All of my life I have wanted to go to Tibet.
Just the name Tibet. conjured up mystic images of wise monks offering their secrets of enlightenment to me. I had read so many books about Tibet and it’s long hard history and could only imagine the spiritual energy that existed there on the rooftop of the world. I have also seen His Holiness the Dali Lama speak at least eight times. I consider him to be on the highest teachers on this planet.
I have watched at least five films about Tibet. Some were documentaries and some were tales of this strange land with Lamas and Masters who had achieved states of consciousness I longed to know.
So when the opportunity to go there with a small group from Maui in 1997 I was determined to go. The group was organized by Documentary filmmaker Tom Vendetti and some of his friends, including Lama Tenzin, and Paul Horn 1997 .
Lama Tenzin was the teacher at the Maui Dharma Center. He had family in Tibet and wanted to try to see them again. He had patiently been teaching the new age residents of Maui the teachings he had from most respected teachers in Tibet.
With the state of affairs being very tense between China and Tibetans it was a very tricky trip for him. It would require him taking off his robes and pretending he was just a ordinary Tibetan. There had been so many Tibetans imprisoned and killed for practicing and following their beliefs that he was putting his life in danger by going back.
We headed off from Maui in May for the long flight from Maui to Thailand . Styed in Bangkok for a few days and then spent almost a week in Katmandu before we planned to head out in a small bus on a dirt road steep into the hills of the Himalayas for a two day trip to reach Lhasa.
I love traveling and have had very few problems on any of many trips to various exotic places in the world. Many unexpected things happen on any journey you take. I have always believed that any trip can change you. This trip definitely did.
I had always heard about Katmandu being a very hip place to go to. I did not expect it to be as dirty as it was. There were people everywhere begging for money and
I think when I went out shopping I was an easy target. I never did get my money back from a store that charged my credit card $1,500 for a $65 purchase.
And then there those delicious Lassi drinks I loved that gave me a life threatening case of Dysentery.
Don’t let me give you the impression that it was all bad. Not at all, there were some powerful stupas and exquisite Tankas to see. And I did have some amazing hallucinations after not being able to eat for three days. Or perhaps that cleansing of all traces of food in my body allowed my to slip into my astral body more easily.
I have always been interested in the Wesak Festiva, which is a time of initiation on the higher planes of consciousness, which occurs in Shambala on the full moon of May.
While meditating alone in that hotel in Katamandu I believe I went to Shambala and saw the Master Morya in beautiful embroidered robes and he guided me through secret caves with symbols on them to the Halls and valley of Shambala. I think in my astral body I did get to make it to this realm on the higher planes. It was the full moon of May and this vision was worth being sicker than I wish to describe.
I did make it on the bus from Katmandu to Tibet and then began the long trek up into the hills. We wound around the dirt road higher and higher and I was fine until we went up to 14,000 feet and then altitude sickness started setting in. We finally crossed the peak of 16,000 feet and landed up staying in an Inn that was painted brightly in Tibetan colors with Prayer flags blowing in the wind.
Lama Tenzin decided at this point to not wear his robes and just wear regular street clothes. He looked so different it was hard to even recognize him. We all had a delicious dinner at the Inn though I could barely eat. I was once again challenged with a being sick with Altitude Sickness. I was not the only one who was having problems, about half the people on the trip were suffering as well. I said every prayer I could think of and thought, “if I’m going to die, at least it will be here in Tibet.” I was awoken at 3 in the morning by the sound of a Tibetan woman chanting. I looked out my window to see a crow sitting on the courtyard wall and the remnants of the magical moon of May hanging over Mt. Everest. I did not see the woman chanting but as I listened all of my life threatening symptoms just disappeared. I thanked God for a true healing that was so appreciated.
In the morning we headed down the steep dirt road as fast as possible to try to get many who were still suffering to a lower altitude. We went so fast that all the luggage went flying off the overhead racks and everyone held on for dear life.
We stopped at a few Monasteries later that day and were surprised to see hundreds of monks chanting and sitting in mediation. There were some darling children who were studying and learning sutras. The parents of these children felt they were in a much better place than struggling to survive at home.
We stayed the night in a small village before heading into Lhasa the next morning.
It was not at all as I had pictured it. It looked like a little Beijing.
There were Chinese soldiers everywhere. The Chinese government had also sent many prostitutes for the soldiers so there in this holy city you saw soldiers and prostitutes and heard Chinese music blasting from radios.
We stayed at the Yak Inn. There was a moldy stuffed yak at the entrance.
We were all warned that are rooms could be bugged so we should be careful of what we said. There were some great little restaurants with delicious Chai.
Tom Vendetti who had helped to arrange the trip got to work getting shots of the Potala. We got to visit this Holy Palace, which had housed the highest spiritual teachers of this sacred country. I took my video camera out and captured some of the images seen in the documentary The Faces of Tibet the Eyes of the Soul.
Paul Horn got to play his flute there and it was recorded by Tom and later made into a documentary. Lama Tenzin was able to sneak off to go have a reunion with his family in a village outside of Lhasa.
It was a blessing for him to be able to reconnect with them. Little did we all know that Lama Tenzin would pass away from Cancer shortly after. He truly was a beautiful teacher who always had a wonderful smile. He had brought many people the Tibetan teachings on Maui and he made a lasting impression on me.
Many temples had been destroyed over the years since China took over Tibet. Temples that still stood had been repaired because it was realized that there was money to be made by tourism. We got to visit some very wonderful temples that survived. It was made clear to us that while the temples were left open there were Chinese military placed there to keep on eye on them.
When I saw the power of Spirit living in the Tibetan peoples eyes I was so touched.
There is an amazing power to these people who have survived so much and have lost so many. They have adapted and have learned how to survive in a difficult changing world. I felt such humbleness at seeing these beautiful people carry on in spite of so many challenges. I knew I had to try to get some of the images I took out to the world.
When we were heading out at the Lhasa airport I couldn’t help but wonder if I would ever see Tibet again. After making it safely in the air I looked out the window to see the Majestic Mt. Everest. It truly ha a living magical presence.
I am very grateful I was able to go on this life-changing trip. It was not an easy adventure. When I came back I found out a friend who I had been giving Reiki to had passed on. My perspective had also changed.
I felt if I was a different person after this journey. This trip may have not been what I thought it would be but certainly left some lasting memories. It is so interesting after all these years to look back at the video I created when I returned “The Faces of Tibet, the Eyes of the Soul.”