As many of you know, Blake has a dear uncle named Payson whom he has always been close with (an early blog post here). Pays has no children of his own and has always treated his nephew and niece (Phoo and Knees as he calls them) like a son and daughter. As a wonderful added bonus, he is married to a wonderful woman named Kamla, who is originally from India, so they split their time between the 2 countries--summers in the Kullu Valley of the Himalayas and winters in Del Mar, CA. He's an artist, environmentalist, geologist, writer, and entrepreneur; she is a well-known writer/poet and teacher. Both are extremely intelligent and focused, grounded and aware--they have been solid and positive influences in our lives.
Their interests and lifestyles of course lead them to exciting and often unpredicable adventures. About a week ago, I emailed them to ask when they would be returning to the states and when I got no reply I became slightly concerned....Yesterday, I found out why. Apparently, while visiting a Buddhist monastary built in 996 AD a freak snowstorm hit, and had left them and a few hundred tourists and citizens stranded in a 1000 year old village called Tabo, in the beautiful high desert region of Spiti in the Himalayas. They were trapped there for weeks with no electricity, poor water supply and little contact with the outside world. Naturally, many of the people were fearful and restless--some even tried to hike out on their own. In this attempt, 3 people died and another came close when a falling boulder struck her.
P and K, though? Like the great, zen-like people we know them to be, they decided to make the most of the situation. They spent hours marveling at the great murals painted by the monks hundreds of year ago. Aside from meditating with the monks daily and doing drawings of the landscape, art and people, they began volunteering at the monastary's school. They taught the 8th grade children, many of whom spoke English very well, geology lessons, English grammar, story-telling, and ethics. During an intense meditation session, Payson says he heard a "voice" tell him to document the region so he approached the head Abbott and he agreed, so P began filming from morning til night, gathering over 7 hours of footage which he hopes to edit down when he returns to the states. All the while, their 10th anniversay passed as they were living this, and both consider the experience a great blessing.
Attitude, people, its all about attitude.
From Paysons email:
K and I adapted quickly and had an amazing experience in Tabo. I sat twice daily (6am/1 hour and 3pm/30-45min) with the monks and their chanting was transcendent. It shifted my practice stilling it a bit more and I found myself just flowing with the whole situation. There were about 40 international tourists and many of them were very uncertain/agitated about what to do as the local and state officials offered little help. After about a week some trekked out on their own and one Chilean woman was hit by falling boulders but fortunately not too serious. That scared the rest and they waited longer for the roads to be cleared and slides to abate.
During all this I was pretty much focused on my daily sitting and the incredible temples (9) which had murals and sculpture with religious/Buddhist art from 1000AD thru 17th century. Initially I did a lot of drawing of the art, the monks, the mts, etc. but then in one meditation a voice (sic!) said do a movie about this place. So a week into the stay I pulled out my new video DV (digital video) camera (which I haven't been too into) and asked the head Abbot, Gehseji (80 years old from Tibet) if they would like to have a documentary on the monastery. They were very receptive and gave me the go-ahead, especially to tape the chanting, the interiors of the temple and the artwork (where no photography is allowed. For the next five days I worked from around 6am until 6-7pm basically documenting the monastery, the activities of the monks, then the local people and environs, and the tourists who were there. I've got 7 hours of video footage from which I hope/think can be turned into a 20-30 min documentary. It's not broadcast quality and what I'd hope to do is edit it in India before leaving or in CA later to generate interest in a professional tech quality TV and DVD documentary. Though it was intense experience looking at their world thru the tiny lens, I really got into it! And you know me….work hard/push push!
Blake and I want to be like Payson and Kamla when we grow up! :)