Perhaps one of the most inaccessible temples in the world, revered by Buddhists, devotees of Vishnu and Devi. As soon as I saw the photo on my friends wall, I had to be there - 3,600 metres above sea level, 3 spine jarring days by bus into the Annapurna national park. Each Nepali local I told 'I'm going to Muktinath' gave a nod of respect, many had dreams to make the trip.
Typing pages of notes into my iPad I realised everyone had their own version of how to get to this place of freedom. In reaching 'mukti' we need nothing else, we are free. Each, with pure intention, had a view on which route would be best for me; as a woman, alone, a foreigner, the kind of 'trekker' who rocks up in her trusty Birkenstocks...and whatever else they saw.
How true of life, that there are many ways to reach the same goal of liberation. And we all believe that our way is the best, the teachings we follow the truest, our tradition the most authentic.
Each time I received a new hint I reassessed my plan; in Pokhara I got sick. It dawned that surrender was the only way, I'd bin the notes, get on whatever bus arrived and accept whatever twists the divine plan offered.
Along the way I met families travelling devotedly for six days from Gujarat just to receive darshan (sight of the deity), which sort of put my 17 hours from kathmandhu to shame. I encountered men in robes who professed devotion but saw with judgement. I made beautiful deep connections. The amount of intrigue I raised was outweighed by the care and kindness received.
Sometimes we hear the hype of some sacred place and we have an expectation that we will leave it different, pure, enlightened. Same as any workshop or retreat or YTT. Sometimes we do. The vibrations of this place certainly are strong, the setting amazing, the journey a trial.
But, if anything, it reminded me: we have to walk our own path to freedom; thanking others along the way who impart their own journey, being open to the teachings that have sparked them. But staying in our own truth. The ultimate pilgrimage is within - it is a long twisting path of struggle, honesty, forgiveness and surrender. We travel alone and yet are always supported.