I think it’s technically Day 2 already, but, having been on the road for nearly twenty-four hours, we’re gonna stick with Day 1. Thanks for your patience as things get rolling over here.
This is yesterday’s lunch, a final taste of Europe before embarking on a week in Asia. With any luck, the next food photo you see will be momos. (I can’t deny that right after hommage, practice, and community-building, the gastronomic aspect of this trip tempts the foodie pilgrim in me–culinary experiences can be spiritual too!).
I’m writing you from Doha International Airport, in Qatar. It’s the first time I’ve ever been through the Middle East, and though the airport hardly counts as visiting, it’s nice to dip a toe in a culture that has long been distant and remains mysterious. Makes me curious to come back. Maybe it’s un-PC or un-feminist or uneducated to say it, but I find the abaya beautiful. The women floating by as columns of black seem confident and at ease. Of course, I’m just seeing a slice of upper class, Western-inflected culture from a sleep deprived, travel-delirious perspective, but this is the reflection that comes to mind.
It’s a good reminder that this journey is taking me elsewhere from what I know. Though the customs may be familiar through my study and practice of Tibetan Buddhism, the experience will be quite different in its actual cultural context, not mention the unprecented nature of this event.
We’ve had a hell of a day+. We spent eight hours on the road yesterday, driving from Dhagpo to Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris, broken up by a lunch break on the grassy knolls of the rest stop. I felt grateful to be able to begin this trip by offering up a meal made with love for me and my travelling companions. Doing so allowed me to reflect on and set the tone of this trip.
We’re here to give, in both concrete and intangible ways. In concrete ways like homemade hummus, dolmas, sandwiches on fresh-baked bread, and a giant chocolate chip cookie cake. In intangible ways like wishes for health and safety and opening through this incredible journey.
As loopy as a six hour flight and a seven hour layover and a four hour flight may leave us–with culture shock as an added bonus–it’s our intent to show up ready to help with whatever needs doing. Setting up, serving tea, just being present.
Part of pilgrimage is going to powerful places and benefitting from the charge of their energy and history. Another part, and maybe these aren’t separate things, is using the change of scenery and the effort expended to accomplish it as a way to reset our habitual thought processes. The place becomes a process for asking new questions and discovering new capacities.
What is devotion? Community? Service? Who do I become when I put these things at the forefront of my thoughts and actions? And how do I do that, anyhow?
Ask it. Answer it. However the answers come. Live it. Let it be.
This is the quest, and these are the notes from the road. Thanks for coming along.