The Bhutanese believe the winds are their prayers. As reminders, they hang strings of colorful prayers flags from the highest point, to honor the dead and pray for the living. These winds that frequently gust around the Himalayan foothills and through the valleys remind the Bhutanese of the constant presence of the divine. It is here that our journey to understand Mindful Living begins.Our facilitator Khatiza Van Savage, is a tiny fireball of energy and vitality. Her love of Bhutan and her desire to help others learn and grow through mind-opening experiences was the genesis of her company, Insightful Learning Journeys. Khatiza’s intent is to help us create a community of Mindful Happiness, starting with ourselves, and Bhutan as our learning laboratory.It started with reflection. Before we left, Khatiza gave us learning tools for our learning journey… a journal, mandala designs and crayons. Additionally, we received an overview of the Gross National Happiness framework to understand and explore how it might be adapted to our own Mindful Happiness framework. I knew then and there that this was not going to be a typical journey. We learned easy ways to start a practice of mindful mediation, to clear our minds so we could accurately see and listen to ourselves and others. We meditated in centuries-old monasteries, and in nature on foggy mountaintops. We colored our Mandalas as a meditative practice, and we wrote in our reflective journals at night. Whatever each of us came to Bhutan to think about, was starting to become clear.We learned about the Bhutanese construct of Gross National Happiness (GNH) and met many Bhutanese citizens along the way to learn what GNH meant to them. In Thimphu, we met many who had left Bhutan for education elsewhere, but who returned to help lead the country they love. We met talented women weavers and jewelry-makers, artists and gallery owners, all entrepreneurs working out their own version of GNH to create a sustainable livelihood.The pinnacle experience of our learning journey was a 3 hour reflective hike up to Tiger’s Nest, a monastery perched on the edge of a sheer rock cliff. For the Buddhists, this is one of the three holiest sites in Bhutan. For each of us, it was something different – a challenge to affirm one’s strength – the pursuit of deep understanding, or an opportunity to find our voice again.
It was just five days, but like no other five days we had experienced before or since. The lessons and the learnings of Bhutan come back again and again, just like the winds that flutter the prayer flags that we left behind. To continue our learning, long after the journey is a distant memory, and as the first step to creating a community of practice for Mindful Happiness, we committed to supporting literacy in Bhutan.
The next step is to create Volunteering Journeys as a path for students to develop as Mindful Leaders.
AD – MBA Program Coordinator