Dharamshala International Film Festival 2017

Our days in McLeod Ganj, Upper Dharamshala were gentle. They passed in a peaceful, timeless way, as we reconnected with our friends and with the town. Early awakening for me during the first week as my body adjusted to the twelve time zone difference, connecting with our daughter in Vancouver by text and checking news as I sipped my hot water in bed.

Then preparations for our day, and the ten minute walk to our favourite restaurant, Kunga/Nicks Italian Kitchen, for breakfast. During the first two weeks we were able to sit outside, soaking in the panoramic view of the valley, ending in the Indian town of Lower Dharamshala below. Homes and guesthouses have been built on the steep sides of the hillsides down three sides of the valley, with Little Amdo, named after one of Tibet’s provinces, to the left, and Loseling Guesthouse, where we stayed in 2012, run by the South Indian Monastery of that name, to our right.

Our friends K & T lived in Little Amdo when we first knew them, before the paved road went in. Visiting them involved a downhill climb on a rough path, muddy after rain or during the road construction period. They did this multiple times each day, until their son moved them into their lovely self-contained apartment near the temple, with all the comforts for them in their twilight years.

Our first weekend in town we attended The Dharamshala International Film Festival, or DIFF, who’s sister festival originated in Switzerland, where there is a very active community of Tibetans and Tibetan supporters. In its sixth year, DIFF showcases the best of recent Indian and world cinema, including fiction, documentaries and shorts.

It was our second visit to DIFF, another opportunity to screen unusual films often only seen at film festivals. In 2012 we had the privilege of attending both DIFF and the more grassroots Tibet Film Festival, my personal preference, both held in McLeod Ganj, at TIPA, (Tibetan Institute for the Performing Arts) and in the tourist centre auditorium. Two films from the 2012 Tibet Festival still live in my memory; Girl from China, still not released, it appears, and Summer Pasture, released in 2010.

This year the main DIFF venues, two auditoriums, were at Tibetan Children’s Village school, billed as a ten-minute drive through the forest from McLeod Ganj. A shuttle makes the trip every half hour during the day. Alternatively, you can take a taxi, as we sometimes did, or an auto rickshaw, a bumpy ride up the mountain. A few films were shown in Lower Dharamshala in the state of the art Gold Movie Theatre, buried in the bowels of a modern building.

With so many films on offer, and not wanting to watch back to back films all day and evening, choices were difficult. Looking back, I can see that the films we screened had a common theme, explorations of the lives of women, men and children, often in smaller towns.

Our favourite was the film that opened the festival, Mukti Bhawan: Hotel Salvation; it had won thirteen awards worldwide, including the Venice Film Festival, Dubai’s festival, the South Korean Film Festival and the San Francisco Film Festival. It was the story of an Indian man who went to Varanasi, the Holy City, to die, accompanied by his son, staying in a guesthouse designed for that purpose. The acting and the photography were excellent, and we felt like we were revisiting Varanasi in person.

You might think that this would be a depressing film, but it’s not at all. It was very captivating and I would certainly like to see it again.

Turup was an in depth exploration of women’s and men’s lives in a small village in a Bhopal neighbourhood, through the lives of three very different women and a young man. An excellent movie.

White Sun, a film set in Nepal, tells both personal stories and is also a political narrative about Nepal’s rebirth after twenty years of unrest. It narates the story of a Maoist man who returns to his remote village to bury his father, a much more complicated task than it seems on the surface.

Out of This World was a documentary, a very well done update of a 1949 film shot on location in Tibet, months before the Chinese invaded the country, by Lowell Thomas, a prominent American journalist and his son. The invitation was extended to Thomas in the hopes that he could convince the US government to curtail the Chinese invasion. The photography was very well done, the journey in and out of Tibet gruelling, the exit from Tibet almost killing the elder Thomas. The original footage of the visit was fascinating, showing meetings with high lamas including His Holiness.

If you have a chance to see Angamaly Diaries think twice!  It is unusual for us to walk out of any kind of film, but we did walk away from this chaotic, cowboy and Indian type film, (read, boys on motor cycles, racing around, getting into all kinds of trouble). There wasn’t really one plot, just a series of disparate ‘adventures’, something an untalented fifteen year old film maker might have done! To say it did not live up to the level of this film festival is a gross understatement.

DIFF was a great start to our month in Dharamshala.


Please Note: Since I completed my research, the DIFF site appears to have been taken down, but perhaps the links will work again at a later date. Sorry!

Next: Golden Temple Roadtrip

Ellen

Copyright Ellen Besso 2018

Ellen Besso is a former Life Coach & Counsellor & a Reiki Practitioner. She is the author of An Indian Sojourn: One woman’s spiritual experience of travel & volunteering, and Surviving Eldercare: Where their needs end & yours begin, both available through Amazon.

 

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Drop Into Your Heart – the Grandmothers/Net of Light thru Sharon McErlane

It’s not complicated, the Grandmothers tell us. This is the most recent newsletter from Sharon McErlane, who channels the Council of Grandmothers. I first wrote about the amazing Net of Light last September; see Light or Darkness, Your Choice.

Grandmothers,” I said as I stood before them, “what is the most important thing we can do today to help ourselves and others? There’s so much turmoil, anger and fear in the world right now. What’s the best thing we can do?”

“It is your heart that will lift you,” they said. “If you move into your heart and keep your focus there for only a few seconds, it will lift you.” Fixing their eyes on me they said, “You are looking at this situation the wrong way. You think there is some work for you to do. You think you should lift your heart, should make yourself think differently, should be different in some way, etc. etc.” They shook their heads back and forth, back and forth as they regarded me patiently. “It’s not like that,” they said. “Because your actual nature is love and peace, you don’t have to ‘make yourself’ do anything in order to feel good. If you simply drop into your heart and wait there, you will automatically open to peace and love. It’s the way you’re made. It’s your natural way of being.

“You needn’t struggle and you needn’t be afraid,” they said. “It’s the mind that manufactures all of that; there’s no fear and struggle in the heart because the heart knows better. The heart knows HOME; it is tuned to home. So get to know your heart. It’s time. Haven’t you wasted enough years following after those images in your mind? Aren’t you tired of all that racing, chasing and disappointment? “So,” they shrugged, “give yourself a break. Return to peace.

“Move into your heart and start to live from there. Try it! Think of taking up residence and then throughout the day consciously return to your heart. Like a magnet, let it pull you into peace and safety. Then rest at this quiet center point. You can always venture out again with the mind if and when you want to, but up until now you have allowed that ever-searching, ever dissatisfied mind to control your life. So much so that you’ve lost your affinity for peace, which is your natural state. We are urging you to return to it now. Return to balance.

“Go into your heart and rest there. Start by thinking of the center of your chest and of us calling you home. Then let yourself drop in. It’s like a cave or a nest inside yourself and there we will enfold you and hold you steady while you replenish. You deserve a break, so take it. Take it now.
“Living a heart-centered life will restore and revivify you. It will fill you full. Then you will have something to give to the world.”

To Learn more about the Great Council of the Grandmothers and how to work with the Net of Light, go to www.netoflight.org .

 

Arrival in Dharamshala

McLeod Ganj, Upper Dharamshala

Our morning flight from Delhi to Kangra Airport, fourteen kilometres southwest of Dharamshala, was uneventful, but on arrival in McLeod Ganj I discovered that I’d left one bag on the airport luggage belt, necessitating a speedy, (read racing), return taxi trip down the hill by my steadfast partner.

As we travelled north from Delhi we began to fly over the lower foothills of the Himalayas, landing in the green and luxuriant Kangra Valley, sheltered by the Dhauladhar range, after one and a half hours. The Kangra Airport, at almost 2500 feet in elevation, is about half the elevation of Upper Dharamshala.

The first time we flew into Kangra in 2015, I was quite nervous. It was February, a season of unreliable weather, with plenty of rain and fog. Several years earlier I had read Mick Brown’s Book, The Dance of 17 Lives, about the seventeen  incarnations of the Karmapa, the third highest Tibetan Buddhist incarnation. In the book the author described his flight to Kangra during the month of February in bad weather. His seatmate, a monk who happened to be one of the Dalai Lama’s brothers, was petrified, constantly repeating a scary mantra: “Maybe today we will die”, unnerving all around him. We were fortunate, our weather conditions were fine for both our 2015 and 2017 trips, and we never flew over high mountains, as Brown’s book seemed to imply.

Settling in at Pema Thang Guesthouse came easy, as we had stayed there previously, and the staff really make you feel like you’re home. We had the good fortune of moving into the best room in the guesthouse after our initial two nights, with a discount, as a large party of Danish students had booked all the less expensive rooms.

Our view was superb, and we could observe the activity at the Dalai Lama’s temple any time, day or night. It was an excellent November and barely a drop of rain fell during the entire month we were in McLeod Ganj. Temperatures did not drop significantly at night until mid month.

We wasted no time; knowing we might not return to Dharamshala, we began connecting with our dear friends the day we arrived in town. Dr. D., my “Tibetan sister” came to our room with her young daughter that afternoon, with the usual arrival gift of fruit and khata welcome scarves. The next morning we visited K. and T., an older Tibetan couple who live near the temple.

This trip was memorable due to our deep connections with individuals. We built on already established relationships with very exceptional people, some of whom we have known for ten years over our many visits to the town. Their deep spirituality,  their love and generosity, allowed us to connect heart to heart at a new level. Over the years we have come to know and appreciate each other in many new ways.

Dr. D. administered to our medical needs with her powerful Tibetan medicines, invited us to her home and took a road trip with us. There was a particular reason for visiting Dharamshala this fall. The family is leaving the country, moving to the west, and our time together was especially poignant.

Our dear friends K. and T. a deeply devout couple, have taught me much about love. They and all their children are full of light, what I perceive as pure love. Being in their presence opens my heart. Formerly comfortably off nomads in Tibet, their life both in Tibet and in India has been spent in devotion to Tibetan Buddhism and to His Holiness, the Dalai Lama. Twice each day they visit Namgyal Monastery, close to their apartment, circumambulating the temple grounds, (ie, moving around a sacred object or idol on foot), during the morning visit, a 45 minute journey, uphill for the last part. At the temple they do multiple prostrations.

We do not shared a language with our friends, but it does not seem to matter. Their son, a monk who disrobed in order to support his family, joined us from Kathmandu on WeChat video during our first visit and interpreted. Dr. D. accompanied us on one visit, but we went alone on our final visit, enjoying ourselves as always, miming what we needed to say to each other, and eating the delicious Tibetan food, K insisted on feeding us.

Our hearts and souls know each other; it is not necessary to speak. Once I asked T., through his son, what he thought our relationship was in the past. His clever reply was “The Buddha knows”.

During the final weeks before we departed Canada to journey to India, many times I felt an urgency to leave, and heard a voice in my head saying, “I have to get to India, I have to get to India”. Having reached Dharamshala and begun reuniting with the town and our friends, I felt content to be home once again.

Ellen

Copyright Ellen Besso 2018

Next: The Dharamsala International Film Festival, (DIFF)

India 2017 – Delhi Yet Again

Each of our trips to India has been different, in its own way. Our fifth journey, in the fall of 2017, was remarkable, although we visited many of the same places. The journeys built on each other, bringing us to this point. This recent one, likely our final visit to India, with its strong themes of spirituality and love, lifted us to a new level, one where we began to connect with humanity in deeper ways.

We arrived at Indira Gandhi Airport in New Delhi just after midnight on the 28th after leaving Vancouver at dinnertime on Thursday October 26th. Exiting the airport was a slow, exhausting process, taking about two hours. The new e-visas for foreigners visiting India for less than 60 days proved to be very popular and immigration lineups were exceedingly long. The fingerprint machines were malfunctioning and the bored and weary security officers repeated the instructions to each passenger four or five times before successful readings were taken, spraying our hands with hand cleaner between attempts.

Our goal was to reach Dharamshala, our main focus, about 500 kilometres to the north, as soon as possible. We passed a fitful half night’s sleep and a lazy day in the neighbourhood around Bajaj Guesthouse, in the quiet, middle class Karol Bhag community, followed by another full night of predictably disturbed sleep, (jetlag from passing through twelve time zones is often brutal). We began staying in the Karol Bhag area when our wonderful hotelier, Brij, sold the Prince Polonia Hotel in Paharganj, a fascinating working class market district closer to Old Delhi.

Sunday we rallied and enjoyed a half day outing. Around noon our hotel driver drove through the heavy traffic of Old Delhi to Jama Masjid Mosque. Built in the 17th century, it holds up to 25,000 people on special holidays. We had attempted to enter the mosque during our 2009 trip but were turned away as it was Friday, the day of worship for Muslims.

On the plaza of the beautiful mosque we were surrounded by Indian families and groups of young men who asked to have their picture taken with us. This is common in India, I suspect they tell folks that we are their Canadian friends. A quick getaway is necessary after a while or you would find yourself still there an hour later!

After the mosque we walked the narrow lanes of the market for a while, searching for an interesting place we had visited eight years previously, but we’d not done our homework, and all the lanes looked pretty much the same. Our driver came and found us there, concerned that he’d lost his charges.

Copyright 2018 by Ellen Besso

Coming Next: Arrival in Dharamshala, home of the Dalai Lama

Ellen

Ellen Besso is a former Life Coach & Counsellor & a Reiki Practitioner. She is the author of An Indian Sojourn: One woman’s spiritual experience of travel & volunteering, and Surviving Eldercare: Where their needs end & yours begin, both available through Amazon.

Tibetan Refugees Paved the way for Syrian Refugees on the Sunshine Coast

The first two Syrian refugee families have completed their first year on the Coast, sponsored by a Gibsons Church. They are doing well and are enjoying being part of this special, supportive community. They have paved the way for the next family, sponsored by the Sechelt Activity Centre, later this year.

Being part of the Syrian folks lives has been an honour and a privilege, and we are happy to call them our friends, as we do the Tibetan family we sponsored several years ago.

The first Tibetan families from remote northeast India, arrived on the Sunshine Coast in December of 2013 and were followed by several more families, for a total of close to 20 here in our community. The private sponsorship project ended at the end of 2016.

All these folks have made a positive difference, enriching our community by their hard work, their deep spirituality and friendly manner. They are willing to help other new refugees, like they were helped. The 1st arrivals  helped the next Tibetans. Now the Tibetans help the Syrians in any way needed, by attending fundraisers and loaning their vehicles.

We get so much back from volunteering, whether in India or at home. As the research has shown, helping releases feel good brain chemicals: dopamine, endorphins and oxytocin.

There’s more, but you can read the article through the link if you’re interested.

I really can’t imagine what my life was like before we began volunteering!

Light or Darkness, Your Choice

For me this is a time to step back, to simplify, to clarify my personal truth. To pay attention to the guidance that is always within and around me, whether my awareness is focused on it or not. Trusting that things are unfolding as they are meant to, that chaos is leading us to new clarity is a challenge, but this way of being has been slowly developing for many of us over many years.

We have a choice, to go to the light, or to the dark. To make our life about positivity in all ways…in our thoughts, words and actions. For much good is taking place on this planet, despite, or perhaps because of, the darkness.

The searching for the light, is a good thing, because “…We are the ones we have been waiting for!!” as the words of A Hopi Elder Speaks tell us. The poem has been attributed to many people, including Thomas Banyacya Sr., (1910-1999), an Elder of the Hopi Nation. This widely adopted poem was apparently originally meant for the Hopi, however it has felt meaningful and timely since I first came across it a few years ago.

The Grandmothers and their Net of Light  are sending the same message, although wrapped in a different package. The Grandmothers are a council of ascended souls, who teach about the Net of Light, the healing net that surrounds the planet. Their message is a powerful one: they have come to help rectify the imbalance between yin and yang on this earth. They are here for any and all of us, female or male, whoever is drawn to them, folks want to both help the world and be uplifted themselves.

In 2002 Nasa first saw the Net through the Hubble Telescope, and named it the Cosmic Web. This web of invisible dark matter lights up the galaxies, enabling scientists to see them better than before. Here are beautiful Hubble pics.

Since my introduction to the Grandmothers and the Net a few months ago, on the surface my life has remained the same , but internally I am different…more focused, more in touch with spirit. My work with the Grandmothers and the Net  harmonizes with and enhances other aspects of my life.

In this current time of massive dichotomy and changes, we all have a choice – to go to the Light and create a sacred space wherever we are, or wallow in the negativity of Darkness and hopelessness.

Which do you choose?

Ellen

Copyright Ellen Besso 2017

The Grandmothers picture is from a Net of Light newsletter; painted by one of the members.

 

 

Fall Again…new beginnings

The days are warm, the nights cool. I sit on my back deck surrounded by my friends, the giant conifers, soaking in the afternoon sun, squeezing the last drops of heat from the thinning sun before it sinks behind the trees.

The monsoon season is almost over in Dharamsala India. The weather is cooler this fall than usual I’m told. It’s been close to a decade since I discovered McLeod Ganj, Upper Dharamsala, home of the Dalai Lama and tens of thousands of Tibetans in exile, but every year at this time, I long to return to the place where a part of my spirit permanently resides.

A prediction was made more than one thousand years ago by Padmasambhava, also known as Guru Rinpoche: “When the iron bird flies [airplanes]…the Tibetan people will be scattered like ants across the world, spreading [their culture and Tibetan Buddhism].”

Perhaps next fall, or the next one, we will go back to Dharamsala, before more of our Tibetan friends leave. They truly are spread around the world: France, the US, Australia, one waiting with hope in Toronto for permission to immigrate with his family.

This year my partner is winding down his survey business, preparing to retire at the end of the year. I am returning to my creative and spiritual pursuits, restoring myself after intense immersion in another sponsorship program, this time with Syrian refugees.

As our planet, and we along with it, moves deeper into the vibration of the fifth dimension, I renew my goal to be in connection with spirit continually, participating in activities that feed me and spending time with folks I have deep connections with.

My year’s experience attending the powerful Divine Love prayer circle and the friendships developed there have helped me tremendously with my spiritual pursuits. So has my relationships with the devote Christians on the Working Committee for the Syrian sponsorship, a local church sponsorship, and my time  with our two Christian Syrian families.

Maintaining contact with spirit is simple, if we allow it to be so. I am slowly learning this truth. Angels are around us all the time, and the more we acknowledge this and ask them for assistance, the stronger our connection becomes to spirit.

“My religion consists of a humble admiration of the illimitable superior spirit who reveals himself, [herself], in the slight details we are able to perceive with our frail and feeble mind.”
Albert Einstein

 

Accepting the Intense Energy, External and Internal Change

We all do it. Resist our spiritual, or soul process. Letting our heads run the show.

Lately the energy onslaught has been so intense personally I find myself using extreme phrases I would not normally use, like “energy attacks”, and “being affected by inner and outer demons”.

The combination of outer world chaos like wars, plus major energy events like the current period of eclipses and solstice means that our energy systems are experiencing an onslaught more intense than anything before. (whether we are aware of it or not). It is an opportunity to grow if we can learn to manage all that is happening, both on the external level on this planet, and our internal emotional and psychic wounds.

The Divine Love prayer group calls these wounds soul encrustations, old material that is holding us back from developing into our spiritual fullness.  Our intent to change combined with prayer and meditation, slowly clears this energy

Many of us are now experiencing, in varying degrees, kundalini awakeninsg, as the life force stored in our base chakra begins to rise upward. This process, when completed, frees up a tremendous amount of energy. The energy blocks in various chakras block the kundalini rising, and as our nervous systems are being rewired we often experience many symptoms.

Kundalini awakening is not well understood, apparently. The internet has many long lists of common symptoms but finding information on the less common ones requires more thorough research. I’ve read that it can happen both when someone has learned to “be still”, i.e. meditate etc., and very unexpectedly to people with no knowledge of energy.

Heat is the most common symptom. Some of my symptoms are common, and some not so much. Many originate in the brain stem, where old memories,  of a fight or flight nature are stored, and the head becomes very tight. Some of my other symptoms, including the common and not so common are: Not wanting to mix with people much; Movement of energy around my body; Changeable moods; Energy blocks in hips and legs, Occasional dizziness, (from inner ear rewiring I’ve read); A feeling of collapsing inward through the solar plexus and second chakra; Two very brief feelings of craziness due head energy rewiring.

Some of the things I have found helpful during this time are:

  • Structuring my morning with (brief) meditation and prayer, journalling,  walking, then writing.
  • Learning to ask my angels for help and being mindful of their presence.
  • Considering/embracing the idea of “joining with spirit” rather than surrendering, as that does not work for me at all; it feels very disempowering.
  • Softening the way I treat myself.

Please note that I have chosen not to post any links about kundalini awakening for several reasons: there’s too much out there, your symptoms may be less common, some information may not be reliable and/or may seem flaky. (In the past I believed some of those folks were over the top, yet here I am now myself, experiencing this energy!)

PS: Having said above that I am not recommending any links on kundalini awakening to you, I have just come across one that is the most comprehensive & sensible one I’ve seen:

http://kundaliniandcelltowers.com/energy-shift-symptoms.html

 

An Indian Sojourn by Ellen Besso

My second book, An Indian Sojourn: One woman’s spiritual experience of travel & volunteering” was truly a labour of love. Three years in the making, it chronicles my journey through many parts of India, and volunteer work in the Tibetan community of Dharamsala, home of His Holiness the Dalai Lama.

An Indian Sojourn is available through Amazon, (sample pages available there), and locally on the Sunshine Coast, from Ellen (ellenbesso@gmail.com), WOW Art Gallery in Sunnycrest Mall, and at Molly’s Lane Market.

Here are a couple of testimonials about my book:

“I journeyed with you every day. It is travel writing with depth to it.”  Jan Degrass, Coast Reporter

“A factual account, plus an emotional and spiritual journey.” Sara MacDonald

An Indian Sojourn is for women looking for a deeper travel experience and for the arm chair traveller.

Best wishes  

Ellen

 

 

Separation vs. Joining – When the Planet Heals, She’ll Heal Us

“Daesh, i.e. ISIL/ISIS, and Donald Trump are very much on the same side: the side of separation.”    Mark Heley

I recently received an intuitive message: “When the planet heals she will heal us.”

We and our planet are inextricably joined, we can’t talk about one without considering the other. Mother Earth has much to teach us about togetherness, working together, co-creating, helping each other.

My previously random praying has become more regular and refined over the course of the last six months. My involvement in the Divine Love prayer group has sensitized me to many things, including my environment. I usually begin my prayer with  healing for the planet, asking that Divine Love and Light pour down upon her, while visualizing the earth as a globe.

The planet works by natural laws, as a well oiled machine, when not interfered with. We have harmed her, and now we as a society are slowly beginning to feel compassion for her, to notice how out of balance she is and to begin to make amends.

Having compassion for our planet instead of ignoring the damage that’s been inflicted on her changes us. It softens something inside us, something that we may have ignored in our state of denial. This softening enables us to feel more compassion and empathy for all those who live here on the earth, whether they’re in our backyard or many thousands of miles away.

Separation or Joining…we have a choice.

Blessings to you  
Ellen

An interesting article on having empathy, & not just for people we know http://upliftconnect.com/whole-world-needs-healing/   

The ancient practice of marrying the land, Irish folklore & goddesses http://upliftconnect.com/marrying-the-land/

Ayurvedic Exercises given to me: When springtime comes round again, I will remind myself to lie on the grass underneath a large pine tree in my backyard, to soak up the earth energy. Also to walk in the sand at the edge of the water on the beach.