My own tumultuous life-path led me to break free of a marriage that was choking the joy out of me. Post-divorce, I severed my fifteen-year bond with Manhattan and fled to the other side of the planet, to Dharamsala, seat of the Tibetan Buddhist community in exile, nestling in the foothills of Himalayas.
After barely surviving my first brutal Himalayan winter, I had the amazing good fortune to meet Ani Tenzin Palmo, a Buddhist nun of English extraction. Ani-la had recently returned to the area from a small cave located way over the snow line—after a thirteen-year solitary retreat!
I asked Ani-la how she’d survived there for so long, alone, and often in sub-zero weather. She had held my gaze with soul-penetrating blue eyes: those years had been the happiest of her life, she had replied in her crisp British accent. Even when the fellow who had promised to transport her rations on a six-month basis did not arrive on his hardy donkey, and she was forced to stretch her little remaining food over the next half-year, Ani-la had not balked, having prepared herself to die in retreat if need be. It was the combination of a lapsed visa and a growing compulsion to serve others that had persuaded her to leave her icy refuge. Continue reading