Slowing Down in the Himalayas

Posted: December 3, 2019

With only a month left in Bhutan, I hope to take back the sense of slowness and calm I’ve felt here. I’ve gotten used to going with the flow and have given up some of the control I usually like to have over my schedule and time. I’ve reframed it in my head. Now I look forward to being surprised, to the unexpected adventures I get to have both in class and outside of it. Over the last few months, I’ve stumbled upon monasteries, met incredibly kind people and have done so many new things, from harvesting rice to playing Bhutanese darts, to setting off on an all day hike with my fingers crossed that we’d end up finding the path someone had casually mentioned was ‘in that direction.’

 

A stumbled-upon landscape

 
With this slowness and relinquishing of control, I’ve also learned to spend my free moments wisely; to journal and reflect, to go for walks, or to just sit, look at the river and mountains and do nothing. One of my favorite places to sit and read is along the bank of the Paro Chhu (river). I’ve watched many sunsets there as the sky has changed color and I become unable to see the words on the page in front of me. The sound of the moving water drowns out everything else and it is easy to believe you are alone in the world at that moment. I have felt this sense of calm and slowness very often in Bhutan, often as I stare transfixed at one beautiful landscape or another and am filled with gratitude to be here. There have been moments where I have been overwhelmed by the peace I feel. The first is at the top of Chelela Pass where the world is very quiet, and the land is open all around you. I was so calm there that I actually fell asleep at 13,000ft, bundled up, laying on the ground. Another very striking moment was in Punakha and the top of Khamsum Yueley Chorten. The sun was warming my face, and I stood by myself and just stared at the river and rice fields around me. I didn’t want to move. I must’ve stood there for 20 minutes.

 

View from the top of Khamsum Yueley Chorten

 

Carolyn on the top of Chelela Pass

 
The slowness and calm are surprisingly very energizing too. Each new experience makes me excited (and sometimes hyper: cue the mental picture of me sprinting through the fog at 13,000ft at the top of Chelela Pass the first time we visited, completely out of breath because the silence, cold, and stillness up there caught me by surprise). The Center and our bus rides are often filled with lively conversations and lots of music too, whether we’re talking and laughing at meals, on hikes, or in Dr. Purna’s lectures, jamming in the small bus, having a sing-along at craft night, or playing music to pass the time while we do dishes. When your environment and the people you are surrounded by are lively, completely unafraid to be themselves, and not afraid of taking time to be quiet, you start to figure out what’s important to you. Remembering to slow down and seeking this calm in my day to day life has become important to me. Bhutan has prepared me, and I’m ready to make it a part of my life once I return home too.

 

Rolling down a hill in Phobjikha

 

Sunset over the Paro Chhu

 

Hanging out at the Paro Chhu

 
→ Himalayan Environment and Development Studies in Bhutan