Just Back From
For as long as I can remember, the Himalayas have pulled at my imagination: the highest and most majestic mountain range on earth, formed by two continents crashing together, a spiritual home for seekers across the millennia. Ten years ago, when I heard about Shakti Himalaya, which offers the chance to live in rural villages in houses equipped with Western comforts, I thought: there’s my way in. I set my sights on the Ladakh region of northern India, a high-altitude (10,000-plus feet) landscape of fierce contrasts, with jagged peaks and lunar desert cut through by rivers that make possible fertile green valleys and orchards. Because it has historically been inaccessible six months of the year, due to snow blocking the alpine passes, the region has been forced to develop total self-sufficiency and sustainability. This ancient culture is still very much alive. Ladakh is also a sanctuary and last refuge for Tibetan Buddhism, with whitewashed monasteries built into mountain tops and alpine passes marked by prayer flags fluttering in the wind. Amidst this impressive but unforgiving landscape, Shakti provides a lovely, gentle experience, balancing comfort and authenticity, along with the support of a full team: guides, drivers, a private chef. So, after years of dreaming, I decided to go to celebrate my 50th birthday at Shakti in Ladakh for a week with my husband, my sister and her husband, and two of our best friends.
As I do so often when I travel, I was looking for a different way to feel: more peaceful, grateful, abundant. I had always been a control freak, and it had served me mostly well in life, enabling me to be a cheerful working mom. But I had a really hard time allowing myself to ever stray from frenzied productivity. On weekends, I actively sought out chores to do—laundry, food shopping, meal prep—and if I slipped and took it easy, I felt ashamed that I had wasted time. I was heavily task-oriented with a compulsion to be seen as useful. I knew I needed to learn to let go and be more present, not only for myself but for my husband and children. In so many of the books I was reading, a landscape or setting helped unleash spiritual growth. People went somewhere and came back transformed. I felt that the landscape and culture of Ladakh might do that for me. To some degree, I worried that my expectations were so high that it could never be what I hoped, but I also knew that part of the transformation would be from my prep work.
The Snow Leopard by Peter Matthieson Seven Years in Tibet by Heinrich Harrer Becoming a Mountain: Himalayan Journeys of the Sacred and Sublime by Stephen Alter Walking the Himalayas by Levison WoodAnthropology Ancient Futures by Helena Norberg-HodgePsychology The Righteous Mind by Jonathan Haidt (good explanation of collectivist vs individualist cultures)History The History of the Ancient World (Great Courses lectures on Audible) by Gregory Aldrete The Great Game by Peter HopkirkFiction Kim by Rudyard Kipling Midnight’s Children by Salman RushdieBuddhism/Hinduism/Eastern Mysticism A Journey to Ladakh: Encounters with Buddhism by Andrew Harvey Why Buddhism is True by Robert Wright Peace is Every Step by Thich Nhat Hanh Experiments in Truth by Ram Dass (lecture series on Audible) The Meaning of Life (Great Courses lectures on Audible) by Jay Garfield Siddhartha by Herman Hesse The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari by Robin Sharma Full Catastrophe Living by Jon Kabat-Zinn The Miracle of Mindfulness by Thich Nhat Hanh Buddhism for Beginners by Jack Kornfield (lecture series on Audible) When Things Fall Apart by Pema Chodron The Original Be Here Now Talks by Ram Dass (lecture series on Audible) Buddha by Karen Armstrong Buddhism (Great Courses lectures on Audible) by David Eckel Love Service Devotion: Ram Dass on the Bhagavad Gita Wherever You Go There You Are by Jon Kabat-Zinn The Book of Joy by the Dalai Lama and Desmond Tutu After the Ecstasy, the Laundry by Jack Kornfield You’re It by Alan Watts (lecture series on Audible) Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism by Chogyam Trungpa
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