A few months ago, I was telling a friend about the revelations I had during my yoga teacher training. Moving through trauma in my body, breaking habitual patterns of the mind, realizing the complexity of dis-ease and reclaiming my voice–to name a few. I found myself, in the end, describing the experience as “life-changing,” coating the phrase in disclaimers before I uttered it.
“I know this sounds cliché,” I said as I held my breath, hoping he didn’t think I was melodramatic or trying to be trendy. The word “life-changing” has become so diluted.
His response startled me. “That’s amazing! Yes, despite what we’re taught to believe, we can, in fact, have transformative experiences on a regular basis.” He might as well have said, “DUH! Welcome to the world.”
Conscious Impact and Sustainable Development in Nepal
This was a conversation with Jonathan Lee, longtime volunteer and media coordinator extraordinaire at Conscious Impact. Conscious Impact is a 501(c)(3) dedicated to sustainable development in Sindhupalchok, Nepal. And it is where I was heading just a month following my training.
This conversation was before we had even met in person, when we were connected only through the social sphere prior to my arrival at camp. His words woke me up, not only because he was so nonchalant with something I was hesitant to share so early in a friendship, but because I knew it meant he had experienced life to be that same kind of magic. The kind that inspires people to live with more intention and purpose, knowing we’re all interconnected.
When I finally arrived in Takure, it was apparent that many of his experiences of magic and wonder occurred while volunteering here with Conscious Impact.
Having just completed my yoga training and a two-week trek in the Annapurna Region of the Himalayas, my heart was ripe for the picking. As volunteers, we lived in tents and enjoyed a simple lifestyle that invited the body’s natural rhythms to be the primary way-finders. Living close to the Earth in these mountains, I developed an intimate relationship with humility.
Nature, Mercy, and Nepal
Mother Nature has no mercy here—until she does. The mountains harbor raw power, breaking you down with unrelenting rain, leeches, fog so thick you can scoop it into your hands like cotton candy. Then, when your tears suggest you can’t handle another day, the clouds clear, the sun rises over the snowcapped peaks to caress your face and warm your drenched clothing. And all at once, you are overcome with gratitude for such generosity. An outpouring of love that you accept with your head leaned back, eyes closed and heart open.
I had several of these experiences in Nepal, overcome with the feeling that I am the only one, right here and now, living this exact life. How special I am to witness the way the water flows over the rocks like a well-fitted wedding gown or to watch that particular bee sucking nectar from the yellow wildflower at my feet. How Divine the timing of it all. How quickly it came and went and will come again in a different way, for another unique witness. How easy it was to see the impermanence of life here—emotions, weather, thoughts, relationships, breath—fluid and cyclic.
Yoga, Service, and the Earth
Waking up to the sound of insects and birds as the light shines through my mesh window, I’m greeted with another day of fresh, damp morning air. I get dressed and walk up to the yoga terrace to see five fellow volunteers on their mats, awaiting my cues for a morning asana. After practice, my team cooks breakfast. Local potatoes and eggs seasoned with herbs, garlic, and onions from nearby farms.
We receive a milk delivery from Nayaran Mama, who lives five minutes up the road. I spend the morning transplanting oregano, spinach, broccoli, and other vegetables in the greenhouse. They are crops that will eventually be harvested and eaten by hungry, hardworking volunteers. In the afternoon, we plant moringa trees on the terrace below New Camp, to introduce diverse nutrients to the soil and help stabilize the land as the roots dig deeper into the Earth.
In time, when Mother Nature has nurtured the trees with sunshine, water and air, volunteers will enjoy the edible leaves that provide energy to our bodies. Locals may become interested in growing and eating them too, as they’re a new species to this area.
The Lessons from Volunteering with Conscious Impact
Volunteering with Conscious Impact, I was reunited with the land in a way that felt much like a homecoming. I felt sexiest with my bare feet in the earth, dirt lining the underside of my fingernails and toenails. The agriculture and natural building work, my little orange tent, the moon ceremonies, the yoga and meditation, the cooking. I witnessed true symbiosis in action here, learned the balance of give and take, and was reminded that my actions—and inactions—have ripple effects.
Every one of CI’s projects, whether it’s rebuilding, agriculture, or youth empowerment, is viewed from all angles. The idea is to respect the complexity of the current cultural, environmental, and societal circumstances before determining the best way to proceed. The projects are thoughtful and rooted in reverence for the land and all its inhabitants.
Is it the quickest way to work? No.
Is it dedicated to the longevity and growth of the community, the earth and the individuals that make up both? Yes.
This organization, with its “build your own adventure” and “show up as you are” mentality brought me back to my self. It allowed me the time and space to reignite my curiosity and take a deeper look into my role in this world. And how I’ll use my particular skills and gifts to make a difference in the lives of others as well as help reinvigorate the health of this planet we call home.
Learn more About Conscious Impact
Conscious Impact is the embodiment of yoga—on and off the mat. To volunteer with Conscious Impact, visit consciousimpact.org.
Andy Vantrease is a writer, wanderer and holistic health enthusiast. She is currently traveling throughout the Western United States, deepening her connection with the earth through simple living, spiritual practice and play. Follow her adventures on Instagram: @andy.vand