal. The conversation left me with a beginning of a paragraph. Those long process paragraph that need to start pouring out in this story. I had to make a choice in order to put things together with this post, to maybe map myself in this current planet of mine. Picking the trails where I left it off. I checked the sky, the stars and I know where to start from the very beginning of my own personal history. China.

My great great grandfather from my mother side came from Fujian. That’s all that I know. Although from the very beginning I didn’t even plan this trip, in the end I had to pay respect to my ancestor first by literally landing in China. I never imagine I would reach Chengdu in 2013. This part of Mainland, at thirty.

I learned to make peace with part of my blood somewhere along the line which as an Indonesian peranakan has been quiet a complicated experience. This part of your growing up identity sometimes matter much, sometimes it doesn’t matter at all. My first encountering problem of course is because I don’t speak Chinese at all. I had the lack of will in learning the particular language and yes, part of it cause by my grandparents generations all speak fluent Dutch instead (see it’s complicated?). Language and culture all tumble and mixed up so bad along with the Indonesian history plus politics, where I in end always have the difficulty to answer where I originated from.

It took me time to take all about being a Chinese Indonesian, having a mixed blood do make you feel like Hermione in the mudblood situation. My Chinese interest range record was reaching as far as Chinese food, kungfu movies and musing the contemporary Chinese literature translated in English. I learned three kingdoms history from the never ending Japanese manga series “Legenda Naga” (Ryuroden by Yoshito Yamahara). I do somehow often moved by the lyrical sad traditional Chinese tunes, especially those from the classic music records ones which I never catch the title or even understand any single word being said. It is a feeling of a tragic beauty fascination. The rest I often remain ignorance or even denied when I was younger, this part I had to admit. In the end I always feel I can’t take side with 4 ancestry down my bloodlines. My son have another extra 2, which make him with 6, well, at least we have a lot of ancestral guardianship or to put it simple, simply human.

It’s my first time in China, my only Mandarin dictionary was a small Lonely Planet Mandarin compact guide that T (my travelling partner) got hours before we landed into Chengdu. The plane from Kuala Lumpur feels hectic already, we end up drinking two bottle of Soju along the flight, to silence the killing voice of a mad Chinese family who keep on arguing and their scolded children keep on crying, throwing mad fits every 3 minutes at the back of our plane seat. We couldn’t sleep. No, not even the Bob Marley songs in T’s Ipod help with the situation. We arrived in the middle of the night at Chengdu Shuanglia airport with no clue, half drunk on Soju, in the middle of China’s summer breeze.

That first step entering China, was indeed our first step to the journey of a thousand miles ahead.

2014: Feeling the Ground Beneath My Feet

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To be honest, I didn’t know what struck me last year. Places like dreams are all over my memories. Things happens so fast, it all feels like some kind of explosions, over and over again. Moments, people and experiences all somehow cramp up until I lost for words. It is one of those moments, where you feel at lost even as a writer for no words seems audible even for your own sake. I give it time to digest it, to let things seep in. I closed my laptop for some time, even unplugged the internet connection for time to time and in the end finding myself scribbling endlessly in a notebook trying to get some sense back to myself. I know for myself that I for once need to slow down. To stop even and I need too.

The last few days, stranded under the volcanic ash reaching as far as 300 kilometers from where it spew, I picked up some novels which I bought in Kathmandu last September and read on. And thanks to Amitav Ghosh and some Rilke poems found within, I’m tracing this blog back as an attempt to write things down again. Somehow I gain my belief that in the end literature never fails you in a journey, your journey anywhere. It is always a habit to me to have a book in hand wherever I’m going somewhere. It is in the end the best company.

As someone who always constantly moving around among places, I’m starting to accept that life has been offering me that. That movement is part of my energy within, it is part of something that fuel my life. Even with my son’s around, I can’t denied that pulse is still in constant calling. My journey last year has teach me so many things and one thing is to accept my nomadic nature. The title of this blog describe me no less.

Although I’m not too sure whether I could tell all or I would tell less, for that I cannot answer. But I do want to begin with this reminder of Rilke found in Ghosh:

‘ Look, we don’t love like flowers

with only one season behind us, when we love,

a sap older than memory rises in our arms. O girl,

it’s like this: inside us we haven’t loved just some one 

in the future, but a fermenting tribe; not just one 

child, but fathers, cradled inside us like ruins

of mountains, the dry riverbed

of former mothers, yes, and all that

soundless landscape under its clouded

or clear destiny – girl, all this came before you’

For all that happened, I miss my days in the Himalaya.