bhutan: finding my compass(ion)
this physical adventure, backpacking to asia, did start on june 11, 2018. the journey into the mind of johnny b, that started back in 2012, and there have been many a days where i have searched for the receipt to make sure i bought a round trip ticket and not one way!
that being said, the decision to quit my job and then travel shortly after was not something that was able to happen from one stroke of the paint brush. took years to find the sense of
value for myself and security with the world in order to make the decision that was best for me. as i peeled back the mental onion so to say, with the help of my mind doc rachel, we were slowly but surely able to discover why i lacked self confidence, why i needed external approval before making many decisions in my life, why i had silenced myself over time. peeling back this dam onion, definitely brought plenty of tears, but not just the sad ones. the more i am able to discover the causation of the many insecurities in my life, the more i am able to rewire my brain with confidence and self love at my side, allowing for the insecurities and anxieties to subside. the more i am able to turn the sad tears into tears of joy. tears that follow the insane laughter that for some (my old self included) only come along every super blood blue moon occurrence.
to travel to bhutan, as an american one cannot simply backpack. you must book your stay through a tour group which is bhutan's way of protecting their country's land and way of life. this leg of the trip is more expensive, but i fully understand their desire to retain the beauty they have both in culture and way of life. this payment was worth way more than what i was asked to pay, and i am looking forward to planning my next visit.
with traveling through bhutan, i was visiting what is known by some as the happiest country
in the world. they are the only country to have a gnh (gross national happiness) which was created by the fourth king of bhutan king jigme singye wangchuck, in 1972. the government of bhutan considers it to be much more important than gnp (gross national product) which is used by the rest of the world to determine living standards. bhutan provided a great opportunity to get lost in a culture and traditions from the past, with some of the cleanest air ever to reach my lungs, while still providing wifi during my hotel stays.
rice was included at every meal, something i knew was going to be a mainstay except when i needed a taste of home and ventured off to the nearest mcdonald's or starbucks (which comes in bangkok, definitely not here where they're in self preservation mode). heat was in, they typically had chilis in every plate, ranging from medium to hot! there was a way of life in both cities i visited (thimphu the capital city, and paro the city below tiger's nest temple) which demonstrated a calming of the mind. from what i perceived there is an ability to not get too preoccupied with what you may regret or that which you may worry about. buddhism.
since my main interest for visiting bhutan was to learn about their culture and buddhism, visitations were heavy on the side of schools, temples (dzongs), nunneries, and palaces. yes, the visits seemed to get repetitive, but when it's information you want to retain, buddhist practice you want to make habit, what did pop's always say when you were younger? "practice makes perfect!" in the short time touring bhutan i was able to learn about the different teachings, deities, bodhisattvas, on repeat, and at least get the idea of the teachings ingrained in my mind. remember, in a mind where it has taken much time to peel back ways of life for myself that i was not interested in retaining. in a mind that was ready to
find the way of life that was right for me.
the utmost important, hands down, crucial sting i received from buddhism, a sting that i actually quite enjoyed, was their practice of compassion. i think for those who know me, well or not, i've been blessed to give a shit, which i'm pretty sure is from my ma. i have always remembered myself to have a compassionate soul. being surrounded by people which believe that compassion comes first, always, i felt something i have never felt in my life. i felt that i was completely and utterly understood. although i say i have always felt like i have embodied a compassionate soul, i always have hesitated to lead with compassion 100%. i always feared to speak my truth. compassion is traditionally not the man's job, or maybe better, it's seen as weak by the macho man community that was in and out of my life through different stages. since i sought, constantly, to be part of this macho man community until most recent years, i unknowingly silenced a good percentage of my compassionate side.
hearing the word compassion, on the hour, every hour while in bhutan was worth every penny spent to fly out here. i was basically surrounded by a culture, a community that said they understood me. that said, come on dude, hurry up and join us, we're waiting! i owe a lot of this realization to two very important people that picked me up and swooped me off my feet at the airport. ugyen, my driver for the trip who has the soul of a child and helped bring mine to the surface, and pema, my tour guide who amazed me day in and day out with his knowledge of bhutan and buddhism and provided me with information to continue me on my journey of self discovery.
i found it insanely interesting to observe, analyze, and adjust how i interacted with pema and ugyen from the moment i met them. what i learned was that i had absolutely no
understanding of their culture and way of life, so i engagingly observed. as i began to understand what is appropriate to talk about, how to address the person i am speaking with, the class structures (ugyen the driver ate in a separate room while pema and i typically ate together), etc., i began to feel more comfortable in my own skin. as this calming factor occurred, ugyen and pema transitioned into my friends, who, of course were still giving me the dam tour i paid for, i made sure they felt that we were all on the same level. ugyen constantly opened the car door for me, so i started to get out of the car first to open his. which of course created a smile from ear to ear on his mug followed by 2nd grade recess giggles. pema attempted to grab my bag as we got to the hotel, so, i would wear my backpack before he could snatch it and then try to toss him on my back to carry his soul. as they continued to teach me about compassion and their culture, i began to feel more at ease to be myself around them and live as my compassionate self. these acts of kindness/compassion that i did for them were not consciously performed, they are apart of my nature, my being. i loved observing this because it gave me a window into the person i
am at my core, when i don't hesitate with my truth what my truth actually looks like. i am so grateful that these two were able to help guide me to this realization.
the most exciting aspect of the physical journey for me was hiking from 2600 meters to 3100 meters to visit paro takstang (tiger's nest temple on the side of the mountains). the site where guru rinpoche flew to on the back of a tigress in the 8th century to meditate for three months to subdue the demons of the area. this hike had it's physical challenges of course, but were blessed by the addition of a new friend. minutes before reaching the temple, i met k. a young lady from india, who thanks be to jesus has a similar mindset to myself in that she loves self develpoment. we hit the rest of the hike up, and all the way down bouncing ideas off of each other, listening to each other's personal journey, and providing thoughts and advice on how to further each other's own personal goals. i ended up meeting with her at her accommodations for dinner, where we enjoyed a phenomenal home cooked meal and took part in a bhutanese hot stone bath which overlooked rice terraces, something i could slip into every night if it was possible! not having a ton of time together, we spent the rest of the night in laughter and in curiosity, a solid way to reflect on my stay in bhutan.
temple after temple, buddha after buddha, archery, lunches, visiting schools and museums,
giggling in the playground like little kids at the nunnery, and then being dropped off at the airport to say our goodbyes, i cannot be more thankful for being teamed up with pema and ugyen during my experience in bhutan and meeting k on hike to finding my truth. they helped give me insight on my true compass for life, compassion, and provided the knowledge that through practice and repetition i can become exactly the being i am supposed to be.
before all these hesitations were built protecting myself and others from knowing my sexuality, there was a fearless child inside. one that did not know anything but compassion. it's in me, it's in all of us. something very hard to uncover yet possible for all.
find your inner child. lead with compassion. don't look back.