Honestly, I hadn’t planned on signing up for this meditation retreat, mainly because, just a few months ago, I had done a road-trip in Eastern Bhutan. It seemed rather atrocious (in a good way) to visit Bhutan twice a year. I mean, how does one get so lucky?
But, even more honestly, I have always wished to do a meditation trip to Bhutan (&/or a yoga retreat). Imagine my delight when the chance really presented itself, which I must thank the most awesome Bhutan travel specialist for! 🥰
Flying to Bhutan for Neykor meditation trip
Ney means “holy“, while kor means “visit“. Neykor therefore means holy visit. Druk Asia, an agency specializing in Bhutan travel, organized this special spiritual immersion trip to Bhutan in Dec 2019 (the next one is finally happening on 13-21 Oct 2023).
This Neykor trip includes mindfulness workshops and Dharma talks, and is mainly intended for working adults. The workshops would teach balancing KPIs with grace, and how to apply towards yourself and others in the business world. The main teacher leading the mindfulness aspect of this meditation trip would be His Eminence Khedrupchen Rinpoche (I’ll refer to him as RInpoche in this post).
“Meditation is one way to bring your mind back home.”.. so shared by Khedrup Rinpoche on our very first session of meditating.
Why You Need to Do this Neykor Meditation Trip in Bhutan
1. Bhutan gives you the most conducive environment to learn meditation.
If you ask me, there’s no better country to pick up or practise meditation than in Bhutan.
Bhutan is beautifully quiet and mostly free of crowds. Here, you get plenty of mountains, forests, rivers – the best of nature. 71% of Bhutan is covered by forests –– more than the law’s required 60%. When you’re sitting in a car in Bhutan, you’ll notice the sheer amount of mountains that surround you.
Naturally, with so much of nature’s magic, the energy field in Bhutan feels so pure and spiritual. Just like that, your heart easily feels at peace. With a quieter heart and relaxed mind, it’s easier to enter a state of meditation.
2. You get to do mindfulness sessions at some very special places.
As an example: On top of a flat rock which you had to do a short hike to reach.
Or, a 1,200-year-old monastery, which had been blessed by that Tigress consort whose back Guru Rinpoche flew on to get to Tiger’s Nest.
Or, unassuming-looking temples holding precious relics, guarded by chosen families.
If you especially like raw places with plenty of stories behind them, chances are, you’ll love a meditation trip in Bhutan.
Check out some of these unique places we were at for meditation sessions & workshops!
For someone who’s tried meditation here and there the past few years, this experience is worth noting down. We were doing a day trip from Trongsa to Bumthang, visiting holy sites. As part of Druk Asia’s fun arrangements, all of us were dressed in traditional Bhutanese costumes that day.
That morning was chilly. We reached the first planned religious site of the day: Burning Lake. After a short hike, the Neykor group arrived at a flat rock, where Rinpoche laid prone on his belly at the edge of the rock, in order to stay safe while looking into the deep body of water below. Before chanting his prayers and blessings, Rinpoche shared a fascinating short story about this Burning Lake.
Next, after settling us on our cushions, Rinpoche led us through a visualization meditation session. Sitting with our eyes closed, inhaling the freshness of this cooling air, surrounded by sounds of water flowing nearby us, we meditated.
Very soon, I was overcome by a sense of immense joy from within – a mixture of gratitude, contentment, love, and feeling very light and peaceful inside my heart. I also was really thankful to be here at this place, at this time. Finally, I’ve experienced some of the power of meditation.
3. You still get to do sightseeing and experience what a traveller to Bhutan does.
More than just a trip to simply meditate, you still get to visit sightseeing places of interest along the journey.
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4. Bhutan makes a good trip to detox and rejuvenate yourself.
Goodbye, unhealthy food.
Food-wise, vegetables make up the bulk of your meals.
When in Bhutan, you don’t get to eat ‘luxurious’ food like plenty of meat (there would be at most one meat dish in every meal) or seafood (there’s no seafood in Bhutan). Btw, the veggies in Bhutan are mostly organic – the healthy option!
Actually, Rinpoche had requested for us to skip meat during the days of our workshops, which we easily agreed to. But, I have to confess, there were 1-2 meals I totally forgot about skipping meat, like taking hot-dogs at the hotel buffet during breakfast. 😅
You don’t have to get distracted by addictions such as night-life or social media.
Really, there isn’t much for you to do in Bhutan 😂Roads are bumpy and it takes a real expert to be able to scroll social media, much less do reading while on the road. As for things like shopping or nightlife, you can mostly forget about it.
With so few distractions, all you can do is be in the present moment.
Your meditation classmates will likely be good travel companions.
If someone would make the effort to sign up for this special meditation trip, you can be sure he/she likely won’t be a person who creates a lot of drama on overseas trips. He/She must have already acknowledged the benefits of meditation and thus is on this Neykor trip with you. The people on this first Neykor trip with me were all easygoing and very pleasant! 🤗
Spiritually, Bhutan is a place of pure energy.
Get ready to absorb the very pure, spiritual energy that the country side of Bhutan has to offer.
| Curious about how the Bhutanese people and culture is like? I learned a lot of life lessons from this unique nationality, read here! |
5. Every moment in this country is a time to practise mindfulness.
Travelling on the roads in Bhutan can be a bit of an adventure.
One idea I got to take away from these long hours on the roads of Bhutan, be it during this meditation trip, or getting from the east to the west of Bhutan, is –– Impermanence. You’ll notice the steep cliffs, knowing the car is winding around a road that has been cut into mountains bigger than you can visualize. When the weather’s fine and sunny, everything’s still fine. If the sky appears gloomy or the fog gets so bad that visibility is reduced beyond a few metres ahead of your vehicle. You’ll be reminded: Your existence in this lifetime, as well as all the problems you thought you face in daily life – everything is simply impermanent. It all shall pass.
When you’re sitting on the roads in Bhutan, you’ll realize nothing is more real than the present moment. The best thing you can do for yourself is to appreciate the moment as what it is, and let go of what it’s not.
The national highway (more like, the main road) is currently being expanded extensively. Road conditions are a lot better in Dec 2019 compared to my very first Bhutan trip in Dec 2017.
Journeys are filled with unexpected scenarios.
While travelling from Trongsa to Paro, Rinpoche stopped the car to give some donations to an elderly local who was doing full prostrations along the road. After we drove off, I asked Rinpoche where that man was heading, and he answered “Bumthang, Kurjey Lhakhang”. My eyes widened in surprise when Rinpoche added that the man had started from Tiger’s Nest, Paro (western Bhutan). He had already been doing this pilgrimage – full prostrations on the road – for more than a month.
My city mind could not understand how this is possible (where does he sleep? Shower? Eat? Money? How about his family?) I guess, to them, these questions are really not much of an issue. The faith and determination of Bhutanese can be so huge. Isn’t it incredible to know that you can always depend on fellow countrymen anytime? Wow.
The roads and weather get a bigger say than your plans.
We had to set off early due to road closure. The authorities were repairing a bridge and bridges in Bhutan are maintained by Japanese workers. And you know Japanese’s thing about punctuality. Somehow we made it through a few minutes before the closure, or else we’ll be delayed for 1 or 2 hours.
Later in the afternoon, our meditation program for the day at the monastery had already ended. Yet, we were ‘trapped’ at the monastery till night-fall, as the road back to our hotel was closed for maintenance until a certain timing.
While the rest of my group was busy filming the young monks doing their evening prayers, I strolled here on my own to enjoy the sceneries. A novice monk was doing the dishes the most primitive way possible – using a hose (with such evening skies in front of him!). Some cows joined him before they got herded away by a farmer.
Khedrup Rinpoche came by and invited me and the other meditation students to his hut for more conversations over hot tea.
Things don’t always work in Bhutan.
The taps in my very new hotel room stopped working, on the morning we were to hike Tiger’s Nest.
The previous night’s temperature in Paro had already dropped to -1 degrees before 11pm. It felt super cold in the hotel room, because one heater is not enough to warm the room up.
Early next morning, the taps in the bathroom spluttered a bit, then, water completely stopped flowing. It was 5+ am when I called the reception. They checked and reported that the water in the tanks had turned to ice, *gasps*. So, what was I to do? I still had to get ready to head out for breakfast before hiking Tiger’s Nest this morning.
So, instead of waiting for someone to bring me a bucket of water the way the hotel staff lugged to me in eastern Bhutan when a similar incident happened, I boiled my bottles of mineral water to freshen up. When the water finally returned later, it was brown water running for a long time. I didn’t wait and went ahead for our trek to Tiger’s Nest.
The meditation course has a schedule, but don’t get too fixated on it.
Our program was supposed to start on the 2nd morning, a total of three days of mindfulness workshops and sessions. However, Rinpoche only met up with us on the 2nd evening – after much ado which included the road being closed off and he barely made it to our hotel.
Even then, no one really kicked a fuss to question if they had been shortchanged.
To everyone’s delight, Rinpoche ended up leading the Neykor trip for four days in total, including adding in a day trip to Bumthang and hiking with us to Paro’s Nest.
If you ask me, I actually prefer the unexpectedness about this kind of arrangement – going with the flow where space allows and the stars align. Fixed programs can feel so restricting with no room for flexibility.
6. Imagine hiking Tiger’s Nest as a meditative trip.
As if hiking to the most iconic place to visit in Bhutan isn’t enough, when you join the Neykor retreat to Bhutan this coming June with Druk Asia, Rinpoche will be leading you to Tiger’s Nest.
At the final approach to the entrance, Rinpoche led us to sing/chant a very melodious mantra. The sun was bright, the waterfall was roaring, rainbow rays from the sun reflecting through the water. It was all good omens, apparently. Nothing could feel more right during that time.
Now, imagine meditating inside Tiger’s Nest.
When you finally reach the monastery, Rinpoche will lead you through some meditation. Yes, inside the monastery’s shrines. Our sessions were always quietly executed, as our small group does not want to create much disruption to the tourists and visitors. However, often, Indian devotees will stumble upon our sessions and discreetly join us. Rinpoche was always warm and welcoming, while the ones who join us looked grateful.
Currently, there seem no regulations restricting people from meditating at Tiger’s Nest monastery, and I really hope this regulation would not need to be implemented ever.
Any other questions to ask about this Neykor trip or about meditation in Bhutan?
More Bhutan articles here!
- Road-tripping through Eastern Bhutan – An amazing journey (Part 1)
- Everything to know about Bhutan before you travel there!
- Hiking to Tiger’s Nest without a Flying Tigress
- Why You Shouldn’t Ride a Horse to Tiger’s Nest
- What to Expect of Bhutan in Winter (December)
- Rafting down Bhutan’s Rivers – You should try it!
- Life lessons of wisdom, love, and death, that the Bhutanese taught me