Today is the big day. We are off to both the Dalai Lama’s Winter (Potala) and Summer Palaces. We are in line on a cloudy cold morning and realize my permit to enter Potala Palace (Tibet’s true icon) has my old passport number on it! Oh shit, I’m panicked. I have nothing with me that says my old passport number and they didn’t switch it out. I luckily find a photo of my old passport in my deleted pictures folder on my phone and have to pretty much beg the guard with a ton of pleases and smiles to let me in. My guide also pleads – and they do! Whew!
An Unforgettable Experience
The line of over 1,000 deep with mostly Chinese and that I’m one of maybe 5 Westerners. I was surprised how many Chinese citizens were there here in Tibet. In any case, we start off climbing the stairs – 13 floors to the top. We end up in the Dalai Lama’s personal quarters – they don’t allow pictures inside the Monastery and are very strict about it!!! Not worth getting in trouble for – I promise. But, if I could download the mental images – experiences of each room, seeing ancient scrolls, burning butter candles, shrines, artwork… Oh my – it was just incredible!
As you stand there and realize that you are in the presence of not only the current Dalai Lama’s personal quarters but all those that came before him (don’t think I said that correctly – as they believe that he has been reincarnated). You get to travel into the other shrines to the 7th, 9th, etc. Dalai Lamas – the essence, the quiet murmur of chanting monks, and air of it – it’s so palpable you can actually feel it.
Throughout the few days, I kept seeing everyone with prayer bead bracelets. I really wanted a set and they sell them everywhere and can be super cheap or very expensive with specialized styles. Since I was in the home of the Dalai Lama and his 400 monks Sonam looks at me and tells me to get mine now so that I can have them blessed. I’m even more touched because this is a part of his culture and religion – he’s sharing something very special and I’m so honored to receive them.
Reflecting On My Time In Tibet
We make our way through the labyrinth of a genuinely awe-inspiring palace and have completed the available tour – what we are allowed to see – and we pop out the back side of the Palace. The sun is out and I’m literally on top of the world. The Palace overlooks the valley with all of its majesties. It’s truly a special place. I slowly walk down alongside other monks – I’m thinking, did I really just see all of this. I stop to breathe in the sun, the essence, the spirit of it all. There’s a smile on my face, in deep to my soul and I’m happy!
It’s time to leave and I’m still in awe of my special 5 days in Tibet. Sonam and my driver have come to pick me up to take me back to the airport. I’m sad to leave the quiet garden, my new found love for serenity, peace, time… It wasn’t part of any pre-paid program but Sonam presented me with a personal spiritual hada greeting. I’m touched and honored. The hada now hangs in my office reminding every day that life is grand and every moment special. Breathe in and enjoy – enjoy quietly even.