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Monday, January 22, 2018

Sliding Down the Yak - Book Excerpt from "How I Learned to Talk to Rocks" by Pat Crosby




Spiritual Travel Adventure Book Excerpt “How I Learned to Talk to Rocks”™



SLIDING  DOWN  THE  YAK

Location: The Himalayas, Tibet, Mt Kailas


by Pat Crosby


          Public Domain Photo Credit: http://www.urltarget.com/nepal-yak-tibetan-ox-last-animal-bear-transport-1.html


After five freezing days crossing the boulder-strewn Tibetan plateau - a once-upon-a-time ocean floor - now 15,000 feet above the current ocean floor - known as “The Roof of the World”, jostling with our caravan of Chinese drivers, jeeps, overloaded supply trucks carrying two weeks of supplies for 40 some people (including food, portable kitchen, tents, sleeping bags, oxygen, fuel for cooking and driving, spare truck and jeep parts (sure glad we had plenty of those), Sherpa porters and guides, we finally reached the sacred mountain - Mt Kailas - high in the Himalayas of western Tibet. 7 days journey so far out of rather tropical Kathmandu. 11,000 feet rise in altitude.

The five day holy ritual walk around the summit of the mountain - or ritual prostration crawl if you are a Tibetan Buddhist - known as the parikrama (circling the sacred mountain) is a climb from 15000 to 18,600 feet (5636 meters).



 
Public Domain Photo Credit: nepalguidetreks.com


The path rises at a 45 degree angle. Dolma La Pass is rocky and steep. Pilgrims throw clothes, chunks of their hair - and occasionally their own bodies - overboard on this climb. These rituals represent leaving behind - letting die - some old aspect of oneself that one cannot keep if one intends to reach the summit of spiritual experience.


Already weakened and exhausted by the oxygen-starved altitude, the unrelenting bone-penetrating cold, nausea, dizziness and throwing up any attempted food in the last five days of the Tibetan plateau crossing (we can call this the Tibetan Plateau Crossing Diet - lose 20 pounds in 2 weeks), and the boulder strewn “path” - actually ruts over shifting sand dunes with numerous jeep breakdowns - I hired a yak with driver - to ride up the 45 degree incline. Although not long, the rise was intense.



Yaks are big furry warm survival animal of the Himalayas - somewhat a mix of huge shaggy buffalo, don’t-tell-me-what-to-do donkey, and heavy-duty-survival-capable camel.



The yak clan provide the human clan with fur, yurt covers (their round portable nomad house), meat, milk, butter, transportation and copious excrement for cooking and fuel in the frigid treeless Tibetan terrain. These miracles of eco-efficiently manage to turn few and far-between stray tufts of dried grass scattered among the sand dunes and boulders - amazingly - into all of the above.



And yaks provide essential milk and butter for the famous Butter Tea of the bitter cold wind-chilled Himalayas. Famously drunk by the Dalai Lama, served in monasteries, and the daily cultural survival beverage, tourists find it to be an acquired taste.. I found it to be like bone-heating substantial soup broth and grew to love it.



Public Domain Photo Credit: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Bos_grunniens.JPG




Back to yak transportation. 

My translator/attendant negotiated the deal. He could speak five human languages (Mandarin, Tibetan, Nepalese, Hindi, and something else.) Not sure if he was yak fluent. And what a deal it was! A fortune in local currency - not so much in our money. I got hoisted onto the furry animal’s warm back. Did I mention there was no saddle - bareback! Nothing to hang on to. I clung to the shaggy mane as best I could - gripping as though my life depended on it. I was slumped prone along the beast's spine.




Getty yup! Well, not exactly. More like plod, plod. Hump bump. Plod plod. Oh no - I began to slide backwards. Slowly. Insurmountably. Definitely. Half inch by half inch. Gradually losing my grip. Trying denial first. Slip slip. Inch by inch. Gripping the hair of the beast harder - intensifying my will. Grip grip. Slip slip. Inches by inches. Going backward. Beast going forward.



Yak driver was nonchalantly talking to his fellow yak driver - both oblivious to we passengers sliding off the rump of their beasts. Slowly. Immeasurably. Definitely. Inch by inch. No grip to cinch.



Finally, a true spiritual experience. SURRENDER! I had to surrender that I was losing my grip, unceremoniously slipping backwards over the rump of the beast. No dignity. Who cared. No one. Just me and my soul - giving up any pretense that anything was under my control. 

Inch by inch. Slip by slip. Over the tail.


Trying to grab the tail now. Animal beast could care less. Plod plod. Hump bump. Forward. Upward. Me backward. Backsliding. Rump hump.

Humpty dumpty. Over the edge. Losing the tail. Falling to the ground. HOLY ground it was.


I watched the rump  slowly plod away from me. Plod, plod - up the sacred mountain path. Leaving me to look at the strewn belongings of the recently or sometime-to-be departed.


Public domain photo credit: http://www.asia-insider-photos.com/tibetan-pictures.html



Death has no meaning here on Kailas. The most pious consider it the most auspicious place to lose one’s body. Just go over the edge. Lose your grip… drip drip…everyday concerns fall away ... down the mountain side into the sea of garbage of cast-off belongings. All this so the soul can fly free. Unencumbered. In the arms of grace, Lord Shiva, Mt Kailas - home of the Gods. Center of the universe. The Most Holy Place.


Creep creep. Hands and knees. Inch by Inch. Get a grip. Creep creep. Huffing and puffing. Panting. Inch by inch. Creep creep. Up the stony path. Ascending… inch by inch. I put my face down in exhaustion on the cold ice. More inch by inch. Get a grip. Creep creep. Up the path of the sacred mountain. What will greet me at the top?

Will I get to the top? Inch by inch. Creep creep. Hands and knees. Pant pant. Heard one of our party - a portly Indian man from tropical Mumbai (Bombay) - had a heart attack and Sherpa porters carried all of his heart attack heavy weight backward - retracing the path back to the starting place.
Maybe another lifetime before he can continue up the sacred mountain….?


Head hanging down. No energy to look up. Inch by inch. Hands and knees. Creep creep. Huff puff.
With extreme effort, I raise my head ever so slightly. What! The top! Pilgrims joyfully singing, waving prayer banners. Incense sticks circling in arati - the ancient waving of candles in celebration and love. Celebration of the light and achieving communion with the supreme.


In daze-ment, I see our tour guru - sitting on a boulder. His immaculate orange sanyasi monk robes pristine - as though they just came from the dry cleaners - neat and pressed.

He sat on the rock - like a beacon of “Yes You Can”. Big smile, Tender smile. Loving eyes.

My energy came flooding in. I arose, planted my earth legs firmly on top of my earth feet. Upright! At last! Hands waved in celebration! Joy! I can stand! At the top!


Having attained the summit of the sacred mountain, prasad - blessed sweets - for everyone. How divine. God’s own celebration party.

Summiting was a grand adventure. What will the descent hold? Will it be anti-climatic?


LISTEN to AUTHOR READING this STORY






~~~


If you liked the GONG MUSIC in the above video, here is a full hour of this soothing, relaxing sound to calm you and create a peaceful atmosphere.



Footnote: Since this Tibetan plateau travel adventure, the new government has built a paved road. The formerly 5 day caravan trek across rutted sand dunes is now an 8 hour or less drive on paved road - according to a slew of youtube videos. So many adventures to miss! Sort of like if they build a chair lift to the top of Mt Everest.

Copyright 2018 Pat Crosby. Creative Commons - non commercial
May be shared non-commercially with no fees or any form of remuneration charged
if reprinted in full with all credits and authorship given.
Contact author for any other uses and permissions.



More from Pat Crosby author’s blog
https://LightGrid.blogspot.com/


"Sliding Down the Yak" excerpted from forthcoming spiritual travel adventure book - stories of sacred site pilgrimages by Pat Crosby - stories for armchair travellers, spiritual enthusiasts, and those braving adventuring themselves.




COMMENTS - add new by 
clicking COMMENTS BUTTON below this post


Carol, NY
Engaging, interesting style. Then the important stuff is slipped in.
You go through spiritual tests - and then come away with more than you thought. My mountain was having children. I thought I wanted six; I was so ignorant of what that meant!


Betty, NY

Marvellous fusion - humor, spiritual element and affirmation. Very good!


Audrey, NH

I ponder the yaks point of view. It tried so many times to take people to the summit; but they let go... they let go. Greek mythology has so many animal myths. Animals talk and try to help people. Animals have a sense of powerful spiritual presence. Spirit is so well settled in animal forms. Animals know how to heal themselves, find herbs, when to rest. They're closer to this knowledge than humans.



Min 
Thanks - a wonderful adventure!



Carolyn D, VA
It is very funny and best heard in her own voice, scroll down for this YouTube option! I think you will like listening to it. I did!



Hannah, NY
Lovely read, Pat.




Linda, NY

Wow! I can feel my fingers freezing, just reading about the inch by inch slide. 😃 




2 comments:

  1. Great piece..thank you Pat..Visualized your whole adventure while reading.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Beautiful story with impressive photos, thank you so much for sharing your adventure journey with the world.

    ReplyDelete