Inner & Outer Exploration in the Kathmandu Valley with Laurie Wagner & James Hopkins

October 27th - November 6th, 2019

"Every journey is a mosaic of moments. Our lives are filled with these moments – slices of time when a story comes alive -- and they can be captured effortlessly. All we need to do is take a moment to relax, breathe, recognize what’s in front of us & let it truly touch us. That’s how we move through the world with creative intention – that’s how we transform our own lives into works of art."

Friends, I invite you to join me in exploring the chaotic, crackling beauty of Nepal this coming October & November. During our 10-day journey through the sacred mandala of the Kathmandu Valley we will collect and write what I call "Story Slices"  - intimate 200-600 word sketches which, combined with a single photographic image, will encapsulate the beauty and energy of this Himalayan realm.

Nepal is a country of vivid colors and unforgettable faces; a place where the sacred and profane blend in an ever-changing mosaic. Each day, our journey will begin with a meditation practice that will set the stage for how we will see, hear, taste & touch the day ahead.  We'll explore the temples and alleyways of the Kathmandu Valley; meet with artists and spiritual leaders; shop for beads and buddhas in the amazing bazaars of the old city. We'll have moments both wild and mindful, and we'll immerse ourselves in a culture that is enchanting, challenging, and endlessly inspiring. 

During our 10 days we will:
* Hone our writing skills
* Capture the moment
* Become a maker of small stories
* Be creative everyday
* Share our work with our creative community
* Document 10 days of our lives in a meaningful way

A Process and a Value

Making art and walking the world with more creative intention will change your life, because it gives your spirit something deeply interesting to pursue. The ordinary scene or story – the very things we pass by everyday – will become extraordinary – and that changes everything. &

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Day 1:  When you arrive in Kathmandu our drivers will be there to pick you up from the airport.  You’ll be transferred to the Hotel Vajra, where you can unwind from your journey, rest, enjoy the garden and a meal, and soak up the atmosphere.  Once everyone has arrived, each person will have private one-on-one meeting with Laurie & James. Afterwards, there will be a brief orientation meeting & group dinner on the fabulous rooftop, before we turn in for the night.

 

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 Day 2:  After morning meditation & an early breakfast at the Hotel Vajra, we’ll gather in the library for a brief opening meeting and then head out on our first adventure.  We’ll walk up to the nearby Swaymbunath stupa (also known as “The Monkey Temple”) for a spectacular view out across the entire Kathmandu Valley. We’ll also learn a bit about the local architecture and about Nepal’s rich Buddhist & Hindu religious traditions.  After lunch, we'll spend the afternoon writing, or relaxing before heading out for a stroll through Asan Tol (the old market district), and then to Thamel for a night on the town & a chance to enjoy some excellent authentic local cuisine. 

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Day 3:  After morning meditation & an early breakfast at the Hotel Vajra, we’ll meet in the library for a morning of workshops & discussions before journeying to the UNESCO World Heritage city of Patan.  For centuries, Patan been a town of artisans and we today will have the chance to meet some of the people who give this city its unique beauty.  After a patio lunch, we’ll return to our hotel where you’ll have some time on your own to reflect & write before joining the rest of the group for a typical Tibetan meal at the beautiful rooftop restaurant of the Vajra.

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Day 4:  After meditation and breakfast at the Hotel Vajra we’ll again gather in the library for a morning of individual writing & discussion before journeying across town to Boudhanath, the Tibetan Buddhist heart of Kathmandu.  For centuries, this vibrant place of spiritual power has been the destination of pilgrims from around the world. For the next three days this will be our home as we explore and gather seeds of inspiration from the sounds, sights, tastes & smells swirling around the Great Stupa at Boudhanath. This evening we will have the opportunity to meet with & receive a teaching from a world-renowned Buddhist teacher at Ka-Nying Shedrup Ling, one of the oldest monasteries in Boudhanath. 

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 Day 5:  Today our morning meditation will be to join the 6am crowd that circumambulates the Great Stupa at Boudhanath, as one of the most vibrant spiritual communities in the world begins to awaken. We’ll explore and gather seeds of inspiration from the sounds, sights, tastes & smells swirling around stupa, before returning to to our hotel garden for the morning meeting. The rest of the day will be spent reflecting, writing & capturing images in this rich & colorful neighborhood.  This evening we will visit Pashupatinath, one of the most sacred Hindu sites in the Indian subcontinent & home to wandering holy men, cave yogis, and Shiva devotees, along the cremation ghats on the banks of the Bagmati River   In the evening you are free to explore the colorful side streets of Boudhanath on your own.

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Day 6: Today, for our morning meditation, we will sit in with the monks as they do their morning chanting at Jamchen Lhakang, the oldest Tibetan monastery on the kora. Once again we’ll immerse ourselves in the teachings, visual expressions and rituals that bring this vibrant neighborhood to life.  In the afternoon we’re free to spend our time reflecting, writing, or just wandering the streets of Boudhanath. This evening, we’ll have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to have tea with a “hidden” community of street beggars & economically-challenged Indians who have created a project to provide jobs for women & to send at-risk girls to school. This is always one of the favorite stops on our journey!

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Day 7:  Ascending to 1,550 meters feet above the Kathmadnu Valley, today we journey to our new home for the next 3 days: the Namo Buddha Resort.  This beautiful hotel offers both beautifully landscaped gardens and, when the weather is clear, stunning views of the snow-peaked Himalayan mountains.  It is a short 30-minute walk to one of the most sacred "power places" for spiritual practice and retreat in the Kathmandu Valley. We'll arrive at the resort in the late afternoon, settle into our cottages, and soak up the scenery. Here in the deep solitude of a mountain retreat we will have uninterrupted space and time to refine our individual writing, and to get inspiration & ideas from others.

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 Day 8:  After a hearty breakfast in view of the snow-peaks, we will take a short walk nearby Thrangu Tashi Choling Monastery, perched on a steep ridge overlooking the valley. The beautiful and sprawling Thrangu Monastery was built on the hillside where, in a previous life, the Buddha is said to have offered his own body to a starving tigress in order that she could feed her cubs. The site is a principal pilgrimage place for Tibetan Buddhists  Later, when we return to the Namo Buddha Resort, we will have all afternoon to reflect on the day.  In the evening we’ll enjoy a tasty & creative dinner prepared from vegetables grown in Namo Buddha Resort’s own organic gardens.

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Day 9: We will spend our last full day in the mountains, reflecting on the time we’ve spent together and creating space to draw out key insights & inspiration for the journey home.  It will be a leisurely day, spent at your own pace, with an optional 2-hour guided hike to a local Tamang village for a glimpse of real Nepal village life. After reconvening for sunset cocktails, under Laurie’s guidance, we’ll have a casual evening of sharing our own work, or the work of others, before enjoying another fabulous dinner prepared by the Namo Buddha Resort staff. Afterwards, if we feel inspired, we can gather around the bonfire for after-dinner glass of wine, take a relaxing sauna at the spa… or maybe just head off to bed.

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Day 10:   After a final breakfast in the mountains, we will return to Kathmandu for a celebratory day at the luxurious Hyatt Regency Hotel.  Here you will have an opportunity to take advantage of the hotel’s gardens, swimming pool, spa & shops, or wander back into Boudhnath for some last-minute shopping. In the evening we’ll head over to Babar Mahal Revisited for a private dinner, prepared by one of Kathmandu’s premier chefs, Dolma Chudon. After dinner, we will conclude the Himalayan Writers Workshop with a photography & spoken word performance, open to the Kathmandu public, showcasing any work that the HWW participants feel inspired to share!

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 Day 11:  After luxurious breakfast at the Hyatt Regency we’ll have one last group meeting and then it's time to say goodbye and head back home.  Our staff will be ready to help with airport transportation & anything you need for your onward journey…

Rooms are shared (private rooms are available for an extra fee depending upon availability).

You'll spend a total of 3 nights at the Hotel Vajra, an authentic, Newari-style hotel with some Tibetan touches. You'll have everything you need for a very comfortable stay. Rooms have parquet floors and the attached bathrooms all have shower and running hot water. There is a old-style Library with several writing tables at the Vajra, which will be used for our workshops.  Rooms are also equipped with chairs and writing desk and there are quiet corners to work in the gardens. Some rooms have a coffee table and private balcony.  Internet services are located on the ground floor.

 

During your 3 nights at the Siddhi Manakamana Hotel, you’ll rise to the sound of monastery horns and enjoy early morning practice as monastic life carries on around you. Siddhi Manakamana, located just a few steps from the Boudhanath Stupa – the heart of Buddhist Nepal – and offers simple, comfortable rooms, each with its own bathroom and hot water, flat screen TV, and balcony opening out to a pleasant garden. Here you can relax and be inspired by the many sights and experiences that this UNESCO World Heritage Site offers.

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Located at the top of an 1,800 meter (5,905 ft) hill, the Namo Buddha Resort offers a taste of the simple life in the Nepali countryside. Comprised of several small, beautifully built cottages, this one-of-a-kind resort is rich in traditional Nepali style. All cottages feature, adobe walls, decorative niches, stone roofs, colorful textiles and lots of gorgeous woodwork. On a clear morning, wake up to panoramic views of the Himalaya, including the Annapurna and Khumbu mountain ranges.

The resort is surrounded by forest and has its own organic farm where vegetables, grains, flowers and many fruits are grown. They collect milk from their own cows and honey from their bees. They also makes their own jams, breads, and other bakery items.  Namo Buddha Resort also features wireless internet and a wood sauna.

Back in Kathmandu, the Hyatt Regency will be your home for the last night of your journey. You’ll enjoy sweeping stupa views from the main lobby and the rooms are spacious and tastefully decorated with high quality linens and luxurious bathrooms. The hotel spa offers a swimming pool, massage services, steam, and sauna. Pamper yourself in preparation for the journey home.

On our final evening together we'll not only have time to relax and indulge a bit before heading back home, but we'll also host a final reading event, open to the public. The featured writers from the Himalayan Writers Workshop's will read from their own work and, if you feel inspired, you are welcome to add your voice to a final celebration of travel & creativity. 

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We always seek accommodation that strikes the balance between modern comfort and local flavor.

Program Fee:

$3,490 (USD) regular program fee double occupancy (+$500 for single room depending upon availability)
Final payment deadline: September 27th, 2019.

A non-refundable deposit of $600 is required at the time of registration to hold your space.

Late registration: After September 27th, 2019, we can accommodate late registration only in the event that a space remains available. If a late registration is possible after September 27th, 2019, full payment is required at the time of registration to hold your space and the entire payment is non-refundable.

Fee includes: 10 nights accommodations, 3 vegetarian meals per day on most days, bottled water and tea/coffee at meal times, scheduled excursions to pilgrimage sites, knowledgeable guides and teachers, all entrance fees, land transportation within Nepal, and airport transfers.

Fee does not include: air fare to and from Kathmandu, airport or departure taxes not included in your air ticket, visa fees ($50), additional hotel nights before or after scheduled program dates, unscheduled activities and excursions, soft drinks, alcohol and espresso drinks, phone calls, massage services, shopping, laundry or other personal expenses, additional meals, drinks and snacks, travel insurance, trekking extensions, or single supplements ($500 depending upon availability).

The program begins Sunday afternoon (around 1pm) on October 27th and ends after breakfast on Wednesday, November 6th. If you're pressed for time, you may arrive on October 27th and depart on November 6th. You're also welcome to arrive a few days early, or stay for awhile after the workshop has concluded. Please inform us if you require an extra night or two on either end of the trip and we'll make a reservation on your behalf. (A cost for extra hotel nights would apply).