Tag Archives: Tibet

Travel and the Magic of Thin Places

I love to travel and am frequently asked, “Which place is your favorite?” It’s like asking what is my favorite flower? My favorite flower is whatever is in bloom. At that moment in time, it captivates me.  While a similar response would also be accurate with traveling, four especially memorable experiences come to mind.

Grapes Living for a week in a renovated traditional countryside cottage in Provence is one. Our cottage was located in a vineyard and it was there I soaked up the magical light of the region. Much to my surprise, the impressionists had NOT taken artistic license! I took hundreds of photos of the grapes just outside our front door, attempting to capture the transformation of their beauty as that incomparable light shifted every few minutes. To this day, I return to the memory of that place when I want to escape from everyday life and just breathe.

Then there was my first trip to China! I could have never imagined personally relating to this country, much less fall madly in love with it. The energy of the ancient melding with the energy of the modern was palpable and transformational for me.

Another unforgettable place is South Africa’s Cape Point, an hour’s drive from Cape Town. It wasOcean there I witnessed the magnificent force of the Atlantic and the Indian Oceans converging. And then
there was cruising the grandeur of the magnificent Fjords in Norway. I still consider both of these among the most intensely beautiful and powerful sights I’ve ever seen.These places, along with so many other poignant experiences and inspiring sights have filled me with awe and inspiration. Mostly, I anticipated they would. However, I began to relate to my travels in a different way after a friend shared a most compelling article:

“Where Heaven and Earth Kiss” written by Eric Weiner, references the term, “thin places.” A thin place has been defined by travel blogger Mindie Burgoyne as “a place that draws you into itself, and transports you into the presence of a world beyond this world. You are moved into the presence of a mysterious power. There, all things you perceive through your senses are charged, electrified, illuminated with the presence of that power.” Weiner elaborates on the concept by saying, “A thin place is where the sublime bends low.”

I can certainly relate to my senses being charged and illuminated in the presence of breathtaking beauty. However, the distinction is that “thin places” connect us to something beyond ourselves – or perhaps to something deep within ourselves. When in the presence of thin places, we “perceive intuitively or through some inexplicable perceptive powers, glimpses of the divine. . .” or what Weiner refers to as the “Infinite Whatever.” In these thin places, the distance between Heaven and Earth collapses.

Have I actually experienced “places where Heaven and Earth Kiss?” Two places instantly came to mind where I was deeply impacted by an unseen, unexpected energy that was transforming.

My first experience was in the early 80’s while traveling in Israel. Local friends took us to Jaffa, one of the world’s oldest cities. Located on the Mediterranean Sea, Jaffa’s harbor has been in use since the Bronze Age. Its history is filled with a series of conquests through the millennia.

OldCityWhile there, we visited our friend’s art studio in an ancient building overlooking the port of Jaffa. After our visit, I walked to the water’s edge. It was there I had an unusual experience. I felt the energy of this ancient place touch something deep inside of me that rang with familiarity. “I have lived here before,” was the message, which came through loud and clear. It was my first connection with the sense of a past life. It took me totally by surprise. The feeling was profound, yet I felt completely at ease. Of course, I mentioned it to no one at the time, lest they look askance and question my sanity. Today I would have no reluctance to share the experience in the moment. Nor, 30 years later, has that memory diminished!

“Thin places captivate our imagination; we gain connection and become part of something larger than we can perceive.”  Eric Weiner

It wasn’t until 20 years after my trip to Jaffa that I had my next experience with a “thin place.” Literally as well as figuratively! In PrayFlag2002 I traveled to Tibet for the first time. Located on the “roof of the world,” Tibet has an average altitude of over 13,200 feet and is situated on a massive plateau between two Himalaya ridges. I was astonished by my response to this place. While there is breathtaking scenery, spiritual awareness, spectacular vistas, and huge tracts of emptiness, it is not an easy place in which to live or visit! The weather can be extreme, the terrain is severe and the air thin, requiring tourists to use oxygen to avoid altitude sickness. But the people are cheerful, devout and serene. The sounds of constantly twirling prayer wheels along with the hum of chanted mantras took up residence in my being. Tibet’s energy enveloped me. I could have stayed and knew I would have been happy and content making a life there! What was that about? At the time, I had no words for it. I still don’t.

“In truth, however, once you’ve been in a thin place and allowed your spirit to absorb that which transcends the senses, all need for definition ceases. Our spirits learn differently than our minds.” Mindie Burgoyne

Amazingly, I had the good fortune to return to Tibet four years later. This time Tom and I were married in this sacred place. Perhaps, in some mysterious, divine way, this culminating event, I could never have imagined, had been calling me long before.

“There is an indefinable, mysterious power that pervades everything.  I feel it, though I do not see it.  It is this unseen power that makes itself felt and yet defies all proof, because it is so unlike all that I perceive through my senses.  It transcends the senses.” Mahatma Ghandi

While thin places, according to Weiner, are often sacred ones – St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City, the Blue Mosque in Istanbul – they needn’t be, at least not conventionally so. For one dear friend who has traveled extensively, Minnesota’s North Shore is, hands down, her thin place. For another friend, it’s Denali, Alaska.

“A thin place is not necessarily a tranquil place, or a fun one, or even a beautiful one, though it may be all of those things. Thin places may relax us, but they also transform us – or, more accurately, unmask us. In thin places, we become our more essential selves.” – Weiner

Thin places captivate our imagination; we gain connection and become part of something larger than we can perceive. “You don’t plan a trip to a thin place,” Weiner goes on to say. “You stumble upon one. To some extent, thinness, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder. Travel to thin places doesn’t necessarily lead to anything as grandiose as a ‘spiritual breakthrough,’ whatever that means, but it does disorient. It confuses. We lose our bearings, and find new ones. Or not. Either way, we are jolted out of old ways of seeing the world, and therein lies the transformative magic of travel.”StM

Next month we are going on a pilgrimage to sacred sights in France. While I anticipate feeling awe in the presence of these ancient sites, I am also open to whatever messages are there for me. Stay tuned.

“One’s destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things.” Henry Miller

Creating Space for Love, Conclusion

In the summer of 2003, a journey began, creating space for love, initially without my awareness. Nine months later, on a beautiful Saturday in April, little did I suspect that I was about to give birth to my new life.

Tom was picking me up the evening of April 3rd to attend the birthday party my acupuncturist was having for her husband. It was an uneventful week, but when I woke up that Saturday morning, I felt very different! It was as if I was 16 again and had a special date to the prom! I was excited, anxious and nervous! I was excited for Tom to pick me up, I was excited to attend the party and I was most excited to have him and my older daughter meet! She had been asked to assist with kitchen duties, keeping food replenished, etc. I hadn’t introduced them prior to that, as I wasn’t planning on anything serious developing in Tom’s and my relationship.

FullMoonI don’t know if he noticed, but when I got into Tom’s car that evening, I felt giddy! I recall it was a gorgeous evening. As we were driving, I called his attention to the full moon that was coming up! Now, Tom is always aware of the moon and its stages. He told me it was not yet a full moon. “It looks full to me,” I said. He answered, “Well, it must be an Abrahamson full moon.” I loved that accommodation!

What a pleasure it was to observe Tom and my daughter meet for the first time upon our arrival. I stood back and watched the energy exchange. Warm in their greeting, Tom was ready to love Kira because she was my daughter; Kira wanting to make sure Tom was a good person for her mom. I felt like the teenage daughter introducing her date to her mother. It was an interesting and strange role reversal that transpired in the blink of an eye.

Shortly thereafter, I unexpectedly heard a whisper in my ear. “I love you,” it said. I froze and then experienced a bit of a panic attack. “Why are you saying that?” I asked. “Because it’s true,” I heard Tom’s voice respond. A flood of emotions rushed through me. Could I admit that I had also fallen in love with him? Could I trust the emotions, both his and mine?

I’m not sure how I got through the rest of the evening. I do know we had fun and I was very happy! I remember my daughter telling Tom as we left the party, “Take good care of my mom.” Who was the parent? It was a magical evening, if not a bit overwhelming!

 Everything was different from that evening on! We were in love! While I was ultimately able to connect with that emotion, I initially found myself very pragmatic. My concept of myself as a romantic was challenged! I know this was fear. I had been single for over 13 years and quite happy, I might reiterate, playing it safe! Now I was vulnerable. However, amazingly, in that vulnerability, I felt safe!

Over the next several months, we discussed his moving in with me. No small feat for, as you recall, I had filled every inch of my home. While I had cleared out a drawer and a section of my closet to create space for a partner, the reality of another person actually moving in was a bit mind-boggling, to say the least. But I began clearing in earnest and we made adjustments along the way. Before thatHouse01 transition, I communicated with my home about the energy shift to come with Tom joining the household. This is an important aspect of traditional Feng Shui thought: you treat your home as a separate entity and respect its energy and effect on your life. I could almost feel my home smiling in response and knew it was happy as well.

Tom and I were always in agreement about our commitment to one another and neither of us felt the need to get married. However, synchronicity was about to intervene again when, in May 2006, we traveled to China and Tibet on a Feng Shui-focused tour. And, it just so happened, three of my original four Feng Shui
GateGilrsLove Divas were a part of our group of 21 travelers. It started almost immediately. “Why don’t you and Tom get married on this trip?” At first we took it lightly, but as the tour progressed, the question continued to be lovingly asked. Everyone seemed to be conspiring to make it happen. After about a week of this persistence, Tom and I decided we should take the question seriously. After all, some of these same friends had encouraged me to set the intention back in 2003 to make room, emotionally and physically, for a life partner. Evidently, this journey wasn’t over!

Tom and I looked at each other one evening and, almost simultaneously, said, “Let’s do it!” My only request was that we marry in Tibet. I had traveled there previously and had fallen in love with the area and its people. Tom was definitely agreeable. The next day at lunch, we announced we were getting married in Tibet!

Mind you, we had no idea how this ceremony would take place, where it would take place or when! We had only four days in Tibet and every day was already planned out for us. But we set that intention and shared it with our fellow travelers. The excitement meter maxed out; the energy level was palpable!

PotolaSeveral days later, we entered Lhasa, Tibet. Located at the bottom of a small basin surrounded by the Himalaya Mountains, Lhasa has an elevation of over 14,000 feet and lies in the center of the Tibetan Plateau with the surrounding mountains rising to 18,000 feet. The air only contains 68% of the oxygen compared to sea level. It was impossible to determine the effects of thin air versus our over-the-top happiness?

Our intention was immediately shared with our Tibetan tour guide. He enthusiastically responded heTemple had been a Tibetan monk in the Jokhang Temple, the most sacred temple in Tibet. When his father died, Tibetan tradition required he return home to assist his mother and go to work to support the family. He left the monastery and became a tour guide. With his connection to the temple, our new friend could arrange for us to have our wedding ceremony in that sacred place!

Suddenly, our wedding was a reality and our fellow travelers excitedly took on the role of wedding party. Each had a job to do: finding a bottle of wine, buying wine cups, locating two long stem red roses, purchasing a wedding bowl for the rings, planning the wedding dinner! Tom and I shopped the market area to find something for me to wear. I purchased a beautiful brocade jacket from a vendor who took pride in being the one who sold me my wedding outfit. Our happiness and the excitement of our group’s energy were contagious. It seemed everyone there, tourist and vendor, knew about it!

Tom and I wrote our vows and Tom Hyder, an ordained minister, and his wife, Carole, one of my first Feng Shui teachers, wrote the wedding ceremony. On a beautiful afternoon, our wedding procession was led into an area of the Jokhang Temple where tourists were not allowed. Just prior to entering, each of us purchased a Tibetan Scarf called a ‘Khata’. It is usually made of white silk, symbolizing the pure heart of the giver. It is often given as a gift at special Tibetan ceremonies, such as weddings, funerals, births, and graduations.

 The Tibetan monks invited us to participate in a special blessing before escorting us to the beautiful Ceremonyceremonial room where our tour guide had arranged to have the monks chanting and drumming. During this 20-minute ceremony, our loving friends and colleagues came, one by one, to share well wishes and blessings as they each placed their Khata around our necks.

Following the chanting, Tom and I presented the monks with traditional red envelopes containing donations to the Temple. And then, with our friends standing as witnesses, Tom Hyder spoke of our spiritual union, blending East and West, ancient with modern. This amazing wedding ceremony, taking place over seven thousand miles from home and in one of the highest cities in the world, was stunningly rich with intention and love.

cake2Following our procession from the temple, a wedding feast awaited us at a traditional Tibetan restaurant. At its conclusion we were presented with a wedding cake – Tibetan style. While unsure how to decorate a wedding cake for westerners, they made it as festive and meaningful as possible with what they had. Our wonderful cake was decorated with frosting flowers, two cat figures, and a lotus candle that, when lighted, opened and spun around, playing “Happy Birthday.” It was perfect! And though Tibet is not a region not known for desserts, the cake was delicious!

Tom and I could not have dreamed of this day, let alone planned it! Our wedding was an inspiring example of the power of setting a pure and focused intention, then letting go of questioning how it might happen! From that moment on, the age-old process carried us along effortlessly as it evolved to culminate in our extraordinary wedding ceremony. This intentional journey was complete!

Monks

 “An intention synchronistically organizes its own fulfillment.” – Deepak Chopra