My daughter and I walked along the streets of Katmandu, eyes agog and hearts pounding with the unreality of the scene before us. It was my first time in a country people have labelled as “Third World,” and everything was unfamiliar; much of it was heart-breaking. Legless people propelled themselves along the sidewalk on their rear ends, using their hands and arms for locomotion. The pungent aroma of decay emanated from large untended piles of garbage. People swarmed us, inviting us to purchase their hand-made wares. And at night we could hear the clamorous barking of packs of wild dogs roaming the streets in search of food.
Sometimes, I just wanted to cry.
We had gone to Nepal on a journey of spiritual exploration and our itinerary included visits to numerous Buddhist monasteries and Hindu temples. We visited Kopan Monastery and Dakshinkali Temple, among many others. I purchased a singing bowl, specially tuned to my own resonating frequency, from a little family-owned shop located on a side street in Katmandu. The family had been making singing bowls from a special alloy of nine metals for many generations. I was privileged to purchase one.
Our little tourist group was among the few people who have been able to catch a glimpse of the sequestered and elusive Royal Kumari of Katmandu, the living goddess of Nepal. We danced with the women clothed in beautiful red clothes for the Festival of Teej. We were invited to sit in on a healing conducted by a rural medicine man, whose incantations were hypnotic and trance-inducing. We also visited the organic coffee plantation our guide, Shankar Tiwari, is building on the edge of the Royal Chitwan National Park. And we rode in a small aircraft along the line of Himalayan Mountains in which Mount Everest is resident. It was the trip of a lifetime!
Shankar had put together a remarkable itinerary for us, and it opened our eyes and hearts to a graceful people in a vibrant land. We were blessed by gifts of grace, too many to mention. The experience added much to my sensibilities as a writer and author. More than anything, however, that trip was an opportunity to profoundly appreciate the comfort I and my fellow Canadians enjoy.
Over the Canadian Thanksgiving weekend this year, I reflected on how many reasons I have to give thanks. My family is well-fed and we have clothes that keep us dry and warm. We turn on a tap, and clean water magically flows from the faucet. We can enjoy a long, hot shower whenever we want. There is plenty of food in our fridge (we have a fridge!) and, whenever we want to go somewhere we have a range of transportation options at our disposal. What’s more, we have a publicly-funded health care system, imperfect though many of us feel it is, and we live in a democracy where arguments are settled by debates and votes, not through machetes and AK-47s.
Although it’s great to have one day a year when we all give sincere thanks for the many blessings in our lives, there are 364 other days in a year where I might (!) have moments when I’m not feeling all that thankful. I follow a personal Gratitude Practice, which is a huge help. And this year, I’m also going to be remembering Nepal.