Ten years ago, I am swimming through a sea of entrepreneurs and aspiring reality TV guest stars. I’m looking up, seeing not one familiar face, and realising that they can’t see me. Their eyes are glued to the screens that give them all a false sense of hope and a true sense of insecurity. A mobile phone in the right hand and a Juicy Couture shopping bag in the left. Ten years ago, I am sitting on a bench in Central Park as my mind tries to comprehend the ideas of materialism and greed that my friends know so well.
Ten years later, I am walking slowly through a monastery, passing by three monks as they smile in my direction. I’m talking with one as he explains his desire for learning the names of each plant surrounding his home, the environmental impacts he has seen in response to climate change, and his love for all beings. He is holding a cup of milk tea, but refuses to drink until I take a sip of the liquid gold that fills mine. Respect, patience and chivalry fill the air around us.
Now, I am sitting on a mountain in Punakha as I watch the subsistence farmers below me preparing their fields for a new season. Their diligence, persistence, and passion are overwhelming me with inspiration. A young woman catches a glimpse of my shrunken self above the trees and waves with excitement. My heart begins to fill with the love that she had just sent me from so far away. The vines of yellow wildflowers are dancing.
I am sitting underneath a Bodhi tree, meditating on my experiences thus far, using a mantra that I had been given by a Bhutanese professor of mine. “Om mani padme hum”, a mantra of compassion. With a deep breath, I begin praying that I can spread the seeds of compassion to those in my new community as they have done for me; reflecting on how welcomed I feel incorporating myself into the Bhutanese culture. Now I realise that the insecure entrepreneur walking through Manhattan is just as capable of loving-kindness as the young Bhutanese boy helping his grandfather wash clothes in the nearby river. They just haven’t been to Bhutan yet.