The Kathmandu Valley is called the Playground of the Gods…a power place.
~Keith Dowman, Power Places of Kathmandu
There is something about practicing a tradition in the culture from which it was born. Developing meditation practice in the Kathmandu Valley has a different feel to it –as if the mind is more pliable or ripe for insights.
This valley is special to me for several reasons, but mostly because I’ve spent years here, cumulatively studying and practicing with my teachers. For 10 days next March 2015, I’ll join Yoga Nepal in guiding a small group of pilgrims through the Kathmandu Valley, learning the practices that transform an ordinary being into a buddha: one who is fully awake.
In the program, we will approach practice in 5 main ways:
Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga
Grounding the body through ashtanga yoga, a breath-based yoga asana sequence designed to awaken the subtle energies in the body. Through sustained awareness of breath we challenge the body to take various postures. The practice is adapted to meet each individual exactly where they are, so there is no need to worry if you have no experience. If you are an experienced yoga practitioner, this is an opportunity to deepen and refine the subtle aspects of practice.
Meditation is the foundation of the Buddhist path. It is a simple technique of training the mind to be fully present, relaxed and alert. “But I’m right here,” you may say! True. But most of us have background noise that holds part of our attention hostage and prevents us from being 100% present with whatever is happening right now. We have agendas, or fears that cause us to contract in the face of certain outcomes. Or we may have expectations, thinking we already know how things will turn out, so we stop paying attention before we get to the punchline. Or we have judgments, and become consumed with a mental commentary of our experience to the point that we are no longer actually present for it. Through sitting (shamatha) meditation, we train the mind to identify these tendencies and to re-direct the mind back to the present moment. In this program, a simple, precise technique will be offered, along with guidance to help you develop a meditation practice you can maintain at home.
- Loving kindness meditation.
At the heart of the Mahayana Buddhist teaching is the development of bodhicitta, or awakened heart. We will practice guided meditations that will help you access deep compassion and loving kindness both for self and other. And who doesn’t want more love?
Yoga Nepal is fortunate to have close ties to the White Gompa in Boudhanath, where the Tibetan community congregates in Kathmandu. We will receive teachings from highly trained lamas and monks from the Tibetan tradition. If we are fortunate, we may have an audience with a high lama from the Vajrayana tradition.
- Pilgrimage is a practice in itself. We will also spend plenty of time roaming the valley, exploring and experiencing the local traditions and significant sites. Kathmandu’s cultural heritage is rich beyond imagination, and the city is filled with mystery and surprises.The mind does interesting things when confronted with new, unfamiliar surroundings. Part of the pilgrim’s journey is learning to watch mind’s tendency to try to categorize things into familiar boxes, while dealing with the impossibility of doing so. This can be Oh-So-entertaining.
Training body, speech and mind to develop and maintain pure awareness through yogic disciplines, meditation and contemplative study will change your relationship to your mind, and to your world. When you train yourself to be fully present, you then tend to make better choices in your life, creating less suffering for yourself and those around you. When you sow the seeds of your own happiness, you encourage others to do the same. And that, my friend, is how we will eventually create an enlightened society and the possibility of happiness for all.
Ashtanga Yoga and Tibetan Buddhism
A Pilgrimage to Nepal
2-12 March 2015
For a detailed itinerary and more information click here or go to yoganepal.com