Discovering Bhutan – Land of the Thunder Dragon

Bhutan first came to my notice whilst on a plane leaving Tibet. A picture of a monastery perched on the side of a mountain caught my eye. It was a place I had dreamed of many times. It has been shrouded for centuries in the misty serenity of the Himalayas and is a deeply spiritual country where myths and legends abound and I knew that sometime, somehow, I would go there. Years passed and then an invitation came for me to join a group of women, as their spiritual advisor, in Bhutan; my dream was about to come true!
Nestling in a valley high in the Himalayas makes the approach to Paro (Bhutan’s only airport) quite something. The plane weaved a lot but the views of the mountains were spectacular. Tears started streaming down my face as we landed. I had come home. The air was so clean and clear. We were met by local guides and transferred to our hotel. The roads were twisting and narrow as we made our way up the hillside and we were treated to our first glances of simple Bhutanese homes. Entering the hotel I knew we were going to be in for a special time; it clung deftly to the side of the mountain looking down at the river below. I was already regretting we were only here for five days. There is nothing like experiencing sacred lands for accelerating personal/spiritual growth and releasing issues from past events – even if we are not consciously aware, we still receive a gift of grace when visiting a sacred site.
That evening, just before dinner, we sat together for a talk on mandalas; religious circular art representing the divine self, which can be found all over Bhutan. Painting a mandala is a sacred ritual, so after a meditation for us to connect to our own inner divine being we each drew a section of a mandala to represent our group. Our hotel had a fire pit in the courtyard and being a chilly November evening I later found myself alone at the pit. But magic was in the air. Without any light pollution to blind the cosmic beauty all around us, the stars shone. My heart chakra opened and to my amazement so did my throat chakra. I sang and sang. Not words but sounds from the heart. I felt whole; a feeling still with me today. The following day we set out to explore the cultural heritage. The first thing I noticed was how happy the people were, everyone smiling, laughing and waving, despite what we would term as living in poverty. Everywhere we went we saw ‘chilies’ (Bhutan’s national dish) being dried on the roof tops. Bhutanese food is simple, healthy and lightly spiced. We went to the Ta Dzong which is now a museum. I was in awe of the beauty and workmanship of the mandalas and Tonkas representing Buddha in his many forms and his journey to enlightenment. We went to the Rinpung Dzong fortress which is now the seat of government for the Paro district as well as a working monastery. Our local guides had to dress in national costume to enter. We then had a picnic by the river sourced from melted snow high in the snow capped mountains.
Next day, the highlight of our trip, the Taktsang monastery, known as the ‘Tigers Nest’ and the place of my dreams. It is believed that Padma Sambhava (the second Buddha) flew to Bhutan on the back of a tiger and landed at Taktsang. It is one of the most sacred sites in the world. In Tibet that there are a series of monasteries built on Buddha’s chakras. The Jokhang Temple in Lhasa is believed to be at the heart chakra and many believe Taktsang sits at the crown chakra.As we quietly wandered the age old pathways up the mountain, we caught a glimpse of the amazing flora and fauna, so unusual to our eyes. Half way up we reached a café where lunch was waiting and a welcome toilet break. This is as far as many people go but we had permission to enter the monastery. There was a hush in the air and it seemed to get quieter, the energy strong, the closer we got to the monastery. I kept wondering how anyone had actually put up the prayer flags we were passing. In fact, how had anyone actually managed to build the monastery in the first place? On the last bend all you could hear were the birds and a waterfall. This was a special moment for us all. I remember climbing the steps and mentally asking permission to enter the outer gardens and being greeted by a deep voice in my mind saying welcome. The feeling of peace and serenity which had been building step by step along the way washed over me – I was finally returning to my roots.
We made our way to the main temple and removing our shoes as we entered. One of the monks, who we later discovered was the head Lama, spoke to our guides. He said he recognized us all as ‘sisters in spirit’ of different religions from different parts of the world all with a common spiritual goal. He said he would like to give us all a personal blessing to which we quickly agreed. I felt most honoured. The blessing ceremony was beautiful as he chanted prayers over our heads and anointed us with holy water. I felt cleansed. When completed we expressed our thanks and went out onto the little balcony. It was 11 November, Armistice day and although it was early afternoon we formed a circle holding. As I was about to begin the head Lama came out of the temple and asked if he could join us. He joined our circle and held our hands as I lead the meditation. During those prayers I felt a great weight being lifted from my shoulders. I felt a tingling at the top of my head and a throbbing in my third eye as both these chakras opened wider. The Lama told us, every day at 11am, he stands on the balcony and send prays of peace to all sentient beings. I felt most humbled that he had chosen to join us and even more so when he offered to accompany us out of the monastery to take some photos. As we left the monastery he pointed to a spring and told us (translated by our guides) it was Buddha water. Legend says it was where Buddha hit the rock with his staff and water appeared. Luckily I had an empty bottle with me, which I quickly filled. I now use this sacred water in the essences I make. As we left there were tears of sadness and joy running down my face and I was not alone, most members of the group had been touched in some way. Further down the valley we stopped and had our own prayer flag ceremony and I know those little flags are still sending peace and joy to the world. That evening we watched local dancers enacting the myths and legends of this beautiful land. It was a wonderful finish to an awe-inspiring few days.
More Info: The Bhutanese have nurtured their ancient way of life, and all their traditions. They have cars, electricity, and all the trappings of modern life. But they also have serenity, joy and laughter and breathtaking unspoiled scenery. Nowhere in the Himalayas is the natural heritage more rich and varied than in Bhutan. Historically, Bhutan was called the ‘Valley of Medicinal Herbs’. It is a healing place. The past and the present co-exist with a population of 700,000 people who believe that happiness is more important than money. To join Joylina on her next sacred journey or discover how to live with soul visit www.joylina.com.

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