Each Himalayan trip has been transforming for me in one way or other. This one is about a 10-day trek in the Himalayas in August 2016 & it took almost 5 months to pen this one down.
Made a crazy decision to join a friend in an expedition during monsoons for 10 days to a glacier and climb it over to enter into another valley, a route that has not been attempted before. There were 6 from the guide’s team and 2 of us, my friend and me. Being the only female, was always ‘slow’ and catching up with their speed all the time. After entering the glacial area; we were only walking on huge rocks and boulders balanced against each other with water and ice underneath. Because of the monsoons; in the entire route we found gushing water streams, landslides and diverted routes through bushes.
On the first day itself, managed to get a muscle sprain in my right thigh and was in a lot of pain. We had been walking for 5-6 hours; it had become dark and our first day’s destination was nowhere in sight. Sat down on the road and literally started crying. The pain was unbearable. The friend motivated and encouraged and held me on every step. We finally reached and rested.
Next day, had to make a decision whether to walk ahead or go back. The pain was subsiding but was very much still there. Decided to bear the pain and go ahead with the rest of the trek. This made my speed even slower compared to all the men around. And was still feeling the pressure to keep up the pace. And in doing so, when walking over the rocks, fell, and got a minor injury on left shin.
But we finally reached! Reached the point where no one had ever camped before. Though we couldn’t cross the glacier this time as the rains had made the ice unstable and it wasn’t very safe to attempt the climb. We camped overnight at the base of the glacier. It was time to head back.
Oblivious to how many days we had been in the mountains, my friend suddenly realized he might not make it back in time for his flight from Dehradun. So he decided to cover 3 days’ trek in one day! That is 30 km in a day in the Himalayas! It was mentally inconceivable to me and i had no such rush to get back. So he walked ahead with one porter. Rest of us covered 2 days’ distance on that day. That evening, one of the guides suggested that if I start early the next day; can catch-up with my friend and leave together for Dehradun. Sounded like a good idea and that’s what we decided to do next day.
Till a point, all of us were walking together and then they sent one porter who had my bag to walk with me and others took a detour to pick up some stuff from another village and meet at the end point. And somehow they chose to send along the least responsible one. There was still a 5 hr trek left but after traversing the landscapes, which we were coming back from; those last 5 hrs were the simplest so somehow i didn’t object.
After some distance this guy; started telling me to halt in the next village for the day. And head back tomorrow. It was true that the trek had turned out to be strenuous for everyone and because of rains and landslides; we were almost an inch away from death all the time. But we had decided to walk and that’s what i was going to do. We halted for the lunch and there again he started dissuading me by saying that with my speed; i’ll never be able to reach in time. More than anything else; what matters is the intention with which it was being said. He kept repeatedly saying how slow i walk and how if wont reach in time; won’t get a place to stay so better to stay back. Turned deaf to his words, finished my lunch and resumed the walk.
Kept walking for good 30 minutes and thought may be he’ll come and join anytime because that was his sole job, to take me from point A to B but he didn’t come.
I got abandoned.
Was on my own in the mighty mountains and there was still a good distance left to cover. Few months back; the same thing happened with my spiritual guide. So this was a déjà vu moment. They all may be correct. But the only thing on my agenda was to walk; and that’s what I kept doing whether someone walks with me or not, whether someone believes in me or not. Had a muscle sprain in right leg, injury on left shin; but was still up on two legs and covered 10Km alone in the mountains.
After few minutes or so; there was a stream of gushing rainwater over the path; had crossed such streams many times over the last week. And this didn’t look any different. As was crossing it, i slipped and fell flat horizontally in water and started to skid down the slope that would end in the roaring flow of Tons River. By reflex, started to hold-on to the stones and pebbles for life but still kept slipping down. Looked like that ‘This Is It’ and immediately let-go of trying to hold-on to any support because wanted to leave gracefully. And the moment, stopped holding for support; stopped skidding. Couldn’t believe it so kept lying there still, with my face in water for few moments. Then slowly got up and looked down to what might have been the end. The mind had completely vanished and only the silence prevailed. Entire past week, the walk had taught me the essence of one pointed mind, because if one is not present then one is dead. But meeting the death in the eye just transported this experience to another level. All this happened within few seconds but felt it stretched to eternity.
Immediately started walking again and within next 2-3 minutes, came another stream. NO! Wasn’t ready to do it again. Now i was scared, looked back to see if that guy was coming. No one was coming and knew had to do it on my own. Kept looking at the stream with no courage to take the next step.
Important lesson: People will abandon you but the GURU never abandons. Somehow received the strength to cross. Continued the rest of the walk. Thankfully there were no other streams like these afterwards. If one is in the Himalayas; it’s given that one will be faced with such situations but everything happening all at once became a little too much.
Half the way, met few locals coming from opposite side and they were shocked to see a girl (non-local) walking all alone. They started enquiring how, why and where am going. Got all whelmed up sharing. Then they told that they met my friend on their way up and he was only 3-4km ahead of me (that still meant good 2hrs in mountains) and can catch up with him. Those were the first positive words; had heard the entire day.
Another lesson received: There are different kinds of strength all of us possess; i was only being judged for my physical strength or rather lack of it. But along the way discovered my own subtle inner strength that kept me going through all this drama. So identify and be in unison with one’s own unique strength.
Atlast, after 5 hrs, reached and found my friend and his guide sitting in one of the dhabas whiling away time for some odd reason. Seeing a familiar face, immediately wanted to break down. But didn’t. I was numbed down to everything that had just transpired. And it stayed so for sometime.
Another Lesson: Walk at your own pace, walk in your own rhythm and you’ll always be in time.
Following words resonated so much after this incident:
“I was called to be faithful to truth and vulnerability and to YOU. I never promised anybody I’d get it all right; I promised I’d keep showing up forever. Today. Whether I’m in the valley or on the mountaintop.”
Post this trip, when back in Rishikesh, when i would sit; the cozy meditation hall, blanket under the butt and warm shawl; it all started to feel like too much luxury and privilege. And started to wonder how on the earth, could i have had ever experienced what one pointed mind is! When sitting in so much of comfort and ‘attempting’ to concentrate. And now am so thankful for the opportunity to sit. Can’t stop being grateful to Gurudeva, who took me through this experience.
If one hasn’t shaken hands with death; it’s not easy to experience what annihilation of mind is like (which is still only a pre-requisite for the journey)! If one is not aware, one is dead. Sitting in our comfort zones, we don’t realize how urgently we need to grasp this fact.
And not everyone need to go through such extreme experiences; we can always learn from one another. Whatever was supposedly practicing past these years was tested in those 4 nano-seconds, when had to let go of the struggle to be alive and willing to disappear with the roaring flow.
Welcome to the Path of Fire & Light!
Welcome to Himalayan Tradition!
Swami Rama says that one pointed mind is the pre-requisite to be on the path and that’s why shared this experience with all. Pick one aspect in the practice that you want to sharpen and keep it in the background of each and every activity you choose to do in 2017. For me it is One Pointed Focus.