Impressions from Nepal
A long time dream of mine, an excursion to Nepal and the Himalayas, recently became a reality. I was a fortunate member of a small group of sound therapy students to participate in a singing bowl workshop and retreat at one of the most exotic and colorful places I have ever visited. The program was organized and lead by Mitch Nur, PhD, Senior Teacher at 9ways Academia. Mitch and his dear wife Michele pulled together an incredible 10 day program which brought us closer to the deep meanings of sound, frequency and vibration while touring highly diverse surroundings and cultural sites. Mitch’s knowledge and wisdom are priceless treasures.
Crank up the volume when playing this clip as it is accompanied by a beautiful piece that I was able to license from the composer and Krishna Das – please share it with friends and family.
As a photographer and sound therapist who closely works with frequencies of light and sound, it was an unforgettable experience to witness first hand a highly spiritual culture. One that is rooted in sounds’ ability to serve as a vehicle in reaching heightened states of consciousness, awareness and the resulting ability to communicate with the multitude of higher powers that are being revered in this part of the world.
To witness the birthing process of a Himalayan singing bowl from powder and scrap metal to its’ capacity to sing at a mind altering frequency, is an experience that forever has a special place in my heart. The 8 singing bowls and other sound tools that I hand carried back will be strong reminders of this culture that is so deeply rooted in the qualities of sound. Another special place in my heart have all the countless people and settings I was able to touch with my cameras and lenses. If even a small fraction of the magic and visual fireworks I experienced comes through in my sound meditation sessions and my photography, and will inspire those they come in touch with, I will consider myself very fortunate indeed.
Kathmandu metropolis with its 1 million people, and capitol of Nepal, sits in a 220 sq mile valley that once was a large lake. Legend has it that “Manjushree – God of Divine Wisdom” cut with his sword the southern wall of the hills. The water of the lake drained to the south and the dry valley became Kathmandu Valley, situated at an altitude of about 4,000 – 5,000 ft and home to about 2.5 million people of Nepal’s total population of approximately 27 million. The valley is fertile, highly diverse and compact. It is home to a record seven World Heritage Sites declared by UNESCO, which are architectural and civic wonders and monuments to Nepal’s religiosity, artistry and past prosperity.
It is impossible to resist the constant barrage of sensory impressions. A staccato of vehicle horns and engine noise, mixed with street vendors’ and shop owners’ vocal efforts to lure one into their small and packed enterprises make for a very unique cacophony. Accompanied by an endless stream of highly diverse, colorful, and to a western mind oftentimes incomprehensible visual impressions, one cannot help but be swept away onto a journey of complete sensory overload. During my stay I have not seen one single traffic light (!) and the photo of the telephone lines should be a good indicator of the beautiful, ever prevailing chaos. Apparently nobody seems to know, or care, where all these lines lead to…so why not just keep adding new ones? Yes….that is one way of doing it.
How wonderful it is to swim in the sea of such stimulating energies and to witness a nation whose people are strongly rooted in deep and ancient spiritual traditions, beliefs and ways of living. About 81.3 % of Nepalis practice Hinduism, making it the country with the highest percentage of Hindus. Buddhism is linked historically with Nepal and is practiced by 12%, Kirat 5.1%, Islam by 4.4%, Christianity 1.4%, and Animism 0.4%. A large section of the population, especially in the hill region, even though they follow Hindu customs, may identify themselves as both Hindu as well as Buddhists, which can be attributed to the syncretic nature of Hinduism and Buddhism in Nepal. In the end though, it is very apparent that people revere their gods when they openly pay tribute and reverence while passing the many local shrines, temples and prayer sites.
Quite different from the chaotic yet highly enjoyable dynamisms of Kathmandu is the Annapurna region of the Himalayas, about 200 miles west of the capitol. Dubbed “the abode of the Gods”, the spectacular heights of the snowy Himalaya dominate Nepal. The Himalayan range is home to the planet’s highest peaks, with 29,028 ft including the highest, Mount Everest. Of the ten highest mountains in the world, eight are located in Nepal. The Himalayas have profoundly shaped the cultures of South Asia as many Himalayan peaks are sacred in both Buddhism and Hinduism. The Himalayas abut or cross six countries: Bhutan, India, Nepal, China, Afghanistan and Pakistan, with the first three countries having sovereignty over most of the range.
Three of the world’s major rivers, the Indus, the Ganges and the Tsangpo–Brahmaputra, all rise near Mount Kailash in Tibet and cross and encircle the Himalayas. Their combined drainage basin is home to some 600 million people. Lifted by the collision of the Indian tectonic plate with the Eurasian Plate, the Himalayan range runs, west-northwest to east-southeast, in an arc 2,400 kilometers (1,500 mi) long.
Aside from the stunningly natural beauty one is surrounded by, one aspect that forms an unshakable foundation for this rich, yet poor country is its people. Where ever I went, I was welcomed with a genuine and heartfelt smile that was accompanied by a sense of dignity and curiosity. People seemed authentic, genuine and to revere the “right” god(s), which clearly are not rooted in materialism.
In a land where regular power outages and water restrictions are mandated and controlled by the government, the low income range is around $2.80 / day and a gallon of gasoline costs about $8 as opposed to say $.80 in Doha, Qatar, it will be very interesting to observe how the “digital revolution” will spread its tentacles over the short years to come. It left an indelible impression in my mind to notice satellite dishes on the simplest form of homes on steep hillsides removed from “civilization” and routes accessible by car. Or to view farmers plow their small terrace fields with oxen and water buffalo while talking on their mobile devices or listening to music streaming from their handheld MP3 players.
Despite the fact that Nepal is amongst the poorest countries on the planet, while being the 2nd richest country in fresh water resources, and her infrastructure needs a lot of assistance from those who successfully went the path before her, and that also means us in the “Western World”. Clearly, the beauty and wonder lies with her people, history and in her natural richness and diversity. Qualities which, as one can only hope, will remain unspoiled for long times to come so that they may be experienced enjoyed by generations to come.
I am grateful for having been able to make new friends and to deepen existing friendships. You know who you are when you read this. Thank you for your gifts. My time at the Divaya Ashram with all its beautiful members and helpers that do anything possible to make you feel special and comfortable, has been a truly remarkable experience. The exquisite arrangements provided by Mitch and Michele for the first leg of my excursion, and first class logistics and accommodations by my friend Shelane Nunnery of Huffman Travel as well as the people at Ker & Downey for the second, are by far the best I have experienced thus far. A profound experience have been the moments spent at the Singing Bowl Gallery & Museum in Thamel, which with its wonderful and helpful people remain true treasures never to be forgotten.
I am humbled for having been able to experience all the above and embrace the many magical gifts that for sure will keep on giving for many years to come.
Namaste to you all
A student and practitioner of metaphysics for over thirty years, Marian Kraus utilizes three large gongs, several Himalayan singing bowls and four Burmese whirling gongs (Kyeezees) to present guided gong meditations in a variety of public and private settings. He is a member of the International Sound Healers Association and a licensed PSYCH-K® facilitator. In addition he is a professional photographer and member of the American Society of Media Photographers. Photographs (except satellite image of the Himalayas) were provided by Marian Kraus Photography