Guest Post: Hiking To A Monastery One Day...
This post is a guest post brought to you by Hitoko Okada, who has been featured in a few stories on Living In A Green Room (here and here). She agreed to be my second guest blogger and her story made me laugh out loud. So... enjoy! And visit her blog to take a peek at her clothing and art designs.
Hiking toward an old Buddhist monastery deep in the Himalayan foothills of Sikkim, India, I intercepted a small group of German botanists adventuring on a orchid expedition. I was delighted! Being an orchid enthusiast myself, I was photo documenting orchids throughout my journeys across a Pan-Asia Buddhist pilgrimage. So, naturally, they warmly welcomed me to join them.
As we continued our ascent towards the monastery, we identified various wild Vanda species and other rare botanicals. Suddenly, a thick cloud cover began to wrap around us and the misty forest grew dim and damp .
The forest leaves dripped with collected cloud moisture and even my clothes absorbed a dampness like wrung-out laundry. The air grew cool and quiet.
In the hush, I heard a whimpered sigh behind me. I turned around, and to my surprise one of the botanists, in his cargo shorts, has a dripping bleeding wound. “The leeches got me, John, could you pass me the salt stick”, he said frankly.
I halted at the word “leeches”. My eyes darted. I abruptly crouched scanning upwards, dodging for possibly falling leeches from above. Then I scanned the forest floor, focusing through the dim light, and realised that the ground... was moving. It was covered, I mean covered, with wriggling little leeches. They were seeking hot blood and shape-shifting squeezing between the fibers of woven threads to get to their fill.
I screamed so f***ing loud, with flailing arms and convulsing like a frantic puppet on tangled strings, I hopped about desperately trying to avoid ground contact completely out of control and far beyond any hope of dignity or sanity. I screamed and flailed all the way up to the monastery, much to the botanist’s relief, I’m sure.
Once I got there, completely oblivious to the mindful and peaceful space, I threw my shoes off, frantically checked my bare feet and legs and I prostrated myself, grateful for not having leeches on me. I pleaded and begged how was I going to make it back?
The monastery was an elderly, and humble building. Inside was dark, lit with flickering yak butter tea lights, with streams of smokey light coming in from the glassless windows. There was a large shining Buddha figure gilded in gold, elevated and centered. The space radiated a powerful presence.
I was not promised a safe passage.
I was not re-assured, nor judged for my irrational fears.
But I was safe here, a moment of peace and compassion, before I returned to the path of facing my fears- the inevitable battle in life.
When I stepped back into the damp world and crossed the sea of green grass that lead me back into those wretched woods, I paused at the threshold, knowing what was there waiting for me.
This time, I did not scream, I did not convulse.
I moved into the enemy, afraid and knowingly through the dark, then emerged out of the woods on the other side alive, and awake.