riding elephants, yogis in retreat & entering Nepal

January 03, 2024

If you’d told me it would take me a year to share our travels to Nepal – I would not have believed you!

I don’t know why it was so hard.

I guess because the trip hit me in a place so deep …
It took some time to filter through my being.

Even now, it’s hard to write about it. A little scary. Not sure why.

A year ago on New Year’s Day, we left Varanasi after having been in India for several weeks. We’d been to some amazing places & all of us got sick along the way, with deep hacking coughs. Crazy photos here.

We rented a van to take us to the border of Nepal; Alan wrote about that here.

As we wove in and out of mountains, making occasional snack stops & bathroom breaks, our Indian driver, Arun, grew on us. And we grew on him.

Straight through, the drive would have been about 15 hours, but we made several stops on the way to Kathmandu, including Lumbini, Chitwan National Park & Chumig Changchub.

We touched the ground.

We said hello to the trees.

We collected dirt from sacred places.

We eased our way into Nepal with a couple nice guesthouses, hot showers & an occasional chai or cappuccino.

We rode elephants. It was wild. Gorgeous, beautiful creatures that munched down giant pieces of sugarcane treats like eating a potato chip.

The Nepali guides that led the elephants through the jungle, sat on their shoulders without a saddle, barefoot with only a stick to fend off any possible tigers. Yes, tigers!

We entered the jungle and it was so quiet you could hear a pin drop.

I got the sense that: ‘This is not your domain! You could become prey here. Easily.’

None of us said a word.

We enjoyed the sensation of movement of the elephant’s body under ours, lumbering through the jungle in silence.

We made our way through the trees. We spied wild rhinos, crocodiles & deer.

A part of me felt bad riding the elephant. I just wanted to let the elephants roam free.

[Here's an elephant refuge in India that someone in our community recommended for learning more about elephants in India. I was in Nepal, but India is right next door.]

Another part of me was in awe of their beauty & wisdom, and so grateful I could be so close to such a powerful, gentle creature. I said some prayers as I patted him lovingly on the back.

The following day we made our way through the winding two-laned roads through the mountains with our fearless driver, Arun.

The next destination: Chumig Changchub, a special place with a natural spring and a yogi who had been in retreat for 12 years consecutively.

We packed up enough gear – in case we got invited to spend the night by the caretakers – and walked our way into the mountains until we were huffing and puffing, hearts exploding out of our chests.

On the way there, we were greeted by beautiful, pinkish-white flowers.

We walked under hundreds of colorful prayer flags.

We made flower, smoke, candle & anointing oil offerings.

We did prayers and meditation together.

It was cold, and getting colder as the sun went behind the mountain.

Parts of the natural spring had turned into ice.

We met up with the caretakers of the place - a Buddhist yogi and his yogini sister.

Lisa had known their father, who had also done decades of solitary retreat in that place! 

The yogi told us stories of the place, what had happened there and why it was so special.

They offered us a place to stay - a one-room retreat hut that all of us could cram into with our sleeping bags.

It was so tight we all had to sleep on our sides like sardines. And that was ok too, because it was freezing, maybe the coldest I’ve ever been! We slept with wool hats, gloves, socks and down jackets under the blankets!!!

In the middle of the night, a ‘cute mouse’ ran across Lisa’s face. Luckily, she wasn’t spooked at all. And luckily, I didn’t know until later that it wasn’t a ‘cute mouse’; it was a rat! He was cold too, I imagine, and looking for snacks.

We’d gone to bed without dinner as well; Alan had offered our last bag of trail mix to the yogi and his sister, lol. A practice in true generosity.

In the morning, we sat under a cave to meditate together on the freezing mountainside. I was so cold inside, so uncomfortable. Frozen to the core. I breathed through the discomfort.

Afterward, we went to pay our respects to the yogi and his yogini sister (and the cute stray puppies).

He placed white, silk blessing khatas over our heads. In the meantime, I had collected the Wild Daphne that greeted us when we’d arrived. It was infusing in the sun.

The Wild Daphne is an interesting flower. It’s small and unassuming, but like jasmine it has a powerful, exotic scent.

Its essence obliterates inner obstacles so we can be the boldest version of ourselves.

I’ve been taking this flower essence in Divine Timing for a year now – and never get tired of it!

It helps us come back to our north star, to what’s most important to us – over and over again. It amplifies our natural devotion to what matters most, so we never lose our way.

We can be fierce, wild, and wield a sword of sharpness. We can flourish and thrive, even in the harshest of conditions and when the path appears to be unclear.

If that sounds like a good way to start 2024, find the Wild Nepali Daphne in Divine Timing.

Love & 2024 prayer flag confetti!