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Consider this a starting point for visitors to Kopan monastery in Nepal or anyone who has an interest in Buddhism or meditation retreats. Do you ever wonder what it might be like to spend some time meditating at a Tibetan Buddhist Monastery in the shadow of the Himalayas? Check out 30 Days to Enlightenment.

Maybe you prefer to stay closer to home. Try starting your search with our Canadian directory of Buddhist centres and meditation retreats.

For Kopan's meditation retreats, course information and schedule, please see the Kopan Monastery Meditation Retreat page. With your help, this site can be a great place to keep in contact with others who have attended retreats at Kopan and elsewhere, and a place to share our experiences through travel journals, messages, pictures, etc.

Have a suggestion for the web site? Want to share photos, travel journals, say hello? Send a message. The site is always being added to, so check back often to see what's happening!

In October, 2001 I left Canada and the comfy bubble I call home for a three month sabbatical tripping through Nepal and Thailand.

While in Nepal, I took a one month Buddhist meditation retreat at Kopan Monastery. Perched high on a hill about 45 minutes from Kathmandu city, Kopan overlooks the valley and city of Bodhnath below, a religious centre for the large population of Tibetan Buddhists who live in Nepal. Out of Bodhnath rises the largest stupa in the country, and one of the largest in the world.

Many people asked me why I would want to stay in a monastery for a month. Some were surprised that I would even want to go to Nepal at all. Some of the things I heard were: It's so soon after the September 11 attacks. It's so close to Afghanistan. What will you eat? What if you get sick? What if you have an accident? Why on earth would you want to spend a month in a monastery?

Of course, many of the same questions can be asked every day no matter where we are going or what we are doing. Whether it is to Asia or the corner store at the end of our block, we all travel in different ways, and each of us have our own reasons for doing so.

A fellow traveler I met in Greece a couple years ago surmised that one can travel horizontally or vertically. It's possible to visit many different places in the world and see very little. It's equally possible to visit few places and become richer with experience over time. My friend chose to travel back to the same island every year for at least a couple weeks. As we chatted over ouzo in a small cafe on Samos Island, my eyes wandered to the hundreds of photographs covering the cafe walls and I could recognize Reinhart, now in his forties, in several pictures dating back over the years. He gave me a tour of his public album. His first visit to the island over twenty years ago, his hair long and unkempt. Another picture of him with a brushcut and a new baby in his arms. A picture of a beautiful woman - his wife, playing on the beach. Another with the same woman, older now - his ex. Several more shots of Reinhart and his daughter growing up on Samos Island every two weeks of the year. Vertical traveling. A deeper sense of experience, understanding.

I choose to travel because it helps open my mind to new ideas and possibilities, new ways of looking at and trying to understand this crazy ride called life. I like the personal challenge of arriving in a new and strange place, trying to maneuver my way around the local language, customs and the enigmas that invariably present themselves. I travel for the magic that happens between travelers on the road, intense friendships developed over a few short days or hours. Mystical experiences aside, I travel for the sheer joy of the ride, bumps and all.

So why Nepal? A few years ago I was working at a restaurant in Ottawa, Canada, and a fellow cook was planning a trip to Nepal. I was slightly distracted with my own plans of spending the summer hitch hiking across Canada, but as she described Kathmandu, the Himalayas and the amazing treks from village to village, my interest was perked. My dreams that night were of Sherpas, Sadhus and yak butter tea. A few weeks later, while looking out over a valley from a mountain trail high in the Canadian Rockies, I couldn't help but wonder how the view would be in the Himalayas.

With the seed planted in my head so many moons ago, I was excited when the Imax film "Everest" came out in 1998. I had just finished reading Jon Krakauer's book 'Into Thin Air', about the tragic deaths of several Everest climbers; the Imax documentary was filmed at the time of the accident. It was in the theatre, while watching the massive Imax screen when it happened. We were soaring through the Himalayas of the Everest region, over terraced valleys, small Yak herds could be seen far below. As we crested over a ridge in the mountains, a small Sherpa village came into view, unexpected, beautifully strange. Something stirred deep in my heart and I knew that very soon I would be visiting this same village for myself.


A documentary of the annual Kopan monastery 30 day Buddhist meditation retreat is now available. Click here to find out more.


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Buddhist meditation retreat: Tibetan Buddhist meditation retreat in Kathmandu Valley, Nepal.
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