Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Country Roads Take Me Home To The Place I Belong

It took six hours to drive 203 kilometers from Haridwar to Indira Gandhi Airport in Dehli. I didn't even mind, as the car we were in had AC and it was sweet, sweet, bliss. Kiki and I had made the decision to head home, feeling that three weeks of an Indian summer, dysentery and a myriad of small awakenings were enough for this particular trip. I was relieved, happy, full, sad, and hot when we finally climbed into the taxi outside of the ashram and bid adieu to those that had become like family to us; waving out the back window of the car, smiles on our faces and tears in our eyes.

Through the horse carts, rickshaws, pot holes, buses, trucks, cows and pedestrians we sped down the country roads at a fast paced, lurching 40 kilometers per hour; horns ablazing.

We are dropped at off at the upper level of the airport sans our guide who picked us up and as we were to soon discover, sans his knowledge of the inner workings of Indian airports.

With our overloaded backpacks on a cart we head for Gate 2. We are told that we need a ticket to get into the gate; meaning into the AC and out of the chaos of summers dusty streets. My Western mind does not compute this information, don't we go into the airport to get a ticket??

"No ma'am, get ticket, then go in, then gate, isn't it?" We ask where to go. Upstairs, downstairs, across the street, down a hallway to a locked door, back upstairs, in the lift, out of the lift, back and forth with our heavy cargo and our heavy hearts.

We ask again, "Where is the American Airlines office?"

"Back that way ma'am," says one, "No back that way ma'am," says another. "Sorry ma'am, up the lift," says yet another.

I look at Kiki, with red flaring in my eyes, WE JUST CAME FROM THE F'ING LIFT! She heads in the direction of the elevator, I proceed to ask her if she is aware that it is polite in this culture to always say yes. I DON'T WANNA go back in the elevator. I want a beer. I want my mommy.

We finally find the airline office back in the direction of where we had already been down a dark hallway. My patience has worn thin and all yogic principles are fast disappearing even though I know intellectually that this type of experience is par for the course for traveling abroad. I just want to go home.

I stayed outside with the bags and Kiki went inside. She comes out and says that they can't find her name. I sigh and say, "IMPOSSIBLE." She goes back in. She comes back out and says that they are saying that we missed our flight. I say, "WHAT?!" She tells me to come in but I can't leave our bags, pregnant with trinkets and gifts on the cart.

A deep feeling of dread begins to settle into the pit of my stomach. She comes out, flustered, with four or five AA employess chattering in Indian Enlgish. They begin to talk about "stand by" and no guarantees and another 250 dollar fee. My head is spinning and we both have tears in our eyes. Oh fuck, I whisper, as I realize that our flight was for 12:15am on June 25th. It is June 25th and its 7pm. Our flight left while we were sleeping the night before! It never occurred to us that we would have to leave the ashram on the 24th!!

How could we be so dumb? We look at each other, the agent is still talking. Monkey shit! Robotically I hand over my passport, Keeks is on the verge of losing her marbles. They hand us a piece of paper. I hear the words, "Counter...reroute...may not get on tonight..flights leave every 24 hours."

They direct us back to Gate 2 only we can't enter the airport until 8pm. Dejected, forlorn, and angry we head back to the concrete shelter across from the airport terminal. Here you can sit outside in the sweltering heat and try to jockey for position for one of the 10 seats with the rest of the crowd or you can pay 80 rupees to enter the air conditioned guest lounge. I had no more rupees after paying our driver, I had only imagined getting on the flight and had not prepared for any other outcome. Foolish!

Its hot. We snap at each other. We accidentally go the wrong way back to the waiting area and Kiki rolls over her flip flop with our prego cart. Implosion is imminent. We decide to try the gate just for shits, feeling we have nothing left to lose. The guard is less than enthused by our presence and tells us that we now cannot enter the gate until 9pm! Its no use arguing, all is lost in translation. The guard directs us back across the street just as a hired mosquito killer walks down both sides of the streets spraying toxic rancid white smoke out something that I can only compare to a weed wacker. This is the seventh circle of hell and we stand, bristling, clutching Kiki's scarf to our ragged faces.

So we sit and we wait and we make a video about our plight, our despondency and the cosmic giggle of it all as we sip a coke and sweat in the heat. We still can't believe that we missed our flight and we crack up over and over again. It is all that we have left, our wilted senses of humor.

At 8pm we make a run for the gate running on pure adrenaline and gut busting laughter. We hit up the second guard, he frowns but lets us in. We go to the AA desk and the same man from the dark hallway office is there. He says this phrase and this phrase only, "The flight is full and overbooked. Come back at 10:30."

I start to get the feeling that we are about to spend this and subsequent nights in the airport. I desire access to a cell phone or a laptop. It is no use arguing or pleading with the staff as we are at their mercy. There is also no point in alerting the troops as we ourselves do not know our fate. Shitty shitty shit.

I begin to imagine the worst case scenario as Keeks wipes tears from her eyes, her and I waiting in the airport for days waiting for yes to really mean yes. After trying to go home early from our adventure, the final ironic cosmic joke at our expense.

I start to think about re-entering Delhi but the thought makes my stomach churn; the traffic, the chaos-then again a bed/shower/internet connection could be valuable. I smell like sweat, dust and urine; the stains on the bottom of my pants signifying my lack of adeptness at the squat toilets we had freqented during the day. I feel sad and despondent. I am tired and I am hungry; a human animal on the verge of collapse.

I watch the clock tick, 90 minutes remain for the Gods to decide our destiny. There is nothing to do but sit. There is nothing to do but be, and suddenly the lessons of ashram life come to fruition, self reliance and illusion all make sense and from somewhere inside, I recognize that I am the captain of this ship called life.

I take off my mala from around my neck and close my eyes. I surrender to the unseen. I begin the mantra. I feel a breeze, a child cries, there is a voice on the loudspeaker. I hear a squeaky wheel on a cart wind past, I sense the brush of a leg, Kiki shifts in her seat. I chant. All of this happens simultaneously. I let go. I am completely present. I am not angry. I am not thirsty. I am not there.

Suddenly I know in the deepest realm of my being that we are getting on the plane, tonight. I quiet myself further, listen more intently, feel the sensations up and down my body and I am convinced, all signs point to yes. We are getting on the plane.

I know Kiki is fretting next to me. I want to reassure her. I do a few more rounds with the beads and open my eyes. I turn to her and say, "We are getting on the plane." She says, "We are?" I repeat myself, "We are getting on the plane." I tell her that I can feel it. She says ok and begins to pray.

I am tired and weary but calm. I am at peace. All stress has evaporated. 10:30 arrives and we head back to the counter. The attendant from the office walks by and says, "Ah, you are here. There have been some missed connections, it is looking good. I will let you know." Its now almost 11pm and our flight leaves at 12:15 and we have no tickets and have not cleared customs. I still know we are getting on the plane.

We commence waiting. I smile and tell Kiki that when the time comes I need her to hold it together because we are going to have to run. I tell her that they are already going to be boarding the plane by the time we get through. She nods.

11:45pm rolls around and we have tickets and are being interrogated before we leave. We are grinning and high fiving and dancing little jigs and the customs officer asks us if we are so happy to leave his India. We say oh no, India is beautiful we are just happy to be going home, and then we run.

And we run down the corridor to the waiting plane and I bring my palm to my lips as we pass a window and blow India a big wet smacking kiss goodbye right before I break into a feeble rendition of "Proud to be an American.." and ya'll know how desperate I must have been to do THAT.

And then we are seated and up in the air and the wine is delivered and I am sobbing. I am sobbing for the experience, I am sobbing in gratitude, I am sobbing in relief, I am sobbing in happiness for what awaits at home and I am sobbing, sobbing, sobbing.

I wake up over the North Pole and Kiki says, "Hey, its going to be Saturday when we arrive." I am still tipsy and confused, thinking to myself..no, we get home Friday. I have plans. I have a date. People are expecting me. She says again, "No really we get home Saturday. We left a day late since missed our flight." And it is then that we realize that are a day late and have had no contact with home..which means that Kiki's husband had already drive to the airport in MSP to pick us up once and find us not there. We laugh and cry and beller..yelling, REALLY? Nobody even knows where are! And we are above the frozen snow covered North Pole and their isn't anything we can do except surrender.

"Ha ha Universe," I whisper, bring it on but PLEASE BE GENTLE WITH ME FOR AWHILE as I drift back into unconsciousness; head to airline pillow to window.


Mother India,

I love you, I hate you. You pulled me thin, stretched me taut. You filled me and extinguished me. You sucked the marrow from my limbs and drowned me in the rivers of your love. You caressed the grief from my muscles and cleaned me out with your violent bacteria. You taught me to give, you taught me to trust my intution, you have catapulted me into living unabashedly and without shame. I know I can only sense and see a fraction of your gifts..I will never forget the water, the heat, the flow from stagnation to stillness to surrender. You are in my blood, you are in my flesh and you are in my bones. Thank you from the bottom of the well where the little seed of me resides reaching for the light. Namaste, Hari Om, Dhanyawad.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Holy Poopcrapshit, isn't it?

If you have ever traveled to India, the above expression will touch a place in you that conjours a knowing head wiggle and possibly, deep belly laughter. If you have not, I will do my best to explain without completely ruining the punch line.

The colloquial expression, "Isn't it," is added to many sentences here, for example: "Hari Om! You will find yourself tomorrow flying to the far away distances, isn't it? Challo!" or "I am telling this to your very good face with the sweating, isn't it?" This is Indian English; a delightful mix of Hindi and English with remants of the old world British accent.

And in India, the only thing there is more of than the phrase, "Isn't it," is poopcrapshit.

Allow me to elaborate.

At the end of my last blog I wrote the words, "Holy crap," without really thinking about it. It later struck me that perhaps this phrase actually orignated here in India. After all, crap is very and natural and unhidden here (much like death) and is indeed, very holy.

The morning that we arrived here (and every subsequent morning), cowpies were burning in the duni fire symbolizing purification and next to the fire was a pile of cowpies full of handprints, waiting their turn in the embers. Crap from the sacred Hindu cows is not only used for fuel and purification but also for fertilization. It is a vital, necessary and circular element of life here that is wedded to spiritual beliefs and born out of the natural cycles of the earth (birth, life, death = change). It is literally HOLY crap.

When you walk down the roads here (I'm speaking mainly of Haridwar), poopcrapshit is everywhere. Its on the jungle path, its on the sidewalk, its on your feet and its on your shoes. Human, elephant, horse, dog, cow; poopcrapshit. It is a slip sliding musco-skeletal moving side stepping adventure, and no one bats an eye. As within so without, what goes in must come out!

In fact, its not at all uncommon to see not only cows pooping on your path, but humans as well. I have seen more bare butts on this journey than any other this lifetime. In their loose and free clothing, men and women alike cop a squat and go whenever the call comes, wherever they are. The idea of "holding it" is anathema to most rural Indians and that also goes for burps, farts, boogers and loogies ( in fact, to burp three times after a meal means your full and signifies gratitude).

In the West of course we would rather hold it and wait to find a bathroom, more comfortable politely poisoning our bodies with a painful grin on our face rather than blow the lid off of our purity by exhibiting and releasing normal body functions (I think that our desire to hide these things is directly correlated to our obtuse fear of death and the cycles of nature, but thats a different blog all together).

One of my favorite phrases is actually, "There is a bathroom everywhere," and being here has given it a whole new meaning-they really live it, I just like to say it while I'm hiking before I find a bush or tree to dive behind to hide my butt.

Before I left for India, my neigbor informed me that my cat, Darth Vader, was poopcrapshitting in her flowerbeds. I told her that I didn't really know what to do about it as he is an outside cat but that I was open to her suggestions. She replied, "Well, no one really owns a cat.." and then mentioned that her BB gun was oiled and ready. Needless to say, when I left for India, I left it in the hands of the Gods. If Darth was going to die poopcrapshitting in his idea of a perfect potting soil toilet, so be it. Being in India, surrounded by the normalcy of copius amounts of poop, only reinforced this for me. So imagine my surprise when I received word via email that my neighbor had been retaliating against Darth's bowel movements by picking them up and placing them on my bedroom window sill.

I could not help but laugh and imagine her in India, spending all day and all night carting poopcrapshit back to its rightful owners. Ah, I digress, I know, it's the same old story: one persons freedom fighter is another persons terrorist and one person's holy necessity is another person's righteous pet peeve.

Either way, poopcrapshit ensures one thing: that you can't take yourself too seriously. I mean, after all...you poop, I poop, everybody poops, isn't it?

Saturday, June 19, 2010

All You Need is Love

So, the Beatles weren't kidding when they wrote that song. I have stepped into a profound sense via Mataji's grace that giving is really where LOVE is at.

In the West we often say, "It is better to give than to receive," especially around holidays where it is expected that you will "get" something (a funny Western paradox wrapped in a fat red suit). In the West we expect, we demand, we want something for nothing, we make feeble attempts at security only to end up suffering; suffering in life, suffering in love.

Mataji also noted that in the West we work only for reward and mostly, monetary reward. If we are not finished with our work and our shift ends at 5pm, we leave. After all, we are only getting paid for what we produce, what we "do." And in the end that is all we "get." If you get sick your boss does not bring bananas to your door, he only wants your work.

In the West, we treat love this way, like a contract full of red tape and demands.

Mataji's purpose as a Guru is to model externally that which lives inside all of us; unconditional love. Her purpose is to be a mirror and being Self realized, she is able to love us all without expectation, without reward, without getting anything in return.

This paradox took some time for me to wrap my head around. I couldn't figure out why she was being so kind to me; making me special potatoes, lemon water, encouraging me with endless patience and laughter, and she didn't want anything for it..only to model my internal Self for me.

Amazing! Outrageous by Western standards and so freaking beautiful and profound that it brings tears to my eyes!

I have surrendered to accepting her unconditional love for me and in so doing a door has been opened for me to accept myself; the receiving is in the giving. This is the point of selfless service. Real love, true love, is subtle, kind, open, expansive...with such energy you can only pass it on. What good does it do to horde it for yourself only to keep demanding more, stifling it and finally killing its essence with the illusion of security (the fear of losing it)?

Love is giving, not getting. Love moves, encircles, surrounds and flows through...and when you accept yourself and know love...it automatically flows through you.

Holy crap!

All you need is love, love, love is all you need.
-The Beatles

Friday, June 18, 2010

Wild Horses

Suddenly, Kiki and I are the only two students at the ashram; I become too visible and my ego balks. Mataji's (Mother of the Universe) warm smile guides me back to center. She is so ordinary and yet so amazing, always checking to make sure that I have eaten something, handing me two mangoes instead of one.

I know she has watched me struggle. She has seen my mind dragging me around the ashram, wilting in the heat yet remaining defiant.

When I tried to isolate myself she arrived at my door with bananas. When I tried to skip the afternoon course she cajoled me with lemon water, switched the fan to on and told me I could lie down if I wanted to. Oh, my whiny ego and its resistance. Thankfully she has had more patience with me than I have had with myself.

The horses in my mind (they go by Poncho and Herb) have been running unattended for months now and I have sat back happily in my seat watching the reigns drag on the ground with a smirk, knowing full well they would run, run, run and have their way.

Through the trotting and the periods of sprinting, something else was also present, an internal force full of the same patience that Mataji possesses kindly waiting for India with a knowing smile.

In the walls of an ashram there is nowhere for horses to run. It is here where they are tamed and driven to the service of the greater good; selfless service, right speech, right action, right thought and loving kindness. This does not mean however, that horses don't try to jump over the walls, and so they did.

Herb, Poncho and I got stuck, teetering on the edge between the pull of the external world in the form of lively Rishikesh and the stillness of the inner world of ashram life. I sat paralyzed on the wall, foot entangled in the reigns I had dropped, screaming, "Fucking shit! Poncho! Herb! Do Something!" We stayed there together for some time, sweating and suffering, giving surrender the bird as I begged and pleaded with them to make a decision. I humbly realized that by dropping the reigns of my life, I had given them too much control (I still blame Poncho for the whimsical purchase of the 74' VW van).

I thought back to the flight here, Herb and Poncho and their bulky horse bodies in the seats behind me, Poncho smacking me upside the head with his hoof intermittently while neighing and laughing in that way only horses can do; much to Herb's chagrin.

The mind is like that, with no checks and balances in place it will do as it wishes, do as it has always done. And it was there on the fence with Poncho and Herb that I decided I wasn't going out like that, something my higher Self and Mataji already knew, my ego was just a little slow on the uptake.

And so Mataji, the Western woman who came to the Ganga over 40 years ago to tame her own horses walked me through the process with this advice, "The world is what you THINK. Whatyou put into your stomach and your mind, you must also digest. You are the master of your life, pick up the reigns. Make a friend out of that which disturbs your inner peace, everything in this world is love."

I look over at Poncho and tears are streaming out of his brown eyes. He catches my glance and with a deep sigh places the reigns back into my hands; Herb smiles with relief. Mataji then place a mala around my neck and gives my back a resounding slap, perhaps to knock some more of the Maya (illusion) out of me. She smiles and finishes by giving me detailed instructions on how to apply the natural horse sedative; meditation with a mala.

I smile and tell her that I am tired of fighting with my mind. She laughs and nods, one lone dread lock that has escaped the pile atop her head swaying in agreement. I know there is nothing more to be said, her faith and love automatically do the teaching.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Spiritual Disneyland

I went back to Rishikesh a couple of days ago,walked where the Beatles walked and toured the ruins of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi Ashram; the Babas, Sadus, and monkeys are the only current tenants.

The sun was high and hot beating down on the meditation pods and our heads. It really is like being in a sauna with your clothes on, perpetually sticky and wet inside of a cotton cocoon.

It is amazing to think of the ripple effect that the Beatles music has had. There was graffiti from all over the globe at the ashram. Through the exploration of their own inner worlds the Beatles were able to touch the seed of consciousness in others, very powerful. I have a new appreciation for some of their music and I thought I couldn't love them more than I already do.

It was blistering hot when we left the ashram (after paying the "Forest Service" guard 50 rupees for our adventure) so we ducked into a small air conditioned cafe called "Green Italian Food." This, ladies and gentlemen, was heaven on earth. We practically scrambled for the menus, eyes already bulging, parched throats yearning for a bottle of Fanta. We couldn't help but smile as this lovely establishment with a small handicrafts market in the back room and a Bollywood movie on the tv, served PIZZA.

I laughed as I read the description for "Peperoni Pizza," tomato sauce, green peppers and cheese, for in this holy city there is no meat to speak of. It is typical in India for things to be not quite as they seem or as a traveler thinks they "should" be. Food is prepared from scratch and the ingredients sometimes travel from great distances (while you wait) or are not available at all. We were curious about the pizza, would it fulfill our desires or would it be a cracker with a tomato on it?

Before long our table was loaded up with pop bottles, cappucino cups, masala french fries with sweet pepper sauce, a nutella crepe, two perfect pizzas and copius rounds of burps and giggles. We briefly discussed moving into the restaurant wondering if they would just let us sleep under the tables.

After lingering over more lemon and mint sodas, we headed back out into the heat to the bookshop across the street. As I entered the small stuffy closet like space with one fan blowing, I saw two bodies on the floor in front of it. The proprietors are sound asleep. We looked at each other and shrugged and began to step around them to reach the shelves that are packed with books on yoga, mediation and ayruveda. This to is India in all of her perfection, why wouldn't you take a nap during the hottest part of the afternoon?

Our next stop was Lakshman Jhula, up the river. We hiked up a steep roadway sidestepping cows, dogs, poop piles, burning garbage, sadus and vendors. During the walk the sky clouded over and thunder began to boom. The blessed Monsoon arriving to save us all from the Indian summer inferno. The wind began to blow and the dust began to swirl as the clouds opened up and released their precious cargo. I was happy to get wet and eve happier when the temp dropped to a cooling 70 degrees when it was over; allowing us a beautiful evening sitting at a German cafe drinking lemonade over looking the Ganga bridge, watching the monkeys and their tiny babies ply mangoes from the hands of passing pilgrims.

After the cafe we meandered buying trinkets and I was given the special "Ahimsa" price by two coy young men who ask me why I don't like long hair. They also ask if Ahimsa is my name since I have it tattooed on my arm, and they are not the first. I reply that it is a yogic principle, non-violence, not my name but after this exchange I briefly ponder changing it: Ahimsa Buckwalter. I think thats too much to live up to and it sounds pretty ridiculous, which is probably why I like it.

As evening fell it was time to return to the ashram. We took another motorized rickshaw as flickering lights begin to dot the foothills of the Himalayas. It was beautiful. I smiled as our driver aggressively skirted around sari clad pedestrians, ox carts, bicycles, motorcycles and cows and a cool breeze comes through the car. As we drove we passed countless ensembles of drummng and chanting; the end of another day ceremoniously extinguished in the kaleidoscope of ashrams a long the river. Horns honking, incense burning, feet pedaling, legs squatting, hands roasting corn and praying and I was completely alive inhaling deep dusty smoke tinged breaths.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Hari Om

That is the standard greeting used where I am staying. I have spent the last couple of days out in the thick of it with the people; eating street food and drinking Fanta (which is the nectar of the Gods as far as I'm concerned). My feet are dirty, I'm covered and dust and filled to the brim with the beauty and tragedy of India.

Ashram life is great, but there's something so blissful about surrounding yourself with the culture. I was out walking the streets last night until after 10pm, dipping into shops, talking to vendors, buying trinkets; the colors, sights and sounds settling into my being with the dust. There are no words to describe the experience accurately, I feel like anything I say would fall short so I will save that for the slide show when I get home.

Today I am off to Rishikesh again via motorized rickshaw. We are planning on finding the ashram where the Beatles wrote the White Album, this is pretty much the cat's ass to me. I also plan on spending the hot part of the day sitting in a bamboo covered cafe drinking delightful lemon and mint cold drinks while over looking the Ganga and writing poetry; I'm on fire with love for this place.

Within you, Without You by the Beatles:

We were talking-about the space between us all
And the people-who hide themselves behind a wall of illusion
Never glimpse the truth-then it's far too late-when they pass away.
We were talking-about the love we all could share-when we find it
To try our best to hold it there-with our love
With our love-we could save the world-if they only knew.
Try to realize it's all within yourself
No-one else can make you change
And to see you're really only very small,
And life flows ON within you and without you.
We were talking-about the love that's gone so cold and the people,
Who gain the world and lose their soul-
They don't know-they can't see-are you one of them?
When you've seen beyond yourself-then you may find, peace of mind,
Is waiting there-
And the time will come when you see
we're all one, and life flows on within you and without you.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Ashram Living

I decided that posting something about what actually transpires here on daily basis besides intestinal problems and sweating would be a good idea, especially since I have recovered and have adjusted to a normal sleep schedule.

The ashram is a quiet, restful place in the middle of the chaos of Mother India. This country is seemingly rife with contradictions and my orderly Western mind has trouble wrapping itself around them; the colors, sounds, noises, assault and delight the senses.

A conch shell is blown each morning around 4am and shortly thereafter a chorus of bells from the temple next door begin to ring. If you have ever seen the movie Baraka, you will know what I mean. The bells in the morning are currently my favorite part about being here. A fire ceremony is done in the morning called aarti. After that we have tea and watch the sun rise. Asana practice starts at 7am and last from 1-3 hours depending on who is leading it. I feel energy differently here and have had to recline back on my mat and get my bearings a few times during asana.

After asana we have more tea and sometimes fresh homemade bread, bananas or biscuits. Lunch is at 11am, which we eat silently. We also sing before we get our food to honor the person who cooked it and to bless the food since we cannot know what state of mind the cook was in.

After lunch there is a long break during the hottest part of the day, until class at 4pm. I usually take a nap at this time or read. I have finished three books this week already. It has been challenging for me to sit still in the afternoon, that darn stillness keeps coming up.

After the class, which currently is on Vedanta philosophy, is dinner which is again eaten silently. I have not yet attended a dinner. I seem to be only able to eat one meal a day since my arrival; it is far too hot to be full or even to eat.

After dinner is another ceremony which lasts for about one hour, then its off to bed.

I have been having many crazy dreams, a lot of them about death and still more about snakes, transformation keeps showing up as well.

I miss my pups and Darth. Thankfully there are two dogs here which patrol the ashram and demand to be taken down to the Ganga for a swim each morning after tea.

On Sunday we are traveling into Hardiwar to do some shopping. I hear there is a restaurant that serves pizza. We shall see!

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Down the Toilet

Morning comes and I am peeing out of my butt. There is also blood in the toilet, thankfully it is just my period and not the Ebola virus. Kiki was up all night, sick as well. We are three or four days in and still adjusting as are our immune systems and innards. My muscles ache, I have the chills and I want my mommy.

I am continuing to try to surrender to this experience as there is no way of knowing what has made me sick. The water? The mango I pulled from its skin with my teeth? The whole milk straight from the cow?

Damn the western world and its over zealous cleanliness that has left my immune system weak and vulnerable!

Kiki moans from across the room,"I hate this! What retreat? This was a bad idea. No one will really know what we went through here, they will call us whiners. I have been sitting on the toilet sweating my ass off, pissing out of my butt and puking up yellow stuff at the same time, while smelling cow shit..I'm sicker than a dog..and earlier I felt like I was just going to get sucked down the toilet and die!"

Kiki's right. You don't know what to do first; puke, shit or cry.

Amidst the crying, shitting and puking we have retained our sense of humor. We are laughing and waxing philosophical poetics about our lives at home; how rich and full they are, and how free of violent bacteria.

We are unable to get out of bed. I don't know what day it is and I am fighting with my mind about how long I need to continue to lie there. Its daylight, I have questions, I feel like I am in prison and I don't want to miss anything. I share this with Kiki and she says in a serious tone, "I see you fighting with your mind, this is all in the hands of the Gods now. If we lay here for four weeks, that will be our experience." I lose it laughing and say, "This from the woman who almost got sucked down the toilet!" She laughs then to and says, "And in a half and hour when I change my mind I will need you to reassure me!" And here is a perfect illustration of why we are traveling together.

And then, in the middle of the hottest part of the day, in our darkest hour, the electricity went out and with it, our fan. We became completely immobilized, beads of sweat forming on our bodies. What karma had we incurred to suffer such pain? We were suffering so much we could only drool and murmur to each other between bouts of losing consciousness, and in between the murmuring, we laughed. We laughed at our predicament and at the fragile skin sacks we were seemingly trapped in.

At some point in the delirium, I awaken to footsteps and screaming. Kiki asks, "What is going on out there?" I peel back the curtain but see no one, only a banana peel on the ground. We would later find out that one of our fellow Yogi's had come to check on with us with bananas in hand only to be chased by a monkey who ended up stealing the fruit right out of her arms.

This strange day ended with Kiki getting a shot of antibiotics in the butt. I escaped with some German painkillers, total cost $5 and the Doctor even came to our room.

Mother India is having her way, that is all I can really say about it. There was no where to go, nothing to do, except be with myself. It was one of the hardest days of my life and I am only beginning to understand the lessons.

Monday, June 7, 2010


...It means to be is to be blissful, to be in truth is to be blissful; there is no other way of being. If you are miserable, that only shows that you have lost contact with being.

On the second day, I stopped.

Like the chaos of Rishikesh petering out in the late afternoon heat, my drive "to do" vanished and as replaced by surrender. I don't think I have truly stopped since my dad died. Rested, yes. Taken moments of stillness, yes...but mostly moments punctuated by immense spans of doing, moving, pushing, fleeing.

One of my fears about coming here was that I would not be able to stop. Today when I lay down for a nap after a silent ayurvedic lunch, I collapsed on to my bed. I was planning what I was going to do in the afternoon; sweep for karma yoga, read a book, write in my journal. But as I lay there, surrender took over and months and months of weariness began to release from my body in waves. A voice said, "Listen to your IPOD." Another voice said, "Think about a, b, c..this is the perfect time to daydream." I could do neither. I could only surrender further into rest.

Perhaps it is sitting at the feet of a Guru, watching her, patterning my own stillness after hers.

Perhaps it is the ayurvedic food and tea, the organic goodness from the garden and sacred cows below my window.

Perhaps it is the asana practice; feeling relaxed and complete, in touch with my breath.

Perhaps it was simply just time to let go.

I slept and I slept. Kiki got up and went about her day while I missed class, dinner, evening aarti. It started to rain, a lovely break from the heat and still I slept...9 hours later I am up for a short minute to drink some tea and brush my teeth before I let go again into myself, into the sweet bliss of sleep.

"As you feel..," this is what Mandakini advises in relation to all things we are able to participate in here at the ashram. It is lovely to have the space to really listen to myself and to what my mind/body/spirit need. How would our society be different if the mantra was, "as you feel," instead of, "you will be defined by what you DO."

The body/mind/spirit desires to be in balance, in health and in happiness. Given the space and opportunity it will heal itself. It is the nature of connection..the nature of the Universe...when you can stop improving yourself..life naturally improves you.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Holy Ganga.

Well, it is Sunday here (11 hours ahead) and Kiki and I have made it to the ashram after 15 hours of flying and six hours by car. We spent the night driving here, witnessed a bus accident and came up on a bull that had just been hit by a transit truck which had flipped over as a result. I am tired and weary, we arrived around 5am, just in time for some butter tea and morning prayers. There were bells and drumming in the distance and monkeys shrieking in the trees; it was amazing and surreal.

Since it is Sunday, today is a free day. I am hoping to get some proper clothes, maybe an ayurvedic massage and to bathe in the Ganga, other than that there is a constant surrendering to the unknown; different culture, language, customs...and no formal Western routine to speak of.

It is hot today :) and I am tired so I have no metaphors or wit for you at the moment. Just wanted y'all to know that I'm in India...hasn't sunk in yet and I have a hard time believing I will be here for 34 days.

The ashram is beautiful, complete with fruit trees and a library. I am happy and feel blessed to be here. Sending all my love...

Thursday, June 3, 2010

All my bags are packed, I'm ready to go.

Yesterday I drove down the Scenic Hwy with a bag full of prayer books as a passenger, laughing to myself, wondering how it had happened that I was about to bring that parcel to a Guru in India. It is seemingly just another wonderful surprise on this mysterious journey.

I'm sad. I'm excited. I'm afraid of the impending heat. I've got my mosquito net, Grandma's gingersnaps, one jar of peanut butter and one roll of precious toilet paper.

I am open to whatever happens in India and hope that I am able to allow her to do what she will with me as I surrender to the unfolding. I leave with mixed feelings, carrying pieces of all of you with me, carrying pieces of the Great Lake who's cool breezes I will surely miss. I hold it all in my heart with the upmost gratitude, baffled by the gifts I continue to receive on the wings of a flying pig and an open heart.