I know I’ve spent $$$$ on shopping trips to Zara just to feel better about myself, and only wear those items probably once and I’d be surprised to hear if you haven’t too (especially if your a woman reading this!). It’s taken me a long time to realise what a waste of money it was.
We’re constantly in this battle of keeping up with the Jones’, always needing better things in our lives to make us happy. People become obsessed with their jobs, with status and authority and they think it makes them happy. But what if you realised you could find happiness in everyday life without having to spend loads of money or even need it? Without having to feel that buying an outfit, or the latest phone etc is needed for actual long-term happiness?
To me, India is probably the best country in the world to go to sort yourself out. Whether you just need some time out from your life, or you’re battling some stuff, then India is a country that seems to help with the healing process. And if you’re not battling any issues, then India at least opens your eyes and puts your life into perspective.
Tushita Meditation Centre – my favourite place in India
Outside the gates of Tushita before the course started.
Back in 2011 I found myself at Tushita, an Introduction to Buddhism course, specifically designed for Westerners in the foothills of the Himalayas near the beautiful town of McLeod Ganj (which is the same town where the Dalai Lama also resides). It’s a course which has been running for 40 years and originally founded by two incredibly well respected Tibetan Monks. It’s also the place where I actually first met Steve.
We decided to head back to Tushita recently because the course is just so good and we thought it would not only be a good way to end our two and a half month trip to India but also a way to continue our healing journey after the yoga course we did in Mysore.
And we were lucky this time… during the course we were invited over to the Dalai Lama’s residence for a teaching by the man himself.
Read on to find out what happened!
Why did we go to Tushita?
At the Dalai Lama’s temple before the course started.
We went back to Tushita because, well, I needed to emotionally ‘get over’ having a disease called SIBO which I caught from food poisoning. It’s a condition that causes so much bacteria in the stomach that eating had become a big issue which had caused me a lot of pain and discomfort in my stomach and back. The emotional attachment to this was overwhelming and I needed to finally get out of the shock and upset it had caused me for the last three years.
Where did we stay in McLeod Ganj?
Drone view from the balcony of our room at Trail House, McLeod Ganj
We stayed at Trail House for a few days which turned out to be a little gem with spectacular views, spent most of our time eating at Green Cafe and sorting out future plans to Nepal and Japan as well as visiting the Dalai Lama’s temple before the course started. It is so beautiful in Mcleod Ganj and we’d watch the beautiful white butterflies fly past our room every morning as well as some monkeys out on our balcony.
Our teacher was amazing at Tushita
Venerable Namgyel is an incredible teacher!
The course was run by a British/Australian monk called Venerable Namgyel. He was the most caring and hilarious man I’ve met in a long time (I’ve honestly not laughed as much in ages!). His teachings were centered around compassion and how we could benefit from helping others. It was truly incredible to see how his teachings really came from the heart and it instantly made me want to become a better person. Both Steve and I learnt a lot from him and he personally gave us both a lot of attention which I am forever grateful for.
He also teaches all around the world too, so check out his schedule because you’d be mad not to learn at least something that will make your life better.
How much is the Introduction to Buddhism Course at Tushita?
The course was structured so you could choose whether you wanted a single room, or dormitory. I always prefer a dormitory when doing meditation courses as I like the comfort of being around others and it was also the cheapest option – just $175 minimum donation required, which included everything for the 10 days (teachings, accommodation, food etc).
What was the course like at Tushita?
The introduction before the course started. The views out to McLeod Ganj are mind blowing.
Did I mention it’s a 10 day silent retreat as well? Most people always say, I could never do that, but in actual fact, it’s one of the best things, not having to talk to anyone, or make uncomfortable small chat. How often do we actually get the time without having any distractions whatsoever? That’s no TV, no music, no iphone, laptops. Try it sometime, it might actually help clear your mind. We had the help of the local monkeys to keep us entertained. Although I’m quite scared of monkeys, they were quite entertaining, watching the mothers protect their babies, many jumping through the trees every day to being quite playful.
I got very much into the structure each day, meditation from 6:30am, followed by porridge for breakfast, teachings by Venerable in the morning, then a yoga class up on the roof before lunch (literally imagine white butterflies en masse surrounding you during the class everyday. That’s right, it was like that!), followed by nap time for me (I could sleep all day!), then more teachings, dinner and then meditation before bed at 9pm. It was perfect.
The most interesting thing about this course is just before it starts, you get to chat to everyone, and apart from being in a small group for class discussion for an hour a day, there’s no talking involved (if you’re wondering, Steve and I were originally in the same group when we went there in 2011, that’s how we met!).
But, I started to notice that not only were other people starting to become kinder and more aware of their actions, (for example, letting others go first, opening doors for each other), but I was too. It was just this amazing place that I wondered, is there anywhere on earth where people are genuinely this thoughtful and kind to each other? We were being taught to be compassionate towards others but to actually start seeing the benefits was just amazing.
Then we went to visit the Dalai Lama
Our course at Dalai Lama’s residence (we’re towards the back on the left behind HHDL)
Towards the end of the course, we had some news… we were officially invited down to the Dalai Lama’s house for a teaching by the man himself (and a load of other Westerners too, but still…). It was the most amazing news, from being taught Buddhism to meeting the man himself, we couldn’t believe it. When we arrived at his temple, we were given a seat before he emerged from his house to come and have a photo with us before the teaching began. I was lucky to see him here last time and he’s the only person I have ever seen in my life who has the kind of energy that is so radiant, it’s overwhelming that he somehow makes you well up. The experience was mind blowing but as the teaching ended, we had to make our way back up the hill back to the course again. It was weird seeing a slice of everyday life back in the chaotic town of Mcleod Ganj, and I just didn’t want to leave the course.
What did I learn from Tushita?
On the grounds at Tushita just before the course started.
By the end of the course, I had learnt a huge amount. Finally, I was seeing the light of change I needed for a long time. I finally felt able to let go of having SIBO, to understand that it’s not a huge deal, that I can live with it and won’t let it take over my life anymore. To be able to separate the mind and body was my main achievement. I realised how powerful the mind really is and how I can live a much better life than being self focused on something that isn’t really manageable.
I felt like I had changed drastically for the better and that my purpose in life is to help others. That’s one of the reasons I write this blog… to share my experiences in the hope to help others by passing on the information I learnt. I’ve also learnt to let go of the past and to live in the present, to take personal responsibility for my own happiness and to let go of negativity. We seem to exaggerate our emotions and I think SIBO made my emotions worse.On one of the main streets in McLeod Ganj.
I honestly came out of the course feeling so calm and content with my life, I was ready for my next chapter – to conquer Everest Base Camp. And so on the final morning of the course, we had to leave early to catch a flight to Nepal to finish my healing journey with the 13 day trek to the camp itself. More on that soon!
Have you done a meditation course before? If you’re in Sydney you should read my post below about a weekend retreat near Jervis Bay. It was one of my favourite places to visit whilst living there.