This week, we learnt about the Chakras and how they impact our emotional, spiritual and mental consciousness. As Master Paalu spoke about the heart chakra, Anahata, I was reminded of my recent yoga retreat to Bhutan, the Himalayan kingdom best known for its innovative policy of Gross National Happiness. Bhutan is supposedly a land where “Santosha” reigns, and sorrow (or how the East perceives it) is almost non-existent.
The heart chakra, Anahata, symbolises awareness and manifestation of love towards oneself and others, affection, compassion, acceptance, gratitude and kindness. It is about giving and receiving love unconditionally. I would call it, irrevocable happiness; ultimate joy. Below I summarize three ways in which anahata manifests itself in the Bhutanese way of life.
1. Unconditional love of nature
Nature is essential to the human wellbeing; it provides us with spiritual sustenance. Bhutan has one of the most stable ecosystems in the world and has virtually no environmental damage due to its long isolation. Their protection of natural resources and limit of tourism have allowed it to preserve its pristine landscape.
As I flew into Bhutan, I was mesmerized at the landscape of rolling hills and mountains and sat in disbelief as our tour guide told us that they had just smashed a Guinness world record of replanting almost 50,000 trees in 1 hour! In fact, planting a tree was a common way to celebrate the birth of a new son or daughter in Bhutan. This was the Bhutanese way of giving back to nature,an unspoken gratitude to life. An act of unconditional love for nature.
2. Collectivism as a Happiness factor
When I was in Bhutan, everyone was called a ‘brother’, ‘father’, ‘auntie’, ‘uncle’, ‘little brother’, ‘elder sister’ etc. And this extended to people who are not blood relatives.
Many studies have suggested that humans are happier in collective environments where they get to work together and help each other out. The Bhutanese culture values collectivism and the needs of the group above the individual. Social structures are preserved such that every one, whether children or elderly, are honoured and respected. Also, this structure provides a platform of exchange for goods and services such as staples, a place to stay etc. The family is never lacking in help in any given area. A family bond such as this is a signal of stability, never fleeting and contributes to emotional and spiritual support. A very important factor of ultimate happiness.
3. Detached from Death
The Bhutanese don’t sequester death. In fact, I learnt that the Bhutanese are taught to reflect about death several times a day. Death and its imagery, were found everywhere in Bhutan. And when one contemplates death so often, they learn not to flee from these emotions but rather become free of fear and tension. When that happens, they reach open acceptance of life, become at ease with themselves and achieve a balance in anahata.
My experience in Bhutan was unforgettable. While I was hiking up Tiger’s Nest, I encountered a Bhutanese videographer who was filming a national documentary. Having some difficulties navigating the slippery slope, he kind-heartedly offered his assistance, accompanying me for an hour through some treacherous terrain. I also experienced unconditional love, gratitude, compassion and kindness from people who started off as strangers when we met. It opened my mind and heart to a world of possibilities where people could live together in ultimate happiness. I hope one day, I would be able to achieve anahata as the Bhutanese people had shown me possible.
200Hr Weekday TTC (Sept 2017)