Nepal for me was a practice in being comfortable with the feeling of groundlessness.
Have you ever been on a suspension bridge?
Nepal, I came to learn, is full of suspension bridges. My experience as a volunteer acupuncture physician was analogous to crossing a suspension bridge. After our first week arriving at camp we had our first Saturday off. It was decided that we would take hike into the local mountains to visit a village. The day was perfect, the sky clear and we were all excited to venture out and explore. We visited the villagers high in the mountains of Suping overlooking Bhimphedi. Our trusted guide Tsering informed us we would be crossing a suspension bridge on our decent back down. I immediately began to have anxiety as I have a fear of suspension bridges. That feeling of groundlessness gave me a pit in my stomach and sweaty palms as we started our decent and got nearer to the bridge.
You see groundlessness, insecurity, vulnerability and even uncertainty or fear are generally words that are associated with a negative connotation. Most of us try to avoid situations that make us feel this way. Our psyche from an early age on tells us that feeling this way should be avoided. When we got to that bridge even Nani the dog did not want to cross it! She proceeded to try to climb down cliffs edge before being retrieved and carried across. Well, a long story made short is that we all made it across the bridge on that beautiful afternoon, even Nani the dog! Some of us held each others hands, some of us had to be carried and others walked right across. What stuck with me about my experience was why I felt this way? How could I relate this experience to my daily life. Specifically, how can this feeling of groundlessness be made into something positive. The bridge was a small part of my experience in Nepal, but it represented of the totality of my experience in so many ways.
As the weeks past I realized that this feeling kept showing up in many different ways. From seeing a patient in the clinic and not knowing what to do, to wondering if I had the skills to treat 20 patients a day. In fact, even prior to starting out on this journey, I wondered if I had the knowledge to practice medicine in a place so far from what I was comfortable with. When I reflect back on the beginning of my journey at Earth House in Kathmandu it is very much the same as that sunny afternoon on the mountainside preparing to step across the suspension bridge, a feeling of excitement mixed with uncertainty and even vulnerability.
During my stay at the camp over the seven weeks I made my way back to that suspension bridge. With the help of a truly remarkable brother, who took the time and had the patience to allow me to become comfortable with the feeling of groundlessness. I sat on the middle of that bridge, I meditated on that bridge while villagers passed me by, and I even stretched out on my backside on the middle of that bridge. I became comfortable with being uncomfortable! It wasn't easy, and I am not saying that the next ‘suspension bridge’ I cross will be any easier, but I have a new found idea of what it means to be present in those feelings of “groundlessness” and how those moments can be a place of great learning.
I've come to understand a little deeper that we are in all this together, interconnected and we have the ability to make positive shifts with one another in places that are challenging and “groundless” while doing good in the world. --- Jesse Jory