Like most teenagers, I was angry with my parents.
We were flying to Kathmandu, Nepal, and then driving over the Tibetan/Chinese border to get to Mount Kailash, a sacred site of pilgramage for Buddhists, Hindus, Jains, and many others. I thought going anywhere that far in the middle of nowhere was ridiculous. The mountain was 19,000 feet at highest, and I had heard all about how easy it was to get altitude sickness. Yet, that didn't phase my parents. Their Guru, Shri Anandi Ma, was going, and so they too would go.
â–º Quarter Finalist 2011 Teen Travel Writing Scholarship
We arrived on July 16, 2010, and I did not feel good. Katmandu is about 4000 feet higher above sea level than my hometown in California, and that made my head spin. We stayed at the Hyatt Regency Hotel (very beautiful, luxurious, and not too expensive) with all the other disciples following Anandi Ma. We took a couple of days to acclimatize before boarding the buses that would take us to the border.
After we got through customs, we boarded jeeps that drove us to Nyalam, Tibet. We stayed there for a day or two to acclimatize. We were now at 12,000 feet. It was so cold, but extremely beautiful. Next was Saga, a Chinese military town. This was where I took what would be my only shower in the coming 8 days.
The next morning we left our hotel at 2 AM because the Chinese government was going to close the road we needed to travel on. This was the worst night of the trip. The increasing altitude and my inability to stomach anymore Indian food made me nauseous the entire way. There are no real roads where we traveled. Only vast, open space. It was the most incredible thing: all that space. I’d never seen a sky so blue or a mountain so alone.
We made it to Prayan and I was glad to have some hot chai. We stayed one night there before driving up to the Mountain where Lord Shiva is said to live.
We arrived at the Lake Manasarovar at the base of Mount Kailash. We were at 15,000 feet above sea level. Anandi Ma asked us to do eleven prostrations to the Mountain, and once again I was not happy. I was having trouble breathing, and she wanted me to do push ups?
People began to chant prayers, and Anandi Ma went into a state known as samadhi, a deep mediation. Suddenly someone was sobbing and crying as hard as they could.
It was at that moment that I understood. I understood why people had trekked all the way up here, through the cold, the Chinese government, the holes people called “bathrooms”, and the endless Indian meals. This was their release. The other people on this trip with me were looking for a way to forgive and forget their sorrows and reach the best parts of themselves. This was their emotional release.
As soon as I reached this conclusion, I forgot my anger. How could I begrudge people who were genuinely searching for a way to live and love better?
In that moment, I stopped blaming my parents for everything I’d been angry about, and I forgave them. I had learned that you can either travel through the journey of life holding onto all the anger, sadness, and inconveniences; or you can leave negativities as they pass, and enjoy life as the journey to realization and enlightenment that it is.
All travel arrangements were made by World Wave Inc., Shivalaya Pilgrimages, Nature Discovery, and Dhyanyoga Centers.
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