When I think of Ladakh, my compartmentalised heart gets flooded with joy, my three decade old memory that is on its way to develop early Alzheimer’s, starts behaving extraordinarily & pieces together my one week long Ladakh trip day-by-day. In that moment, my ever-anxious mind somehow manages to calm down, my heart beats a bit slower as if it’s preparing to cope with high altitudes, and my eyes start scanning the horizons for glimpses of Earth-toned mountains, covered with snow in patches, waiting to welcome all who have sought refuge in the warm, welcoming & wealthy landscapes of Ladakh.
From the morning alarms to mid-night noises in the mind, the day is riddled with sounds – some that can be blocked & some that you can only listen to, but can’t trace the source of. These sounds, and innumerable conversations coupled with an active social life (in real or on your mobile) keep you & me busy throughout the day. This constant sense of busyness demands constant management & scheduling, which sometimes takes all the energy that I have. While my friends and colleagues vouch for traditional meditational retreats to fix this once for all, I am still working on the patience levels it requires to sit still, focus, think & watch your breath. At least that’s what I believed in until I visited the ‘land of high passes’ that was dotted with White Chortens, decorated with Buddhist Prayer Flags almost everywhere, had a sporadic display of Zen rocks, and resonates with soothing ‘om mani padme hum’, all the time.
I remember my first day in Ladakh vividly – the landing was bumpy & turbulent just like my state of mind weighing heavy with the assignments that I left in between, at work. The ride from the aircraft to the port was a congested one, as if it’s trying to mirror my emotional set-up. That wasn’t it though; the airport was running an announcement on symptoms of ‘altitude sickness’ in loop – the first of which was a headache & a feeling of nausea. As I heard the announcement, my head started thumping, my eyes couldn’t focus and I felt like puking. I felt I would drop, but then I saw a brief glimpse of a mountain, and a familiar face outside the gate. The next two hours were spent chit-chatting, discussing do’s and don’ts of being in Ladakh, and uncorking a bottle full of PJ’s, as if these were saved for a special time like meeting school friends.
Also read: 8 days in Ladakh
Human mind and body works in mysterious ways which I often realise & seldom remember. From 2 pm to 5 pm on Day 1, I experienced heavy dizziness, and my heart beat faster so much so that it would sometimes be the only sound that I would hear. This was altitude sickness coupled with a mind full of turbulence & a body used to lethargic, sedentary lifestyle, often associated with corporate junkies. I tried diverting my mind, but nothing worked and I felt I would collapse anytime…and all of it changed when I witnessed yet another marvel– Shanti Stupa with the backdrop of the Sun slowly hiding behind the mountains, slightly below the clouds. That sight indulged all my senses, and for a long time, I kept looking at it while the sky changed colours before eventually turning to a Bluish-Orange that gives you the feeling of ‘calling it a day’ for you no longer feel the need to attend to anything more, but sit back and relax.
The monastery tour in Ladakh:
The next day was the brightest as it helped me see why an occasional ‘break’ from the routine is required, and how it helps recharge your batteries. The day, however, did more than that. The usual ‘me’, who gets irritated at every chance, loses calm for no apparent reason, and yells like there is no tomorrow, was busy with the Beige landscapes and warm yet dry tones of the place. I wasn’t getting tired, and I wasn’t hungry either. Part of this was to do with the altitude, but most of it was to do with the resonance that I discovered with the inherent music in the monasteries.
The sight of lamas, the towering statues of Lord Buddha, and the colourful wall murals accentuated the infinite landscapes of Ladakh that convey possibilities. 10,000+ steps and a day full of experiences where I hardly said a few words here & there, put me at ease with everything that week. My mobile didn’t work for most part of the trip & I didn’t really care. I wasn’t connected to emails, social media and my near & dear ones, and I realised it much late in that week. For that whole week, from the time I visited the monasteries, what was important was – staying quiet in the monasteries & look around me at the swaying trees, tall mountains, a hint of rivers, a dash of Greenery, the flowing colors of flags on the top of the monasteries, queued chortens, symbolic of, peace and living through all of it, breath by breath.
My AHA moment at Diskit:
I can count the instances, when in life, I felt the need to stay quiet & sit in a place with no need of any external company, devoid of any strong emotions, with no stream of thoughts clouding my mind, and my heart free of all ‘daily-visitor’ feelings. In such moments, I strangely forget where I am and who is looking at me, and I feel strongly connected to myself. I close my eyes and stay in that place for as long as I can. The only times I open my eyes is to look at the scene that’s produced that impact on me, and photograph it with my eyes so that it stays on my mind, & in my heart always…to eventually becomes a part of my soul, to live forever. This is how I felt in Diskit which brought me to the realisation that life is full of surprises, and just when I feel that I have seen it all, there’s a new one waiting for me.