By Elizabeth Campbell
On February 1st, I embarked on a 4 day journey that took me from Philadelphia to New York, New York to Doha, Qatar, Doha to Kathmandu, Nepal, Kathmandu to Dunghadee, and Dunghadee to Ganeshpur. This journey included several vans and airplanes, as well as some walking once our final bus became stuck in the mud. This walk was accompanied by 3 drum players, 1 horn, multiple dancers, and an entire village. I traveled with Beyond Asana, a yoga teacher training, as their counseling support on this service trip. We fundraised thousands of dollars for Build On, an organization that promotes local and global education. This fundraising resulted in 4 days of travel to break ground for the school being built in Ganeshpur, a rural village in Northwest Nepal. It also transformed my perspective of the world and taught me true presence in communication.
Nepal is dichotomous. There are outstanding mountains and sacred sites, paired with extreme pollution and Third World living conditions. The power rotates on and off every 6 hours. Stray dogs run wild. Toilets are a hole in the ground that flushes (if you are lucky). The most disparate experience I had in Kathmandu was at Pashupatinath Temple, a temple to the Hindu God Shiva. It is on the Bagmati River, which is considered the holiest of rivers. Cremations occur on the banks of this river while hundreds watch. It is an honor to have your loved one’s funeral there. The river is clogged with pollution and stray monkeys and dogs feed on this despite funeral proceedings occurring all around. Holy men painted white and orange meditate perched on sides of temples next to the homeless curled up, sleeping. The beauty and the poverty intersect one another sharply.
The dichotomy that I experienced in the village of Ganeshpur reinforced every counseling skill that I have acquired over the years. We were able to verbally communicate very little with the inhabitants of Ganeshpur. We had a small book of Tharu, the caste living in the village, expressions and our own creativity to work with. Despite all of these limitations, I felt intense love from the people of Ganeshpur. I have never been welcomed and acknowledged in such a manner before. We were processed into the village and were then welcomed with singing, dancing, and speeches. Two days later we had a farewell ceremony with even more speeches, dancing, and singing. The next morning, we were processed out of the village in the same manner that we entered. The entire village surrounded our bus to send us off. We received tika, a ground red spice used to honor someone by anointing their forehead, and marigold necklaces 4 times in 4 days. Our host families had so little to give, but showered us with bracelets and woven baskets. Content was sparse in our conversations, but the relationship was there. Our nonverbal communication was sufficient to express the connection, love, and grace that this school melded between us.
My travel to Nepal left me with the knowledge that the poorest of US Citizens live extravagantly compared to Third World countries. Middle class individuals like you and I have more material possessions and luxuries than the villagers of Ganeshpur will ever imagine. Conversely, the Nepali people are wealthy far beyond what Westerners conceive. I am honored to have learned how to communicate unconditional love with nothing but a smile, the warmth of my eyes, and intention of my actions.
Elizabeth is a Licensed Professional Counselor at The Resiliency Center. In her practice, she takes a strength-based and empowerment approach to serve children, families, and couples. She specializes in trauma-informed and specific treatments, family therapy, play therapy, and creative counseling for adolescents. Elizabeth combines her passions for yoga, service, and counseling through workshops that fuse yoga and emotional healing, the work with Build On described in this article, and with Yoga In Action. YIA is a group created by Off the Mat and Into the World, a charity that promotes the yogic principle of seva, or service, by moving through the energy systems of the body to enable individuals to better help others by freeing themselves. For more information, please contact Elizabeth via phone at 610-757-8163 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org.