Singing with the Moso

Leaving Mother LakeIn a singular time and place – in “the country of daughters” – Moso women drink butter tea and rule society. Mothers and sisters skillfully work the land and manage their households. They care for their Himalayan hair, beauty in and of itself. They teach their daughters to love and conceive freely – without attachment or regret. When it is time, they gather to dance and to sing.

“That year, when the people came out to dance under the stars in honor of the mountain goddess, all the men’s eyes were on my mother.

Around the bonfires, the men danced in a group and faced the women, who likewise danced arm in arm, their multicolored belts tied around their waists. My mother’s waist was thick with all her trophies. … the women pushed my Ama (mother) to show off in the center, and while she danced, a young man broke out of the circle and snatched a belt from her waist.

My mother laughed and skipped from man to man, but she did not catch her belt. She would take it back only when a man worthy of her songs caught it. …my mother could not make up her mind – until Numbu caught it.

His hands on his hips, Numbu began the courtship song:

Little sister, you are like moonlight in the middle of the night sky,
But the moon needs a star above it.

And my Ama answered:

Night has not fallen and the moon has not risen,
But the butterfly is already looking for honey.

Then Numbu sang:

The butterfly has found a beautiful flower; and
The moon is already high up above the lake.

She answered:

If the moon is high above Mother Lake, the water is untainted.
Mother Lake is where I wash and comb my hair.

And Numbu sang:

But why do you comb your hair; little sister?
Oh, little sister, for whom do your comb your beautiful hair?”


Why am I sharing this book excerpt with you?

Because I love to think about this colorful scene in a faraway culture. Because words are the magic that charge my imagination and emotions, allowing me to envision this other life in another time and place. And in sharing this with you, maybe you too will be transported and we will entwine in spirit – with each other but also with Yang Erche Namu and Christine Mathieu, the authors of the memoir “Leaving Mother Lake.”

To me, these small moments of delight, imagination and connection – when we take the time to pay attention, notice something precious and share it – are like a core retreat. Because no matter how easy or hard life seems, when it is time, we can always gather to dance and to sing, to find something joyful and be one – in the place that is our thoughts.

Until we meet again,


PS: Click here to order “Leaving Mother Lake” on

[Today’s blog post is dedicated to Carrie Haunstetter, who shared the Moso story with me. And to her daughters – Sophie and Anna – may they grow confident like the Moso women and always find reasons to dance and to sing.]


One response to “Singing with the Moso

  1. beautiful thoughts for the day! and how much we can learn by reflecting on cultures so different from our own….

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