Lessons of Acceptance from Nepal

Dear Readers,

The name of this blog is Exploring Acceptance; a theme that has become so relevant in my life particularly in the last four years.  Since I’ve come to Nepal, this theme has become even more apparent.  I have been welcomed into the homes of so many people, sharing our lives through conversation.  Drinking tea together, eating our meals together.  It would be naïve of me to ignore my perspective, to ignore the tendency to compare what I encounter here with what I have encountered in the past.  Comparisons can be damaging at times–creating categories of ‘good’ and ‘bad’–however, the act of comparison becomes inevitable as I find myself in a new land, surrounded by new faces, new environments, new norms.  I am exploring all of these new surroundings, and most everywhere I look, I am exploring acceptance.

My exploration of this theme comes in various forms, for example my acceptance of difference.  I encounter difference each day, and each day I try to welcome this difference.  It is this acceptance of difference that expands my mind, that teaches me, that gives me insight into the world we live in.  Our individual worlds are comprised of only what is available for us to access.  Our worlds often become familiar; however, I have stepped out of my individual world.  I am residing in a new place and my world is expanding every day.  At times, it is difficult to accept this; during these periods of non-acceptance I feel my stress.  As I become aware again, as I look around me and ground myself, acceptance becomes tangible once again.  It is in this acceptance that my present moment can be accessed more completely.  It is in these moments of connectedness, these moments of acceptance, that I prefer to dwell in.

I find teachers of accepting difference everywhere I look here.  The fuel crisis is continuing to worsen.  The government of Nepal is weak, the economy is weak, the people are not.  The people confront difference every day and they adapt.  It is a skill that I am so grateful to be around.  I am living deep inside Nepal.  My experience is not that of  a typical foreigner in this country as I am living with Nepalese people in their homes away from the tourist areas, inside the reality of the country.  It is an experience I am so grateful for–a testament to the generosity, hospitality, and strength of relationships within this culture.

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Pictured above are examples of accepting difference, accepting challenges, and continuing with life together through hardships.  These pictures were taken on the last day of the Hindu holiday of Tihar, “Bhai Tika”– which is the holiday in which the brother-sister relationship is honored.  In Kathmandu, gas is the primary means of cooking.  With the blockade continuing along the Indian border, gas among other commodities is scarce.  Due to this scarcity, people are resorting to other means of cooking their meals.  I sat with the people pictured above as they prepared their food for the celebration of Bhai Tika; during this time we discussed the situation of the country.  The explanation of the situation, however stressful it may be, was not delivered with sadness.  It was delivered with acceptance.  It was a lesson that I continually confront as I go through life–accepting my position, adapting, and continuing.

I’m encountering another aspect of acceptance here–accepting the risks others’ take in portraying themselves, witnessing the encouragement of these risks.  There is a tradition here during the nights of Tihar called Deusi Bhailo.  At this time, groups of children, adolescents, and adults, will travel around their neighborhoods offering entertainment to those who welcome them.  My first experience with this tradition was beautiful.  Children came to the house I am staying at and performed songs and dances as we watched with smiles and feelings of joy.  A group of teenagers came to the house and performed with instruments and a microphone they traveled around with.  During this performance some of the members of my house joined in, dancing and singing without reservation.  In this time, my tendency to compare my past with my present emerged, as I became aware of the reservations I have had to not participate so easily, so freely, in fear of what others may think.  This night I experienced people who were free, and in this freedom that they dwelled in, there was joy, there was laughter, and there was acceptance.

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Celebrating Tihar with my Nepalese family was formalized acceptance; acceptance that was not necessary as I am a guest in this culture.  However, I am learning every day that I am welcome here, that I am wanted, accepted, and loved.

These feelings of acceptance and love allow me to grow, to flourish where I am.  It is in this comfort that I can continue to learn and to fully be present.  These new friends welcome me into their homes, not as a guest, but as a part of their family.  Life is interesting in this way.  Just four years ago, I felt acceptance and understanding from only a handful of people.  Now, I encounter acceptance daily, keeping those from my past with me always, while basking in the warmth of new acceptance.

There is a game called ‘Ping’ here, pictured above, in which bamboo is constructed in a way that one can swing from it.  In these past two weeks that I have been absent from writing to you I was feeling tense at times.  I was unaware of this tension, as is normally the case, until some people allowed me to release it.  I was with Nitu–the sister of my Nepalese family back in America–visiting at the home of my past trekking guide.  Nitu is someone who sparkles when she enters a room, spreading joy through laughter and lightheartedness accompanied by fierce love for those she is close with.  I am so grateful to have Nitu in my life, infusing my days with joy, reminding me that life is something to celebrate.

This is the daughter of my trekking guide.  She and her sister unexpectedly invited me to play Ping as I exited the bathroom of her home.  As we walked there, I was told how happy they were to have met me.  It’s a beautiful feeling to know that just my presence alone is enough.  It’s a feeling that allows me to be who I am in that moment, without reservation, without fear.  It is a feeling I hope to spread to those around me.

The contents of that day were not planned.  It was a day that unfolded beautifully and effortlessly; the joy captured in the photos above.  Moments of vulnerability that display themselves in environments of acceptance.  Nepal and its people have already taught me so much.  I feel myself growing; I feel myself learning.  I remember writing about the present moment before I left, explaining that each moment brings change and change is what I will dwell in as my home.  Nepal is teaching me this lesson once again; showing me that plans will change along with circumstances.  We tend to resist this change, but it is only when we accept it that we will find peace.

Thank you, as always, for reading and listening, giving me a platform to learn how to share without fear.

Jennifer