my experience at kopan monastery
Sujan's family graciously drove me the 30 minutes to Kopan Monastery, which is outside Kathmandu. The roads were small and curvy. We had a difficult time finding the place due to no street signs and the lack of infrastructure in that area. Eventually we got the monastery!
I headed into the massive gate protecting the monastery from the outside world. I walked into the reception area where I booked my four night stay. The rooms were quite nice. I had originally booked a dormitory style bed, but there weren't enough visitors to make living in it worthwhile. Instead, I received a single room with an amazing view.
My first night consisted of reading a few Buddhism books and a nice view. I started reading "The Daily Wisdom: Dalai Lama", which gave me 365 daily quotes of the famous Dalai Lama and his wise wisdom. The next book I started alongside the other was "The Essence of Tibetan Buddhism." Both books gave me a better understanding of the religion.
That night at dinner, I met a few travellers that invited me to 6:30am yoga the next morning. Starting my day at 6:30am with yoga was a nice change, relaxing in fact. We then went o breakfast at 7:30am. Buddhist are vegetarians, so the meal consisted of porridge, boiled eggs and sweet bread. It was a tasty meal.
I then headed to meditation and Dharma talk at 10am with a local monk. She, the monk, was originally from Sweden and had been at Kopan for a few decades. I had no idea how to meditate, so the group started out in beginner mode. I crossed my legs on a square mat with a circular pad in the middle. I closed my eyes, put my right hand on top of my left and connected my thumbs. This posture was crucial to respect Buddha. Dhyana, also called Smadhi or Yoga Mudra, both hands are placed on the lap, right hand on left with fingers fully stretched and the palms facing upward. This is the characteristic gesture of Buddha Shakyamuni, Dhyani Buddha Amitaba and the Medicine Buddhas. We stayed in this postion for ten minutes while the monk guided us with our breaths. She gave us an exercise to try and control our thoughts. By counting to five seconds, I had to completely clear my mind from any thoughts or distractions around me. It was more difficult than it sounds. The birds were chirping, dogs barking and there were people talking around me. In the end, I could only get to two seconds.
After meditation, we talked about Buddhism and what it entails. I forgot most of what she said, so the books gave me more of understanding of the religion. Once we were done, we headed to lunch. After lunch, the day was free for me to walk around the property and read. The next 3 days consisted of this. With no internet or a way to see the outside world, I had a lot to think about.
Coming from an adrenaline rush in paragliding and zip lining to a more relaxing retreat at Kopan Monastery, the differences were completely opposite. But the two extremes were exactly what I needed on this trip. The more extremes on both ends of the spectrum, the better my entire trip will be. Both experiences were out of my comfort zone, yet, I still accomplished my goals without hesitation. That's the best part of travelling. One needs to get out of his/her comfort zone to really experience the cultures in each country. Nepal is the exact opposite of the USA. Yet, I feel right at home because of my attitude toward change.