“SACRED EXPRESSION: WORDS, IMAGES & PRACTICE IN THE KATHMANDU VALLEY” WITH LAVINIA SPALDING & TED SEYMOUR

OCTOBER 12TH - 22ND, 2019

When we dare to adventure into an unfamiliar world, we can’t help but be affected in ways both profound and personal. Our senses are stirred, our minds awakened, our creativity fueled. Travel always invites inspiration. But travel to Nepal invites something deeper: transformation.

This October, join author/editor Lavinia Spalding and photographer Ted Seymour on an extraordinary journey through the ancient kingdom of the Kathmandu Valley. During this supportive and generative ten-day workshop, we’ll gather stories and images as we explore chaotic bazaars, mysterious alleyways, and serene temples. We’ll meet with local artisans and spiritual leaders, and witness sacred Buddhist and Hindu rituals. Along the way, we’ll immerse ourselves in a fascinating culture that has captivated the hearts of mystics and artists for millennia.

This workshop combines three practices: writing, photography, and meditation. With wide-eyed wonder and a heightened sense of attention, we’ll learn to articulate our impressions and experiences while cultivating stillness and awareness. In the end, we’ll emerge not only with powerful stories told through written word and images, but also with more clarity, presence, and a newfound capacity for creative expression.

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Day 1: Getting Your Feet On The Ground. 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 soak up the atmosphere.  Once everyone has arrived, each person will have private one-on-one meeting with Lavinia & Ted. Afterwards, there will be a brief orientation meeting & group dinner on the fabulous rooftop, before we turn in for the night..

 

photo by Ted Seymour

photo by Ted Seymour

Day 2: The First 365 Steps. 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 into the lively Thamel neighborhood for some shopping & some excellent authentic Newar cuisine.

photo by Ted Seymour

photo by Ted Seymour

Day 3: Immersing in Imagery.  After 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, with our expert local guide Anil Chetrakar.  For centuries, Patan has been a town of artisans & craftsmen and today we’ll have the chance to meet some of the people who continue to give this city its unique beauty.  After a patio lunch at the peaceful Patan Museum Restaurant we’ll check into our new home, one of Patan’s newest & most beautifully-renovated traditional homes. We’ll spend the afternoon wandering the streets of Patan with our cameras & pens, immersing ourselves in the rich pageantry of the street life of Patan.

photo by Ted Seymour

photo by Ted Seymour

Day 4: Wide-Eyed Wonder. As the sun rises, we’ll be up & out on the streets of Patan, capturing images & story as this sacred neighborhood begins to awaken, and long before the tourists buses arrive. After breakfast we’ll again gather for writing & discussion before journeying 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, and it will be our home for the next 3 days. Just before sunset we'll walk over to Ka-Nying Shedrub Ling monastery, one of the earliest Tibetan Buddhist monasteries in Boudha, and sit with the monks as they do their evening chanting & rituals

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Day 5: Diving Deep. 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.

photo by Ted Seymour

photo by Ted Seymour

Day 6: Awakening. The temples and monasteries of Boudhanath offer a living mandala of authentic spiritual teachers in the Buddhist tradition.  Today we’ll immerse ourselves in the teachings, visual expressions and rituals that bring this tradition to life.  We will also meet with an authentic Buddhist teacher and experience meditation practice in one of the local temples.  In the aternoon, 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! Today is a day of exploring all the possibilities of the writer's & photographer’s inner & outer journey.

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Day 7: Ascending. Ascending to 1,550 meters above the Kathmadnu Valley, today we journey to our new home for the next 3 days: the Namo Buddha Resort.  When the weather is clear, this beautiful resort, with its organic gardens and a relaxing spa, offers stunning views of the snow-peaked Himalayan mountains rising above the green fields & terraces of Nepal.  Here in the deep solitude of a mountain retreat we will have uninterrupted space and time to refine our individual writing or to wander with our cameras through the ancient terraces & pine forests, high above the Kathmandu Valley.

photo by Ted Seymour

photo by Ted Seymour

 

Day 8: A Place in the Clouds.  After a hearty breakfast in view of the snow-peaks, we will take a leisurely 45-minute hike to Thrangu Monastery, a large Tibetan Buddhist monastery perched high on a ridge overlooking the valley. This monastery is situated on one of the most important Buddhist sites in Nepal.  Later, when we return to the Namo Buddha Resort, we’ll have all afternoon to reflect on the experiences of the week, to write, or have one-on-one meetings with Lavinia & Ted about crafting our own individual writing & photography.  After a fabulous dinner from the resort’s own organic garden, we’ll linger around the fire-pit with other travelers, before heading off to bed.

photo by Ted Seymour

photo by Ted Seymour

 

 

Day 9: Village Landscapes.  After breakfast in view of the snow peaks, we can either grab our camera & notebook and take a 2-hour guided hike to a local Tamang village for a glimpse of real Nepal village life -- or we can stay at the resort and enjoy a leisurely day of writing on our own.  We will spend our last full day in the mountains reflecting & creating space to draw out key insights & inspiration for the journey home.  In the evening, we’ll enjoy sunset cocktails before another inspired home-cooked meal at Namo Buddha Resort.

photo by Ted Seymour

photo by Ted Seymour

Day 10: Returning to Earth.  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!

 

 

Day 11: Home Again. 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.

 

Our next 3 nights will be spent at the beautiful Namo Buddha Resort, located in the mountains on the southern edge of the Kathmandu Valley.  With sweeping views of terraced foothills, the resort is famous for its excellent food, private bungalows and its stunning panorama of Nepal’s famous snow-peaked Himalayan ranges.  Here we’ll have an inspiring environment and plenty of time to go deep into our individual work and our personal creative process.

 

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 12th, 2019.

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

Late registration: After September 12th, 2019 we can accommodate late registration only in the event that a space remains available. If a late registration is possible after After September 12th, 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 Saturday afternoon (around 1pm), October 12th, 2019 and ends after breakfast on Tuesday, October 22nd, 2019. If you're pressed for time, you may arrive on October 12th and depart on October 22nd. 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)