Thimphu Tsechu

The Thimphu tsechu (religious festival) is probably the most grand and popular tsechu in Bhutan. It takes place once a year, over the period of 4 days.

As our group landed in the Paro airport that midday on Oct 1, I was already so eager to witness this festival, see all the colors, and simply be among the people.

As we arrived on the ground of the Trashi Chho Dzong (more familiarly known as the Thimphu Dzong), we were immediately surrounded by the vibrance of colors from the locals’ beautiful Gho (men’s traditional dress) and Kira (women’s traditional dress). A celebratory vibe is in the air! Extremely large and beautiful roses bloom along the little patch of garden on the perimeter of the Dzong. I see smiles all around.

The amazing Trashi Chho Dzong is built in the typical Bhutanese way of no nails and no blueprint. One can see how the building is sagging and curved at some places. Yet, it is still standing strong since the 17th century! Currently the Dzong (just like all the other Dzongs in Bhutan) houses both the administrative government and the monastic quarter.

 

Our team made our way to the dochey (courtyard), and I was struck by the sheer number of people in the courtyard and the amazing colors worn by the people attending the tsechu.

 

People gathered on all 4 sides of the courtyard as police and government officials did their best to perform crowd control.

Our group quickly found seats in the area facing the main utse (tower). I sat myself on the ground behind rows of the audience that had made themselves comfortable.

 

A cham (religious dance) is being performed in the main performance area. Cham dances tend to be very long. One takes about an hour to complete. I thought this was a perfect reflection of life in this beautiful country. People take their time, a luxury that we often take for granted and had slowly forgotten. Cham dances originate back in Guru Rinpoche days or the few centuries shortly after that. Some of them are created in honor of Guru Rinpoche, the yogi that brought Buddhism into Bhutan in 12th century.

 

The Thimpu tsechu was filmed and broadcasted live on national television as well. When we were there, the cham told a story of the 48 days that take place between a person’s passing and before the next stage of hell or heaven.

 

At one point in the dance, a group of dancers as dakinis or celestial beings came and performed their dance. All cham dances are performed by the monks. So that means the males also play female roles like the dakinis. I loved watching these dances. At one point, I was so enchanted by the animal-headed dancers. Their circular jumping movement went on and on. I could feel how difficult the movements were, yet I also understood how meditative the movements are. What a privilege to witness that.

As the cham was performed, devotees line up patiently in long lines to pay their respect to Yama, the god of death, whose statue is displayed in front of the main utse beyond the performing area. (See the lines of people in the photo above, flanked by officials in orange jumpsuits).

 

It’s impossible to not people-watch during the tsechu. The vibrant national dresses just make one wants to look at all of them. Men, women, children – all looked so beautiful in their best outfits.

 

The colors, especially the reds of the monks’ outfits and the traditional dresses stood up beautifully against the green mountains and the blue sky.

 

But the ones who had the most fun had to be the kids. A couple kids had so much fun following the cham dances that some of them had to be told to sit down by some of the security guards. Some boys were playing football with empty bottles near our seats. And this little kiddo took my friend’s camera and went to town with it. Going to his family and other passerby and happily took photos of them.

 

To be able to witness this beautiful and vibrant tsechu and being part of the people’s celebration was truly a privilege. Great reminder to always live in colors being part of a community and make togetherness a part of our lives.

 


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My magical journey in Bhutan: Journey back to Mother’s Womb

 

Journey back to Mother’s Womb

The Kingdom of Happiness is a place that has tugged the strings of my heart for a very long time. When my friend Gladys shared casually that she was organizing this trip during one of our monthly Skype calls, I said a very loud YES immediately (without knowing how I was going cover the trip). I just knew I would be there.

So as always, the Universe provided and shortly before the trip, it was revealed to me one of my past lives in the land. I flew the DrukAir that early morning on the 1st of October with a knowing that I was coming home. And right enough, as the plane made its maneuver around the green mountains of the Kingdom, as it navigated towards the tarmac, my heart joyfully screamed that she is home.

In the following 8 days after that, I walked a journey back towards my Mother’s womb, as guided by Tara, as the representation of the ultimate Divine Mother.

 

I walked deep inwards into the lands, caressing every veins of leaves and every granules of soil. 

 

Photo taken by Shin Lan on the field towards Chimi Lhakhang

The earth, is my home. In it, I am alive. For the first few days I was extremely quiet. My soul seemed to only want to listen to the vibrations the dwellers of Mama Gaia.

 

I almost ran towards this tree on the courtyard at the Chimi Lhakhang (Temple of Fertility) like a child running towards her favorite friend. I spent several moments quietly just being with her. Only afterwards that I knew this was a Bodhi tree. A tree that I have mentioned repeatedly in the 4 weeks previous to the Bhutan trip as I kept telling a friend of mine (who owns a carved Bodhi seed) how I wanted to see the full thing in glory. And there she was.

 

Photo captured beautifully by Gladys Lee as I was communicating with the tree

This was a tree that called me outside Ponakha Dzong (also known as Palace of Great Happiness). Upon touching this tree, for the first time, I physically felt the pulsation of the trees upon my hands. Communicating, communing, with Mama Gaia.

 

The rocks of the hills towards Chagri Goemba (or Cheri Goemba) spoke to me. I was allowed to take one home and I found an eye lovingly ‘keeping an eye’ on me on the way home. Communication with nature continued.

 

Photo taken by my wonderful guide Jamyang Dorji using my camera

On the trail between Chele La Pass and Kila Nunnery, I heard the songs of the mountain in my soul’s ears, as well as the songs of the prayer flags. I understood how the macrocosm is the same as the microcosm and that I am a part of both and all. I was in the smallest of spores and in the farthest of trees. I was one with all.

 

The rock of the caves at Taktshang Goemba pulled me down in a wash of familiarty. The terma (treasure) uncovered by the terton (treasure finder) in the form of a large rock with a thumb print of Guru Rinpoche felt like a dear friend that I just met again. Rocks always store so much memories in them.

 

I walked through the doors of past, back to the beginnings. 

The currents of memories course through my veins, creating my blessed perfect life.

 

As soon as I stepped onto the grounds of Ponakha Dzong, I knew it was special. As soon as I saw the left most mandala on the main hall, I felt like I passed out for a split second. I was triggered, and my heart was on a roller coaster. This mandala was my beginning. I was once under the maker of the mandala. This mandala was also our beginning, the beginning of our cosmos.

 

This valley, the Phobjikha Valley, was once my land, where I roamed free and wide. I was emotional as I sat on the ledge looking down. I go to this place a lot in my meditation, not knowing where it was. I was finally physically there.

 

The Universe went on an effort to make me find this mandala on the gong by first knocking my head upon the rock near where it was hanging. But I only managed to see it at the end before I left.

I was also triggered. My heart felt deeply and widely in all directions and dimensions. I remembered the gong’s vibration and also knew that it was part of my past. I understood that my connection with mandala had started hundreds of lifetimes ago. I always forget with each rebirth, but the memory remains in me and eventually surfaces.

 

I walked back into Mother’s Womb, allowing myself to be embraced by her magnificent love.

Along these tall trees and mother earth, I had the most amazing connection with our tour guide. At one point, I shared how I love Tara and my connection with her has started intensifying before the trip and how I had been chanting her mantra. Then and there, I was also shown what an amazing role my guide has as an angel in this trip. Divine Mother spoke through the voices in my head, the images I see, the earth, trees, humans, and everything around us.

 

At the Taktshang Goemba, the Universe sent several different reminders of the Compassion chant, Om Mani Padme Hum. The reminders included the wonderful monk chants that was heard throughout the mountains, 2 locals who started chanting around me one after another as I got closer to the Monastery, and this sign that (again) led me to a short discussion with our wonderful guide (He was always at the right point and the right time to lead us to the right direction). It says om mani padme hum hri – which I was told to mean that the mantra is repeated a hundred times.

Upon the final and hardest part of the ascent, along with the reminder from the last local who chanted while climbing next to me, I took out my mala (or mani chim in local language), and started chanting 108 Om Mani Padme Hum all the way to the top and closed it with 3 Ohms. I did the same chant on the most difficult ascent back. Both done while being breathless, with burning thighs, trying to keep going on the steep climb. The Universe seems to remind me that on the toughest climb, trust that the Divine is there to guide you.

 

In this Lhakhang Karpo (White Temple), I was pulled down on my knees, unable to get up again, leaving me prostrating in front of Tse Lha Nam Sum (the Trinity Godess of Long Live). Yet again I was affected, my heart felt so much – elation, gratitude, melancholy, and love. I bowed down to such an amazing loving great power. I cleared my karma and opened myself wide to receive all her love.

That same night, during Rebirthing Breathwork, I owned my power of feminine and beauty and activated all 12 chakras.

 

On the last day of the trip, we had the pleasure of taking a traditional hot-stone bath. In the bath, I felt the most amazing bliss and spent the majority of time just curling in a fetus surrounded by the warm water as if I was back into my mother’s womb. Being the last significant thing I had on this trip, this felt like I had completed my journey back into my mother’s womb.

 

Land of the Thunder Dragon. Homeland.

 

Gangtey Goemba – a place where I truly felt I was a local.

I never imagined that so much of my past (that made up the person that I am) started in this magnificent Land of the Thunder Dragon. I drew the picture below in the rocking car on the way from Gangtey Goemba back to the capital Thimpu. I had one amazing meditation that morning in the lodge by the Goemba and saw this image.

Our past, present, and future are merely dimensions of the same point in time. There was no separations of the 3 and they all reside in ourselves.

 

Our eyes at our back are the brightest for we see best to the past.

Our third eye sees our way into the future.

But the most important one is the one that sees with the heart.

 

 

Om Tare Tuttare Ture Soha

I prostrate to the Liberator, Mother of all the Victorious Ones.

 

with love,

 

 


Related Post:

Thimphu Tsechu

Every Line has a Purpose

A friend of mine asked me once whether drawing a mandala for me is like doodling?

This question was asked over a year ago and since then, it’s somehow always in my mind.

I have been reflecting on my mandalas and my creation process. There are many mandala artists out there and I’m aware that mine are vastly different from theirs. This also got me reflecting on why mine are the way they are.

To me, drawing a mandala is very different from doodling. Doodling is associated with mindless drawing. While mine does not involved any mind, there is a mindful quality that goes into the drawing.

From the very first one that I drew, drawing a mandala feels like a channeling of something greater than I am. I remember in that first experience how it felt like I was downloading information that I could not understand onto paper. I never knew how one is going to turn out, and one is always very different from the next. My mandala has grown throughout the years as my gifts are developing, but the process is always the same – a download of information onto paper.

I’m never concerned about how pretty it would look like when I make one, because it’s never about making it pretty.

I’m never concerned about making it full or complex because that’s really not the purpose at all. If it turns out to be very simple, then it’s meant to be simple.

Every line I put down needs to have a purpose. There is a reason why that line is there and if the line is not supposed to be there, it won’t be drawn.

Sometimes, my mandalas, despite it’s simplicity, look more like sacred symbols and these ones are normally the ones that contain beautiful power in them.

Drawing a mandala always feels like a sacred ritual for me. I have to be in the right state of mind, and I have to be surrounded by chants, prayers, or songs with high vibrations. And whenever I’m in the middle of the creation, my heart feels like it’s being expanded wide.

To me, a mandala is a 2-dimensional representation of a multi-dimensional things that can go beyond our 3-dimensional world. Sometimes it represents a soul. Other times, it represents a life event. There’s no limit as to what it can represent. And as can be seen through these two photos, they can be different points in a (non-linear) timeline.

 

Rebirth, 7 Sept 2017
Death and Rebirth, 11 Sept 2016

The latest mandala was drawn today, on 7 September 2017, titled Rebirth. The older mandala was drawn on 11 September 2016 – almost a year ago – titled Death and Rebirth.  I didn’t plan this. It’s all Universe’s beautiful synchronicity. Both are about Rebirth – that happened at about the same period in the year, yet both are vastly different.

They reflect different points in my life, where I went through deep rebirth process by very different means. And although they are drawn a year apart, there’s a meeting point in the timeline where this time around, I’m also taken back (energetically and spiritually) to a particular sacred point that was involved in the rebirth last year.

These 2 drawings might look quite simple on the outside, but they contain deep meanings for me. Every mandala contains deep meaning for the person it’s intended for. Sometimes, the meanings might not be comprehensible in the mind, but they can be felt in the heart.

 

For every line contains a message for that particular person/ situation.

.. or an expression of that particular soul/ situation.

 

None is drawn without a purpose.

Just as every little thing that happens in our lives, has a purpose.

 

Begin with an empty cup

A couple days ago, I was in a Yoga class in the midst of transitioning from downward dog to a high lunge when I was reminded that each time I step onto that mat, I’ve been given a chance to start over – to begin with an empty cup so I can allow new lessons to come. Even after years, I’m still learning new ways of approaching my downward dog.

Just as every morning we wake up is a another chance to figure out how this living thing works.

Each time you touch that guitar is a new chance to learn how to create music from those strings.

Each time you touch your computer is a chance to find the best way to produce what you need to produce.

Can we approach life remembering to empty our cups and approach things as new chances for learning?

That relationship that didn’t work out gave you a new chance of stepping into others – hopefully better ones.

That project that didn’t pan out gave you a new chance to find other approaches on delivering the same message or product.

That time you hurt someone gave you a chance to be better when you come across the same situation.

It’s not easy to remember to see things as new chances. Our minds tend to go into autopilot and focus on all the miseries we had. 

“Eugh, why can’t I get even a simple downward dog, right?”
“I can’t believe it’s already morning.”
“I can never get the riff. This song is too difficult.”
“Back to work. *big sigh*. I hope this ends soon.”
“And here I am with another broken heart. Maybe I’m not good at this love thing.”
“Well, there you go, the project failed – I’m not good enough.”
“I hurt her. I suck”

That’s alright, we’re human. After all, changing the way we think is the most difficult yoga of all. 

I fall into the self-pity and “I suck” hole from time to time. And when that happens I call out “HELP!” to friends who I see as my secondary anchors in life. And with their help, get myself out of the hole.

And btw, falling into that hole is another chance of learning how to get out. ;).

Today, see if you can learn to empty your cup and see things as new chances at life. Cause life has its ups and down. If we can face life with empty cups, then when the water fills our boats during heavy rains, we got these empty cups to scoop the water out of our boats!

I raise my cup to you.

Cheers!

Back to the Beginning

I’ve been quiet this past month cause I’ve been going inwards into my own cocoon – reflecting and learning. Perhaps brewing my being for something bigger.

The Great Terry Prattchet wrote in A Hat Full of Sky, “Coming back to where you started is not the same as never leaving.” The whole month of July has felt like I’m going back to the start in many areas of my life – but i’m not exactly coming back to the very beginning. I have gone so far from where I started. I’m coming back to learn even more.

The more I know, the more I really don’t know. The more I learn about things, the more I have to unlearn many other things.


On the physical level, I’ve been made aware of many imbalances within my body – on the surface level is how different my left side is from my right. The most challenging thing was probably to remind myself that I am perfect the way I am, even if I’m not equal on the left and right side. The un-evennes in my body was created to balance other aspects of my life in these past 3 plus decades of my life. And now that I’ve been made aware of it, I’m given an opportunity to come back to the start and re-discover Balance. It is an opportunity to bring in more stability in the way I move and live.

I’ve become my own personal trainer and physical therapist. And I’m thankful of the opportunities I got to experience and apply what I learned on myself first and foremost. By experiencing things, I can better help others.


And with that, I’ve felt like I had to come back to the start in terms of how I teach my yoga classes. I’ve been blessed enough to share yoga with older ladies. Their range of motions are very limited, and that got me to be creative and really look at their needs.

And this time, I felt like I was made to go deeper into that – To come back to seeing the basic functions of human bodies and find ways to create better stability and mobility in the body through simple exercises. That takes not just body awareness and intelligence, but a lot of introspection on how we move and function with the aid of our bodies.


I’m also coming back to the start and re-connecting with what is Love. What does it mean to love and be loved? All the dark shadows of love have been coming up to play – things like attachment, possession, and all those good things that stops us from really loving.

I feel so much love and at times it’s aching for someone to pour it to and to express it to. I’m navigating what does expressing an emotion and having it be heard mean to me. As someone who is so passionate about life, the expression of life – thus the emotions – means a lot to me. But how exactly?

I don’t have the answer.

And that’s okay.

I’m coming back to the start to the essence of love.


Awareness, Introspection, and a Heart-centered Intelligence are my trio of friends in learning about myself and my life and being a better person. And I came back to the beginning with these 3 friends. We’ve started another journey and I look forward to discoveries and new friends along the way.

So, if you’re ever confused or needed to make sense of this life, come back to the beginning, and I’ll meet you there and introduce you to my 3 friends.

 

Till then,