THE INTERVIEW

The English translation of „THE INTERVIEW WITH: Veronika, who has traveled in Asia and South America for two years“ by Anna Onderkova, a blogger from the travel blog TRAFAM.NET

Some time ago I wrote an article in EVA magazine about the traveler Veronika Sivová (31). The conversation with her was very inspiring, but at that time the amount of space in article was far from being able to mention all the fascinating and crazy experiences she had on her two-year trip to Asia and South America. I was completely fascinated by her journey. So I decided to post the whole interview with her on the blog here. I believe that her story will excite you too. Because her experiences are awesome!

 

What did you do in Slovakia before deciding on such a radical step as leaving the comfort zone, leaving your home and choosing to travel the world?

Before embarking on „my journey“, I was completing my doctoral studies in pharmacology at Medical faculty of Comenius University in Martin. In my work, I investigated the pharmacological effect of plants that originate mainly from India. So it was especially long hours in the lab, in addition to conducting pharmacology seminars for medical students and writing of my dissertation thesis in the evenings. Somewhere in between, I was trying to fit at least some yoga class in my this tight dailyschedule. During my doctorate, I began to travel extensively around Europe for research conferences, or even through the Erasmus + program, to get to know new countries and young people from them. In the last year of my studies, I left for a research stay in Oslo for six months. Typical of that period was that I began to surround myself with people who traveled a lot and many of them inspired me a lot.

When did the turning point occur to you that you decided to go abroad for even longer period of time?

In fact, there were two turning points. One small one, when I decided to travel to Vietnam, Cambodia and Nepal for only three months, but after that I returned. This decision came naturally – I finished my doctorate and had three months to wait for the results of the Norwegian grant for my potential postdoctoral project in Iceland. However, while I was in Nepal, walking alone around Annapurna for a few weeks and basically meditating all day while walking, the second, much bigger break came.

I suddenly realized that I was waiting for a grant, which I don’t really want at the moment. I don’t want to tie myself to the next three years of the project right now. It seemed crazy to me, but inside I felt that my heart wanted something more than scientific degrees and recognition. That’s when I said to myself that I didn’t care what everyone expected of me any more. I’m going to do what I want. So I went home, attended my PhD graduation ceremony, repackaged my things, and left for India in less than a month.

How did you choose the destinations you traveled to?

When I set out for the first three months, I chose countries that were described as easy for women solo travelers when they wanted to start traveling in Asia – Vietnam, Cambodia. But Nepal was also sure destination for me. It was, of course, for its mountains, but also for yoga. Because of yoga came to my mind also India as a destination, since yoga comes from there, but I had a huge respect for India. I didn’t think then (and I still don’t think) that India is suitable as the first destination when one does not have any previous experience of traveling in Asia. So Nepal won as a place to travel for yoga, and I easily found a yoga course there, which was held by an Indian yoga school.

Now, with the passage of time, I laugh how I had the whole journey in these countries planned in detail beforehand. But it was very necessary for me to learn how this is the exact opposite of how best to travel around Asia. Very quickly, I began to feel rigid and limited in my well-planned program as I couldn’t go on unplanned adventures with the people I met along the way. But in deed, this training in Vietnam and other countries was great for me in order to learn to travel in a completely opposite way in my future travel in India.

How long have you been on the road and which destinations have you visited?

If I include those three months in Asia before India, it was exactly two years. I had a plan to be in India for half a year, but in the end I stayed rotating India with Nepal for a whole year. And then I went to Ecuador and finally, unplannedly, I finally lived and traveled in Colombia for some time.

I traveled in Vietnam from north to south, but it was quite fast. In Cambodia, I especially liked Angkor Wat and the island of Koh Rong. I spent my first visit to Nepal mainly doing yoga and then trekking around Annapurna. I traveled in India from the south along the west coast – from tropical Kerala to Mumbai, through Gokarna or Hampi. Then I flew to Nepal for a trek to Lake Phoksundo in western Nepal. When I returned to India, I headed north to the mountains – Dharamsala, Manali, Spiti Valley, Ladakh. Then again Nepal, because my half-year visas in India expired. I was spending the time I had to wait for the rainy season to end in Nepal by volunteering and then I went on a one month lasting trek to Mount Everest and back. Then again India – Bodhgaya, Varanasi and especially Rishikesh. And then I flew to Ecuador.

In Ecuador, I stayed mainly in the surroundings of its capital, Quito. And eventualy, despite the original intention to head from there to the south to Peru and Argentina, I suddenly found myself on the way to Colombia, where I also passed a few tourist places such as San Gil, Las Lajas, Cali or Popayan. But I also spent a lot of time in places where tourists probably usually don’t go like Pitalito or Bucaramanga near the border with Venezuela. Even later I was in Ecuador in Cuenca and visited also the beautiful crater lake Quilota.

Do you travel alone or with someone?

I mostly traveled alone, but the truth is that I was still not alone on the road. Very easily, I always came across great and equally attuned people, with whom I then shared some sections of the road. In the mountains, for example, we always waited somewhere in the evening with „already known strangers from the trek“ and we found a place for spending the night together, also to make it cheaper. I can say that I learned to have a good senses to choose people. This means that I really chose to travel together only those who completely fit to me and I did not waste time building bridges between two different styles of travel or worlds. People just come and go, and I valued the time I spent on the road so much that it would be a waste of my energy to focus on people I have nothing to talk with about. And that’s why I also many times rather preferred to go alone.

What do you see as the biggest benefits of traveling alone? Is it more comfortable for you? Or was it more of virtue out of necessity?

For me, it was really a virtue out of necessity from the beginning. It started with treking around Slovakia alone and the reason was exactly that I didn’t want to wait for someone all the time, just so I could go somewhere. So I started walking ant trekking alone. It continued with traveling alone in Europe, actually I also went to Svalbard to see their polar bears alone. Sometimes it’s really more convenient, because a person decides only for herself and does what she wants, she doesn’t have to explain anything, she doesn’t have to adapt, she can change her plans as she wants.

Of course, it also has its disadvantages. Traveling alone is more expensive especially due to accommodation. An also, all planning is in your hands and you have no one else to rely on. However, all this will teach you to know yourself perfectly. You need to be more communicative and you are forced to leave your comfort zone much more often. If you are interested in self-development, then this moves you further, and not only by steps, but literally by leaps and bounds.

When you travel alone, don’t you worry sometimes? Would many women perceive it as dangerous? Have you ever had a bad or dangerous situation?

I was not relaxed at first and I was also very suspicious. I remember avoiding anyone who spoke to me by himself the first night in India after my arrival as I walked in the dark from the airport to the train station. Now I know it was from their side with a sincere interest in helping me find my way, but I didn’t believe it then. But a year in India and Nepal was enough for me to learn to trust people, but at the same time to know what to expect from them. It is true that as a woman, I had to deal with local men in India in a very authoritative and strong and determined voice, in order to let them know that they could not play with me at all. And I couldn’t smile at them at all, because in a split second I would be able to read from their faces how they were already imagining a wedding with me. They are usually not „harmful“ in any way, but their gazing can be unpleasant. On the way, I learned to lie that I was married and I had to fundamentally refuse selfies with men (in order to get rid of them easily it worked the best to ask money for the photo from them). I have always rather preferred to prevent dangerous situations.

You practice yoga. How did you come to yoga? Why does it impress you?

During my doctorate, I exercised a lot. Honestly, now I know that I could name it that I literally went to the gym to destroy myself and forced myself to run long kilometers. It was because I desperately tried hard to be fit and I was looking for a way to vent the stress. But then my roommate invited me to a yoga class, she suggested that it might help me to relax a bit more. I expected from yoga to be about strenuous poses that required high flexibility, and I wanted to prove myself that I can assume them all as soon as possible. But here I found myself among beginners and that time I really didn’t understand what they see in all that breathing and in those simple exercises, too simple for me. But I said to myself that I would give it its chance, and especially that I give a chance to that old guy who led the classes for us, who always in a position where I had to fully concentrate to manage to hold it, what naturally came with a strenuous look of my face“ added a note “and don’t forget the smile … but the inner one“. So I gave yoga a chance and a promise to attend a few more classes.

It didn’t take long and I was returning from yoga classes as exchanged, completely rested, much more calm. I began to feel my body in a completely different way, I began to respect myself, to listen to my intuition, to feel that everything in this world, even disease, has a reason. Yoga has completely overturned my view of what health is. It is perfectly normal that, like me, many others start with yoga as an exercise and only then move on to its other dimensions, to spirituality and its spiritual aspect.

Yoga starts on a yoga mat, but over time you will find that on the mat there is only training before the real yoga, which takes place off the mat, and that is to realize and be aware how I behave, how I manage the situations, how I think, how I am in my daily reality. At the same time, yoga gives me a sense of certainty that no matter what happens in the outside world, only I can influence my world inside.

You also do Ayurveda. This is not just yoga or just an Ayurvedic diet, but a complex way of life. What does Ayurveda give you in life?

Ayuveda appealed to me with its complexity and logic, thousands of years of testing and use, finding the cause, recognizing the connection between mind and body, and the fact that, unlike Western medicine, it is personalized medicine. Ayurveda has helped me to understand and accept my body (and thus my mind) as it is and to learn what medicine is for me, what I personally need to make me to be in balance. By accepting my difference, I also began to respect other people’s differences more. I like that it is based mainly on prevention, which I can have fully in my hands. I feel like a co-creator of my health.

My Ayurvedic practices could be simplified to a few examples: the choosing right food in its proper combination, using spices in cooking, all of mentioned has to be appropriate to my dosha. All this taking into account the season and at the same time respecting the current phase of my menstrual cycle. Furthermore, cleaning the tongue with a scraper as the first thing in the morning, gargling with oil, Abhyanga – body massage … And I use Ayurvedic herbs to treat my problems.

Have you also studied yoga in Asian countries? Where and what yoga courses did you take and where did you teach yoga everywhere?

I completed a course as a yoga teacher (200 h YT) in Nepal. It included in particular Hatha, Ashtanga yoga and also a bit from meditations, Ayurveda and Bhakti yoga. It was very intense, but I consider it to be one of the best investments in my life.

However, the real yoga ride started in India. Along the way, I didn’t look for courses but for yoga masters, whom someone recommended me. Everyone from my masters handed me a piece of their treasure into my own yoga puzzle. I must say that what greatly altered my whole understanding of yoga was Vipassana meditation and later completing two levels of Reiki with my master Parveen in Rishikesh. The concept of chakras ultimately connected yoga to Ayurveda, psychology and spiritual development in such a way that I no longer even know how I could have existed without this understanding.

I taught yoga mainly in the south of India in a great Ayurvedic resort, it was my first volunteering in India. Then I taught also in an orphanage in Nepal and in Ecuador to a youth community. But basically it was that wherever I went and someone was interested in listening about Ayurveda and trying yoga, I shared it with them.

From what did you live off on the road? How did you earn?

I lived off my previously saved money. Probably a force majeure arranged that my new car was stolen during my doctorate. Since I had it completely insured, fortunately I didn’t lose anything. And I told myself that all bad things were really good for something, and I took it as an opportunity to rethink that I should put my money this time into education rather than material things again. So I chose travel and self-development, even at the cost of starting again from scratch after returning.

I did not work in my field on the road, because, unfortunately, as a pharmacist, I have not yet found a way to be a digital nomad and be able to work from anywhere through a computer. So at least I tried to control my costs. For example, I traveled by train, mostly in ordinary classes, as locals do as well. I didn´t need any luxury, I often stayed in hostels (not only are they cheap, but also full of interesting people). And I managed to significantly reduce costs, especially by volunteering, where I received accommodation and food in exchange for work. The countries I have traveled to are really cheap compared to Europe. And as a vegetarian, I had a really easy time in India, for example. If you learn to eat in small street restaurants, where the locals eat too, you will save a lot of money for overpriced meals in expensive restaurants for foreigners.

Which countries or areas visited have become mostly loved by you?

India, Nepal and Colombia. Each one for something different. India for its people, yoga, spirituality, contrasts, immediacy, food, diverse culture, at the same time amazing mountains, especially in the north, and all those incomprehensible moments „this can only happen in India“. Overall, India is not a country to travel to see beautiful things. India is for wandering, frequently pushing borders of your comfort zone and learning what is really important in life when you are confronted with the harsh reality.

I love Nepal most for its mountains, for the silence and freedom in the Himalayas, the closeness to the deep blue sky. Of course also for very nice people who gave me a little more space than those too exhausting Indians usually do. For me, Phoksundo Lake in the west of Nepal will definitely be the most beautiful lake in the world, and the trek in the Everest area was probably the most beautiful what I’ve ever seen in the mountains.

And Colombia, because it is wild, diverse, has everything from rainforests to cold mountains. For its temperament, markets full of fruits and especially medicinal plants and herbs. I was enchanted by its people, their immediacy. And especially in Colombia, I loved the unusual feeling of freedom I had there.

On the way, you certainly met many interesting people and had unusual experiences. Which do you like to remember?

Experience number one – the monkey bit me during Vipassana meditation, even twice, in each half of my buttock. And I also have a small scar there. So they had to get for me a vaccine against rabies right in the meditation center, and throughout my next few weeks I had to adjust the plan of my travel to be close to a hospital on certain days, because I had to get about six shots, in order to be vaccinated against rabies succesfully.

Another nice incident happened to me at the base camp under Stok Kangri. We were talking with the Base Camp manager that I was going to help them in the kitchen. But I asked him if he would show me some local medicinal herbs as an exchange for my help. An American friend accompanying me that time promptly added that this is because I had a PhD. from pharmacology and I am a pharmacist. I don’t even know how, but in that connection with medicine we actually found ourselves in a conversation about alcohol, and we ended up saying that alcohol can also be a medicine if it is used in a small amounts, and I tried to explain to him that in our country people use to drink small shots of a alcohol typically made from fruits as plums for this medicinal purpose. And the Indian manager responded immediatelly “Oh, you mean slivovitza? I have it here too. Shall we have some?” I could not understand how it is possible that he knows what “slivovica” is, because it is so typical for Slovakia and some bordering countries. He said it was a present from our “Czech brothers” (as we Slovaks familiarly name Czechs, since we had formed a common republic before and altough we got separated later, we separated peacefully and we still like each other a lot and consider ourselves as “brother nations”). It is so typical for Slovaks and Czechs, especially those from Moravia, a region close to the Slovakia borders, to bring always some homemade alcohol to their journey, and use it as a “internal desinfection” against diarrhea on the journey. And, as well, it is very easy for them to fnd many reasons to celebrate someting on the journey to have a reason to drink it on the way. All those events that happened would fill up a complete book …

You mentioned that you like to trek a lot. Where everywhere and what interesting treks did you do on your journey?

I started in Nepal with Annapurna circuit and Annapurna base camp trek. It was my first big trek alone and it was incredible to watch how what I could see from the vast massif changed every day. I highly recommend it to beginners as well.

Then, when I returned to Nepal for the second time, it was after some months in India, we went with my friends which I met on a Annapurna circuit trek, to western Nepal to Lower Dolpa – Shey Phoksundo National Park, to Phoksundo and Rara Lakes. It is close to the Tibetan border.

North India is also a great place for treks. For example, the Spiti Valley in Himachal Pradesh was beautiful, I went through it as a circuit and we slept one night in the Buddhist Key Monastery. It was long days of walking in beautiful places, completely without people, only some grazing yaks wandered there. The altitudes here ranged to a height of about 4600 MSL.

Another mountainous region of India that I visited is Ladakh. I decided to climb here on Stok Kangri (6153 metres above sea level), the highest trekking point in India available without the need for climbing equipment. It was one of the greatest experiences of my life. I started the ascent from Base Camp at 1 in the morning, an incredible almost 1,200 altitude meters awaited me. I joined a group of some Czechs that night. However, my group gradually disintegrated because they were not properly acclimatized. So I ended up to climb to the top completely alone, even without our guides, since they had to descend with the people who had to return.

And the complete highlight of my treks was a trek long about 300 km, alone, to Mount Everest (to Everest Base Camp) by the classic route from Jiri inlcuding the Three Passes circuit and back. Expeditions to Everest originally began from Jiri, when the airport in Lukla had not yet been built. Three Passes trek was really the culmination of all my previous treks, where I walked for two weeks in the heart of the Himalayas and climbing three three passes and some peaks around 5500 MSL.

You are obviously fascinated by mountain areas. But can you also enjoy the beach?

I can spend a few days at the beach. They are beautiful, they have their charm and the sea gives me a lot of energy. But after a while, it draws me back into the mountains. There is probably a bigger peace. Maybe because too much heat and humidity doesn’t do me any good as well. I feel much better in the cold mountains, best if there is a lot of sun. In addition, I don’t even enjoy lying idly on the beach and catching bronze, I’d rather do something or walk somewhere.

How would you describe yourself as a traveler? Are you the type who likes to take risks? Do you like adrenaline? Are you looking for authentic places that will bring you closer to local and local culture?

I don’t think I need to risk headless for the feeling of excitement. But the truth is, that I have been to many situations that many would consider risky. The travel of a woman by herself seems dangerous to many. From my point of view, it is more about the fact that I want to do in life what I desire and I do not like to be limited by the feeling of fear. All the scenarios that we can create in our heads for our fears can deprive us of all the beautiful things we could experience if we weren’t afraid to take risks from time to time.

It has always tempted me to understand, at least in part, how the locals live and, most importantly, what I can learn from them. And for that you need to travel like they travel, eat where they eat. And this is what traveling is for me. It is the broadening of horizons, the discovery of other worlds and the effort to understand our differences while feeling how we are all the same.

What did your luggage look like on the road? You said you were gone for two years. Do you travel light? What can’t be missing from your luggage?

I bought a backpack with a volume of 45 + 10 liters for the trip and whether I wanted or not, I had to fit everything there! Together with barefoot shoes, this backpack was the best investment for the whole trip. I knew I would be traversing various climatic regions – from the tropics of southern India to the peaks of the Himalayas. So I had to carry in the bag trekking shoes and a swimsuit at the same time. Therefore, I have often stored part of my luggage in a safe place so that I can travel locally only with the necessary minimum for the area or trek. Along the way, I also had to learn to give up things that no longer served me and especially not to buy what is not multifunctionally usable, even though I would really like it.

My luggage could’t miss the camera and always at least two lenses with it. Even on Stok Kangri, where people solved how much water they could take, whether one, two or three liters were enough just to not carry extra weight, I, of course, also dragged an DSLR camera to the top.

The computer was also important to me. And then after India, I also invested in a Kindle reader, because the hardest thing for me was always to give up books. Definitely also a sketchbook for drawings and a notebook for notes. In Asia, a copper water bottle. Cosmetics have been completely minimized for soap, shampoo, toothpowder, hand cream and coconut oil for the body. The ability to pack at a minimum, however, came with practice.

Has your view of life and the world changed in any way after visiting Asian countries such as India, Cambodia or Vietnam? Because me, personally, it affected a lot.

I realized how much we complain in Slovakia how bad is our situation, and at the same time we don’t even realize how good our life in fact is. We are still waiting for someone to do something for us to get better. But I saw people living in a hut that is washed away by the monsoon twice a year, or children who had nothing to wipe a mucus under their noses, but were happy, smiling, grateful for the little they have. I asked many Nepalese in the mountains if they would like to go to live somewhere else. Almost everyone said they wouldn’t leave. They are happy where they are – in nature, they live a happy life here, they don’t have a car, a big house and all the technical achievements, but they have peace. They are not slaves to work, they have their own, healthy food. Plus, the whole world is coming to them, so why would they go away.

India has probably changed me the most. India doesn’t hide anything. On one street you will see women in beautiful saree, right next to her a shitting cow, poverty and wealth, material poverty and spiritual wealth, everything is there in front of you without any apron. As if they did not even try to hide poverty, death or old age. After all, they won’t pretend it doesn’t exist when they know everything has two sides. They have so much to be offer to be learned from them. The Indians have taught me that there is a real willingness to help without wanting something back. They showed me that people know how to help and it is perfectly normal to be good to each other. India taught me to be much more grateful for everything I have, for example for running water or for such conveniences as a washing machine.

And Latin America? It made me feel what it was like to live freely, without so many rules, without a worrying that somebody will say something. I understood how many things I was doing just because I was told to do it, but I never wondered if it was right at all for me personally. Sometimes I envy them for more freedom, less systemic rules, even though they pay their tax in the form of higher crime and less comfort. I understand the huge tax we pay here in Europe for safety, comfort and surplus. It is a tax of freedom.

How did you get to South America? Why did you go there after Asia?

I never thought I that I would go to South America alone. An especially for my zero language skills with Spanish that time. But it happened that in an Ayurvedic cafe in Pokhara in Nepal, I met one Ecuadorian. We fit in completely, we talked about the Inca culture, the sun, shamanism, why he came to Nepal and what I do here. Eventually we agreed that if I wanted to come and see Ecuador, he would be happy to help me with accommodation and I could enrich his community with knowledge of yoga and Ayurveda. A few years ago, I would have thought it was a crazy and dangerous idea to go to South America with no language and to rely on a complete stranger. After a year in India, however, I already had a completely different opinion on such „coincidences“. So I eventually bought a flight ticket.

I love learning languages ​​and I know how important it is to know the language so that I can really understand culture, so it was absolutely paramount for me to at least try to learn Spanish when I came to Ecuador. It was exhausting, but in a month and a half I started talking and after two months it was almost fluent. During those two months in Quito, I devoted myself to meditation and Reiki, for which I did not have time in India because I was always moving from place to place and learning new things. So here, I devoted myself to my art, drawing, I was meeting young local artists, went to exhibitions and events, everyone liked to talk to me about their culture, and I again shared my knowledge from India and Nepal. It was a community of young people returning to their original Inca or Kitu roots.

What was different travel in South America than in Asia?

After two months in Quito, I set off again, but not to Peru as I had originally planned, but in the opposite direction – north to Colombia. This happened beacuse I met a young Colombian, and you know, everything got a little tangled, and finally, we set off together. We passed through Pasto, spent Easter in Popayán, passed through high altitude paramos, we lived in Pitalito for a month, then for a while in Bogota. We even reached to Bucaramanga in the north of the country on the border with Venezuela. It was a completely different style of travel that I had known before. I was not alone, we could afford to travel wild, we slept in a tent or were hitchhiking. This man helped me to learn to lose all my own barriers and shyness about the things, that I was just told to be ashamed of, because this all had only been taught to me, but is not actually intrinsic for me. For example, I overcame my pride and went to the markets with him, asking for vegetables and fruits from sellers, which they would throw away anyway. This, too, has helped us reduce the cost of living. I stopped being ashamed to sit on the street and sell the things and jewelry he made. He had lived like this freely for some time. For a while, we even slept on cardboard because we didn’t have a mattress in a small studio that we rented! I was a real hippie! It was simply overcoming stereotypes, learned patterns of behavior, and resistance to change every single day.

Currently you are in Slovakia again for about a year. What brought you back? What are you doing?

I came back for family reasons. I needed to be with my family when they needed me. We came here together with that Colombian boyfriend in order to settle somewhere in Europe, but somehow we couldn’t figure it all out. We kept running into new bureaucratic problems, he couldn´t stay in my country and to make matters even worse, the COVID-19 pandemic came into it and thus it was impossible for me to travel abroad and meet him. Exhaustion and stress have marked our relationship a lot.

When I returned, I wanted to completely change my European life, instead of pharmacy, I wanted to focus on yoga and Ayurveda. Everything I collected along the way, I wanted to transform into my own form of yoga. But the COVID-19 prevented all this, it would be crazy to try to survive in these conditions with a brand new yoga center. I accepted it the way it is. Even though we sometimes think it’s the right time, circumstances can show us that we were wrong and make us wait. Maybe I haven’t really processed yet everything I’ve experienced and learned along the way. So at the moment I work again as a pharmacist in a pharmacy and I do all these things privately in my free time.

Was it difficult to integrate into „ordinary“ life in Slovakia after having been on the road for so long?

Honestly, it was really hard. Quite illogically, I tried to cram my new identity, which I found on the road, into the old one that I had here before. I didn’t realize right away that it was simply impossible to go back and things could never be the way they were before I left. I have returned to a world that has barely changed, but meanwhile I have changed too much. It was a mess. Who am I, what do I really want, and is it possible to achieve it here? … Of course, sometimes there were questions about whether the whole trip was worth me at all only to find out when I come back that I no longer fit here.

I missed here all the interesting travel souls that I was meeting on every corner on the way. I missed my „yoga circles“ and all those nice and smiling people, the positive energy they spread. And also markets with fruits and vegetables, herbs, the opportunity to eat like in India.

I had a very difficult time when I started working in the pharmacy again. I was hypersensitive to bad behavior of the people here because I really got used in India to people who behave completely diferently, nicely, politely, always smiling and with respect. Despite these momentary doubts about the worth of my whole journey, because it just wasn’t easy right away after coming back, I’m absolutely convinced that it was the right step in my life, and everything will finally show the reason for which it was all necessary.

Are you planning to travel somewhere again when the situation around the COVID-19 calms down in the world?

Honestly, at the moment I don’t feel like taking my backpack on my back and going for such a long journey, unpacking and unpacking my whole portable „house“ on my back every day. And when I imagine that I should go to sleep somewhere on the cardboard instead of the bed now, I definitely don’t want to. It is because I think it is good to step out of the comfort zone from time to time, but constantly exposing yourself to borderline situations is not suitable for anyone. It is good to have a period of determination, risky steps, growth and picking fruits of this growth afterwards. But then, naturally, there must be rest and time for self-reflection so that we can grow again in the future. I need that time for rest now. But in the future I would like to drive the whole South america in a caravan, already with a family, kids and dog on the board.

 

Silence

When I decided to go to Vipassana, a 10 days meditation in silence, most of the people I talked about it were interested only in how I will manage all that time, so long time, in silence. Which is, in this case, also commitment to adhere the „Noble Silence“- and thus not only no words, but also no gestures, no eye contact, no looking in the face, no writing, …

So everybody was curious only about that silence.

I think this is especially because WE KNOW THE SILENCE. Thus, we we can imagine it can be hard to keep it for long time.  However, in contrast to silence, many people do not know what a meditation is, so they do not even have any idea about how THIS can be difficult. And moreover, this is kind of special meditation, with no „cheating“ with repetitions of mantras, visualizations and so on. This is simply 10 days of sitting 10 hours a day.

So what can be so hard about only sitting?

You go inside yourself, to fight with your own mind, trying to tame it and to become its master and not be its servant, trying to train enough that you can use it for the technique itself, for the cleansing of your mind, but not only that superficial, conscious one, but the one that is deeper, the so-called unconscious mind, which is not unconscious at all actually, it is always vigilant, as it works and perceives feelings in the body constantly, even if we shut down the conscious mind, for example in sleep, constantly …

Do you have any idea how this can be hard before you have some experience with such a thing? NO. So that´s it. Then you can imagine only the difficulty of silence.

Since silence is part not only of Vipassana but it is the basis of many other spiritual practices and it is considered as essential, I decided to explain, why I think it is actually amazingly needed and very helpful. And I decided to write my thoughts about what I think why people are scared of silence. Maybe it can  be useful for somebody to think about it in this way, and next time he can approach it with other attitude 🙂

And no, this is not going to be a short article.

Why is not the idea of ​​10 days in silence so stunning? Why should the silence be so difficult?

As it was something absolutely unnatural. Yes, I understand, it is just „normal“ that we communicate with each other as people, words, gestures, views. So opposite is not normal? How could we have been without words? But the difference is to exist absolutely without communication and to remain silent for some time.

It is like comparing starving and fasting for one day. Good example. Also because everybody knows that fasting one day in a week can be really healthy, but not all the people are strong enough to do it so for their own benefit. Not strong enough to break their usual habits and to go out of comfort zone. Though, those who really know it is healthy because their have already tried it (and also those who must, since they really need it for their health due to already existing health problems), those people just maintain it.

Someone is silent on a regular basis, someone can not even think about it. Every one of us is different. Why?

Because we are so beautifully unique. Only when I began to study Ayurveda, I fully understood the nature of why some people naturally have a bigger problem to be in silence. It is related to a kind of life energy they have in excess (in Ayurveda we call it dosha). So some are just simply naturally forced by this energy to constantly communicate, talk, share their current, sometimes overly fast changing feelings a emotional states. I understand that these people speak a lot, sometimes too much, and often, honesly said, ithey speak unintelligibly. It is then such a feeling that when you talk to them you have to put a lot of energy into the discussion so that you can concentrate your attention on the essence of what they are trying to say and do not let yourself be distracted by all those details and turn to less important things this person often does in his speech. They are also usually a bit noisy, since they need attention, and because they can not grasp the attention by the speech it self, they try to make it with increasing the voice … and often they suffer from anxiety. When they are alone. As well as they have to be silent.

Some people, in turn, have the ability to have a very targeted speech and let´s say, they are talking in appropriate, or medium amount. But they can talk a lot, mostly when someone asks them something (and they are very excited to explain), and their speech is somewhat with a „mastery“ – as they can express themselves very skillfully. That’s why their people usually like to listen to them if they want to learn something if they want to learn something. Their voice is usually penetrating and intrigued. They are good speakers, typical leaders. They can be silent, even for longer time, when it is needed. But they need to know why they do it so. But naturally, they need to communicate.

And finally, there are also people who do not say much. But if you say anything, it’s mostly natural, pleasant and completely out of the heart. The story they are telling or the question they giving unfold gradually, softly, step by step. Sometimes it can make others nervous that they really take their time. I do not know if I can say that this unfolding is logical, because this is more of a heart than a logic. They just know what they say, but they don´t need to say a lot, they are peaceful, sometimes a little more lazy. Their voice is mostly peaceful and pleasant to listen, too. They are spreading emotional understanding and great stability. We naturally like to come to talk with these people when we really need to consult something, personal and emotional. But if they do not have to, they do not talk much.

So we communicate in different ways and we feel a need to communicate to a different degree. Therefore, for someone the silence might be easier, for someone harder and it is absolutely natural, it comes from how they have been created.


But this is not just about whether someone just likes to talk or not… what does the mind think about it?

It is necessary to realize the enormous interconnection between the mind and the verbal expression, just as everything in the body is connected with the mind – body movements, diseases, … The way of expression, the content of speech, all of this speaks of what the mind is, naturally. If the mind is restless, speech is restless, too. On the contrary, a peaceful mind is automatically recognizable by a peaceful expression.

And what I want to point out here is that we can turn this also around – if we calm down the speech, we CAN calm down our mind. That’s why we’re silent on Vipassana. We’re silent to help our mind to become silent. I purposely wrote „we can“, because I know it is not the only thing required to get the goal. But it is the essential beginning.

The silence is there FOR YOU.

Some will only fully understand this when they experience it, some will never understand, because they are not willing to go beyond their habits, and some know this well already when they’re going to that course – that this silence is there only and only for your own benefit. For your protection. Therefore, one does not need to take it as a challenge, as something to fight with. But on the contrary, it is good to use it as a tool to help you better fight with „bad guy“. 

The main help of silence is to limit the amount of information you need to assess with your mind. If we limit our talking, we thus ease the work of the mind from which we want to be concentrated on something else.

At the same time, one of the rules that must be obeyed in Vipassana, is the promise that you will not be lying (because morality is one of the three pillars of Vipassana). And how best to avoid lying, when even exaggeration or subtle misinterpretation can be considered as a lie? It’s best just not say anything.


What information do we actually feed our minds?

Try to think about your words, try to observe this at least for one day. What are you talking about with people, unknown, familiar, family. What information do you exchange? How much of this is really an essential information that  needs to be told? And how many of these are just words that could easily be deleted and you could survive the day without them.

Why should you cut them off? Keep an eye on how many times you are thinking and feeding your mind with the information, about which you then need to think about, analyze it. How many times you compare yourself with others, you judge them only because someone has told you something and you analyze his words? Do you need all this to survive? And don´t you feel that the day is going so fast? So fast, because every one second your head is immersed in a huge process of information … that you do not really need.

Be happy to be in your bubble.

I know that in your normal life, of course, you are interested in how your family is, you are interested in information from your loved ones, your friends, your surroundings. But if you are going to meditate and your goal is to concentrate on yourself, do you really need to listen to the experiences of other people? Do you really need to feed your mind with others? Don´t you have enough of your own worries in your mind? Meditation is not easy and the more your mind is disturbed by the influx of information, the harder it, naturally, is … the silence is there to protect you on your way so that you can concentrate only on what is going on in you. So keep focusing only on yourself! How many times in your life you really could afford to be totally disconnected from outer world so you could focus only on your inner world?

The silence, so you can´t compare yourself.

Because if someone tells you that he had a feeling of vibration and a tickling electric current in his body during meditation, and you are still hours and hours in pain in your knees, in your back (you are sitting 10hours a day…), how do you react? You may say, „Why don´t I have electrical current in the body? Why am I suffering with pain here and he is experiencing ecstasy?“ Ok, you may even realize that each of us is different, everyone has accumulated other blockades, other problems, which are coming on the surface in form of different sensations, so we can not compare the sensations… but your subconscious mind can react differently, classically, with aversion or desire. And these unconscious reactions are actually just what you are trying to remove in this meditation! So if you do not have this part of your mind trained enough yet, you do not have that precious time of a few milliseconds between receiving the information and your decision how to respond to it, you still can´t filter all this with peace when confronted with this information. So let´s rather protect yourself. With the silence.

Then you will realize that during those ten days of silence, you still do not have the silence.

It can be surprising for someone to start hearing some voice in his minds. No, you’re not a fool if you hear it. You were just always listening so much to the world outside, that you have never listened to what you have inside. And so you do there hours and hours of dialogues with your own mind, or if you want, with an ego. Surprisingly, after some time you may find that this voice is not actually fully you. And that is good. You find that you are starting to take a position of an observer and you just watch it. You realize you don´t need to be a part of these discussions. You just observe it.

Meanwhile, you are trying to calm your mind, you calmly ask it to come back every time it jumps out, back to watching your breath as this is want you to focus on. Finally, even if it takes days, sometimes weeks, some years, at last (maybe) you will come to the moment when your mind will become still. And a feeling of bliss comes. From such a simple thing – out of silence. Your mind can finally relax, it’s a relief, and since it no longer takes so much energy, suddenly you feel an excess of energy flowing through the body … This state of control of the mind is called Samadhi.


So empty silence. As in the universe. Only subtle cosmic buzz.

But do not let yourself be fooled by this ecstatic feeling. Just as silence is not the purpose of the Vipassana, as it is only part of it, a help tool – so the silence of the mind, control of the mind, is far from being the aim of meditation. Just as silence is a tool that helps you on your way in meditation, mind control is just a tool for real work, which is waiting fir you to be done in Vipassana meditation. With ability to control it, you will begin to use the mind for what it was created – as a unique and effective tool for analyzing what you need to solve. In Vipassana it is used to observe feelings in the body and keep equanimous with them. If your mind is not jumping like a monkey any more, you can use it effectively and in fully concentrated way.


The mind is a good servant, but a very bad master.

We think how brilliantly we control our minds. And most of the time it actually controls us. Maybe we can not imagine why we should try to control it and silence it, since we think how it helps us every day to survive. But, this all is because we can not imagine how the world looks like when you are actually THERE once. We all think we are aware. But we are just not aware, that we can´t see how much unaware we are. So the same, we think we use our minds brilliantly. But we actually can not even imagine what it is like to have the mind really effective if it is not disturbed by unnecessary thoughts and it can be focused on observation and understanding what really is around us, the truth around us.

In the history of mankind, the greatest inventions and the greatest geniuses have something in common. The greatest discoveries have always happened in the state of meditation, sometimes it seemed as accidental. While  observing nature and accepting the truth, as is it. Accepting the unknown, and not while thinking about the known.


Perhaps after 10 days it may happen something you would not have expected before.

Maybe at a time when you are allowed to talk again, you will feel a strange feeling that you do not want to talk as much as you did before. If you apply the principle of Vipassana not only when meditating with crossed legs, but in everything you do and how you do it, you will be aware of every activity. You will observe your words and perceive their true value. You will choose more sensitively because your mind is already much more sensitive, focused and peaceful now. You will also understand that you do not need to compare with others, you do not need to compare the feelings and sensations you had within meditation. You already know that any sensation in meditation has a character of impermanence – as it has arised, it is bound to pass away. So why to be bothered by them? Types of feelings are absolutely irrelevant, whether they are ecstatic vibrations, pain or irritation, or feelings of heat, just anything … the only significant thing is whether you keep your equanimity and you will not react to any of your feelings by aversion or desire.


And so when everyone starts talking, you can easily observe who has learned anything.

You can observe people whether they share their feeling about the work, the perception of change, the happiness they got from all of this, or to which extent they still identify themselves with the sensations they were experiencing and continue to stick „I like“, „I do not like“ labels . And if they still stick these labels, you can observe and really know how much of that information really is irrelevant. But do not judge, because when you look back on yourself in your life before, you may find that even 90% of what you used to say a day before were also things … utterly unnecessary.

We speak all these words, because we have been taught to dalways describe the world around us.

We speak to them because we like to name things, objects, events, problems. But especially, we really like to give them these labels „good“, „bad“, „I like“, „I do not like“. We think things really are good and bad. We speak all those words because we are looking for the cause of everything in the world outside. And not in yourself. We do not understand that things are good and bad only because we react like this to them. We react with aversion when there is something we do not want to be happening to us. And we respond with a desire for the things we want to be happened. And if it not happening like this, we feel we suffer. Well, when you come to see that there is this world in you, and that everything going on outside is just a manifestation of what’s going on in your world inside, and you really know how to change how you react when you start listening to it and learn how to communicate with it, then, you will just become still. Because in this world the words are useless. And you can only communicate with it if you are silent.

That´s why it is so good to do such course in silence.

Not only in Vipassana, but also in some of the other courses I have gone through in India (eg the Basics of Buddhism at the Root Institute of Wisdom Culture, …), and I also know that in many courses I have heard about (eg Tushite – the center of Tibetan Buddhism, ..) is required from students to keep silence. Also in Ashrams. When not „noble silence“ so at least normal silence, no words, but not only those said, but also those through social networks. Because it’s good for you that you are not disturbed so much by the surrounding world, you can better focus on what you want to do in that course. Often there is no one to check you whether you keep silence. You check yourself, by your own will. How seriously do you take that thing you came to on? And how seriously do you want to use your time? Do you really want to dive into it or just write down the name of the course and put it to the list of others you have done so far?

I like the silence.

And I also liked it also before Vipassana. I knew naturally even before, that this is an opportunity to be more connected with myself. I think, that first of all, you must always be happy even if you are alone. If you can not be calm when you are with yourself, you will not be peaceful even in the presence of anyone else. If you feel nervous when you yourself, when you are silent for a while, ask yourself „why?“. Do you have any problem with yourself?

Once in your life, you realize that you really are alone.

I don´t mean lonely, but alone. There is no one with the same energy you have – so you are alone like this. And there is no one who will ever be with you. In addition, in life you will always be on the most important things only by yourself. These moments are usually mistakenly regarded as moments of weakness because we feel so weak, without someone we could use as our support, or, honestly, lay part of our burden on them. „Problem? No worries, I have a family, they will take care of it, or I I have a partner who will take care of it.“ But how strongly you will fight when there is nobody else there to help you? Fully. So these moments are actually, on the contrary, moments when you can see your greatest strength. Even at death you will be alone, as you do not take anybody with you, and as well, you do not die for the other to go with him.

I read an interesting book from Osho – „Courage, the joy of living dangerously.“ It was very nice to described there, that what the courage really is . It’s not being fearless, exposing yourself to unreasonable and purposed risks … but it’s the ability to be peaceful when you have no control over the world (and you will never be able to fully control it), when you do not know what it is going to happen, but you accept it. Because you know you will be able handle it. Let anything happen, let them bring you into any country, any place, you will just somehow take care of yourself, you will handle it. And, you can do it alone.
(I read this book just in the time when I was climbing on Stok Kangri, India’s highest accessible mountain, with more than 6,000 meters, and as this book came to me „by accident“, I let it travel to the world further by accident. I created a FB’s page so we can watch where it’s going to wander.)

So to which extent you are satisfied with yourself?

To which extend you are really calm that you will manage it by your own? To which extend is the fear from silence just a fear to be alone.

Fear that you will be alone = fear that you will be with yourself?

Do you really want to wait for someone who will take your hand and lead you? A who should this person be? To which extend you have courage that you really can manage everything by your own?

Maybe you will once realize, that in all of these moments, when you are fully with yourself, you believe in yourself… you are silent.

It doesn´t matter whether you are writing and exam, or you are deciding on which boulder you will step when you are climbing a mountain… it can be anything. But you are always silent, because the words are not necessary. You are not asking someone about his opinion, you are not asking him what he would do, you don´t think about what your boss, or partner, or neighbor will think about it. You just ask yourself. And you act.

Meditation without words.

Someone can have a feeling, that he doesn´t have a time in his life for such a thing as a meditation. Well, I don´t have anything against this opinion, it´s his choice. But if you realize what it can bring to you, you will now that it is important for you. And even if you know it is good but you are still looking for excuses – „I don´t have good environment, today I can´t because I am traveling, today I am too upset for doing it“, well, then you are not hungry for it enough. I know, I was not hungry enough neither. But now I really am.

But also, it is good to understand, that meditation is not only while sitting in perfect lotus posture, hands on knee, still like Budha statue. No, meditation can be in every moment in your life, when you switch of your mind, you are fully concentrated on doing something and you really enjoy it. It can be playing the drums, painting, it can be dance, sport. The full concentration during all of these has something in common – no words. Even singing is meditation. Because it is not your mind speaking, but the words are being said by your heart.

This is why I travel alone.

Because I can be silent. I haven´t started this journey just to make nice pictures in nice places. And especially not in India. Something was calling me to India, some urge that I need to give time only to myself. Yoga, Ayurveda, and mostly – meditation. So I meditate here in silence. One could ask me – how, please how, how you can be silent or in silence in India? Well, you might be surprised. There is a lot of noise everywhere around, but this noise doesn´t need to bother me. Scooties are horning to give signal they are approaching, that ´s all, no other information involved in it. Not like a signal, that you are an idiot on a road, like people in Europe usually like to give. And yes, people are shouting on They will not get offended if you just silently walk away. Here, you just don´t need to take anything personally. This is why I can be in quiet. And if I need not only inner silence but also outer on, I´ll accommodate in ashram, I´ll go to silence course. or even better – I´ll go the mountains.

That´s why I walk alone in the mountains.

You don´t need any words to communicate with the nature.I meditate. Inhale, exhale. Step. Up there, above 4500 meters, is very thin air. And mostly, just like oxygen, so the signal of telephone networks stayed in lower altitudes in valleys. Away from problems, away from information, away from words. Without contact. Without bad feeling, that I am not replying to messages on social networks INSTANTLY. Of course I want to know how my family is, how my friends are, but up there I feel relieve from all the words.

Up there, the sky is colored in cosmic blue, because I am so close to the universe here. And the color of in is not changed by the gray and white color of clouds, pollution, anything.

So is it with the silence.

You are so far away from everything and so close to the universe, that you can actually hear its silence. Only a subtle buzz of universe. Surprisingly the same buzz, which you can discover in yourself.

Why the same? Because once you may really understand, what does it mean, that the whole universe surrounding you is just a projection of your own mind.

But you will never find out this, until you start to be silent.

And Vipassana can lead you to understanding of the silence.

Questions

Prabhu, eccentric, but with his eccentrism completely natural Indian artist, who has been living in Pokhara for almost one year, is telling me: „It was happening to me that everybody was asking me the same questions: What is your name? And where do you come from?

My smile. It reminded me shouting Indians, asking me these and other strange questions, mostly about my family and whether I am married or not and so on.

„So I started to ask my own questions.“

„What is your dream?“

I am answering, slowly, while looking at moving clouds on the sky.

„I..I don’t know. I feel that things are the way they should be, I have probably learned to accept what is happening and learned to not have unnecessary expectations. I don’t have dream which would be above this all. I don’t want to rush in fulfilling one dream and thus not to see what’s happening, right now.“

„And what was your dream when you were thirteen years old?“

„I wanted to be a marine biologist, to swim with dolphins, orcas and sharks“.

Carefully treated moustache has gently lifted up. That’s Prabhu’s smile.

„I think, therefore, that my dream is to be with nature“, I continue, while I am gazing at Annapurna range, which emerges just for a few seconds out of the clouds, „with nature in any of its form“.

„Do you have a fear?“

„I am lucky that I don’t have any, which would limit me somehow. I don’t understand the fear from flying – it is just a beautiful feeling to go somewhere far beyond, isn’t it? I dont understand the fear from spiders and snakes – they are just perfect creatures and their only „sin“ is that they are not similar to human beings. I dont understand the fear from heights – your trembling legs are just reminding you how beautiful is to see the world from above, differently than usually.”

I look at Prabhu’s face, but I can hardly look into his eyes, they are hidden behind stylish sunglasses.

”But I have one. I am afraid I’ll lose my family.”

“Why should you lose it?”

“Because I know I will lose it one day. So, I don’t even know whether I should call it fear. I should rather call it a feeling, or a reminder, to understand every time again and to forget that the time we have, we have to use properly and fully. The loss will come naturally. It is a sign of the natural cycle of life and death, which I accept and I am not building up any resistance to it. So it is not the fear I want to fight with. It is rather a feeling that tells me that I have to live here and now and that I should always consider the time with my beloved ones as unique”.

Prairie horse © Veronika Sivová

But you can not really lose someone.

I’m still far away. I am still in Nepal.

I know it is time to move. Go back to India. There is one challenging task, which I know already, waiting for me. Well, and also many unknown. Beautifully unknown. I also washed my backpack. Partly because it really deserved to be cleaned after ”I rode on it” in the tractor trailer, while the tractor took us over Maure Lagna pass. It survived this ride with many dirty wounds, but my butt was saved that time thanks to it. Well, and partly I cleaned it as a ritual. So I can start a new part of my journey clean again and I have feeling that I am starting from home again. Since returning from mountains I have lived with my friends place at their place in Pokhara for longer time. We actually don´t feel I am guest here, I think we just are together here, so naturally. Yet finally, I have bought a flight ticket from Nepal at the last day of my Nepalese visa.

Even though I’m far away, I feel like at home.

Here.
In the middle of the mountains. Mountains as high as you probably can not imagine.
And the energy of the mountains.
Vibrant, disarming any resistance to accept things as they are, and multiplying my senses. I don’t know if you can imagine it.
Friends.
And interviews with them that you definitely can not imagine. Because neither I myself could have imagined this before.

Yes, I miss my friends, whom I left home. I think of them many times. I miss my family. My parents.

But I’m calm. The fact that I miss them is just the feeling that I care about them. And that I know I want to devote their time. When I come back one day.

Well, I know I’m carrying them all with me. Someone could understand this as a burden that we carry on our shoulders, an „attachment”. Buddha says we have to get rid of it. But now I do not mean this kind of burden of bonds.
I carry the love that somebody gave me. I carry the knowledge that someone has passed to me. I carry the happiness because somebody has delighted me with. I carry the wounds, with which  somebody opened my eyes. That’s how I carry people with me.

And I also carry my parents in myself. I see them in a way how I behave, I see them, because I do things as I was thought and raised. Well, unlike other parents, they did not teach me to see the world as they see it. They taught me to watch, yes, but they let me see thing as I want to see. It’s my world.

So wherever I do a step, at least three of us do that step.

No, I’m not dependent on anyone, I can take care of myself alone. Especially thanks to the Swiss knife that my father gave me 🙂
I do not call them with tears to help me while I am on my way.
Even though I know I could! At any time. And they would be here for me.

Thanks to them I can go alone.

Crow ©Veronika Sivová

So, finally, I am asking my own questions to my self:
„Where does the self-confidence of your personality spring from?“

From knowing that however you decide, you will always be right. If you learn to accept that everybody makes sometimes mistakes. The mistakes are actually not bad, though. And I would not even call them mistakes, they are rather decisions, which value we can not understand immediately, only later. Really bad is to not understand this.
It springs from knowing that it doesn’t matter who become, no one can judge, as far as you are just yourself.
It springs from knowing that I’m really loved for who I really am. And it doesn’t matter how I am. I can be emotional or rational, spontaneous or stiff. I can run like a wild horse or spread the raven wings and look at the world with a wise look. I can walk alone in the night, just like a wolf with a nose at the ground, and choosing which traces I will follow and which I will not follow. I can be any, but I’m still loved. And this is regardless meeting of the image of a daughter that other parents could dream of and force me to become it.

But I was not forced by anyone. Someone just always combed my chestnuts-brown mane – to let it blow in the wind while I will be running in the prairies. Someone taught me how to treat my feathers, to let them shine with a metallic-blue, so I can fly safely and even further than where I would have myself courage. Someone taught me how the gray-blue eyes can see in the moonlight. And someone taught me to recognize which smell is good and that bad.

Confidence springs from a healthy family.

She-wolf © Veronika Sivová

And my second question.
„And where does your path lead?“

But, do you really need to answer it? You are now taking a step. So look at where you are stepping now. You can avoid the beetle, which you would otherwise step on. And you can see if you are walking on the path, where traces of others are already, or if you are walking on your own way.

No matter where does it lead.

The eyes

(Personal blog post)

Will it be still me, who will once come back?  Already 6 months I have been eating only with hands, wearing Indian clothes, smiling while walking through the muddy market in flip-flops and negotiating the price of the okra. I love okra so much. And pinch of saffron in my green tea.
And will I come back at all?
And if my physical body returns … will my soul return? And my heart?
Where are they now? Surely somewhere together. In India and Nepal, they have learned to walk only together.

But where are they?

Maybe somewhere in rice fields, knees in muddy water. Dancing. And they do not care whether they will come back home dirty. Because it’s just a mud. With their arms spread, they are letting bent heads of the rice to nudge their fingertips. Sometimes it tickles.

And maybe they roll with laughter down the Himalayan hills. They end up with their heads between the fragrant flowers. They straight their legs and bury them in fresh grass. The dew runs down on the toes. They are freckled. Naturally, but also from small particles of grass, pollen and clay.

Perhaps they are sitting in the rickshaw, leaving the rush of the street to keep them in the presence. Tu tuuuu, watch out! There is a cow in the middle of the way! Well, and what?

And perhaps, they are looking right now into Nepalese eyes. They want to immerses themselves in them. They are so beautifully dark and deep, yet sometimes you can see only a tiny strip of them. They are exactly so beautiful like this when they laugh. And sometimes even more beautiful when they are sad.

Perhaps my soul and heart are now embracing the world. Together.

 

 

The dragon´s heart

(Personal blog post)

Sometimes I really feel like I want to be back home. I am dreaming of regular regime in my life when I look at my legs and know how much they were profiting from regular exercise and run. I’m dreaming of common problems that, for example, I need to save money to buy washing machine. I dream that I will cook everyday the food I know so that I will not feel like I want to try always all that new food. I dream of a regular meeting with my friend on coffee, where I can admit that no breakthroughs are happening in my life.

While thinking about that, someone knocks on the door. With laziness and tiredness from heat I get up from bed and go to open. It´s Krishna. My little monkey. Actually rather my small King-Kong.

He smiles and points me to the courtyard: „Veronika? You? „. Well, I go to look at it. „Veronika, chuchundra’s home“. I look at a hole on the ground and some pattern drawn by a stick in the earth around it. „Really? Are you sure it’s a rat house?“. (Chuchundra is a rat in Nepali language, I know this since I had one in my room, it ate my rukraksha japa-mala, made a hole in my sleeping pants and was even running next to my head in bed 😀 ). With a wide smile, he nods. Well, so I also admit it may be the house of a rat then. Krishna has probably made its small house cozy also from outside now. „Veronika? Dolphin, not dangerous? „. I am smiling. I answer that it is not, and I try to explain to him in English that dolphins are human friends and how many times they have already saved them when they find exhausted people swim in the sea. He continues, „Dolphin has heart?“. I am smiling again. I’m happy because I glad that they remember. Since I wanted to teach them in one of our classes, that they should not hurt any animals and they should love all of them, no matter whether the animals is fury, or it is a snake or a spider. And to do that I started by showing them that all the animals have a heart.

Exactly on that day, a few hours before the class, one of the boys caught a bird sitting at the gate. In my opinion, the bird must have been sick, otherwise he would not catch him, and perhaps it had already been broken leg even before. But it seemed like Nitesh broke it when he was putting the bird in the cage. I pulled the bird out of the cage and wanted to set it free, but before I let each of the boys press his fingers gently to the bird´s belly. I wanted them to feel its heartbeat. Finally, they persuaded me that I should not let it go now when it has a broken leg because we should take care of him. And so I agreed, put it back in the cage and put it on the ground in my room. We gave him rice and water. At the hour I asked them what they felt when they put their hand on the bird. They all knew it was a heartbeat. They recognized his heart was very fast. And I asked them, „What do you think, how did the bird feel? Why was his heart so fast? “ Because he was afraid. I wanted them to understand that all creatures feel. They have hearts and so that they feel. They have a heart and so that they can be sad. Like when a mom loses her baby. They can be cheerful when they pet another animal or when our dog Jackie wins the tail, happy to see us. And also the little spider in the corner of the room has its heart. Full of love for us, since catching the flies at night, to keep us away from them.

A few days later, I reflexively hit with a palm my thighs. In this area, the mosquitoes are totally inaudible, but their bite is painful right from the beginning like a hell. And there comes a question from Ramesh, with a smile from ear to ear: „Why did you kill it? Does it not have a heart? You said all the animals have it „. He got me, he obviously listened to me thoroughly. And so I have a lesson from him. I still have something to learn and I have to move in my meditations to be able to eliminate the reaction of my body to the uncomfortable feeling that mosquitoes cause me. I still have a lot to do to not act reflexively in the future, but just blow it away by a movement of a hand.

„And dragons? Dragons have heart? „, he asks more.

I observe Krishna for a few more minutes. I worry about him. He has epilepsy, and he has not been given any medication today. In my thoughts, I try not to be upset to the tutors, that they allow things like this are happening. That they forgot to check for how many days of treatment the pills still have left. Without medication, he will almost certainly have a seizure, other boys say. And they grimaces and mimic how it looks when he has a seizure so I will understand what they mean what will  happen. But I can not be angry with them. I’m not in their position, so I can not judge them. I can imagine how hard it is to work here. We have 5 days as working week, 2 days of weekend, variable number of holiday days. Here in Nepal they have weekend only Saturday. The woman tutor had to entrust her daughters to her sister, since it is not possible to have them with herself. And she has holiday every 3 or 4 months. She is raising 16 children and she does not have time for her two. Moreover, the tutors actually do not have real working and non-working days, they do not have their own free time besides the children here in a children’s home. And I understood that too. I came here to volunteer, which means I should work 3-5 hours a day 5 days a week. But this is just not possible when you live in one house with those boys. As soon as you sit down, with certainty one of the 16 boys is knocking on the door again. Actually, you do not even want to close the door of them. Only if you’re fainting finally from the tiredness.

And regarding those drugs, here is no mandatory health insurance in Nepal. There is no co-participation of the medical insurance company for medicines. There are no people in the pharmacy complaining to pay 17 cents for a prescription, shouting on pharmacist that doctor said „everything will be for free“ and balancing eyes when he/she allows him/herself to correct them that the medicine is never “for free“ but „fully covered by a health insurance company.“ Here, you are lucky when you are not sick, otherwise you have to pay everything. For Krishna, the child´s home Our Sansar pays for his medication, in contrast with all the other kids still left on the street. And actually, there are not all the drugs here.  Krishna is lucky that the children’s home is only 6km from the Indian border, so one of tutor can go there to buy him one of his medicines.

For a while, we are playing with Krishna to fight who is stronger. He tries it first with his hands, then pushes to my stomach with his head, strengthen his legs, but it does not work. After a while, however, he stops pushing and he stays with his head leaning against me. I know it’s not like he’s got out of his strength. I do not want to disturb him. He is now leaning on a woman, in which he probably see for a moment a mother. He feels the contact that is missing. He is missing someone, who hugs him before he goes to sleep. Who would talk to him that even dragons have a heart. Someone who tells him that the dragon’s heart is even special, because the more you believe in him, the stronger his heart is.
I do not want to disturb him,  I want to just take as much as he can while I’m here.
Because I’ll leave once too. As all others before.

So I am forgetting about the washing machine, my lazy legs, actually about everything.

And I feel it is right that I’m here and now.

And that I’m the one who tells him that he has a dragon in himself too. And that I believe in this dragon.