|Picture taken by Ardai B.|
Oh my goodness!! So much to share! We just completed our 15-day trek in the Tibetan Plateau! This is the last time Szu-ting, Dave and I are offering this particular journey….and it was such an auspicious one. So much to share from our journeys from Chengdu to the highlands of this vast plateau, our 6 days of trekking in the Genyen Massiff, our visits with monks, nuns and many pilgrims coming to these grand, sacred mountains, our learnings with 2 monks in a high meditation cave that’s been used for 1,000+ years, the surprises of waking up in the middle of the night with a huge yak chewing grass and snorting in my ear(!!!), powerful shamanic ceremonies and qigong sessions in the high backcountry — along with yak, rainbows and monks(!!! :-)), a massive both terrifying and thrilling thunder and lightening storm among 17,000, 18,000 and 20,000 foot granite peaks, and much much more!!
To wet your appetite for more stories below, this short video by David Anderson gives a glimpse into the last 3 days of our 15-day journey. We left the city of Litang (4000m) and drove north through the massive grasslands that contain thousands of yaks. (I love these yaks!!! More stories on them in my next update :)!!) Hundreds of families still live a traditional nomadic Tibetan lifestyle in this area. The beautiful woman in the video you’ll see is so amazing and generous!! She invited us into her modest yet warm and cozy black yak tent home. She’s 37 and has SEVEN beautiful kids!! :)). We all enjoyed practicing Qigong on these vast grasslands. And then continued to the border of TAR, soaked in hot springs and endured a bone jarring ride to the spectacular Cuopo Lake and the Jarjinjabo Massif.
Okay, now that you’ve already tasted some of the immense beauty of these lands and people, I’m going to back up a bit to share some of the magic and challenges of this journey.
Irregular Heart Beats
So one thing I didn’t mention in my first update, is that when at Shaolin, in the evening of the 2nd day as Mingtang guided us into meditation, I noticed a weird, uncomfortable sensation in my chest. I was laying down for this meditation and noticed that my heart was skipping some beats…and when it did beat, my whole body vibrated. Then I put my fingers to my carotid artery to feel my pulse, and yes…something was strange. It would beat 2 or 3 big beats and then stop. And then start again with a big “thump”. I’ve never had any history of any heart problems and hadn’t ever noticed this sensation before. I wasn’t able to meditate much during that session as I felt nervous and was concerned. At the end of meditation, as Mingtang had us close and get ready to leave the hall for bed, I thought, “hmmm…who can I talk with to share what is happening?” Just then I spotted my dear friend Gianna and thought, “oh yes, I’ll tell Gianna!” But before I could get up to go over to her, I saw she was walking my way. She is so so wonderful and loving. She came up to me, greeting me warmly, and then asked, “Is there anything I can do for you?” Wow!! How did she know? I told her my symptoms and in the next couple of days, she helped me calm my heart some and gave me some insights to reflect on.
On my way to Chengdu, I had a short visit with Dr. Zhao and had him check my pulses too. He noted something was off and told me to be careful going up to such high elevation and to come back to Zhengzhou early if necessary. He gave me a bottle of his own patented herbal formula for strengthening and nourishing the heart.
I thought this whole thing odd, as like I said, I’ve never had anything show up with my heart AND I had just done a few good backpacking trips with some strenuous hikes and was just fine.
Synchronicity, Intuition & Coincidence
I flew to Chengdu to meet up with our trekking group. I was so excited!!! Yet by the afternoon on the first day, I felt horrible. Carrie, my friend, and one of our participants also asked me after lunch how I was doing as my skin coloring was taking on a grayish hew. I had started to feel nervous, yet I wanted to do everything in my power to make sure I could still do this trek….and again, these symptoms just seemed so strange. I thought of my dear friend Petra in Germany. She is a high-level student of Xu Mingtang, Image Medicine and a powerful Shaman. I called her via skype and got through to her right away (skype is so cool!!! :)) She told me she’d take a look at my heart with her 3rd eye and also do a Shamanic journey. Well, I heard from her later in the day. She said my heart was fine, but my circulation needed some help (which Dr. Zhao’s herbs would be perfect for!)….in the Shamanic journey, my power animal was a horse, and the horse immediately took her to someone very close to me. It showed her my heart issues were related to my love and concern for this dear person and the challenges this person was facing..and my heart had filled with sorrow. This made a lot of sense to me. While consciously I knew this dear person in my life would come through this tough time, subconsciously I was holding onto a lot of grief. Also, the sorrow this dear one was feeling was reflecting some sorrow within me.
I felt some relief just knowing my heart itself was okay, though the symptoms were still there. I told Carrie (who is also a shaman) about what Petra saw and she said, “Karen, as I mentioned earlier, one of my teachers often said, ‘There is only synchronicity, intuition and coincidence’ – do you see? It is no coincidence that your power animal is the horse, it is the year of the Horse in the Chinese calendar, AND Mt. Genyen where we are headed is also the year of the Horse.”
(This pic is a glimpse ahead…it’s of me and a horse who showed up in the back country while at Genyen…very much like the horse that showed up in my shamanic journey below!!)
Mt. Genyen & the Year of the Horse
When Szu-ting, Dave and I were planning this trip, we didn’t realize that certain sacred mountains are given a Chinese zodiac year. And that Genyen’s zodiac is the Year of the Horse! This also meant that this year, there are many, many Tibetan families, monks and nuns all going to Genyen as a pilgrimage and circumnavigating this most awesome Mountain in her honor. I got chills and knew that while my little mind had no clue why all this was happening, there was/is a bigger plan/force at work here. My job is to pay attention, be awake, to trust my gut feelings and jump into this ‘pilgrimage.’
This Tibetan Plateau trek is magical, amazing, life transforming and also very challenging. It is not easy to travel to the places we go. The roads can be downright scary(!!), the elevation is high (14,000+ft), the weather can be erratic – warm and sunny and then cold, raining, sleeting or snowing or thundering and lightening for days. Yet being this high and in such wild, pristine environments lends to the most intense blue skies, most exquisite wild flowers, most palpable sense of aliveness, vividness marked in the jagged crystal clear mountain peaks and crisp cold air. The rising mists over water-glistening granite cliffs with fir trees standing in silent 100-year meditations, and vibrant red, yellow, green, blue prayer flags waving in the winds along with huge prayer stones adorned with yak skulls and horns all create a reverberating magnificence and sacredness that fills and radiates from everything in the landscape and absorbs into our innermost being. Mt Genyen and Her surrounding mountains and terrains are beautiful, harsh, raw and so so alive!
(here’s a pic just to demonstrate the road conditions!! this is a bit later in our journey when almost to Genyen and Lengu Monastery, though there had been a big mudslide the night before the monks were out fixing the road so vehicles could pass! :))
So these are the lands I (my bigger Self) was being called to. Actually, ever since my first trekking trip here in 2012, these lands have been calling me back. And in reflecting, there has been an intense feeling in my heart each time I looked at pics or watched videos of these Lands and Mt. Genyen. I would often cry. …And now here I was, fully committed to this pilgrimage and my sensitive heart becoming even more sensitive the closer I got — I felt there was so so so much energy in my chest that needed to flow out out out.
Getting to Mt. Genyen takes days. Travel is slow due to road conditions and the steep elevation gain. Our first stop after Chengdu was the town of Kangding at ~8,000ft. Here Carrie offered to create a ritual with me that would work with the information Petra had already gained through her shamanic journey. We set an intention early in the day and gathered the elements to co-create this ceremony. In the afternoon, after our group hike we talked and agreed it would be great to find a quiet, safe place outdoors, maybe with some grass and in the sun to do our ritual. We asked our youth hostel staff for a recommendation and they gave us the name of a temple close by. We hopped in a taxi with the temple’s name and off we went.
Rabbits, Sunshine, Monks &….Shamanic Power
After about 10 mins, our taxi driver pulled over and pointed up a hill saying the temple was there and we could walk the rest of the way up. We hopped out and ended up meandering down a side street that actually took us to a different temple. We decided to check it out….and lo and behold….it was perfect!! It opened into a most beautiful courtyard….with grass!! And sunshine!! Tibetan flags blew in the wind and the wonderful Tibetan colors of the walls and the beautiful blues of the sky radiated peace and warmth. We laughed with delight and stepped in…..and then to our surprise, we saw a beautiful white rabbit (my own Chinese zodiac sign)! We were looking for a good spot to set up our ritual and this rabbit hopped right to the spot I was gravitating towards to do our ceremony….and then laid down (Oh my gosh!!!). We took this as confirmation and that is where we set up and held our ceremony and shamanic journey.
As we set up for our shamanic ritual, the monks were released for a half an hour recess…and well, since we both totally stuck out, we soon had a group of about 9-12 curious monks of various ages gathered around us!! 🙂 (See pic below…) They were great!!
After they went back in for their next session, a couple elder monks stayed out and seemed to help hold the space for our shamanic ritual journey. Carrie was so so so great and she created the container for me to go on the shamanic journey and meet up with my power animal. I won’t go into all the details, but my horse took me right to Genyen and also helped me open my heart to let out so so so much grief and let it flow right into our Earth.
Almost immediately I felt much better, and also knew there was more for me to learn and receive from and let go of at Genyen….and that was part of my personal pilgrimage for being here.
Okay….well, I’m going to send out this update now and then include the stories of our Genyen trek in the next update!! 🙂 Otherwise this will be 10 pages long for one update! I will send the next one real soon!! 🙂
So below I’ve included some fun pics of dinners in Kangding and exploring this small Tibetan city with a beautiful raging river flowing through, pics from our sunny day of travel from Kangding to Litang (this year the road was soooo much better!! Instead of taking 14 hours, it took 9 :)!), and pics from our visit at the beautiful Monastery in Litang – the day before we headed out for our 6-day trek in Genyen….more coming soon! 😀
Below are the pics of the monastery in Litang :)…