Saying YES! to a Life Full of Adventure
In 2017, Annie Phelps completed her yoga teacher training. It was the catalyst for her daily personal practice and created within her a yearning to go on a yoga retreat. So, when a friend asked Annie if she wanted to go to Bhutan on a yoga pilgrimage, her answer was a resounding YES!
“I hadn’t thought of going to Bhutan, but once mentioned, it appealed in an instant. Plus, it ticked every box: a style of yoga and teacher I loved, a little out of the ordinary, limited tourist numbers, and the bonuses of trekking and the Buddhist culture. Plus, I was going with a friend, making it even more special,” said Annie.
Annie landed in Bhutan January 2018 and immediately fell in love with the country, its stunning scenery, incredible culture and happy people.
“They lead a simple life with lovely values, incredible respect for their elders and a lived faith. It reinforced to me that we don’t need stuff, or as much, to be happy.“
During the trip, Annie did several hikes to beautiful monasteries and into the mountains guided by three Bhutanese men who were always smiling, respectful, helpful and humble. She noticed they were very conscious, deliberate and present in the moment. Even while walking, they would step one foot after the other while chanting. Then she saw it was everywhere.
“Spirituality pervades their lives; in everything they do. Even the government is run based on the happiness and welfare of the people and the environment. The country’s economics are measured by gross national happiness. For example, you can’t climb the Bhutanese sector of the Himalayas as they are sacred – they forgo the tourist dollar for their faith.”
While in Bhutan, Annie’s favourite trek was to the Tigers Nest Temple. It is a three-hour hike to a monastery that sits perched high on a cliff at 3120 metres, about 10km north of Paro. For Annie, it was a long, awkward trek because the day before she had sprained her ankle: “I did it by following the guides lead of one foot after another and chanting. It ended up a very reflective walk. There was such a sense of achievement when I finished it.”
Along the way, she was amazed by the incredible beauty, and wondrous sights of waterfalls, snow, small dwellings cut into the stone as well as prayer flags and wheels everywhere.
“It was phenomenal. To be able to share the path with lots of locals on their pilgrimage in sandals, socks and tunics, tramping along with kids on shoulders, as families, and with elders to spend time at the holy site.”
At the temple, she was mesmerised by the intricate artworks and statues, as well as its history. The first building was constructed in 1692 around a cave where Guru Rimpoche meditated in the 7th century A.D and introduced Buddhism to the country. According to legend he flew from Tibet on a tigress’ back to subdue evil demons living in the cave. Annie describes her Bhutan trip as a spiritual journey that reinforced her yogic principles of being present, enjoying the moment and choosing not to project into the future or the past.
“During my 50s, I have stepped into the true me more and more - steadily growing and building self-awareness - loving and getting to know myself, warts and all, and remembering that self-care is not selfish but imperative.”
Other opportunities Annie has seized have included becoming a surf lifesaver and learning to play the cello. Her next wish is to explore Australia in a camper van. However, while she waits for the moment to present itself, she will continue to say a resounding YES!
Words: Kim-Cherie Davidson - Live Your Bucket List
Top: The view of the Tiger Temple from the half-way point.
Above: Monks crossing the courtyard at one of the monasteries.
Above: Annie Phelps at the halfway point on the Tiger’s Nest Temple trail in Bhutan. This stop is known for its prayer wheels and amazing view of the monastery.