Nepal: “We must be willing to get rid of the life we’ve planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for us. The old skin has to be shed before the new one can come.” ― Joseph Campbell

The experience of being alive comes with moments that surprise us, rattle us, challenge us, inspire us, devour us, comfort us, bring us to our knees, force us to question ourselves and others, ask us to be brave, reveal our courage, demand perpetual patience, and ultimately remind us that we are all searching for genuine love, happiness, and meaning in our lives. Joseph Campbell says “Life is without meaning. You bring the meaning to it. The meaning of life is whatever you ascribe it to be. Being alive is meaning.” He goes on to say, ““People say that what we’re all seeking is a meaning for life. I don’t think that’s what we’re really seeking. I think that what we’re seeking is an experience of being alive, so that our life experiences will have resonances within own innermost being and reality, so that we actually feel the rapture of being alive.”

Nepal was a trip that brought me closer to that rapture and to the meaning closest to my innermost being. Just being there spoke to my soul in a way that I have never experienced before. Life presents itself in funny ways, often by obstacles and tests to see how we respond. My trip started with a cancelled flight out and ended with heartbreaking news that my grandfather passed away peacefully in his sleep. He was such a special man I couldn’t fathom missing his funeral. With this, I was on the first flight out of Nepal and left two weeks before my scheduled departure date. Miraculously, what was accomplished in that one week was more then I have achieved in my life thus far.

In one dimly lit room, a group of women (nine from Nepal and others from Canada, Hong Kong, California, New York, Switzerland, and Haiti) gathered together to share their life and struggles through art. Drawing by drawing, story after story, we began to uncover depths of ourselves that we would never have the chance to reveal otherwise. That little room was like a secret lagoon that we were lucky enough to have discovered together. Everyone’s story was important, and everyone’s voice was heard.  We essentially were shedding our old skin to make room for the new one we would leave with.

Each day art exercises were led by the Nepalese women.  They are courageous survivors of trafficking and currently working as art therapists in Nepal to help other survivors. I was amazed by their powerful presence- charged with grace, courage, generosity and compassion. Having lived through immense trauma, they are now dedicating their lives to helping other women cope through creative arts.  In giving to others, they find a sense of happiness and peace. In giving.

These women taught me so much about selflessness and the importance of thinking of others, both close to home and globally.  They had recently knit a large quilt for African women in prison. They sent them messages of love and hope, and, ultimately built a bridge of support with another group of struggling women. They commend an all-inclusive notion that we, as women, are all in this together. It was awe-inspiring and a true testament to their benevolence.

Joseph Campbell said, “Participate joyfully in the sorrows of the world. We cannot cure the world of sorrows, but we can choose to live in joy.” However many tears were shed, tissues passed, and glasses of water fetched, the day always ended in joy, gratitude, dancing and saying together in Nepalese, I love myself.  Hand in hand we acknowledged the universal suffering of all beings and realized how much can be accomplished through the simple act of generosity and compassion.

Here is a collage tribute to the women who helped me shed my old skin, and participated fully in giving me a new one.  There is also a beautiful video of Shashi showing us I love myself in Nepalese.
** With love and gratitude.  Namaste! **
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  1. Joe and Layla

    This is so nice, Jenna! Look at how happy those faces are. Not only are their spirits not broken from such a traumatic upbringing, they have enough love and energy to pass onto others. I know their unbreakable spirit will be with you forever! And you are amazing for hanging in there through such a difficult time….I can’t underestimate how proud I am of you for having so much love for people in need across the world, as well as your family at home. You’re the best!

  2. Mlf

    My heart aches for many reasons Jenna, but I am uplifted as I read your blog each day and come closer to an understanding of your trip to Nepal. Sorrow is a meaningful part of life and these women illustrate Campbell’s admonition: ” choosing to live in joy” despite the depth of their suffering. What remarkable yet quiet ” teachers” these women and their “stories” were… Your writing and pictures capture the essence of what this trip meant to you. I am so sorry that you were unable to complete this very meaningful journey.

    ” The more sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain!” Kahil Gibran

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