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Life Lessons from the Himalayas

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Moni and Pem Sherpa hiked up the Himalayas for two and a half months to reach the summit—this was not for any typical reason.  Most people journey across this mountain range that passes through countries like China, Pakistan, Nepal, and India for exercise, for a challenge of the mind and body, for breathtaking photography, for a nature-filled sojourn—but no.  This Nepali couple did not trek the entire Himalayas for any of these reasons; they went on their lengthy spiritual journey in 2005 to marry at the very peak of Mount Everest.  They are the very first couple, in the world, to be married at the top and they are the owners of our very own exotic shop on Main St., The Himalayan Bazaar.  The store, which opened in 2011, features Fair Trade Nepali goods like handmade jewelry, traditional clothing, statues, and unique gifts.
2012-Roshani (second from right) after the sunrise on Poon Hill

During the afternoon of Sunday, June 23rd, there was a very special event that took place in the shop.  Ann Arborite, Yoga master, and cultured Roshani Adhikary gave a very interesting presentation on her treks in the Himalayas and on the key life lessons that she has taken away from her experiences.  The 30 year old grew up mainly in Ann Arbor with Nepali parents, and after college, she found love in Nepal.  That’s why in the summer of 2011, she traveled to Kathmandu to marry, and she ended up living there for a year and a half.  Her time spent in Nepal was filled with personal and professional adventures, including leading yoga treks up the Himalayas.  She has done a total of ten treks, six of them being yoga treks.  Roshani summed up her travels and wisdom effectively into ten life lessons, and she cleverly made them applicable to midwestern lifestyles.  The ultimate goal of her talk was to show people how to create happier lifestyles for themselves in order to make the most of all the moments of life and to achieve balance.  Here they are:

1. Greetings Matter-Namaste

While she was on her yoga treks, Roshani would only be accompanied by a few other people and they wouldn’t come across others for days.  Due to her circumstances in the Himalayas, she was incredibly grateful and excited when she and her group would at last, encounter another living being in the depths of the lonely and endless mountains.  She would put her clasped palms over her heart and say, “Namaste”.  It is a greeting and parting courtesy, as well as a gesture that is commonly used by Hindus and Buddhists.  As Roshani put it, “the soul within me bows down to the soul within you”.  Even her own husband, Sandeep did not know of this beautiful translation.  “It is a humble offering coming from a stranger, who is welcoming you”, she said.  The power of people and the importance of respect became very apparent and meaningful to her during her treks, and she realized that she took for granted, all the people she walks by everyday, in the streets of Ann Arbor.  Roshani told her audience that, “eyes are the window to the soul”.  Eye contact is a way in which we can emulate Namaste here in Ann Arbor.  Without it, we feel vulnerable and invisible to others, but once we make eye contact with one another, we feel not only noticed, but validated.

2. Eat to Live

While on her treks, Roshani would not have very much access to food.  Even lentils and potatoes or rice were a luxury in the mountains, especially in the rural areas.  She really was forced to eat in order to survive in the Himalayas, so she was very grateful for any food-even if it wasn’t to her liking.  She realized, that in Ann Arbor, there are ten food markets that are within ten miles of her house.  In this sense, we really do live in luxury in Ann Arbor, with all the different types of markets from Korean, to Indian, to Middle Eastern.  Here we eat what we like and we have too many options.  To change this habit, Roshani makes one meal each day with simply the things that are already available in her kitchen, without any emphasis on whether or not the outcome would be to her liking.  Sometimes we shouldn’t focus on the taste and over indulge; we should be full of gratitude for the meals we have every single day.

Roshani in Nepal

3. Take it Easy

Frequently on her journeys, Roshani would guide Swedish and Norwegian businesswomen through the Himalayas.  Since they all had very demanding, high position jobs, they didn’t have a clue what to do with themselves without their typical gadgets.  There is no Wi-Fi, or electricity, in the mountains, thus these women had to abandon technology and learn to adapt to their new environment.  It was difficult at first to adjust to the shock, but after a while, they realized that they could relax, be carefree, and survive without their technological comforts.  At last, they had to surrender and enjoy themselves.  The picture of them smiling wholeheartedly, taking a swim in the natural hot springs was a great reflection of learning how to take it easy.  With unplanned free time, people can unleash creativity and discover new uses of time—they did it by bathing in natural hot springs.

Roshani Adhikary-courtesy of ECS Healthy Life Magazine

4. Release the Kid Within 

Roshani shared with us a story about a time when she was stressed.  She had been trekking for many days, and at the end of one day, she was absolutely exhausted.  She could barely get through the door to sit down.  Moving at that point was unbearable.  Once she threw herself unto the couch, with relief, she dug into her pocket for her muscle soother.  Unfortunately, she hadn’t packed the muscle soother, and instead, she found a kaleidoscope.  This devastated her, because her sore, aching body needed to be comforted.  A Tibetan monk was sitting near her, and he asked her why she looked so upset and frustrated.  She explained, and he asked to see the kaleidoscope.  He had never seen such a toy, and once he looked into it, he shrieked with wonderment and giddiness.  As she taught him how to use the kaleidoscope, and as she observed his curiosity, Roshani realized that we take exciting things, like kaleidoscopes, for granted, and then she began to laugh.  We can’t constantly be stiff, tense, and consumed with work and responsibility.  We must learn to relax and play, unleash the child within us, in order to rejuvenate and be optimistic.  In Ann Arbor, there are great places like The Hands On Museum, The Ann Arbor Ice Cube, Fuller Park Pool, or Nichols Arboretum where you can let go and have fun.  Playing in nature is one of the simplest things, and some think it is a silly way to spend time, but it is actually incredibly reviving and beautiful.  There are many things and places around us that can help us free up our spirit.

Moni and Pem's daughter with Anita Adhikary's (Roshani's mom) book, N is for Nepal

5. Magic is in the Moment

Often when we are at an event or at a certain place, our mind is on something else.  When Roshani was on the trails one time, she was constantly worrying about things back home, like her husband, as she was recently married, and her social networks, email, etc.  She was not really into the trek, or the people she was hiking with.  Once she started to recognize the fact that she can always be at home, but only be on the Himalayas twice a year, at the most, she imbibed the beauty around her. She took in the thinning air, the depth of the huge rocks, and the people she was with.  Roshani realized that she hadn’t been living in the moment, and that she hadn’t invested her mind into the real time experience.   She told us, “You can never step in the same river twice”.  Take in every unique moment and become engaged and part of the glory.  If you don’t, you will regret it. 

6. Be Prepared

With the inability to see into the future, it is always wise to be prepared for any situation that may come your way.  In the mountains, you don’t have access to boiling water, so you should bring a portable water filter like the Katadyn Microfilter, a reliable filtered bottle, with warranty.  You should always have a red cross kit anywhere you go.  Especially in Michigan, where bipolar weather is prevalent, it is always wise to have rain gear and snow gear on hand.  Roshani told us of a time when her car got into a ditch in a snow storm.  If she had packed kitty litter in her trunk, and boots to replace her high heels, she would have been prepared for this, and thus had avoided wasting time.  

7. When in Doubt Just Breathe

When you’re stressed, busy, or even overwhelmed with everything life is throwing at you, try to take a moment and breathe.  If you just keep worrying, you will end up being unproductive because you don’t even know where to begin accomplishing tasks.  While running on the treadmill, don’t think, “I have an hour left of my workout”.  During exam periods, don’t think, “I have four more days of finals”.  If you’re stuck in traffic don’t succumb to road rage.  There will always be a slow car or a string of red lights, and there is nothing you can do about it.  Sometimes, things are just the way they are and if you handle them with calmness, then everything will be much smoother.  Most of life is about the way in which we react to things, so in this sense, we have control over our lives. 

Seated Pigeon Pose in Ghandruk, Nepal

8. Disconnect to Reconnect

Roshani admitted that she is a Facebook addict; then again, most of us can admit that we are addicted too.  With technology, comes isolation, and a non-verbal lifestyle.  Gadgets consume our minds, and we become disconnected to the world happening around us.  Every once in a while, it is good to disconnect from these distractions in order to reconnect with more natural parts of our surroundings.  Roshani recommends disconnecting for a day each month in order to reconnect with nature.  Disconnecting gives the mind a break from work and technology so that when we come back to our work, we can be more focused and do things much more efficiently. 

9. The Prize is the Process

Similar to magic being in the moment, absorb the journey you take to get somewhere.  When Roshani was on the trails one time, her mind was solely focused on reaching the summit, the hyped up glory of the Himalayas.  There was a group of Norwegians who were coming back from the summit and they had not gotten a chance to see it due to extreme fog.  Roshani thought that it must have been a waste of time and a huge let down that they didn’t get to see the incredible view at the top, but they exclaimed that they got so much out of the trip.  They captured all the beauty of the mountains, on the way to the peak, and they made enjoyable memories all along the way.   Don’t just be preoccupied with the hype or the finished product; enjoy the process and work hard during it, in order to be rewarded in the end.  A lot of us, keep thinking of the next thing, the better gadget, the next promotion.  “Feel lucky now”, Roshani tells us, “bask in the glory”.  Be grateful for your current job, your house, your clothes, and food.

10. Move

Last but not least, is living an active lifestyle.  We all know that in order to be healthy, we must exercise as often as we can.  Seriously, just do it!  Don’t keep telling yourself that it will happen and hoping that you will find motivation.  If you think about it too much, it will never happen.  Get out there and move and your mind, heart, and body will thank you for it.  Be grateful if you have the ability to move, instead of being handicap or paralyzed, and use your gift. 

Roshani with her husband, Sandeep at the Ann Arbor Summer Festival

Trekking seasons on the Himalayan range are March-April and October-November.  Each day, people typically walk on the trails from 6 a.m. -5 p.m., when the sun is up.  People in Nepal don’t typically go on these treks, because they have to tend to their work in their villages or cities.  You don’t see very many Nepali women alone on the range, because culturally, it is not very acceptable.  Nowadays, more local people hike, wearing professional mountain gear, and making unique fashion statements.  If you are interested on going on a trek in Nepal, Tibet, and Bhutan, with a group of Ann Arborites, visit www.ofglobalinterest.com.  You can contact the coordinator, Heather O’Neal at ofglobal@aol.com or call (734) 369-3107.  This contact information is for The Himalayan Lodge LLC in Ann Arbor as well, which is also run by Pem and Moni Sherpa.  Visit www.himalayanlodge.com for information on the hotel, and if you have any questions about the shop or the owners, contact them at info@thehimalayanbazaar.com - (734) 997-7229.

Roshani Adhikary teaches yoga at Ita Yoga Studio, Washtenaw Health and Fitness Center, and she also does private lessons. 

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