It was a humbling experience, standing in front of a a hundred plus Tibetan immigrants in a hall in Burnaby on a Saturday evening not long ago. The Vancouver Cultural Society was officially marking the end of Canada’s Tibetan Resettlement Project, an undertaking that resettled 1000 Tibetan Buddists from Arunachal Pradesh in remote northeast India.
Officially called stateless or displaced persons, the parents and grandparents of these Tibetan folks became isolated in the northeastern Tribal States of India, a place rife with poverty, when they followed the Dalai Lama out of Tibet many years earlier. So remote were the settlements, that even the Dalai Lama’s Government in Exile did not know they existed for the first while. Canada’s five year private sponsorship program officially ended in December of 2017, with the last people arriving in March of 2018.
All sponsors and volunteers in the province of British Columbia were invited to this appreciation dinner, along with the new Tibetan families and other Tibetans already living in Vancouver. Sadly, the many sponsors and Tibetans from Victoria, Vancouver Island were not able to attend, and we met only a handful of folks from Vancouver. Don and I were the sole representatives of our sponsorship group on the Sunshine Coast. Our Coordinator, who sponsored three families, was there with her partner.
Our group sponsored a family of four, the Mom, who arrived with almost no English, with her two teenage children in December of 2013, and the Dad, who followed four months later, unable to get his discharge from the Indian Army until then. Another son remained in India, at age 22 too old to be included in the family application.
The Prime Minister at the time, Stephen Harper, to his credit, had agreed to the Dalai Lama’s request to resettle the displaced Tibetans in Canada. Becoming involved in Canada’s somewhat “under the radar” project, (the Canadian government did not want to offend its Chinese trading partner), was a spiritual calling on our part.
There are no accidents. Our many friendships with Tibetans living in exile in Dharamshala, India, developed during five visits spanning ten years, had led us to join the Canada Tibet Committee, and we were notified of the first sponsorship organizational meeting in early 2012. Our application went in during the summer of 2012.
We hit the ground running when our family arrived, the demands were great in the early days. Gradually the family members became more self sufficient and we were needed less.
Despite the small size of our community and scarcity of good jobs, our family and indeed all the families on the Sunshine Coast have done very well, working hard at whatever jobs were available, then gradually moving into more skilled areas.
The appreciation dinner and entertainment evening went quickly. At 10 pm we were readying ourselves for the dash to the last ferry, when we were called up on the stage. We were introduced to the audience and honoured with a khata scarf by the wise Rinpoche from the Vancouver monastery.
Every action we took on behalf of our Tibetan family, and for our Tibetan friends in India, brought us appreciations tenfold over. Each small gesture has been acknowledged many times more than we ever expected or wanted. Their gratefulness was very humbling. Yes, we have helped our family start a new life in Canada, and helped other Tibetans in small ways in India, but I do not think they realize how they have enriched our lives, and the heart opening we have experienced as a result. In the future, I plan to tell our Tibetan family that they have changed our lives also, and we are blessed to call them our friends.
In 2012, in a European cafe in Udaipur, we met a Canadian man from the interior of BC. This was his sixth trip to India, although each time when he returned home he said he was never going back. India is like that – it does not resonate with everyone – but if it does, it gets into you and stays there. Into your psyche, your emotions, your spirit and into your very senses.
In many ways we feel done with Mother India, complete. Some things have come full circle. Our closest Tibetan friends are moving to Canada soon, the father is already there, waiting for his family, as I’ve written previously.
India lives in me and always will. I cannot shake her off. In fact part of me is always there. I can call up the memories whenever I wish to, and as the world becomes a smaller place energetically, I have a sense that my two spiritual homes are beginning to segue into each other in a new and deeper way.
Delhi has been our entry point and often our exit point on most of our five trips. Flying in or out of Mumbai and Chennai, Tamil Nadu, the exceptions, were just fine, but Delhi holds a place in my heart. I like Delhi and feel very comfortable there, despite the pollution and chaos. (It rates 11 out of 30 for the world’s most polluted cities, and 6th in India for pollution). We were very fortunate on this trip, to miss particularly bad pollution weeks, both coming in and leaving Delhi.
Walking in the laneways of McLeod Ganj, Dharamshala, of Udaipur, and in 2007, the Holy City of Varanasi on the Ganges, the draw of the Dalai Lama’s temple over ten years, the power of our Golden Temple visit, the unsurpassed beauty of Lake Pichola and the Old City of Udaipur, these are the memories I carry within me.
India is not all brightness & light. There is a growing middle class, yet poverty remains rampant. It is not a country for women, although middle and upper class women have more equality these days.
Everything is as One as we delve inward towards our centre…our connections with the presence of the Divine during this special journey, the very act of writing about this trip…all these things join me to my dear Tibetan friends in India: Kelo, Thupden, Tsoknyi, Dekyi and Pema.
This is what I will remember always…
An interesting article for you:
Copyright 2018 Ellen Besso
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.
After we had been in Dharamshala for two plus weeks we reached the apex of our visit: an audience with His Holiness the Dalai Lama.
Months earlier our friend, a former minister in the Tibetan Government in Exile, had suggested that we apply for an audience, so we visited the temple to inquire and were given the Dalai Lama’s Secretary’s office contact information. Internet connections were poor, worse even than I remembered, so I tried the wifi at our favourite breakfast restaurant. Oddly my email request for an audience disappeared from the tablet, so Dr. D. sent an email and phoned the Secretary’s office.
On our way back to Dharamshala from the Golden Temple Dr. D. received a phone call from the temple office, asking why she had not returned their email. Apparently she had forgotten her email password! Our presence was required the very next morning at the temple, she was told.
We arrived at the temple office early the next morning, as instructed. We had no hard copy invitation to present, but after a bit of confusion, the words “We’re from Canada”, alerted the security officer to who we were. We were then sent outside where female and male security guards searched us and instructed us to leave our bags. My body search was thorough, the female guard found a toothpick in my pocket and confiscated it!
We then lined up on the driveway towards the reception building and home of His Holiness, standing in the chilly morning air for about an hour. Most of the sixty or seventy attendees were Tibetans, with about a dozen Westerners. Finally the Tibetans were directed to move up towards the building, where they stood, heads bent and khata prayer scarves in hand. All the Westerners stood a few yards back.
After a short time along came the Dalai Lama, accompanied by several monks. His Holiness took his place in front of the entrance to the building. The audience was tightly orchestrated, with several older monks flanking Him and a long line of Tibetan security guards forming a tunnel visitors walked through. An Indian Army guard with an automatic rifle stood on each side of the doorway, a much smaller army presence than during the Dalai Lama’s teachings, when thousands of folks are present.
Each group or individual was directed through the tunnel of Tibetan security guards, while the rest of us stood back and waited our turn. Four Western women went before us, one of them a nun. When a question was asked by one of them, the Dalai Lama offered them a ten minute mini history lesson. His recall of historical dates was impressive.
Then it was our turn to meet Him. He grasped my hand, then Don’s. I told him that twenty Tibetans live in our community near Vancouver, (part of Canada’s Tibetan Resettlement Sponsorship Program). He expressed interest, and I had the sense he was about to ask me something, but the staff intervened and told us to line up for pictures. The monk photographer quickly took eight pictures of the three of us. I then asked His Holiness if he would bless our friend who was very ill at home in Canada. An expression of deep compassion crossed his face, and he gave a brief blessing in Tibetan. We thanked him, bowed, then left, with precious pills and blessed red silk thread in hand.
What remains with me, and, I believe always will, was the gentle peace surrounding His Holiness, indeed around the whole area where we stood. His Holiness gave us a lot that day. We received a powerful healing energy from his presence and his touch.
Afterwards, walking down the driveway of the temple towards the street, I was attacked by a street dog, a first. The dog jumped on me twice, and in my haste to get away from him I fell off the roadway to the ground below, a drop of a foot or more; I remained on my feet and fortunately was not harmed. The dog and his friend continued to follow us after this. Naturally, I was shook up and afraid they would jump again and bite me this time.
No one, including the police, believed the dog was harmful, however, there is still a threat of rabid dogs in McLeod Ganj. The vaccination program is improving each year, though. Eventually Don took charge of the situation and, taking me by the arm, suggested we leave the main road and go up the Kirti Monastery laneway.
After mulling over what happened for a while we concluded that the dog did not mean harm, he was being playful, and was responding to my altered state after meeting His Holiness.
The meeting with the Dalai Lama had a great impact on both of us. Our previous exposure to Tibetan Buddhism, both in India and in Canada, and to Tibetans through our enduring friendships in Dharamshala and our Tibetan family sponsorship in our home community, deepened our experience. And I would venture to say that past lifetimes as Tibetan Buddhists also contributed to making the encounter more profound.
In later days we met a beautiful man, a Tibetan Buddhist who manages a catering facility for the government in exile’s cultural department. He told us that he blacks out every time he meets His Holiness and does not remember the experience.
Looking up the term “medical blackout” I found: a transient dulling or loss of vision, consciousness, or memory. While we did not have that experience, the audience had a strong effect on us and we believe we received a powerful healing from the Dalai Lama’s touch and from being in his presence, one that we are still integrating into our energy system.
At our initial chiropractic session within a week of our return from India, our spines were quite integrated, and our doctor sensed that it was from the experience of meeting His Holiness.
Clearly, meeting His Holiness the Dalai Lama was our destiny, part of our spiritual path.
Copyright Ellen Besso 2018
Next: Celebrating Friendship, Final Weeks in Dharamshala
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 .
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.
Copyright Ellen Besso 2018
Next: The Dharamsala International Film Festival, (DIFF)
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 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.
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?
Copyright Ellen Besso 2017
The Grandmothers picture is from a Net of Light newsletter; painted by one of the members.
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
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: