On April 19th, exactly one month ago, Allen Gula and I watched the sun rise over the highest point on Earth, Mount Everest. After hiking more than two weeks through the Himalayas of Nepal, we smiled in blissful peace as the sun peaked over the mighty Sagarmatha. We sat in silence.
The Himalayan mountains are truly powerful; their Silence runs so deep that they demand respect and awe. For days, I would walk alone, speechless. There is certainly a reason that yogis and great spiritual seekers have been coming to these hills for thousands of years. It is a place for pilgrimage indeed.
Allen and I, along with our good friend Michael Anderson, were definitely on a pilgrimage of sorts ourselves. After 6 months traveling in India, we had finally made it into the mountains for peace and solitude, a perfect environment for self-inquiry, yoga and meditation. At over 18,000 feet, nothing moves, and inner stillness comes with ease. We walked 5-10 miles each day, across passes and through valleys, but without any destination in mind. Except to see Mount Everest, of course. This would be our goal.
We reached Everest Base Camp on April 19th, where we explored the camps of hopeful summiters (those aiming to reach the 28,000+ feet peak of Everest), before returning to our guest house to begin our decent. We dropped more than 6,000 feet in 5 days, and were well on our way out of the mountains when the earthquake struck on April 25th just before 12pm. I was taking tea with a grandmother and 3 grandchildren in a two-story stone home. We ran out as fast as we could.
For the next 5 days, we hiked as quickly as we could to the nearest city. Along the way we passed home after home, cracked and damaged from the quake. Fortunately, the region where we were, Solukhumbu in eastern Nepal, was far enough from the epicenter that most families escaped without injury and there were no reported deaths in the area. It was not until we returned to Kathmandu that we understood the true impact.
In a time like this, people begin to ask: Why? Why here, why now, why me? For thousands of Nepali families, this is a heavy question, one filled with grief, loss and mourning. For me, and I expect Allen and Juliette (co-creaters of Conscious Impact), we are blessed that this question is not one of great sorrow, but rather of great humility, compassion and and an opportunity to serve. It was not in our plans to stay in Nepal, nor was it our plan to launch an organization dedicated to helping Nepali families rebuild their lives, but in this situation we can only respond, as we each must every day, to a changing world, with changing needs and changing inspirations and challenges. Which is appropriate I guess, as there appears to be only one truth in this world as the Buddha taught right here in Nepal so long ago:anicca...impermanence...all is change.
We all wish, from the bottom of our hearts, that Nepali families are able to recover from this tragedy and to rebuild stronger than ever. We hope that Conscious Impact can be a small piece of that recovery, and that our work gives a few resources, a bit of cash and that little push that anyone would need to re-create their life after it falls down. Let us see what this next journey brings...