Stillness on Shaking Ground: A Woman's Himalayan Journey Through Love, Loss, And Letting Go

Stillness on Shaking Ground: A Woman's Himalayan Journey Through Love, Loss, And Letting Go

by Carol A. Wilson


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Determined to hang prayer flags at Mt. Everest Base Camp, Olivia trekked through Tibet while under the scrutiny of Communist China. She survived earthquakes, landslides, and a middle-of-the-night hijacking while enroute to a remote village in Nepal. Confronted with her own sense of meaning, she went toe-to-toe with the suffering, challenges, and decisions that all beings face, which included the capacity to love and let go.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781785355332
Publisher: Hunt, John Publishing
Publication date: 03/31/2017
Pages: 304
Product dimensions: 5.40(w) x 8.40(h) x 0.80(d)

About the Author

Carol A. Wilson, Ph.D., is a university professor, author, and Vajrayana practitioner with a nomadic sense of travel and adventure.

Read an Excerpt

Stillness on Shaking Ground

A Woman's Himalayan Journey Through Love, Loss, and Letting Go

By Carol A. Wilson

John Hunt Publishing Ltd.

Copyright © 2016 Carol A. Wilson
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-78535-533-2



"YOU'RE — NOT — GOING TO TIBET!" Chris stood at the side of the bed and sobbed, wiping away tears with his hands as they streamed down his face. Olivia, half-asleep, sat up slowly in bed and wondered if she was dreaming. She turned her head and glanced over at the face of the clock ... 3:12am. "Something very bad will happen to you," he screamed. "You'll die or end up in a Chinese prison! You won't even be able to receive letters! You know how outspoken you are — which you cannot do in Tibet (China)! You and your academic freedom!" Olivia knew he would never travel beyond the confines of the USA, much less Tibet or a third world country like Nepal because he repeatedly reminded her of that. The only time he traveled was to play in annual golf tournaments in Florida, Nevada, and California. But a meltdown over her going to Tibet in the middle of the night? For a couple of minutes, Olivia was in such a stupor of disbelief that her mind went blank. Chris's tears continued. He sat down on the edge of the bed, head hanging down and shoulders heaving. She heard him whisper over and over again, "This isn't going to work. This isn't going to work. This isn't going to work."

Finally — scattered thoughts began to flash in Olivia's mind: "Is this what watching Fox News does to someone?" It was Chris's routine to grab the black television remote first thing in the morning and turn on Fox News as if he was feeding an addiction, captivated by the Fox's News anchor babes — perfectly made-up, clad in tight miniskirts that showed off more than gorgeous, toned legs. Interestingly, the rise of those skirts seemed to be in perfect congruence with the rise in their network ratings. Oh, and their cleavage-revealing, low-cut blouses! Chris thought that cleavage was "beautiful," reminding Olivia on occasion that she was the most "covered up woman" he'd ever met. But — back to reality — back to what was unfolding in front of Olivia's eyes. She wasn't dreaming. "This isn't a dream," she thought. "I'm not dreaming. This is for real." She couldn't do now what she did in the morning when she saw Chris reach for that all-so-important remote. She couldn't roll her eyes with an excuse to fly out of the room and land in the kitchen for a cup of Starbucks' Keurig coffee — black.

Thirty years prior, Olivia and Chris met during their undergraduate university days. She had spotted him in their dormitory cafeteria one day as he sat with his hippie-type friends — tall, lean, blonde, handsome. "Why am I attracted to good looking men who are over 6 feet tall?" she thought. "Do I need to place a gorgeous package on my dresser and look at it every day, wondering if there is anything inside? Shouldn't I care about what's inside?" But they were soon inseparable for three years, traveling to see each other when separated during university summer breaks, sometimes in Malibu, Grosse Pointe, or Las Vegas. Regardless of where they were, however, they never missed Star Trek at 4pm, laying on the bed next to each other, her head on his right shoulder. He was always amused that she was a serious, National Honor Society student, never neglecting her studies. More often than not, when he finished his mechanic's job at the end of the day and walked through the door, he found her sitting on his bed with her books, studying or doing homework. For him, studying wasn't his modus operandi although he was a registered university student. Receiving semester grades meant photoshopping a fake report card for his mother. "How can you do that?" Olivia would ask in disbelief.

Yes, Olivia left him at times. She temporarily moved out-of-state to complete her student teaching for a semester, always believing they were devoted to each other. Did she ever not see a hint of his self-centeredness? One afternoon he agreed to take her to Baskin Robbins on the back of his Harley-Davidson motorcycle for her favorite rocky road ice cream; however, once she was happily eating it, he insisted that she hop back on his motorcycle because he didn't want to wait for her. Because Olivia had no choice in the matter, she was back on his Harley, covered head to toe in wind-blown, melted chocolate ice cream. Like so many things in life, the thing she loved was gone in a flash. She screamed, "STOP." Why wouldn't he stop? Is it surprising that she had an exhaust pipe burn — turned scar — on her left calf?

One fall morning, awakening in the apartment that she shared with five girlfriends, Olivia felt the need to see Chris. Those were the days of no cell phones, and Chris didn't have a main telephone line. She pulled on her stiff Levi jeans and a shortsleeved striped blouse, forgot about coffee or eating breakfast, and drove her yellow, black-trimmed Camaro until she reached the large dirt parking lot behind his basement studio apartment. However, stepping out of the car seemed different this time. She could see from a distance the upper part of the white wooden door to the entrance of his basement apartment, accessed after descending four concrete steps. Once at the bottom of the steps she noticed his set of keys hanging with a key still in the door lock. "Strange," she thought. "He would never do that." She quietly pulled the key out, turned the door knob and entered, which placed her in the kitchen facing an old, white, gas burner stove, but with an open entrance to his bedroom to the left. Nothing was in the bedroom but a double bed — without a headboard-shoved against the wall with a television facing it in the far right corner of the room, which was mounted to the back wall. On that wall was a door that led to the remaining unfinished basement of the house, which included a framed-in bathroom without sheetrock on the walls — a toilet, sink, and shower that was functional.

As Olivia stood at the entrance to the bedroom, the scene in front of her seared into her psyche like a red-hot branding iron — leaving an indelible mark. Her trusted boyfriend and fiancé was asleep in his double bed next to another woman who immediately awakened and pulled the sheet up over her head, hiding her face. There was no escaping for her as she hid underneath the sheet, trapped between the wall and Chris. Olivia froze as she felt a wave of numbing paralysis sweep over her. Then her knees buckled, and she went straight down to the floor, collapsing in a heap. Next to her laid a pair of worn, casual, brown, closed-toed shoes, much smaller than Olivia's size 91/2 "Size 6 ... yes, they're probably a size 6," she thought. In the meantime, Chris, with a startled but disgusted look on his face, quickly grabbed the white sheet covering him with his left hand and lifted it enough that he could hop out of bed onto his right foot. He seemed to stagger before he planted himself in front of Olivia, looking down at her — speechless. His new puppy, Jackson, bounced in — a white, fluffy ball-of-fur, half Golden Retriever, half mutt. Olivia seemed to feel a sense of relief at seeing him because she pushed herself up off of the floor and grabbed Jackson, clutching him in her arms as she scurried out the door.

Olivia could not remember getting into her car and driving, much less recall how she arrived at her apartment. She was in a time warp. By then, shock gave rise to tears as she held Jackson close to her chest. Trisha, one of her roommates, saw Olivia coming and, suspecting that something was very wrong, ran to the medicine cabinet and handed Olivia one of her prescription sedatives with a glass of water. Olivia didn't need to tell Trisha, through her tears and now sobs, "He was in bed with another woman." She simply swallowed the capsule and took a gulp of water, without hesitation. No Physicians' Desk Reference this time. No looking up what this drug was with its contraindications. She then made a beeline for the bedroom and collapsed on her bed with Jackson looking on, obviously trying to comfort her as he snuggled close. Talking to Jackson, as if he understood every word, she moaned, "I'm going to die. This must be what dying feels like." She could feel her eyes starting to swell as her face flooded with tears.

A few minutes transpired before Chris walked through Olivia's bedroom door. He spotted a chair and slowly pulled it up to the side of her twin bed, its length against the wall and pushed into the corner of the room. Stoically, he sat there, leaning forward with his chin in his calloused hands, supported by an elbow on each knee. Trisha momentarily appeared at the door as a protectress, her eyes glaring, sending daggers to Chris. As Olivia cried, Chris remained speechless — not one word — not an explanation — not an apology — nothing. The only sound was the sound of Olivia's staccato-like sobs. Chris didn't seem remorseful — but certainly wasn't happy that he got caught. Many years later, someone in a similar situation would remind Olivia of this same lack of remorse. Bill Clinton! "Oh, Hillary, we will forever be bonded in sisterhood," Olivia would one day say. "We are both women who have been lied to and cheated on!" After a few minutes, Chris reached for Jackson and left. Was that why he was there — to get Jackson?

Olivia couldn't talk to Chris about what had happened but she decided to see a counselor at the university. At the time she was a 21-year-old who did not have a repertoire of coping skills or tools. She was a Christian who had learned how to feel bona fide guilt, and she searched outwardly for answers and relief to her suffering, rather than inwardly. The counselor was a middle-aged man with deep, penetrating brown eyes. He listened quietly with an empathetic expression on his face, suggesting to Olivia that he wasn't listening to an everyday, typical story. Olivia told him that she had been sitting in the Student Union Building looking at the shoes on young women's feet as they walked by. "Perhaps I'll see her shoes, and I'll know who she is." Her counselor felt compassion for Olivia; after all, she was a serious student but something this unexpected left Olivia wondering if she would be able to crack open a book, much less comprehend and learn academic material.

Of course, there had to be a final blow. A couple of days later Chris's upstairs neighbor, Dewey, telephoned Olivia saying that he couldn't wait to meet with and talk to her about what had happened between she and Chris. Sensing his sincerity, she didn't hesitate to meet him in his backyard while Chris was at work. Stuttering, he told her that the mystery woman with the sheet over her head was not an isolated woman. There were other women, and there was one occasion when Olivia missed — by seconds — running into one of those women driving out of Chris's driveway. Dewey nervously anticipated that he might one day witness an awkward, and possibly explosive, encounter between two women. F-L-A-S-H. The bobby pin! Olivia suddenly remembered a large, three-inch gold bobby pin that she found underneath one of the pillows on Chris's bed several months ago. She completely dismissed it. How could she have been in such denial that she would ignore an obvious piece of evidence and not confront him? Were there other clues? One night she saw a straw decorative bird with a note on his door but he annoyingly said that it was from the girl in the upstairs apartment. Perhaps Olivia was a bit suspicious but wasn't concerned that Chris would be interested in her. Regardless, the trust between them was irreparably gone. And because Olivia believed that trust was the foundation of a relationship, it was over. In this respect,

Olivia was not Hillary Clinton. Chris pursued Olivia, almost to the point of stalking. He would telephone her or show up on her apartment doorstep. She refused to talk to him and refused to see him. If she was dating someone, Chris would investigate, finding out who he was, his address, and his telephone number. Chris would then telephone him, asking to speak to Olivia. "She doesn't want to talk to you," Olivia would hear him say; however, after several weeks, Chris convinced Olivia that she should have dinner with him at an exclusive restaurant that required a halfhour drive up a majestic canyon, lined with pine trees. "Perhaps we can finally end this," she thought. During dinner, the conversation was light — more like superficial chitchat. But soon, dinner was over. Tears came to Chris's eyes. "Marry me. Please marry me. I can't live without you," he begged. So much of the pain she had experienced weeks before was gone — but there was an indescribable emptiness and a feeling of residual pain, as she muttered, "I can't." She still found it impossible to expound or talk about what had happened between them weeks before. I-m- p-o-s-s-i-b-l-e.

Olivia went on with her life, completing her Master of Science (MS) Degree and teaching in the public school system. She married a year and a half later; of course, he was nothing less than handsome, thin, and over six feet tall; however, the marriage seemed to loom over her like a death sentence — a mistake to begin with. She should have realized her demise when she vomited for hours the night before the wedding. The more obvious omen, however, was lowering her wedding dress over her head backwards and pulling the zipper up the front instead of the back. It was apparent that she was turned around in more than one way. Even a witness to the wedding ceremony commented that Olivia looked "peaked" before she said, "I do." Perhaps this was called "going from the frying pan into the fire." Perhaps being 23 years old didn't necessarily mean it was time to get married.

The fact is — Olivia chose to marry a man she thought she could trust rather than a man she loved, divorcing 12 years later after bailing out on her marriage counselor twice, saying, "I can't go through with this." The last time she walked through his office door, he said, "I knew you'd be back. If you would have ever been in love with this man, there would have been a 50-50 chance of rekindling that love, but there was nothing to rekindle." Perhaps she was back because she had just been released from an 11-day hospital stay with pneumonia. Perhaps she realized that she was so unhappily married and depressed that her immune system had shut down, and she became seriously ill. Perhaps she stared at the IV drip in her arm long enough to realize that there had to be another way out. She had heard about the "love triangle," which depicted the three sides of a relationship: intimacy, passion, and commitment. Sometimes people only wanted one or two of those components, and if a couple wanted different components there was a conflict of needs. Olivia wanted all of them. Unfortunately, she had commitment. That was it. Ironically, that was the one thing she didn't have with Chris. Yet, paradoxically, during that time and for the next 30 years she wondered if she had made the right decision about Chris. He had been the love of her life. She often thought, "Why didn't I talk to him? Why didn't we discuss what had happened? I saw a counselor. Why didn't I take Chris with me to see the counselor? Could we have worked it out?" And almost as fast as a wish made while rubbing Aladdin's Lamp, Chris was back in her life again — 30 years later.

It was July. Olivia dreamed about Chris's mother, Ann, whom she had met on a couple of occasions. Olivia was not close to her but remembered her as being quiet and stoic, but sophisticated. With her best sterling silver flatware, Ann served lunch for them one day on their patio, overlooking the Pacific Ocean. "She must have liked you," Chris would later say. "She wouldn't do that for everyone." But, the dream. Jung would ask, was it relevant? Was Chris's mother reaching out to her? Perhaps. Olivia had discovered over the years that she received relevant, accurate, reliable, and sometimes predictive information through dreams. She trusted them. She emailed Chris: "Are you okay? I just wanted to touch base with you before I leave for the Himalayas. With what I'll be doing near Everest I might not come back. LOL Surprisingly, I had a dream about you a few nights ago and your mom was in it. Dreams aren't meaningless ... mine aren't, anyway. Olivia." Chris immediately responded to Olivia's e-mail. Sure enough, his mother had recently died. Chris had also divorced his second wife after discovering that her many trips to California included an affair with another man. He had been single for a few years. He included his phone number in his email and asked Olivia to: "Call me when you have a chance."


Excerpted from Stillness on Shaking Ground by Carol A. Wilson. Copyright © 2016 Carol A. Wilson. Excerpted by permission of John Hunt Publishing Ltd..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents

Acknowledgements viii

Dedication xi

Note from the Author xii

Preface 1

Part I

Meltdown 9

By the River 31

Escape 33

Part II

Training for Tibet 49

Tibet from Nepal 61

Nepal: Last Resort-Manika Graveyard-Nuwakot 125

Retreat 131

Caste and Culture 147

Part III

Gorkha 7.8 Earthquake 175

On Ground Earthquake Relief 193

Dolakha 7.3 Earthquake-Hijacked 211

Magical Pokhara 233

Part IV

Dark Clouds 249

Letting Go 273

Motherland India 279

References 283

About the Author 286


Figure 1 Parasol

Figure 2 Golden Fishes

Figure 3 Vase

Figure 4 Lotus

Figure 5 Conch Shell

Figure 6 The Endless Knot

Figure 7 Victory Banner

Figure 8 Dharma Wheel

GisaTom, TibetanArtDesign


Nepal Flag, Carol A. Wilson

MUCH love, Carol A. Wilson

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