We left the monastery before the official prayers began , to visit a monk in another ornate room, defined by gold and red artwork at which it was my turn to stare. People were giving the monk money—lots of money!!— and writing short verse on strips of paper. Prayers, I presume. The room was filled with food: elegant towers of fruit and bowls of candies, nuts, and seeds. The monk spoke a few words of perfectly-enunciated English, but I mainly listened to their conversation and gazed at the beauty of the room, firmly deciding that I want to fill my home with this beautiful Tibetan furniture and decor. If I could create a temple within my home, I would do so. Would it make my awareness of compassion greater and more frequent? Being in a temple that is the site of over 1000 years of prayers and worship certainly make me aware of my spiritual desires and the aspect of life that I miss so much because I lack discipline and get distracted by the small things that seem so big. In my pensiveness, I know that if I return to my daily practice of pranayama, asana, and meditation, that a focus on what is truly important will pervade my life—and improve my life and attitude and outlook. Over the past few years, discipline in my spiritual practice (and actually, many positive habits) has waned in tandem with my exercise habits; decreasing inversely to my energy and get-up-and-go. Sigh.
But back to the great things in life, like hiking up a hill and getting out of breath and getting lost in underbrush and getting scraped and scratched and bruised and blackened by mud! Yay! We stayed on the path for some time, going up and up, switchback after switchback. I am either really out of shape (probably) or affected by the the altitude (probably) or both (definitely). Luckily, my hiking partner moves slowly, and we agreed beforehand to go slow and stop for many photos. The town below us gets smaller and smaller, and the Paomashan ("Paoma" = name, "shan"=mountain) temple, which was so high above us, comes into a parallel view. We move up and around the temple, and then past it, to the point where I stopped last time-- on my first trip to Kangding. Here clings a garden plot impossibly slanted downward, protected by a rough-hewn fence. A few hours later and even the mountaintop-clinging clouds seem not too far off. The path narrows and is muddied from the previous night’s rain. Flowers are everywhere and spring is still springing on this mountain. A multitude of choices are before us, as numerous paths lead off the main one; in fact, the main path no longer seems like it, but rather, just one of numerous horse and wildlife side paths. Just after noon, we are at 2800m (8400 ft.); I don’t recall that I have ever hiked at this altitude. And I’m sure we have come up a thousand feet, because we are just going up and up and up—there is no flat ground that offers reprieve to my calves and glutes! I notice the pressure here is low, just over 700mb, perhaps I can blame the altitude for my huff-puff-huff-puff-racing heart. The town below is now a speck in miniature and only rarely viewed as we move deeper into the forest.
We discovered another house in ruins; stone walls, coming down, roofless, but this one surrounded by prayer flags. The doorway was blocked with thorny scrubs and branches—the Tibetan version of a “Do Not Enter!” sign? A small shrine with figurines was set against the far wall. Perhaps an important or revered monk had resided here at one time... I wonder how long this dwelling has existed... I wonder what it looked like originally... I wonder if I could simply squat somewhere like this in hidden mountain passes and create my own solitary dwelling.
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Back at the guesthouse, I practically beg for food, having only had 2 plums, one boazhe, half a steamed bun, and one boiled egg during the past 7 hours! Many lessons learned on this hike! I scarf a bowl of spicy yak meat and noodle soup, slurping to the end, and finish with a cool bowl of yak yogurt sprinkled with sugar. This offers me just enough energy to shower my scraped and exhausted body, write one paragraph, and plummet into a dreamless sleep on my traditional-style Tibetan bed!