Monday, March 28, 2016

Catching Fireflies and the Wonders of Mountain Life

Following a trail out of Bhagsu Village in the far northern end of Dharamsala, I deviated from the rather crowded path and ended up fording a river and scrambling up the side of a hill along a thinly veiled rocky trail because I thought I saw some mountain goats and a tower peaking up over a ridge. I did see some mountain goats and a tower. The tower turned out to be part of a small meditation cave on the property of a guesthouse with a breathtaking view overlooking the entire Kangra Valley--complete with little tree stump tables and chairs and hammocks strung across the cliff side. How do people get up here who are staying? I asked the owner when he popped out of the house. I think you found the way, he said and smiled. 

This is my life in Dharamsala.


Nestled high in the Dhauladhar Range of the Himalayan Mountains, Dharamsala is not your typical Indian town (though I'm not sure there is such thing as a typical Indian town). Not only does the Dalai Lama, the entire Tibetan government-in-exile as well as thousands of Tibetan refugees live here, it is also a hub for Himalayan trekkers.

Far more crowded and noisy and colder than any place in India I've been so far, there is a coziness about it that you can't escape--because there is nothing cozier than hiding away in a cafe or coffee house reading and writing for hours when there is an early spring chill in the air and the sky is overcast with hanging clouds threatening rain. And like all the places I've called my home here in India, it is full of wonder and surprises.


I spend my afternoons as a volunteer in English conversation classes with Tibetan monks and refugees. The lead teacher gives us a topic and we talk. The subjects are vast and heavy--topics like: challenges you face and what are your greatest fears. Nothing can really prepare you for situations like this. Nothing can really prepare you for listening to a refugee talk about his flee over the Tibetan border into Nepal and his extreme dislike for China. Or listening to a monk tell me about how much he fears wild animals because of that time when he was 11 when his father got upset with him and locked him out of their house to spend the night in the woods with all the wild animals. Another monk tells me how he is learning English in this lifetime so maybe in his next life he'll be born a native English speaker. 

My job is to listen--listen and correct their pronunciation and sentence structure if needed. It is fascinating and educational and at times uncomfortable, but I can't imagine not showing up and looking these guys in the eyes and listening to their stories. Because I was never not meant to be here.


In the evenings I wander the busy streets of upper Dharamsala in the village of McLeod Ganj and watch people from rooftop restaurants and think about the 3 months I've spent here in India--all the people I've met and experiences I've had and the incredible things I've seen.

I sit here in this quaint little cafe looking out the window at the peak of Hanuman Ka Tibba towering at just under 19,000 feet over this bustling little mountain town etched into its mountainous foothills--knowing that each place I've been, each person I've met, each experience I've had was never not meant to be. And also knowing that everything that came before India is why I'm here.


On the bus traveling from Rishikesh to Dharamsala, I sat next to a girl who told me how each day she thanks all those people who pushed her out of her old life in New York into this one. You know, she told me, if it weren't for all those people who did so many terrible things to me, I wouldn't be sitting here next to you, traveling through the Himalayas. I told her all about Kundalini Yoga, and she told me all about Mooji--the reasons that drew us to Rishikesh. And then we shared the mysterious reasons as to why we are so drawn to this far flung little mountain town we are headed toward.


I savor each of these places and conversations and chance meetings and experiences, and like fireflies, I hold tight to each of them and watch them glow in wonder and then let them go because there are so many more out there waiting on me.


Do you see your life as a string of people and circumstances that were never not meant to be? Or do you think you'd be where you're at regardless of what came before? Tell me your stories, tell me about your fireflies. 

14 comments:

  1. Amazing post! I'm tying to find the button so I can follow your blog but I can't see one?
    I'd love to know how you arranged this as it looks like an incredible experience and so mind-opening! Great writing. I suppose if events in our lives were never not meant to be, then they'd always happen nevermind the choices we make. I think that our choices are more important, for example if I hadn't quit university when I did, I wouldn't have spent the last 3 years working and traveling abroad - I might have done them later on in life, but they'd never be the same experiences, I wouldn't have met the same people, I wouldn't have learnt what I've learnt, perhaps id have come away with something different. But each time I open up something new, like take a job somewhere I've never been, go to an expat party, take a spontaneous trip, more and more things open up which I hadn't even conceived of before! Like being a yoga teacher never meant anything to me until I lived in Italy too long and started suffering with anxiety and turning to yoga for respite. Now I'm open to it! What if I'd have gone to Spain instead of Italy? Or what if I'd have just stayed vegetating in my hometown? I wouldn't be here where I am right now. Its a great thing to think about.

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    1. Wow, thank you! I'm still figuring out the details of this blog, but until then, I can add you to my email list. I send out an email each time I update to notify folks.

      You can email me at chasingfirefliesandmiracles at gmail dot com. Or send me your email via FB message, and I'll add you :)

      One of my favorite quotes from one of my favorite books says (paraphrasing): that we have no way of knowing if anything would have turned out any different if the variables had been changed because there is no control group :)

      And thank you for reading!

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  2. Oh! Thank you so much for writing!! No one at home understands the experience and I can't even really begin to describe it- it's all over the place. It is so beautiful to read your experience and understand it and relate. I met an Italian woman on the way home and she introduced me to so many new spiritual perspectives in the few hours we had together. One thing just keeps leading to another in India! The English conversation volunteering sounds so amazing. Blessings, Sukhpran

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    1. You're welcome! Thank you for reading :D

      I know! This is truly a magical experience--not only being in India, but traveling and meeting people--that you can't really begin to describe...though I'm trying to, haha!

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  3. I love how you found the guest house path haha.
    The way you describe the monks sharing such intimate stories...damn,dude. Trandlation services, therapy, and humble pie rolled into one.

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  4. Nice to see u r making amazing experiences :) Btw did you meet Mooji :D

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    1. Ahhhhh! No, it never happened! Rishikesh was such a busy time and place for me. And, I was half sick the whole time I was there. It just wasn't my time...when the time is right, I'm sure I'll get to experience him and his teachings :)

      Also, thank you for reading!

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  5. Bottles are prepped. The dishwasher is roaring. I smile as I prepare my response to your post. A half asleep grumpy faced little man pokes his head around the door. Mamas? Forget the phone. Bottles in one hand, I grab some diapers and some fresh clothes in one arm and a toddler in the other. I pull Bay's arm through his sleeve and he rolls over with his bottle just as Bear lifts his head. Next! I am filled with gratitude as I inhale cleansing light. I push the clean white energy through me and my littles with love as I exhale. This Mama bear savors every second; the Cubs will finish their cuddles and be bounding around exuberantly in a matter of minutes. Three weeks. It has been three weeks since I piled what belongings I could in the van. I strapped my sleeping angels in their car seats. I drove. I drove and I didn't stop. And I didn't go back. I won't go back. This is my life now. Our crazy life with a bed pushed against a wall in a hotel room suite. I think about the decade that passed in a blur. A life with their father. A man I loved with reckless abandon. A man I still love as I turn my back on our toxic patterns. A life. A string of people and circumstances that were never not meant to be. I shake my head with a smile knowing that just a few years ago, my future was very nearly more like your present. What made me pause with my hand on the door, a life with spirit animals and native shamans whispering in my ear? My fireflies. My fireflies were calling. My fireflies names are Baylen and Bear.

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    1. Wow! Thank you for writing this :)

      It all happened because Baylen and Bear were never *not* meant to be :)

      Sometimes we go through insane times so we can really appreciate where we are meant to be when we end up on the other side of them :)

      Also, it was great chatting with you the other day! Did you ever get your skype account set up so we can talk next time?

      And thank you for reading too :)

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  6. 😊 it's amazing how the universe unfolds it's plan. I would never have imagined my life would exist as it does now. And magic is still happening. The animal spirits are whispering again. I am strange mix of emotions but I am exactly where I am meant to be.
    I love your blog.
    I did download skype and sign up but that's as far as I got. You will have to walk me through it so we can chat.

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    1. Thank you :)

      I know! I would have never imagined your life as it is now either :) But it is all magical--the beautiful and the not so beautiful. I've come to believe you need to embrace it all to really see the magic in it.

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  7. I absolutely love these words, "I savor each of these places and conversations and chance meetings and experiences, and like fireflies, I hold tight to each of them and watch them glow in wonder and then let them go because there are so many more out there waiting on me." Beautiful writing Sarah. I'm going to write this down and refer to it later.

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