Nina Rao – BHNN Guest Podcast – Ep. 117 – Inner Mountains with Wasfia Nazreen

Nina Rao speaks with Wasfia Nazreen about her adventures as a mountaineer, her friendship with the Dalai Lama, her work as an activist, and how she climbed her own inner mountains.

Wasfia Nazreen is best known for being the only Bangladeshi and first Bengali in the world to climb the Seven Summits, the highest mountains of every continent. She is also the only woman to hold the simultaneous titles of National Geographic Explorer & Adventurer. An outspoken activist since her late teens, her passion has always been driven by causes close to her heart. A human-rights activist, an environmentalist, a writer, educator, pilot, and producer – Wasfia wears many hats, all of which are grounded in strong foundations of meditation and self-realization practices. Learn more about her and follow her many adventures on her website, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter

Role Models

Nina and Wasfia discuss her winding journey through life, from Bangladesh to America to India. Wasfia talks about her time in Dharmsala and how she slowly became friends with the Dalai Lama, who became her role model. She also shares stories of her friendship with the 17th Karmapa, who she’s known since he was a young age. 

“I didn’t have any role models growing up and then somehow I manifested the greatest role model I could have ever asked for, you know, His Holiness the Dalai Lama.” – Wasfia Nazreen

Dig into Tibetan Buddhism with Sharon Salzberg and Alex Gardner in Metta Hour Ep. 191
Approach a Mountain as a Pilgrimage (38:00)

Nina asks Wasfia about her adventures as a mountaineer and how she went about climbing the Seven Summits. Wasfia talks about how lucky she was to start her mountaineering career being so close to the Himalayas, how she was taught to climb by Sherpas, why mental preparation is so important for the bigger mountains, and how climbing a mountain is like a pilgrimage. 

“And I think it’s very important to give that difference that when you approach a mountain as a pilgrimage versus when you approach a mountain with the idea in your mind to conquer her. Because realistically speaking, we never, as human beings, can conquer any part of nature. But that’s what the colonial mentality has taught us to believe.” – Wasfia Nazreen

Joseph Goldstein compares the spiritual journey to climbing a mountain in Insight Hour Ep. 124
Inner Mountains (1:05:25)

Nina inquires about Wasfia’s experience during the COVID pandemic. Wasfia talks about getting sick very early in the pandemic and using the recovery period as a time to work on purifying her karma and climbing her inner mountains. Nina asks Wasfia about her work as an activist, particularly with regard to women’s rights in Bangladesh. They close out the conversation by touching on Wasfia’s upcoming projects.

“I think there’s an intersectionality that we don’t, we are not always mindful of. And, you know, it only benefits us if we take wisdom from so many different regions.” – Wasfia Nazreen

Mirabai Bush and Elizabeth Lesser discuss inner and outer activism in Walking Each Other Home Ep. 6
Photo via Wasfia Nazreen