When our pilgrimage arrived at the desolate outpost of Darchen, at the foot of sacred Mt. Kailash in western Tibet, we were all tired, hungry and cranky. We were met by a group of women who were desperate—we were the first group allowed into Tibet by the Chinese in many months, and they needed the income we could provide by buying their trinkets. But their intensity overwhelmed us and most of us retreated into our rooms without buying anything.
Later some of us walked through the almost deserted village. We could see how difficult their lives were, but there was little or nothing we could do to help. I bought one pendant in a shop from one of the most pushy of the women, who was much calmer by then. Sadly, we had no language in common, and couldn’t converse.
The next morning, as we pulled away from town in our white Land Rovers, the women reappeared and pushed their way against the windows in a last attempt to make a sale. But we needed to leave, and in any event, my money was packed away in the back of the jeep.
Meanwhile, the woman who sold me the pendant found me in the car and implored me to buy something. Feeling helpless, my training in metta (lovingkindness) kicked in and as I looked into her eyes I began chanting “may you be happy, may you find ease, may you be safe, may you feel my love.” The time seemed endless as we gazed at each other; she then pulled a small bracelet off her wrist and pushed it towards me. It took me a minute to understand she was giving it to me. She understood what I was wishing for her, and sent the same wish back to me. And then we pulled away…