Embracing Aimlessness/my trip to Nepal 2017// a memoir essay by Jason Woehlke

You might think that this will be a picturesque story of my time spent in Nagarkot, Nepal. About the beautiful landscapes, the layers of snow-capped mountains seen in the distance, and the many vibrant flowers and plants. Or, perhaps the sight of new insects, giant spiders crawling around resort rooms because there’s a gap under the door, or leeches hanging around the mountain trails getting into our shoes.

Maybe you’ll think this will be a story of the lessons learned in my Yoga teacher training course. The difficulty trying to get into that one asana and to truly hold it. Or, perhaps the controversies and tribulations between myself and my fellow trainees which we had to learn to accept, move past, and then join together in new friendships. 

Instead of those stories – stories you’ve probably already read too many times – I thought I might elaborate on someone I met during my trip. He was an Indian man, who joined another Indian friend to spend time with our group of yoga trainees. Neither were participating in the program. The younger man, Alex, was a friend of our instructor. Alex brought his friend, Mr. Rana. 

Mr. Rana was a genuinely interesting character. He was stout, of average height with pitch black hair, and in his late 50’s. He was a government employee who worked with computers and data systems in his early years. As he aged, he became interested in acupressure and Indian astrology. He went through a training program to become an acupressurist, and he also learned to listen to energetic forces concerning astrological information about people.

Two days into our trip to the resort in Nagarkot, each of the yoga teacher trainees went to Mr. Rana for an astrological reading. I remember the walk to his room, past the dining hall, along a short path, to the lower buildings of the resort. Both Alex and Mr. Rana were sitting there; he didn’t know English well, so Alex translated. The room was dark, with just a few streams of light shining through the curtains on the window. I sat down in a chair opposite Mr. Rana. Alex was to the side, sitting on one of the beds in the room.

The whole event didn’t hold that much significance for me. In fact, I was, and still am, quite skeptical of anything to do with astrological readings. This is primarily because of what I perceive to be the prevailing pop-cultural thoughts concerning horoscopes and fortune telling. I prefer to think of astrological ideas as metaphorical guides that help indicate potential directions in life rather than giving some sort of specific prophetic or revelatory vision. 

Instead of immediately talking about the intricacies of my life and what I wanted to know regarding it, due to my skepticism, I simply sat and waited for Mr. Rana to speak. After a few minutes, he began a fascinating movement where he held his left palm out open and then would move his right hand towards the center of his left palm, pinch that area with all five fingers, and do a pulling motion out and away, circling up towards his head, like he was connecting an energetic string to the two parts of his body.

Within our conversation he told me that my top two chakras were opened and working efficiently. He said this was why I was capable of being “spiritual.” However, he said there were blockages in my lower chakras, and this caused difficulty in expressing myself. He said this led to my sense of being aimless. 

At this point, I told him of a sadness in my heart, one that I didn’t understand and had recently appeared in my life. He gave me a few pressure points on my hand and elbow to repeatedly push with my thumb. Then he gave me a few small magnets and some specific color Sharpies to mark those places on my hand and told me to tape the magnets in those places for longer-term pressure. 

I went on my way from there, regrettably not trying the tasks he suggested for longer than a couple days. That encounter was probably our most serious one. 

Mr. Rana and Alex were only on our trip for the first ten days or so. The rest of the time, Mr. Rana took note of our group’s too serious attitudes and played the part of the jovial wise-fool, lightening everyone’s moods. His laugh was infectious, and he would laugh just to laugh – like those embarrassingly silly laughing meditation videos. He felt like the most authentic person on that trip. I could sit in his presence and be a friend without a need to verbally communicate. But we did enjoy some fun gesturing, and a little chatting when Alex was there to translate.

Why might I bring Mr. Rana up? What really struck me in going back over my notes was the point in which he mentioned in our meeting my feeling of aimlessness. This same sense of aimlessness I still regularly feel.

I frequently find myself in disarray and aimlessness – lost in direction and unconsciously wandering the deep-space of mind in daydream and YouTube videos. I’m unsure of what to do with my life because of the overwhelming amount of information that bombards me from my present technological surroundings. Viewing what online influencers share from their lives fills me with doubts and comparisons.

During my time in Nepal, I emailed an old professor of mine about the feeling of aimlessness. I received an answer which basically stated that one’s aim in life is given by God. However, how does one discover that aim? How does one listen to the call?

These are deeply personal questions that reach into the depths of the heart of Being. They are questions of life, and a response to them is ever changing. Beyond the word ‘God’ is a sense of the vast unknown and the forces of life that transcend oneself. 

A grueling challenge for me in my questions about aimlessness and calling is that a part of me thinks I need to have a predetermined plan for the future. In addition to a plan, that part of me also thinks it needs to constantly be moving in the direction in which the plan aims. When I am not moving towards the imaginary destination, a little seed turns into self-deprecation. It then slowly morphs into an overgrown thorny weed in my heart.

Self-deprecation is a damage that is self-inflicted. Swirling thoughts provoke hurtful emotions and, in turn, those emotions provoke more self-deprecation. When this cycle goes unchecked, then the thorns of the weed pierce the heart and leave a wound. It throbs. It screams out for healing attention. My emotions spiral into a black pit and I forget how to climb out. I feel held down by an ignorance of my inner life. I experience inertia. The feeling of aimlessness appears. 

However, this pit also provides a possibility of growth and the establishment of an unknown power. But before that power is realized, I have to experience the emotional black pit for what it is – my inner life. All of the thoughts and emotions that I experience are familiar. I can recognize them and realize that I don’t have to go down this spiral. 

Aimlessness is a feeling possessing the power to open me to the present. It’s important to recognize the feeling as an ally, rather than a foe. I ordinarily wish to ignore this painful feeling. When I begin to take the time to know myself, to experience these underlying emotions, I start to realize that this feeling of aimlessness has been trying to speak to me. My feeling of aimlessness is an emotional communication arousing me to the fact that I’m not consciously engaging with my own life.

In reality, the only way to find my path is by first embracing that I am aimless. Aimlessness makes itself known through a pained heart – that sadness which had arisen in me. That feeling of the pained heart helps to alert me that something is going awry in my life. Now I can start again. The life I live becomes meaningful through the pained heart. I acquire a new power of intention to live consciously. The call to my life resounds now. 

I may receive that call with the proverbial “I am.” In fact, that may be the only true way to receive the call. My aim is received in each moment, and the first step to meeting that call is the personal recognition that ‘I am.’ In recognizing that, I can then become aware of what is right in front of me.

One thing I take away from my experiences with Mr. Rana is that he was able to be sincere when necessary, but ultimately he discouraged seriousness. His light heart was one capable of skipping down the trail. There’s nothing to do but to consciously follow the course of life as it opens up to us in each moment. It’s the only way our life can be experienced anyway. The rest is just a stepping stone.

Mr. Rana exemplified this way of living, of finding purpose in each moment, and consciously living to the fullest. Among strangers of another language and culture, he was able to embrace each situation to bring light and life. 


Jason Woehlke is a content/blog writer with a passion for discovering how people find meaning in their lives. He grew up in the Hudson Valley, and is currently living in Greensboro, NC. In his free time, he enjoys going on walks and hiking mountain trails, conversing with friends at cafes, and hugging his cat, Pearl. Learn more about his work at jasonwoehlke.com, explore his personal blog at musingsofthefool.com, and connect with him on Twitter!

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