Saturday, November 24:  Inspired by Heather of artist. hippie. cali chic. …a hopeless case of wanderlust and by WordPress: Daily Prompt: Connect the Dots, I have decided I’m going to start doing “Daydream Saturdays.”  Fellow blogger Heather created what she calls “daydream days” on Mondays because “I have found that I tend to let my mind wander to far off lands quite a bit more on Mondays than pretty much any other day of the week…not that this isn’t something I do every day of the week, but it is a bit heavier on Mondays.”

Since here in Oman, our weekends are Thursdays and Fridays, and our Saturdays are equivalent to Mondays in the West, I’m going to call mine Daydream Saturdays.  Because Saturdays have that rainy day Monday feel and I need something to cheer me up, something to get me past the Saturday doldrums, something to dream about.

To get me started on my first post in this series, I am using the daily prompt from WordPress, which is this: Open your nearest book to page 82. Take the third full sentence on the page, and work it into a post somehow.

I have a whole shelf of books within reach, but the first one that catches my eye is Video Night in Kathmandu: And Other Reports from the Not-So-Far East by Pico Iyer, which I haven’t yet read.  I pick this book up frankly because it has a bright green band across the center, a lime green that I adore.  It also mentions Kathmandu, and it just so happens that, a couple of days ago, my colleague Francois asked me where I was going for Oman’s National Holiday, which will be this Tuesday-Friday (November 27-30).  I said I didn’t yet know, and he said, “What about Nepal?” Surprising.  I would have never thought of Nepal.

The last enticement for me to pick up this book is that I read another book by Pico Iyer in December 2010, The Lady and the Monk, that inspired me to go to Kyoto in February, 2011.  I fell in love with Kyoto, of course because of my experience there, but partly because of Iyer’s book, which added a whole extra dimension to the amazing city.

So, on page 82, here’s the third full sentence on the page.

I almost imagined myself back in Tibet.

I would love to go to Tibet.  But sadly, I can’t afford to go anywhere on this 4-day National Holiday.  Believe me, I have thought of everything, every possible scenario. For one, four days is not enough time, when flights take 10+ hours each way. And, as I just spent about $1,000 to go to Ethiopia in early November, and another $500 to go to Abu Dhabi in mid-November, I am clean out of money.  Sure, I could use a credit card, which is just what I did when I went to Japan that long-ago February.  But, finally, at my late age, I’m trying to be responsible with my money.  It really is time that I grow up.  Bummer.

I can barely write anything about Tibet, because I don’t know much.  But I do know this.  It’s a plateau region in Asia, east of the Himalayas, and is the highest region on earth at 4,900 meters. Tibet is ruled by China.  Just today someone in Tibet set himself on fire to protest Beijing’s rule. Tibetan Buddhism is extremely vital to its people.  During China’s Cultural Revolution, nearly all of the country’s monasteries were destroyed.  Now some have been rebuilt and more religious freedoms have been granted, but practice of the religion is still limited.

When I came back to Oman from Virginia in August, I brought with me The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying by Sogyal Rinpoche, which supposedly provides “a lucid and inspiring introduction to the practice of meditation, to the nature of mind, to karma and rebirth, to compassionate love and care for the dying, and to the trials and rewards of the spiritual path.”  Though I haven’t yet read the book, it is obviously calling out to me.  Serendipity.  Maybe magically it will happen that I will head to Tibet sometime soon.

Sometimes I wonder why I am pulled in certain directions.  For instance, for years, since September 11, 2001, I have been pulled to understand the Middle East.  I have read too many books to count about the Muslim world.  I went to George Mason University and earned a Master’s degree in International Commerce & Policy.  Every project I did was related to Middle East issues.  I was drawn to work and live in Egypt or Turkey, Jordan or Oman. I needed to understand a world that seemed to have gone haywire on a beautiful September day in the country I love.

A good friend of mine told me recently that he thinks I am searching for something.  I believe he’s right, though I don’t know exactly what it is I’m searching for.  I am drawn to ideas of pilgrimage.  In Japan and Korea and Vietnam, I was drawn to Buddhist temples. I am still drawn to Buddhist practice.  I am also drawn to churches in Lalibela and the idea of walking the Camino de Santiago in northern Spain.  I dream of spending three months in Japan at a Buddhist monastery or spending months at an ashram in Rishikesh, India.  I am drawn to all these things, yet I don’t do them.  Why?  Am I afraid of what I will find?  About myself?

Here is what Pico Iyer says in the sentences before the above quote, about an experience he is having is Nepal: “…I began to lose myself in wistful reverie.  The strange smells, the hypnotic repetitions, the flutter of candles transported me.  I felt myself carried away to distant lamaseries, whisked off to snowy mountain passes.  I almost imagined myself back in Tibet.”

There is something that appeals to me about the contemplative life.  I used to have a dream of myself walking down a street.  When I looked down at my feet, I saw my feet taking steps, one by one, from under a black robe, the robe of a monk.  Not a nun, a monk. Strange.

In the Tibetan Book of Living and Dying, Rinpoche says: “Our true nature could be compared to the sky, and the confusion of the ordinary mind to clouds.  Some days the sky is completely obscured by clouds.  When we are down on the ground, looking up, it is very difficult to believe there is anything else up there but clouds.  Yet we only have to fly in a plane to discover up above a limitless expanse of clear blue sky.”

Here is my Saturday daydream: Tibet.

I hope one day I can go there.