My Prayer Flags, Bhutan. ©Copyright 2014 Anjani Millet
Butter is Goodness-Colored
a yellow that makes the rotating earth blink and wonder,
How did that get there? Did I put that daffodil right there?
Because if I did, I love my love,
I love my idea, how brilliant, to complement my blue skies and how brilliant
that daffodils and grass don’t clash,
that is not their Way –
not the Way of checks and circles, or three cellos off-key, or
Yellow is my reminder,
she says to her own round self,
of blackest night, when yellow hides in its mother’s shadowy, velvet night-skirt,
which reminds me of embers cloaked in flames,
which reminds me of trees,
which reminds me of wind,
which reminds me of mountains,
which reminds me of
buttery yellow silence.
Copyright 2011 Anjani Millet. All Rights Reserved
The kind lama loaned me his cottage high in the Himalayas, a three hour hike from Dochula Pass, in Bhutan. Below are the photos from that blissful (and really, really cold) stay I had alone in the mountains at the monastery over which he presided. Some shots take place in his cottage, including self-portraits. The shots in blue are the treacherous walk to the ‘bathroom’.
Planning is a terrific challenge for me. With a mind that speeds and veers, it’s not uncommon to drop into mental potholes as they slip onto my visual runway when faced with options.
Picturing such a myriad of possible outcomes can be daunting for me. Today in my mental planning session, I eased onto a quiet country road in my thoughts, and wondered, what is my coolest possible future? This was easy!
I pictured more coolness: what fun, cool steps do I need to take to get to the coolest possible future available this week, this month, next year? THIS I can see!
For four years, I’ve wanted to photograph the nuns of Bhutan. At last today I sent off that letter to initiate that project.
What is your coolest possible future? What is the soonest cool date you can get there, and what one cool step can you take today to get there, no matter how small that step or distant the goal? Can you clearly picture that sweet future and those fun steps?
I’d love to hear what that looks like for you!
(Gently) Opening Our Hidden Rooms
For many of us, so carefully and meticulously do we hide deeply important things that we utterly forget where we put them. Key to the neighbor’s car. Favorite red pen. That one-off coupon for free ice cream. The golden locket you inherited from your mom, the one with the inscribed lilac blossom. You know how it is – you get something you’ve got to be sure you’ll never, ever lose, you put it in the “special place”, and poof! Bye bye, precious thingdeal!
Putting things we’ll be sure to find them is the magic formula for ensuring we’ll never, ever see them again. It’s the fault of the earth’s gravitational field, I’m sure of it, because those things get sucked into some far away universe, or under the couch, or in some weird terrifying blend of the two.
But we do it with our thoughts, hopes, and dreams too, as well as the beliefs we want to run from; for instance, we squirrel away our fears that we are failing ourselves, or wasting our time on this job/relationship/mortgage/book. It’s too hard to look at, the possible badness or wrongness or hopelessness. This is hiding the truth of ourselves from ourselves in order to avoid sensations of shame, guilt, hopelessness and sorrow. There’s one more useful reason though: avoidance of the truth of why we do things allows us to simply do what we really intend to do anyway without directly confronting head-on why we feel we shouldn’t.
This sort of self-deception is how most of us put on so much weight over time, avoid unpleasant phone calls, put off paying bills – but worse yet, it’s also how we put our dreams on ice. This is where we avoid our own avoidance but also, so much worse, we avoid our own successes.
This is not surprising, this avoidance. Aside from a basic sense of self-criticism lurking barely beneath the skin for most people, honesty has come to have a brutal connotation in the last 30 years, especially when it comes to the relationship with ourselves. Thanks to the self-help movement of the 70’s and up to today, self-disclosure has taken on a sense of beating oneself into a bloody, honest pulp. “Ego” came to be seen as a bad word, and the idea that we should be more forthright with ourselves did, sometimes, involve painful disclosure to a highly critical listener. Baked in here is so often a real lack of compassion for the reasons we hide things from ourselves, and what to do about it. I’d suggest we often don’t understand why we do things because we wait to understand them before we’ll allow compassion – but perhaps assuming a better stance might be compassion first, knowledge second.
Besides, if it’s true that we grew up on the African Savanna, hiding from things is in our DNA. Perhaps we need it. Perhaps if we don’t have enough stealth in order to survive, we just make up danger and we ourselves become both the lion in the tall grass and the gazelle innocently drinking.
I recall attending a required “growth” seminar for work once in which a woman was dissolved into tears in front of 600 attendees as she was “confronted” with her own sense of failure by a teacher who did not know her and did not love her. He certainly was not going to be around to pick up the pieces when this thing was over with and she hated herself more than when she woke up that morning, her secrets and fears now smeared into the invisible social marketplace with a brutal public flogging. I do not think this sort of pain and self-disclosure make for happy bedfellows, not long term. In other words, it’s not a sustainable sort of honesty – nor a sustainable happiness.
In the spirit of a gentle and encouraging movement toward happiness, it’s worth considering that a more frank discussion with ourselves about our little avoidances could actually be helpful.
Consider writing down everything you are lying to yourself about. Every little deception. The avoidances. The things you’d rather not know. Put this somewhere that no one else will see it, and promise yourself you will be so soft and gentle and just “talk it over” with yourself, like you might with a kind friend.
Try having a moment’s meditation with yourself; imagine yourself seated in a beautiful meadow, full of flowers. Invite yourself to drop in; picture yourself strolling into the field, happy and content, and sit down across from yourself. Feel yourself there to be a great friend to yourself; you can be if you aren’t already. Explain to your newly arrived self that you would like to understand a few things, no pressure, and ask yourself to assist you to understand what matters you may be keeping from yourself, or avoiding; things you are a little afraid to be totally honest with yourself about. At this juncture it’s not a bad idea to promise that this conversation is “confidential” between you and you, although at a later date you might find there are things you need to discuss with others, although maybe not – remember, this exercise is not to encourage more running from what’s true.
Talk it over, ask for clarification without justification, and chat about whether it’s possible that anything of things could see the light of day – within yourself. When you’re done, make that list of everything you are deceiving yourself about. Everything, small and large; every major and minor infraction toward yourself or others. This can include the good stuff! It’s not always easy to be honest about the things we’re good at or have done well.
When you have your list written down, do nothing with it – not yet. Thank yourself for your bravery and candor, put the paper in a very safe place, or burn it. Know that you understand yourself more now, and this can never be a bad thing. Discuss this with no one unless you have an agreement with yourself to do so.
Try this again once a month for 3 months and see what you feel in your life now that your self-relationship is building more honest trust – always a good thing.
Softly, softly, as they say in Australia. It’s the only way to climb a thorny mountain.
Anjani Millet talks at the happiness panel. This panel on Gross National Happiness (GNH) was convened at the annual Seattle Green Festival, June 6, 2010. Speakers include activist authors Vicki Robin, Cecile Andrews and John de Graaf, as well as Anjani Millet, founder of GNH World, and special guest, Karma Tshiteem, director of the Gross National Happiness Commission of Bhutan, the tiny Himalayan country which first promoted the idea of GNH. Anjani offers a moving slide presentation and opportunity for discussion. The event was part of a campaign to bring GNH measurements to Seattle, and challenge Seattle to be one of the happiest cities!
@GNHWorldProject is planning to hit the road later this year to discuss #grossnationalhappiness, #happiness in general, and fabulous #Bhutan, & have some fun. Ping if interested!
Our amazing trip to Bhutan is live and will grow as all the peeps add
their goodies. Please drop in for a peek, and a cup of butter tea.*
*Butter tea not included.
Director, GNH World Project
Re: GNH, what a profound difference it makes in the feel of a country. The Gov’t makes it pretty tough to get into Bhutan and that choice colors everything, and is very largely influenced by the commitment to the happiness of its people via the GNH pillar of culture & community. After numerous meetings within the Bhutanese GNH Commission and the folks at the very top, it’s the real deal. They really mean it.
Just a 45 min flight and it’s a whole different world here. I understand a little more what Bhutan does not want to happen, and what it stands to lose. Amazing. I think they are doing a splendid job of maintaining their very ancient culture, and happiness too.
Anjani in Kathmandu, Nepal
Yesterday, trekked down from snowy mountain monastery cabin to tea with a smiling holy dude. Today, Nepal. In what land of dubious comprehension did I gather that Kathmandu was charming, cozy Ski-Town-lite? OH.MY.GOD. Sorry, no city of 10 million (seriously?!?) can be cozy. Coming straight from Bhutan (entire population not yet 700,000), where Visa cards have yet to arrive, this is a SHOCK. New York can’t rival this. I am hiding in my hotel for a second until I catch my breath. Staying at the (evidently lovely by Kathmandu standards) Nirvana Garden, which is, in fact, gardeny, in the Thimel area. Can’t vouch for Nirvana yet.
Amusement at immigration at Kathmandu airport, to obtain visitor visa, told by officer, “That will be $25 please. Sorry, we do not take Nepalese money.”
I am confused already.
To go on and on somewhat endlessly, here is my day: worked with a woman from Bhutan educated in Boston soon leaving for Malaysia; shopped for knockoff clothes from Bangladesh before eating “Singapore noodles” joined by Bhutanese, Canadians, Americans and an adopted child from China, then retired to hotel to watch Indian drama on Japanese tv and gobbled stale “pastries” from “Swiss Bakery” (not) while firing off a quick note to a Dutch guy I met with a Canadian (now in Burma), all before I leave for a monastery, established by a Tibetan in Bhutan, arrangements for which were made by a friend leaving Sunday for China with whose husband I spent last evening discussing France.
This just in from Indian movie: “If I didn’t call, they would have cut one finger daily.”