It was a great pleasure to join Hang Massive for the Launch Concert of their Album “Luminous Emptiness” at Union Chapel, London. The concert was the first Live Performance of many new songs and included wondrous visuals along with the concert.
I went with Danny and Markus from Hang Massive to Ladakh in India where they produced the music video for one of the songs on their new album.
Within less than a month “The Secret Kissing of the Sun and Moon” already has more than 500k views on Youtube – and has already hit more than 1 Million views when this blog post was last updated.
Even though our trip to Ladakh is already three months past, the upcoming album launch event feels like a wonderful opportunity to share some of the many wonderful memories and images of this journey and of making the video.
Arriving in Ladakh by plane does not feel like Landing at all.
Because Leh is so high up in the Himalayan mountains – at an altitude of 3.500m – you cannot really tell whether you are already on the ground or still up in the air.
Very quickly it gets obvious why it is recommended to stay at the Hotel for the first couple of days.
The altitude sickness kicks in right away.
Coming from practically just above sea level in Goa, I wasn’t even able to make a few steps out of bed without falling right back to the ground. It was quite an interesting experience!
Luckily, we stayed at a lovely Guest House in Leh, the Travellers Guesthouse where we were well taken care of by the owners.
Danny and Markus must have a bit of a better condition than myself – they were pretty much ready to go on arrival. As was the Indian Production team. Even though everyone struggled a little bit with being at the altitude, in the beginning, their motivation outshone any symptoms of altitude sickness very quickly.
We had a few days before most of the team arrived. Which gave Craig, who is usually the host of the Hang Massive Events, and myself opportunity to visit many monasteries and locations and gain an idea of the area.
It was in the Traveller Guesthouse, that we met Linda O Connor – a lovely photographer lady, who has been travelling to Ladakh for many many years. She made a gorgeous book full of imagery of some very sacred places in the world.
And many pictures of Ladakh. Perfect to find nice locations!
It was her cover picture that inspired us for the first location: Shey.
It is such an outlandish landscape like one only knows from science fiction movies. And no surprise, many of them have been filmed in Ladakh – including the newest season of Game of Thrones!
On this wide field of old Buddhist stupas, you definitely feel like being directly on the moon.
Mountains frame many many buildings that are spread out over a majestic sand and stone desert.
They are filled with sacraments of and relicts of Lamas, holy Buddhist monks. So you can understand there is true magic in the air :).
Always on Energy and Motivation on the Way
Filming in High Altitude means needing to be out there in time so we are ready on location BEFORE the first sun rays hit. 9 am is usually already way too bright and hot in the rocky dessert!
So it is best to complete many of the shots by then already.
This means call times at 3 am in the morning.
Lucky, the band has a great passion for Mate and Coffee, so there was no need to worry about being weary-eyed on set!
We were also extremely lucky to meet Otsal and his team of Lehvanda Coffee. They not only made the best coffee for us in Leh but also came along on our tour and guided us to many amazing shooting locations.
Have you ever heard of Bullet Proof Coffee? The idea actually comes from the Himalayan Mountains. Here they drink Butter tea. A local tea mixed with salted butter keeps you energized on long tracks.
All of these together with great devotion and easeful presence – You can imagine all of us were on fire!
Our second main shooting location was in Nubra Valley.
But in order to get to Nubra, you have to go over the Khardungla Pass. This is a pass that is more than 5.000m high! And that, after all the altitude sickness already in the beginning! Oi.
But we made it. It was surprisingly easy and we so enjoyed the snow coming up to the pass, then the rain and the sunshine.
We took a few of the obligatory pictures and made our attempt for the highest altitude Aeropress Coffee! Not sure it is going to make it to the Guinness Book of World Records though ;).
The highlight was a circular rainbow as we arrived back down in the valley. It was beautiful to look at while lying in the grass – with donkeys all around 🙂 and singing “Juleh”.
It is the official way to greet someone in Ladakh with “Juleh”. So we sang many songs of Juleh in our enjoyment of life and maybe some euphoria from the height.
In Nubra valley, we did many of the shots in the video. The one in the desert, making sure there are no donkeys or camels in the video and wading through the cold river with all the equipment because we couldn’t find the bridge in the dark.
Here we visited the huge Maitreya statue and had butter tea with the Monk who is living at the bottom of the statue while a massive storm and sandstorm was happening outside.
One of the big Buddhist Festivals, that would usually happen in July, did happen in June this year. It is the reason why we had the idea to go to Ladakh in the first place.
You can see some of the most spectacular (that’s my own personal opinion) shots in the video taken during the Lama Dance at the Festival.
It felt like a special day.
When we arrived at Lamayuru, I really needed to use the bathroom, so our guide Otsal showed me where to usually find the toilets. I went right in there, into the entrance that he pointed to, followed by Danny.
However, what we didn’t expect was that the room and hallway that would usually lead up to the toilets were filled with all the monks that were preparing for the Dance!
Stop! One said. Only for monks. I was like: Toilet? So he hesitantly let us pass and we ran through the hall with the monks to the end.
Our teacher Od Kyi Lus Rinpoche had shared with us before how she had met the Dalai Lama in similar circumstances and was able to hand him her writings in that way. So with this memory in heart and mind, I had no hesitation to then go onto the main stage into the middle of the lama dance and in front of all the venerable rinpoches and lamas.
Definitely not allowed for tourists. But the Rinpoches allowed the two of us being there. We did not have any intention to leave this prime spot and enjoyed being fully amongst it!
The rest of the team was somewhere else. I certainly felt guilty knowing they didn’t know where we are and that they couldn’t come here as well. But it was clear that if we left, there was no way back.
It felt totally blessed, auspicious and like a great honour to be there where we were.
Our guide Otsal found us and let us know that the Lineage Holder of the Drikung Kagyu Tradition, H.H. Chetsang Rinpoche was present and giving blessings.
So this is how we rejoined the rest of the band and we all went for an audience with the lineage holder.
On the internet, I had read that H.H. Chetsang Rinpoche had received also the teachings of the Dzogchen tradition, so I asked him whether I could ask him something. All he said to me some words in the most complete cheerful way. And there it was: Everything given <3
This experience was only aided on the next day. At Zangdog Palri Temple.
“Zangdok Palri, the Glorious Copper-Colored Mountain, is the manifestation of the celestial paradise of Guru Rinpoche or Padmasambhava, the “Second Buddha”; of Tibetan Buddhism and great tantric master who brought Buddhism from India to Tibet. Atop this mountain lies the majestic Lotus Light Palace, filled with the light of wisdom. True devotees of Guru Rinpoche consider Zangdok Palri the ultimate paradise–a place of peace, joy and pure blessings. Inspired by this sacred and enlightened realm, a source of wish-fulfilling blessings, prayers are sung, paintings created, and temples built.”
Inaugurated by Chetsang Rinpoche in presence of His Eminence Garchen Rinpoche this was the most special temple I ever was at.
Completely powerful, beautiful and full of joy and blessings.
It was here that Craig broke his leg and we had to leave Hang Massive for the last few shots.
We were so lucky to have the support of our other guide Stanzin. Really, everyone in Ladakh had been just so kind and helpful on the journey, but his support was the most generous and invaluable to us.
He brought us to the hospital, and went with us wherever we had to go, waited with us, went to the stores with us. Drove us. Wanting nothing. Such a gift.
Being in an Indian hospital is as eventful as one can imagine.
Long waiting times. As you enter, you see open operations and blood, a child coming in from a motorbike accident and the desperate family trying to see through the situation. A covered corpse being carried out of the hall.
It is powerful to encounter life and death in the physical realms so directly and know deeply the always-on perfection of reality and the great blessings we received at the Zangdog Palri 🙏🏻
We got to help with putting on the cast ourselves.
As we left we saw the child from the motorbike accident, he seemed alright and softly smiled and waved at us.
So in the end, we had to cut our trip a few days short, change our ticket so we could go back to Goa and London to see a Western doctor and receive a full treatment for the broken leg.
With very bad internet signal throughout booking that ticket turned out to be a mission that took me from 9am in the morning to 17:30 or so in the evening and involved trying various internet cafes, call boxes, calling several points of contacts, going to the airport,…
At the end we made it. Such a trip!
Already from what I told here you can see the magic that was present in every moment of this trip.
The blessings of this journey were so manifold. And there were so many more little memories that I have not yet mentioned here, as I kept it mostly focussed and related to the video.
But there was so much more.
From meeting an 8-year-old reincarnation, a Rinpoche, and Lama of Stakna Monastery and seeing him receiving teachings from his wondrous teacher. Sitting with him for 45minutes. And being asked to go, when we wanted to see him a second time.
To drive to the single Nyingma Monastery in Ladakh, being waved at by a monk from many 100 meters far away in the Landscape. A monk who somehow was able to spot us in the car, seemingly knowing exactly who we are and where we went. To only arrive at an empty monastery.
To then coming to this Monastery a second time and finding it empty yet again. And then finally an elderly lama arriving at the bottom of the monastery waving with the keys to the Guru Rinpoche cave in his hands. Craig playing Handpan to him.
To Hip-Hop Taxi Ride Jams from Nubra Valley, road blockages and a truck falling down the side of the road as we passed it.
Yes, full of blessings and adventures. And we carry these blessings into the world.
A wondrous life!
And stay tuned for the Album Launch online as well and the next videos to come!
in Love, Juleh!
All other images and the Making Of Video by Iris Zajac 2018