(by Tracey Alysson, Ph.D.)
[dropcap]M[/dropcap]ount Kailash is spoken of as the center of the spiritual universe.
Standing on the earth of Kailash, one feels the sacredness of this mountain, constantly emanating blessings. My teacher, Marcus Daniels, told me before I left, “The center of the spiritual universe already exists in your human heart. Meet your mirror.” I had to travel to Kailash to understand this. The sacredness of Kailash already lives in my human heart. Kailash would show me what I already was but did not feel or receive. Kailash would help me dissolve the distractions that keep me from living this moment fully through my human heart. On Day 7 of prostrating around Kailash, I wrote:
“…This is a timeless unbelievable journey, going nowhere, taking everything. It’s true: only my heart supports me….I cannot leave Tibet the same. If Kailash is unfinished, I am unfinished; looking at a door, but still on the same side of it.”
Kailash rises in the wilderness of Western Tibet to an elevation of 22,022 feet. Circumambulating the mountain is called khora. The khora path around Kailash is 34 miles in length, at altitudes from 14,500 feet to 18,500 feet at Drolma La Pass, the highest point on the circuit around the mountain. The khora path itself is about eighteen inches in width, narrow and very rocky. It winds through open lands, up and down the mountainous foothills, along the edges of white water rivers, through deltas, across rivers on shaky bridges made of logs on piles of stones, and around hairpin turns of wash-out ravines.
The calling I received to go to Kailash was not only to circumambulate Mt. Kailash, but to do so by prostrating around the mountain which is done by only very few pilgrims. Walking prostrations begin as one stands, raising the hands above the head, bringing them down to forehead, throat, and heart, kneeling down, and then lying stretched out, face down, on the earth while saying a mantra. One continues the mantra as one then stands again, raising one’s hands over one’s head, then to forehead, throat, and heart, as one completes the mantra. Stepping a few small paces to where one’s fingertips reached when lying stretched out on the ground, one begins the second prostration. Continuing in this manner, one moves around the mountain, one body length at a time, one’s body kissing the earth in prayer. Pilgrims who do prostrations wear a thick leather apron and wooden clogs on their hands to protect their bodies from the constant contact with the ground.
In 2006, I answered the spiritual calling I received to prostrate around Mt. Kailash. Although I did not know it when I went, I am apparently the first Westerner to have done full-body prostrations around Kailash. Dying and Living in the Arms of Love: One Woman’s Journey around Mount Kailash is essentially the journal I kept as I prostrated around Kailash. They say that circumambulating Kailash dissolves a year of karma. For me, it dissolved my life. It took me out of my head and cut away any illusion of control. It was hard to breathe, and hard to find the energy to move, much less to do prostrations from 5 to 9 hours a day: at 14,500 feet and above, there is very little air. Wilderness has few markers. I could prostrate all day, and never know how far I had gotten. I could not use the illusion of progress to bolster myself, but had to draw from some place inside me so much deeper than achievement or knowledge. At one point I wrote: “It is hard to begin each day – each day? …This is Day 2!…” On Day 27, I wrote:
“It’s too hard. The formlessness is too hard. The emptiness of physicality and purpose is too hard. There is only love, in me and outside of me. There is nothing to hold onto. There is no holding on. There is just the moment and how I dance with it. Then that’s gone. It’s all gone.”
It took me 28 days to complete the circuit around Mt. Kailash. A lifetime of experiences met me as I persisted in my prostrations. People from all over the world, walking khora around Kailash, stopped to talk with me, to touch me, film me, give me gifts, tears, and blessings. On other days, the utter silence of the wilderness opened my heart wide to receive the blessing of this magnificent land. The land of Tibet is both beautiful and filled with power. Guru Rinpoche came to Tibet in the 8th century to contain the shamanistic energies and beings in the land of Tibet so that there would be space for new energies, for Buddhism. While I have often read of this in books, as I drove into Tibet on my way to Kailash, I could feel the enormous forces contained in the land and waters, the gods and nagas who are now protectors of Tibet, still alive in the very land of this country. Many nights were filled with nightmares, that is to say, with issues that I needed to face and resolve. There was a constant teaching of humility as it became clear that I had undertaken something I did not even understand, something of a beauty and a magnitude that was doing itself as I just did my best to show up with my heart open and my body on the earth. On Day 15, I wrote:
“Though Khora is not a goal, it is an experience. Perhaps that is why it never becomes easier. It is always a teacher. It is never about the lesson, which could be mastered, but about the teacher, which is always present in the new moment….I’m beginning to not know where this Khora is taking me. That’s a good sign.”
Kailash taught me to be human in a way that nothing else ever had. Kailash brought my soaring spirituality which had protected me and carried me through much of my life, and sank that spirituality into my body. Bodies are difficult. They hurt. They get stuck in the past and live as if it is still happening. They hunger and thirst and covet, they cry and laugh, they get confused and are struck by insight. My spirit can rise above it all, but my body is inherently in the thick of it. It is difficult to live in a human body.
Kailash taught me that love that is brought through my body and my human heart first will find its way to the love of my spirit and the love of my mind. Kailash taught me wholeness, and non-avoidance. There is nothing to avoid if you love first and let it all be what it is, just experiencing it. Kailash taught me that mastery is an illusion, that the learnings never stop, that love makes me one with what is happening. It is not that love smooths the way, but that love unites me with the moment, before thought and without thought and with joy that is beyond words. Kailash brought me home to parts of myself that I have been trying to avoid my whole life. Because of the expansive and profound nothingness of the Void, everything becomes available. Because there is nothing to hold onto, one becomes available for the moment, not distracted by past or future, by goals or agendas.
The night before I left Tibet, I wrote:
“There is such quiet, expansive joy that has filled me in Tibet. I don’t know what to do about the Chinese occupation. I don’t know what to do about anything. But the ocean of wisdom in Tibet keeps welling up under my feet and sweeping me away from the falsity of linear time. I have been immeasurably blessed, and I am receiving that blessing. Teach me to be the blessing.…. My grief is rooted in…the joy of having come to find something that has been missing all my life. My task is to continue to keep my word, and my feeling human heart will dance along with me, will hold me in refuge as the feelings arise and melt….These arms of Tibet will never let me go, will never let me down, and will never hold me back. They walk with me perfectly.”
I invite you to share this pilgrimage with me in your open human heart.
Meet the Author: Tracey Alysson has worked as a clinical psychologist since 1980, with training in hypnosis, EMDR, and Thought Field Therapy. In the early 1990’s, she was driven by an emerging awareness that working with people and the systems in which they grow and live needs to include knowledge and experience with the human body. Among other ways of becoming more aware of and conversant with the body, she became a licensed bodyworker in 2000. In 1998, she met Marcus Daniels, RPP, GSI, and has worked with Marcus since, learning to bring both humanness and spirituality through the human heart. Her passion is to explore what people do after they have come to terms with the learnings of therapy, that is, after learning what it is to be a human being, with its blessings, wounds, and challenges amidst the paradoxes of life. Competence as a human being brings freedom. What does one do with that freedom? Tracey’s fundamental experience is that we are here to meet, love, and receive who we are, and so while serving others, the primary person she works with is herself and the vast levels of unconsciousness within herself waiting to be met. Website: traceyalyssonphd.com