Six days. Six days until I board the plane. Until I sit in my nervousness, my contentment, my fear, and my excitement. Seven days until I arrive in Nepal. I will spend these days preparing–an extension of the process I have been living in for the past several months. Preparation is precarious; mundane acts coupled with psychological chaos. Each day I have thought about what my days will be like while I am away. At night, I lay in bed and wonder what my evenings will be like while I am away.
As my brain fills up with thoughts to the future, I bring myself back again to life in the present moment. It is a practice I have grown so accustomed to. My head injury did not allow me to think of a future and often the past was too painful to think about. I lived within the depths of each moment I was granted. I grew to fall in love with myself as I was. A feat that most 24-year-old women–most people in general–cannot say about themselves. I examined my ‘flaws’; I came to love my flaws as I loved my merits and my successes. And in loving myself, I could befriend myself.
Dwelling in the present moment is not a state we are accustomed to in our contemporary times. We are worried about our futures, haunted by the ghosts of our past. Too anxious to sit in quiet meditation, we often resort to scrolling through social media sites, maybe reading the news, or conducting conversations with people in order to not sit in silence with ourselves. Sitting in silence with myself was scary; however, I learned that being scared, being uncomfortable, was when it was most important to sit in my silence. To accept my fears as I freely accept my happiness. To accept my anxiety in the same fashion that I accept my contentment. To understand that these feelings are not disjointed pieces, rather, they are all connected. Our sadness fades into our anxiety, our anger into our fear into our joys. Fading into our feelings, allowing them to flow in the fleeting fashion that they inevitably will embody. That was not an easy lesson to understand; it is a lesson that I lived in for years and now as I have re-entered the social world, I sometimes feel myself at a distance from what I have learned. That is why we call it a practice; it is not enough to learn it, I must live it.
During my healing process I was introduced to the work of Tich Nhat Hanh, a Buddhist monk from Vietnam who has dedicated his life to spreading the practice of mindfulness. I would like to share with you a thought of his:
“People sacrifice the present for the future. But life is available only in the present. That is why we should walk in such a way that every step can bring us to the here and now.”
It was his words that helped bring me to the realization that life was still available to me, and perhaps, I was in a state to accept my present moment in a way I had never realized before. I learned to understand what Tich Naht Hanh meant when he wrote that “life is available only in the present moment.” Life is not available in our schedules, our anxieties for the future, our past nightmares. Life is only available when we sit and we dwell in what is tangible to us at this moment. It is a thought that was hard for me to fully understand. From face value, his words may seem to suggest a sense of giving up, of not setting up the future of our dreams–a mindset many of us find ourselves anxiously stewing over every day– of ultimately detaching ourselves from life.
As I mulled over his words, I came to the realization that his meaning was quite contrary to my initial thoughts. He was not saying to detach ourselves; rather, he was saying to dwell in the present moment as we are planning the future, as we look to our past. To dream from the place that we find ourselves in. To be aware of each breath, the simple inhale and exhale, the contraction and release of our stomach muscles, the way our lungs fill up with fresh air and dispense the stale air. It is this connection to the present moment that we must ground ourselves in even as we look to the future.
I started this post with a time stamp– six days until my departure. However, I would like to re-examine my present moment. I would like to look to the future not from a standpoint of time, but from the feelings that come up for me, from the surroundings I dwell in now, with the understanding that life really is only available from where I find myself in the here and now. And so, with this awareness, I would like to present to you, my readers, an outline of what I will be doing while I am away.
I continue to be aware of the lessons of my past as I look to my future plans. I continue in my realization that life will change my plans. Life does not stop for anyone, even when our individual worlds fall apart as I felt mine did. Today, I realize that I have again rebuilt a new world for me to dwell in; a world that has introduced me to people I never thought I would meet, a world that is bringing me to Nepal. In my new world, I will be trekking the Himalayan mountains. I will meet people who have been devastated by the earthquake that struck the country in April of this year; people who are granting me acceptance into their broken worlds. In these words that I write, I am realizing that each of us are broken; it is within our individual acceptance of our brokenness that we can collectively put together our pieces once again. I will be dwelling in my differences while I am away. A feeling I have been haunted by in the past–I am different from most everyone my age, from most people I encounter. In this difference, I have felt sad, I have felt unrelateable, and I have felt lonely. In this difference, I am allowing myself to transition into feelings of contentment, feelings of love.
I will stay with family members of the people I have come to be so close with here in America–the people I have written about that showed me acceptance I did not know still existed when directed toward me. I will travel to the lowlands of Nepal and I will present to school districts on what the American school system is like. I will meet up with a Nepali friend from America who will travel to the country for his wedding ceremony in November. I will meet with the US Embassy and discuss the situation of refugees and internally displaced persons in Nepal. I will meet people in the major universities and international NGOs. I will return to the mountainous region of Nepal and I will meet more people who have been severely affected by the earthquake. I will be the ears that listen to their voices; I will grant them the feelings of acceptance and welcome that often lacks in times of crisis. I will accept life as it comes to me while I am away.
In this outline of my time, I realize the common thread of what makes this trip possible– the acceptance, the hospitality, and the love that I have received from my Nepali families here. They have shared with me and I have shared with them; it is a life lesson that I have encountered. Dwelling here in my present moment, I feel gratitude and I feel grace. I look to the future with hope and excitement and I remain in the presence of the love I receive now. My present moment is characterized by the ever-changing fashion that life itself is characterized by. It is this place of change that I will make my home.