It’s been about 3 days of freedom from the monastery routine and regime, and life as it used to be seems to be creeping in. Sure, I still find myself waking up around 5am to the cold and bells from nearby monasteries, but things are changing (naturally).
Of course, I’ve tried to make sure some regular practices and habits I developed during those days are being maintained; however, the reality of having access to a lot more now has put me in sensory overload.
Freedom has never tasted better, especially the taste of Oreo cheesecake with an Americano brewed with Himalayan organic coffee beans that’s available at Ariya cafe right near the Boudhanath stupa.
For some reason, Snickers is highly advertised and consumed in this country. The chocolate bar is one of my favorites and multiple ones have made itself down my belly in the past few days. On the first night out, the taste of wine and beer with pasta and arugula salad was so exquisite.
With all this of course, I’ve not only been grateful for the privilege I have of being able to access more than I need in my life, but have been trying to be fully aware of how my mind works among all these new shifts in lifestyle changes adapted over the month. It is so easy to fall into new habits (unhealthy and healthy), I’ve realized. Everything seems to be a matter of mind discipline and self-control. By being better aware of our actions, taking action against the negative habits tend to be easier. As long as we’re aware and mindful, a slight “mess-up” (having more than 2 glasses of wine or 3) doesn’t have us going downhill a path of negativity.
Now, none of this has been easy. When I was allowed to only eat a meal a day, for example, I eventually got used to it. But new “problems” have flourished outside the monastery gates. For example, the temperature has dropped drastically. Being used to a daily warm shower, I’ve found it difficult to walk around unshowered, but alas I have. But, just the other day I gave in and took a freezing shower in Nagorkot, a mountainside town I decided to visit for fresh air and serenity.
The deed was done, as I screeched multiple times, trying really hard not to let it affect my mind and mood. Having gone through that suffering, I told myself today when I came back into Boudha that “well you’ve done it once, you can do it again” and really thinking about so many people who have this as a constant reality and then others who don’t even have access to clean water. I am so fortunate to have what I have.
So, I got myself under the shower and eventually within three minutes I sensed the water slowly getting warmer. I wasn’t expecting it, because they said that electricity might not be available until 8:30pm (it was 6pm). All of a sudden, a Christmas miracle really, I had access to a hot shower. The huge smile, laughs and outward expression of joy that followed, while trying to wash up as quickly as possible, were produced from something so small. Right then and there I realized that it is the little things that make this life so beautiful and should not be taken for granted. We tend to forget so easily how fortunate some of us are. I sure do.
Sure, it is the delicious snicker bar too, and the cafe Americano, the Internet access to talk to family and friends that’s at our immediate disposal, that seem to be providing us with our “needs”. However, recently a higher level of appreciation has developed for the things that I already have and that come easily to me, because the moment I had to physically and mentally detach from these objects, is when I realized how empty some of those needs really were when the basic ones weren’t even being met.
I am so grateful for hot showers, food, water and electricity (and two blankets to sleep in a 35F room).
Take a moment today to think about how many individuals won’t have access to those. Perhaps, think about how the winter cold might take some victims with it, because of the lack of access to some basic needs for survival.
Sure, it’s not possible to help everyone, but being aware and conscious is already a step towards showing compassion and kindness to those who don’t have the same abilities and resources as you and me.