Parenting is demanding. In America with some systems and routines, we still had our tough moments. Once we left that safe enclave and set off into taxis and airplanes, things got trickier. Arriving in Kathmandu, they got hard, the hardest it’s been in many ways. Disoriented by jet lag and overwhelming pollution, dealing with the sickness which our weakened immune systems picked up during the stressful sprint since the diagnosis, along with the heartbreaking shock which always comes when witnessing dire poverty, it was hard to be a present parent taking good care of our darling boy (luckily his naturally sweet yet strong disposition helped us through the hardest parts).
If this was hard for us, we can only imagine how hard it was for Amala to leave Tibet and cross the Himalayas on foot as a refugee and bring her two children to India. Not one child like us, but two! After enrolling them in a school for refugees run by the Dalai Lama, she tried to live nearby and make a life, but it was too hard and she ended up leaving the children where they had the best chance of a bright future, and returning with her husband to live in Nepal where they could make a living. That kind of sacrifice is hard to imagine and fathom.
And that’s what this trip has really been about, parents and children going through the heart breaking stuff together. Both the present difficulties, as well as facing the shadows from the past which were never fully heard, understood and integrated into the wholeness of life’s experience. It was our aspiration to do this work together and hence we went for a longer trip.
Part of the healing has been to just spend a relaxed, loving, fun time together. To make those memories and associations part of our nervous systems, to ingrain them into Gem and let the relationship between him and his grandmother help all of us heal from what didn’t get to happen in the past.
Another part has been to dive deeper into spiritual practices, joining Amala in Tibetan rituals to prepare for death, exploring the teachings of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, practicing meditation, breathing and yogic cleansings, and seeing how to bring all of these understandings into our daily living, from our thoughts to what we eat.
The final part has been the use of alternative medicines, both from Tibetan doctors and shamanic traditions. The use of herbs to clean the body and promote healing, and the use of psychedelic medicines to open up the mind, heart, and energy, to heal from a deeper place.
All of these combined have done much to heal relationships and bring more peace to all of us as a family. They also helped Amala in her journey with cancer, as her health has not deteriorated at the rate the doctors predicted. We haven’t rejected the western medicine when it could help though, and Amala had two blood transfusions over the last 3 months to combat her severe anemia. The transfusions ultimately went well (after a few complications which she braved like a champ). Her pain levels do still spike to unbearable, but the frequency of those spikes has gone down. We’re hopeful that she can have a comfortable, low pain, mobile, meaningful, and loving time for the rest of her life, whether that end date comes soon or many years from now.
We left America with no clue how long we’d be in Nepal. The doctors believed she’d be dying quite soon, so we dropped everything to get there ASAP. Now that we’ve had the time to develop a close relationship between grandma and grandson, and to spend healing time with the whole family (brothers and cousins and white boy Brett in the mix too), we’re hopeful for her future and believe she has months and hopefully years left, and possibly many more if she continues on the healing journey she’s started.
Sitting back in Colorado before making the journey, we thought we’d be able to create an environment that would allow us to show up for Gem and take care of him properly, and could therefore stay there for 3 months as the visa allows (or longer if necessary). But it didn’t work out that way. Gem’s health is a priority too, and at such a young age to be constantly exposed to smoke from burned plastic, omnipresent dust clouds, fun new versions of the flu, and many other health risks, didn’t feel like wise parenting (sadly Kathmandu now has some of the worst air quality on the planet, another consequence of the climate crisis and the mindless methods of developing the third world). Plus when Gem gets sick, or when we get sick, we all become an extra burden to Amala instead of being able to help her heal.
Considering everyone’s health and what’s best for Gem’s development, we decided to shorten the trip and only stay for 2 months instead.
We’re grateful to have had this opportunity to be here, and to have spent this time together as a family healing. It hasn’t been easy, we’ve been pushed to grow in every aspect of our being, and there’s been the great discomfort which comes from clearing out our old trauma patterns. We’ve been challenged to keep showing up as the best version of ourselves despite getting our asses kicked right and left. We’ve crumbled under the blows several times and reverted to our wounded shadow patterns, but our commitment to each other and to our growth has allowed us to reconnect and keep moving forward together, in all of our relationships, as husband-wife, mother-daughter, father-son, brother-sister, etc. So it was hard, but it was good, and we’re grateful to have gone through it.
Leaving was tough, despite knowing it was the right thing to do. The time together was so precious and so hard to give up. Penpa’s body arrived back to Colorado, but her heart stayed in Nepal. We’ve been in regular contact thanks to the miracle of the internet, so we still get to see and talk with Amala and our brothers often. We’re grateful to them for stepping up to caretake for Amala. Penpa’s brother Tashi, who is pursuing a Master’s in Buddhist philosophy, has decided to leave school in order to be with Amala full time, while her other brother Ngawang will also be available whenever necessary, though he is working full time running a restaurant. All three are living together. We’re continuing to send money to support them as needed, including funds to allow Tashi to be a full time caretaker. It was hard to leave, bit it’s a little easier knowing she is in such good hands.
We returned to Arvada early in the new year and we’re currently restarting our life here. We missed being able to share our gifts with all of you while we were away. It was powerful to be in service to Amala in her time of great need, and the experience awakened us to some gifts we can share but haven’t been offering. We especially want to help anyone who wants to use shamanic medicines, such as cannabis and other psychoactive plants, to dive into deep healing, just like we were able to offer for Amala. The potential health benefits of psychedelics, especially in cancer patients, has been very optimistic and it has been amazing to witness the shift in Penpa’s mother after their medicinal journeys. She came out of the journeys much more relaxed, and with a deeper understanding of her spirituality. It is one thing to teach yoga, breath-work, meditation and diet choices, and it is another to facilitate a space for someone to journey into themselves so they can access their deeper nature and see clearer.
Considering that the plant medicine journeys have been the most impactful in shifting perspectives during this trip, we are now offering private Medicinal Soul Work to anyone who has felt a calling to try these shamanic tools but didn’t have a safe way to pursue it. We are also restarting our Yoga & Meditation offerings, so if you’d like to have a private class crafted for yourself or a group, we’re here for ya. It’s nice to be home, but it feels a bit empty when we’re not sharing our gifts, so we wish to be of service to you now that we’re back!
Thank you for being with us on this adventure, with your donations and well wishes and prayers and love and blessings and more! It was amazing to see how people stepped up to support us during this difficult time, and we’ll be forever grateful to each of you. Your gifts made it possible for us to get to Nepal and dedicate all of our time to caretaking for Amala, and we couldn’t have done it without you!
We apologize that it took so long to get out this final update. Now that we’re settled back home, things are becoming more spacious. We look forward to reconnecting with you, so please don’t hesitate to reach out 😉
May 2020 be filled with wonderful surprises!
Sending lots of love and gratitude your way,
-Brenpa & Gem
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