A Walk in the Park
– Donald Giamporcaro, MA PREP student from United States
Friends and family often ask if there is anything I miss about home. And truthfully, there is very little, however what I’m most nostalgic for is neither food nor friends but a nice relaxing walk in the park. Coming from Washington, D.C., a park was never out of walking distance or a short ride away; and nearly every day I tried to enjoy some of the lush greenness or sounds of nature—pigeons don’t count. It’s difficult to imagine that not long ago the Stupa was surrounded by lush paddy fields and farmland. Once a peaceful village of solitude it’s now an overstimulating oasis of sights, sounds, smells, and so forth. Therefore, finding the time to take advantage of green spaces is paramount for one’s own well-being and health. Below I briefly outline the benefits of green spaces, some of the places I enjoy visiting, and how RYI accommodates students on addressing this need directly or indirectly.
Human beings are artificial creatures of the modern concrete jungle. It is an unnatural habitat that exposes us constantly to a variety of artificial stimulus resulting in undue stress on both body and mind. The study of green spaces and exposure to nature has been well documented with the overall consensus being that exposure to parks, green spaces, and nature is beneficial to our overall physical and mental well-being. In one recent paper published in the North Carolina Medical Journal professors Larson and Hipp state that parks and green spaces “provide a number of mental health benefits. People who spend more time in nature enjoy enhanced cognitive functioning and attention and reduced stress. They are also less likely to display anxiety disorders and depression and more likely to report high levels of happiness and well-being.”
Whenever I feel the need for fresh air and a desire to be with nature, I sojourn to Pharping (a 1.5 hour drive southwest of Boudha) and walk among the fields and hills of this sacred and holy place. However, here in the valley I often find daily solitude at Tasso Café in Tinchuli, where I reside nearby. It is often quiet (apart from the occasional plane) and hosts a modest outdoor green area where I can peacefully study without much distraction.
Rangjung Yeshe Institute helps students access green space in a variety of ways. Through facilitating field trips and organizing the student area behind Utpala Café along with its expanding garden. RYI’s partnership with the Hyatt Regency also provides students access to the Hyatt grounds with its quiet atmosphere and walking paths. Additionally, our location makes it very convenient to take weekend trips and picnic in the local hills and parks just north/northwest of Boudha. Explore the expansive Shivapuri Nagarjun National Park, less than an hour away, where you can enjoy the forests, walk the trails, or take a dip under—or gaze in awe at—one of the many waterfalls at Sundarijal, Okhrenisuch, Bishnudwar, or Chiseni. Closer and just northeast of Boudha you can walk the winding trails of the Than Danda National Forest where after a long hike amongst the pines on the Gamcha trails you can picnic with friends, meditate under a tree, or read a book. For those wishing to mix nature and pilgrimage together you can take a day trip to Nagi Gumba, visit the Asura Cave of Guru Rinpoche in Pharping, or visit Shankharapur to pay homage at the Bajrayogini and Mahankal temples and Milarepa cave.
While you stay and live here in Nepal take advantage of its natural beauty. There is so much to explore and discover in the natural richness of the country. Try to take a few moments of your week to get off the dusty roads, away from the computer, and relax in the embrace of nature. Your body and mind will greatly benefit, and your studies will naturally improve. It’s as simple as a walk in the park.