Mini Monks in Nepal

Mini MonksWhen I signed up to work with Mindful Medicine Worldwide I was able to request my location so I chose to work in Chapagaon, a rural location just outside of Kathmandu. The clinic is on the grounds of a Buddhist teaching monastery. A teaching monastery is where boys age 5 to 18 come to live to learn to be Buddhist monks. That’s right, there are lots of mini monks here, running around in burgundy and yellow robes.

One of the perks of being in this clinic is getting to treat the mini monks, whether it be rubbing Neem oil on their heads or dressing their many cuts and scrapes. (What the hell is Neem oil ? Why, it’s a wonderful Ayurvedic antimicrobial, antifungal, skin healing plant oil that has a gnarly funk to it.)

In my head, before I came here, I had thought how peaceful it would be to be next to a Buddhist monastery. I had pictured rolling green hills and monks chanting in unison at dusk. Monks in training are actually quite noisy; they’re learning to play horns, they chant out of tune and tempo. Every morning at 9:30 and evening at 7:30 they come into the clinic using the little English they know, “hellloo, hello, helloo?” I massage the Neem onto their shaved, fungus-infected heads, not bothering to wash my hands in between. A few of them roll back their ears to show crusty spots where I apply a Chinese herbal balm to it. Another shows me the chunk of skin missing on the bottom of his foot and points to the Calendula.

I can’t describe how magical it is to be crowded by little monks that need my help. This process makes me feel like a healer in a totally different respect than I’m used to (and in some ways I feel totally inadequate).  One of the monks communicated that he had a sore throat and wanted herbs. I was the only one around and felt so lame that I didn’t know which herbal formula to give him. Of course I don’t know; I’ve only been in acupuncture school for two years and that’s just long enough to know I don’t know anything.  I did, however, know to do some fire cupping to his back and chest. It’s too bad they all look the same. I would like to have asked him if it helped.

A 9 year old monk named Pema Lodoe Rabsel sprained his ankle the other day and we were able to give him some homeopathy that took the swelling down. The volunteer acupuncturist, Christina, was out of town on a retreat so I was asked if I could do some acupuncture on the little guy to help his ankle. At this very moment I was actually happy for the injury I had suffered to my ankle in almost the same location. I knew from getting over 20 acupuncture treatments how to help it. (Normally we don’t do acupuncture on children in the States even though my school has an offsite location at Children’s Hospital. Instead we use magnets and acupressure.) I knew I had to use tiny needles and keep it very limited so I chose only four points. With an adult most people use at least 8 needles in a treatment, and maybe even 10 or 12.

Mini Monk tries acupunctureI asked him if he was scared (through a translator) and he sheepishly nodded yes. I held up one of the needles and said “See, they are very tiny. I will tell you before I put it in, okay? If it hurts we can take it right out.” He nodded again and I chose the point that I knew would be the least reactive and gently tapped it in. He smiled and I said, “It’s not so bad, huh?” and he nodded. The next point there was no reaction, but the last two he made a little noise. I again checked in with him “are any of them hurting you?” He nodded no.

“Now we’re going to do some moxa on your leg to help it heal, okay?” I showed him the moxa pole and lit it on fire. I said “Don’t worry, I’m not going to burn you, if it’s too hot you tell me.” As I drew the moxa up and down his leg I could see the fear in his eyes, but he eventually calmed down as he realized I wasn’t going to burn him. I kept explaining about the moxa, asking him if he knew what it was and then explaining about it being a plant called mugwort, known for it’s healing properties. I was scared too. He was the first child I ever needled. Point location on him was harder because of how tiny he was. I got the feeling I might break something if I was too rough or that he would run off screaming and forever be afraid of me. Kids are like dogs though; you can’t let them smell your fear.

Mini Monk gets moxaSo far this has really been the best part about working in the clinic here. The mini monks, or monk-eys as I have been calling them, are very cute and sweet. They are also classic little boys, wrestling, running, and playing soccer. They come with a myriad cuts and scrapes every day to be treated. They are also amazing little mantra chanters. You can’t help but love the kids here, the monks and others. They have the biggest, brightest smiles and are so friendly.


The monks had huddled onto the porch of the gumpa. As soon as they saw I was taking pictures they all started hamming it up

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Follow earlier blogs of Metal Monkey’s adventures in Asia!

Volunteering in Nepal, A Personal Story
Teaching in Massage in Nepal

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