A year in photos and stories — 2017
On the last day of the year I thought of putting together a few photos and few lines about these photos. Looking at 2017. It might not be too interesting publicly. But then again, I am sure a friend or two will love it.
To be honest this photo is from sometime in the autumn of 2016. It was the year I went to be with Hsuan in New York as she was following her dream to dance at the Martha Graham School of Contemporary Dance. I went from Nepal. Having just lived in the monastery and I was not so much interested in going to New York. To this crazy, busy, expensive place. But I went, for the girl. And over the months there it grew on me.
Or I fell in love with the craziness. And I met many great people. And living a discounted bulk buying pasta and tomato sauce eating 4 square meter bed room kind of simple student life was not that expensive. And there was so much of variety and so much of contrast. This has been spilling over to 2017. I did not go back but there were quite some times when we discussed with Hsuan that we miss the New York life.
The first three months of the year we spent in Gomde Austria — the Buddhist Meditation Center I had lived at for a year a couple of years back. It was a winter wonderland though most of the time we spent in the room doing our practice.
Why three months of meditation?
Are you running away from something one could ask? I did some years back before my first longer retreat. Asked from Tenzin Palmo — an amazing British nun who spent 12 years in a cave in Northern India. And her answer was: “Running away? Isn’t it running towards?” And over years I have started to notice more and more how right she is. It is actually pretty difficult to just sit with your mind, without all the entertainment and busyness and distraction. One can see much clearer how uncontrolled the mind is. And maybe find more and more why it makes sense to train the mind and work on the sanity of the mind.
Sometimes the Tibetans would say that crystals like this are a sign of good practice happening. I don’t know about this. But if I look back at this three months I must say I think it has been probably the three most meaningful months of my life.
What do you do in the retreat?
If I still have some friends left who are not from the Dharma circles and you have time and interest to watch and read this album you might have this question come to your mind.
We wake up quite early and then over the day we have about 5 times one and a half hours of meditation practice time in our room. Two more practice sessions in the group. Some time for teachings or QA and some time to rest and relax in the beautiful nature in the radius of 50m around the house. All in all giving a longer time to go deeper and deeper to noticing the habits of the mind and learning methods to change the not so useful habits. To develop more contentment and compassion and wisdom.
I saw this tree every morning for three months. The windows in the meditation hall where we did our group practice during the sunrise time are small squares. And My seat showed this square with all its changes every day.
This photo is from the last day of the retreat with my dear dear dear friend Gabs. It is not to single out him although he could be singled out but to highlight and say thank you to all my lovely superb friends. All the kindness, friendliness, caring you have showed is amazing. Thank you!
I do somewhat sometimes feel a bit happy when I get to go to a new country and this year it was South Korea. With Aavo and Robert we organized a great study visit for Estonian ICT Cluster to Korea. Lots of good meetings and satisfied executives.
It is difficult with these countries. In some sense we heard of a really socially repressive and conformist country. And at the same time there is something very beautiful in the traditions. I enjoyed the walks in the mountains. And the bike share rides. And staying in the traditional houses. :)
This year was pretty interesting in the study visits front. We made two visits. April in South Korea and November in Singapore. Big groups in both cases and lots of interesting exchanges and strong program. I do enjoy getting to know new fields and figuring out who to contact and getting a good program together.
I can’t say I get excited by bars often but this place called LP in Seoul was amazing. We kind of ended up there by accident. Friends of Hsuan suggested. It was on the second floor of a house and a big wall was with LP’s as you can see. And it was ran by only one gentlemen. He played the music, you could ask for songs you would like. You served your beer yourself. It was like going and visiting in a living room of a friend. And he was very cool in all this.
I was not directly involved in the work in the monastery but I was asked to make photos for quite some occasions. And this photo I love as it shows how much of different people come together to build the monastery. The monks, the local workers, and the western experts. It is really a huge cultural mix of different ways to do things. And with good hearts things get done.
This photo is from the Kathmandu Durbar Square. On the election day. It is still alive and very much worth visiting. Nepal is great. Ok. Minus the pollution and traffic if you have to live there. But if you are visiting it is great. The craziness, the architecture of the old times, the mountains. Go visit. Or come visit. :)
Not exactly. On a normal day this road would be packed. But on this day of election all transport was banned so it was a surreal empty city with bikers and people hanging around on the streets. Great for seeing around as a tourist. :)
There is still a lot to do after the earthquake. All over Nepal. Though I see most in our monastery where I am most of the time when I am in Nepal. This is the place of a old small temple that fell down. And now has gotten a shrine like this.
If you would like to help with rebuilding the monastery — you are welcome to do it here: shedrubfund.org/projects/earthquake-of-2015/
Chai in its ideal is milk, black tea, enormous amounts of sugar, and masala spices. But it can be in all kinds of variations. And also drinking coke can be a good option if you eat in simple places. It is supposed to kill everything that could harm you in the stomach.
And there is always time for a chai. Unless there isn’t and it is so hurry, hurry, hurry. You never know. :D
To remind the importance of wisdom. To remind that only wisdom of knowing how we and everything else really exists can help to free us from all suffering and discontent. And a hint — it is not meant that we need to know everything about atoms and molecules. Though it can be helpful. It is more meant about understanding the role awareness plays in everything. And the limitations or lack of the objective appearances. To light a butter lamp in ideal is to aspire to light the wisdom in all beings.
Hsuan calls Rinpoche Yoda. “My Yoda.” And the beauty of the time in Nepal is the time spent helping him and being close. It is really amazing how much one can learn by observing. By just being and observing. And how much words can mean if they come from someone who really understands their meaning.
Is a symbol of awakened mind. A mind freed from afflictions. Freed from selfishness, fears, pride, attachment. A mind able to help. Wishing to help. All the time.
It was a busy time for both Hsuan and me. Hsuan ended up being an Assistant Artistic Director for a big music and dance production in Nepal doing pretty much everything. Teachings the dancers, helping with lightning, video, planning, etc. Going to work in a packed minibus every day. :) And hsuan had a one night performance and exhibition of her dance and her Movement Drawings projects. You can see more here: www.dancinginart.com/movementdrawings/
I almost ended up becoming Director of Wellness for a luxury destination resort project near Kathmandu. They wished me to help with putting together programs that can help people learn about genuine wellbeing. Although this one did not work out I still hope that one day it is possible for me to help with bringing to more people ways to develop true wellbeing in their minds and hearts.
It is beautiful in Estonia. Very much so. And if you haven’t visited. Come!
Hsuan was teaching at Young Dance Festival in the small town of Viljandi for a week. She will be doing it again in July 2018. If you are interested, come: notafe.ee/
I have always found that even if people are not wanting to “become an Buddhist” there is so much beneficial for every day life to learn somewhat about Buddhist thought and meditation so for six years now we have organized with my dear brother Teet retreats with Glen Svensson. A great teacher to introduce meditation and the Buddhist thought in the modern practical way.
It was packed this year. Both retreats had 30 people. The furthest people came from Australia and Columbia. In 2018 it will happen again and we will have a introductory course as well as a meditation retreat. Come, if you have ever thought it might be interesting. It is worthwhile. Look here for more info: retreatinestonia.blogspot.com/
Would you like to live in Estonia again?
People ask me this question. The answer is yes. We talk about settling with Hsuan quite often. And Estonia is an option. At times some things have become easier to talk in English, so I do believe I would love to live in Estonia (at least for a while) to speak Estonian, to catch up with many friends, to enjoy the nature and cleanliness. Lets see if any good opportunity to do this opens up.
The peace, the quiet, the clean nature are so inviting. Though I am afraid of the darkness of the winter.
Due to immense kindness of a friend I had a chance to spend my September in Holland in a small lovely cabin next to lakes. I lived a simple life. Worked every day for Singapore study visit. Practiced. And generally tried to keep a good tempo.
I learned again that I don’t think in the long run the life of being 100% active and the 100% in retreat works. Retreat times are useful times. But one needs to learn to live a simple life, to keep a relaxed tempo while getting things done in a amazing way.
The hypothesis is that through being relaxed it is actually possible to bring more benefit to the world than being tight. It is in the process of being checked. :)
During my visit to Hsuan’s home in Taiwan in October I bought a suit. I have not had a suit for long time. I bought it because I felt I would like to look professional during the study visit to Singapore. Some people would say I failed as I chose the pink tie.
The nature when you get out of cities.
The ocean on the east coast.
The kind people.
It is a island of Estonia size but instead of 1.3 million people there is 23 million. Pretty much all live on 1/3 of the country in the west side where there is one big city. Although they call them with different names. But the middle of the island and the east coast are nature and beauty. :)
My teacher Chökyi Nyima Rinpoche has a yearly teaching in Nepal every November. We attended. So many friends there. So much happening. And so meaningful teachings.
In December we have had an interesting time. First we spent 10 days near Begnas lake at a guest house with a view. Enjoyed and relaxed. And then we went to India. To Vana. Vana is a amazingly well crated wellness retreat center in North India. Every day I wake up and think how is it possible in India. Am I really in India. The architecture. The environment. Amazing. And then the service. the way people know your name, almost like they read your mind about your wishes.
If you are interested in a real healthy vacation with yoga, ayurveda, and other kinds of treatments and healing this is an amazing place. Definitely worth coming for a week or two. Especially if the quite high fee is not a problem.
We are here as Hsuan is doing a retreat residency here. She is teaching every day a workshop based on Movement Drawings and also Qi Gong. And she is amazing and wonderful doing it. By the way if anyone wants to invite Hsuan to teach, she is happy to come and do it. :)
Photography in Vana is not allowed so you will have to look at the photos on their web: www.vana.co.in/
To finish up I would leave you with a photo of us made by the talented photographer Chris.
May your heart be always kind.
May it be peaceful.
May your mind be open and flexible.
May there be wisdom.
May you be loving and may you be loved.
May all be good.
In January we will go to Gomde Pyrenees near the border to Spain. It is the new retreat center for my teacher and there is so much work with building and getting the place ready by March. We will try to help as we can. If you have time and wish to come and help, please do come. Or if you know anyone handy having free time and wanting to give it to a good project. Let them know. And if you would like to help the project you can give a euro at: www.youcaring.com/rangjungyeshegomdepyrenees-1043643
In the summer we will be in Estonia. Hsuan will be at the dance festival and then later two weeks of meditation retreats. Come and join: retreatinestonia.blogspot.in/
And otherwise we will continue with our discussions and process of finding a place to settle. Seeing if any good option comes by that would invite us to settle. For Hsuan to teach — movement, art, and more. and/or me to give what I can. :)
Hope we will meet on the way!