The Spirit is Willing...
but the computer shops here are like kryptonite. In my natural state, which I am evolving into day by day, I abhor the computer. But it is time to check in and share my progress with those I love most.
And progress is the right word. Every day I am getting healthier and happier. I am living a simple existence. A typical day, if there is such a thing, starts with morning yogasanas (yoga postures), followed by a visit to Dr. Vishnu (for treatment and lunch), and oftentimes winding up at the beach for a nap, a dip in the Holy Ganga, and finally, prayers at sunset.
I continue to be overwhelmed by my great fortune. I feel awed that I have overcome so many years of pain and sadness to arrive at this incredible, Holy place where I can sit peacefully by the Ganga and breathe in the sweet air. My body feels alive like it never has before and I can feel myself slowly morphing into a softer, sweeter, more relaxed version of my previous self. Thank you God, thank you all for standing by me during my many years of darkness and confusion. I have done many things I am not proud of in the past, but now I am learning to give the best of myself back. I could never have made it through without the love and support of my dear friends and family.
After one week of herbal treatment with Dr. Vishnu, I began to rethink the venture. Twenty some years of toxic buildup and mistreatment of body and soul simply cannot be rectified in one week. Ayurvedic treatment treats the body and not the disease. The first phase of proper treatment will require at least 45 days, followed by at least two years of herbs and a lifetime readjustment of my diet. So for now I will simply continue with my reading on the subject and work on changing my diet to suit my constitution. There is actually much more to say about Ayurveda and the treatment process, but my ability to write is greatly compromised. Suffice it to say that I have an intuitive understanding of Ayurvedic principles and feel confident about the treatment process. I will consider beginning treatment again in the near future, as it looks that I will be settled here in Rishikesh for several months more at the minimum.
After three weeks of daily yoga practice, I am finally beginning to learn how to breathe properly. My teacher has assured me that I can become a yoga teacher, with much more study and practice of course, and I would like to add this skill to my repertoire. Not only this, but it has come to my attention that the local primary school has no English teacher, and this is a situation I cannot simply abide...! So for all these reasons and more it looks that I will be here for a while.
In the meantime I continue to enjoy the abundance of animal life in the streets of Ram Jhulla where I live. Monkeys (bad brown ones and good black ones), dogs, cows, donkeys, squirrels, frogs, geckos, hornets, cockroaches, MOSQUITOES and flies...and yesterday from the rooftop of a castle on the Beatles Ashram property: a toucan! Every day is hotter and hotter and most westerners are making a run for the hills. I am curious about this heat, though, and think I will stick around to see just how bad it gets...
MUCH love and light to all,
with big hugs from Rishikesh,
PS Pictures FORTHCOMING! I promise!!!
Lola Bites Back: And Other Inspirational Tidbits
- Name: Lola Bites Back
- Location: Bissingen an der Teck, Baden Wuerttemberg, Germany
Laughing all the way...
Friday, March 30, 2007
The Spirit is Willing...
Thursday, March 22, 2007
With love from India
I am continuing to take extremely good care of myself with daily yoga asanas and healthy Ayurvedic meals and I can’t remember the last time I felt so strong and radiant! The furrowed brow I developed in Washington is completely erased and I am frequently in awe when I reflect on my good fortune.
A friend of mine shared a remarkably relevant passage about joy and sorrow from The Prophet; Joy and sorrow are two sides of one coin. The deeper the sorrow one has experienced, the deeper the capacity for joy. The depth of despair I experienced in Washington has made it possible for me to radiate joy now. You can recognize a person who has suffered greatly by the depth of their laugh. Joy and sorrow go hand in hand.
The days seem to fly by inexplicably.
There are people from all over the world here and I have found friendships in the most unexpected places. Yesterday I said goodbye to a Danish boy who became something of a younger brother to me. The first thing he told me when I met him was “I don’t believe in any of that spiritual crap.” We became fast friends and I was surprised by my sadness when he left, on foot, planning to hitch hike to the desert.
Today I had an exam with Dr. Vishnu, who commented that I am looking much healthier since my arrival three weeks ago. He has “diagnosed” me with severe imbalance of my doshas and I begin a one-week treatment tomorrow morning.
The ashram where I stay is filled with crazies, most of them lovable. It is completely normal to hear people talking about drinking their own urine (urine therapy), vomiting up salt water and bile (to see what you had left in your stomach from the previous day), or drinking copious amounts of salt water and spending hours on the toilet. While I haven’t ventured into any of these particular “cleansing” practices, Dr. Vishnu assures me that my first enemas will be sometime this week.
Rishikesh is filling up with Indian tourists for the summer season, and apparently I am one of the sights to see. Gawking Indian teenagers are everywhere and always asking for a photo. I must be in at least 10 photos by now. Bad monkeys abound; one of them stole a banana right from my hand yesterday! Had my left hand “tattooed” with henna a while back and tried fresh-squeezed sugar cane juice with mint (5 rupees) as well as a raft ride down the Ganga. Every day is hotter and hotter now and flies and mosquitoes are ubiquitous.
I can’t write any more as I’m just not in the right head space for writing. Hugs and kisses to all,
Saturday, March 17, 2007
The last two weeks have been filled with stimulus and I've needed the entire time to adjust to the sheer volume.
I am progressing in my practice of yoga, which is more than just poses and postures (asanas). It turns out tha yoga is an ancient and complete philosophy of life. Imagine that! Yoga means "union", with reference to the individual self and the divine self. Many of its principles mirror all the intuitive beliefs I have thus far cultivated about my own life and trials. Sometime in the future I will aim to outline some of the philosophies I love for mass consumption...
I noticed the other day that I have become more adept at differentiating between the various types of excrement in the busy streets. At first it seems like one big sludgy pool of excrement, but on closer examination I find there are many different kinds and some are better than others. I've learned to avoid the fresh splatters and aim instead for dried-out patties. I know all this may seem very crude, but it is an integral part of life here in India. Cows are sacred. They provide milk, a life-giving substance that nourishes the body. They meander everywhere, frequently stopping in the path of traffice to eat a piece of paper, or whatever happen to be lying around. I could have sworn I watched one consume a blue plastic bag as if it were a piece of lettuce yesterday while sipping chai. If they are not chasing you (a rare occurance), they are sweet, peaceful orbs of energy. I really missed having animals around in my daily life.
The town has a number of wonderful bookshops filled to the brim with all kinds of philosophy and health books (can we say "Eureka"?), and my library is already growing. In the meantime, I'm taking full advantage of morning yoga, peaceful day hikes in the mountains, soaking in the sun by the Ganga with a juicy papaya, discussing philosophy and, my latest enterprise: learning to play the flute!
much love and light to all,
Tuesday, March 13, 2007
Settling in Quite Nicely Indeed
Rishikesh is a haven for people who want to take good care of their health. Who knew?
Every morning I have 2 hours of yoga, usually followed with a big bowl of fresh fruit, muesli, and curd (yoghurt) with honey on top. At a dollar, it's ëxpensive", but it's damned good. Soon I plan to begin preparing my own muesli delight at home in my ashram, as well as teas, salads, veggies and other yummy things.
Inevitably, my previous standards of personal hygiene have been compromised. I bathe with warm water from a bucket about every three days. I noticed that I have a new scent; no longer of perfume but of a wholly natural sort. It doesn't seem to go away even after I bathe, and I have accepted it as my new smell.
India is filled with all kinds of strong smells, some more difficult to appreciate than others. Incense, all kinds of delicious foods, garbage, huge piles of cow excrement and various types of urine, mangy dogs and cats, cows, monkeys, other people are always contributing to an ever-evolving sensory experience. I believe I have adapted well, as I do not often complain about stinky things.
In another bit of luck, I managed to get a room in the ashram with my own eastern-style toilet. Eastern-style, which is basically a toilet bowl in the ground, is more natural and much easier on the body. Unfortunately, after two weeks I continue to use toilet paper, though I am using less and less. The main motivation being that trash receptacles are rare and it is a hassle to figure out where to put trash after you've made it. The extremely simple lifestyle here forces me to be 100% aware of each and every bit of trash I produce...gum wrappers, plastic bags, toilet paper, wrappers, etc. etc.
Enter: Fresh Fruits
Fresh, inexpensive and ridiculously delicious fruit and veggies abound and any unwanted peelings can be conveniently tossed to the nearest cow, who immediately slurps up every bit. Voila, no trash! The papaya is first rate, bananas, fresh peas (YES! I can buy a large bag of FRESH PEA PODS for 10 RUPEES! Twenty cents! Two pesos! Fresh peas!!!!!!). I am even honoring the local culture by feeding the cows, who are sacred. I do believe that is yet another win-win-win situation..
Daytime is the perfect time to acquire a nice, big ripe papaya (about a dollar) and find a nice rock overlooking the banks of Mother Ganga. Often there are people on the other side building wooden funeral pyres. We watch silently from our side of the river as the pyre erupts into flames. I have felt tempted to snap a picture, but it would be wrong. I realized I have never had the pleasure of living next to a beautiful river before, and a pleasure it truly is. The water is clean and the breeze is both peaceful and energizing.
Every day it is getting hotter and hotter. Soon most of the western tourists will head north to cooler climes and Indian tourists will fill the streets (already my image is captured on the cameras of more than a few Indian tourists..) The fly and mosquito count has jumped since I arrived and summertime here promises to be a challenge of the will. In the meantime, I am watching my body and spirit slowly being transformed by daily yoga, a peaceful environment and wholesome food. The wide variety of intelligent, interesting people from all over (Europeans mostly, Indians, Americans, Japanese..) is just the stimulus I needed, and when it is time for quiet, I read my books or sit and watch the monkeys.
Yes yes, the monkeys are another delight; although at times I have been quite scared. As long as you don't get too close to them or look them in the eyes, or show your teeth, or deny them any foods you happen to be carrying, you should have no problem. So far I have noticed two kinds of monkeys, big grey ones with black faces and white tufts of fur around their faces (VERY VERY cute) and smaller brown ones that for some reason seem a little more gangsta (VERY cute). They don't seem to mix much.
Both my yoga teacher and my Ayurveda teacher are kind and compassionate men. I am grateful to have connected with them so quickly. Through them I am seeing that good teachers are patient, kind, and compassionate people, which is exactly what I aspire to. In this way both of these men are the mentors I have been seeking. In addition to pursuits already underway, there is talk of an organic farm nearby where they teach and practice various methods of sustainable farming (permaculture).
You can call it dirty, crowded, stinky, hot, hippie, or whatever you want. I call it serendipity.
Love, light, and especially, big hugs for all,
PS Pictures of my commode and other details are forthcoming!
Tuesday, March 06, 2007
A Tale of Great Fortune
The two weeks leading up to my departure were a whirlwind of last-minute preparations and quick visits to old friends and family. It was a remarkable time, as all of my visits were of a higher quality than I have ever experienced before. My father in particular was a great resource. He really came through for me, helping me in any and every way he could. I don't see how I could have done it without him (thanks dad!)
The first 14 hours of my flight to Taipei was relatively uneventful. I didn’t lose my nerve until the second leg of the flight, to Singapore. Inability to sleep combined with claustrophobic tendencies caused me to lose my sunny disposition around hour 18. But I had a six-hour break to wander the airport in Singapore, and even took a free bus tour of the perfectly manicured downtown area. From what I managed to see through the pouring rain, Singapore looks to be a posh and immaculate place, with beautifully maintained buildings. I think they can put you in jail for littering, but that could just be urban myth.
It was only five more hours to Delhi, and thanks to God, I managed to sleep nearly the entire time. Anytime I can sleep, I say a little prayer of gratitude. Arrival in Delhi was exhilarating. I was overwhelmed with a giddiness that I am still experiencing even one week later. As we got off the plane I was fortunate enough to meet a nice English boy who immediately assumed the role of protector, which I gratefully accepted.
Exiting the airport in Delhi, or any Indian city I imagine, was like emerging into mass hysteria. I was unable to locate my ride, which had been arranged the week before, and realized a bit too late that the majority of the stack of bills I was carrying were not Indian rupees, but Nepali rupees. Luckily, my new friend lent me a few hundred rupees, shared his taxi, and mercifully, shared the last room at his guest house.
Indeed, this last week I have had so much good fortune that I do believe someone or something is protecting me. At every turn someone has been there to help me, and my sense of well being is quite strong. I am not afraid and I am not anxious.
The next day we ventured out to the Railway Station, which was a big mistake. We were hassled so much that we took refuge in a restaurant and sipped coffee instead. India is overwhelming and must be eased into. Sometime later in the day a nice Indian man from the internet shop took a liking to me and arranged my train ticket to Hardiwar, six hours north of Delhi, free of charge. Not only did he refuse payment, but he also came to the railway station the next morning at 7am to make sure I found my seat. Not only that, but my English friend got up early to carry my bags to the station, too! Turns out I was respectfully taken care of my first two nights in Delhi, which I was expecting to be a nightmare trial of patience and endurance.
Day two I arrived in Hardiwar and shared a rickshaw to Rishikesh, about 30 km away. Rishikesh is an important holy city and is situated near the origin of the river Ganga (Ganges). It is a beautiful and relaxed place that attracts lots of yoga-heads, babas, and “seekers” of truth and enlightenment. The marketing of these things can be a bit much, but Rishikesh is a true delight nonetheless. The only dangers are the monkeys, who look cute but can smell a morsel of food a mile away, and the large-size cow shits that seem to appear out of nowhere. Also it is important to get out of the way of motorcycles and irritated cows.
As I crossed the bridge to the east side of the Ganga, careful not to provoke the monkeys by looking them directly in the eyes, I noticed my dear friend Niko waiting for me at the other end. Yes, my good fortune continues. He helped situate me in a room at the Ved Niketan Ashram (70 rupees) and we went for a delicious lunch of kitcheree soup.
There are many ashrams here, Indian centers of spiritual practice like yoga, meditation and mantras. My ashram is extremely peaceful, with only a few restrictions (i.e. no smoking, no music, 10 o’clock curfew). My room is a bit dank, but has it’s own western-style toilet and “shower.” Shower is in quotes because it is really only a large bucket and a cold water faucet. So far I have bathed only once, with much gritting of teeth. As for the toilet paper situation, I have not got the nerve to give it up just yet, but fully intend to in the near future. Stay tuned.
These last few days I have been taking my time to settle in. The days are getting hotter and the nights are still chilly. Saturday night was a full lunar eclipse, which we witnessed from the roof of the ashram at 3 in the morning. The following day was Holy Day, a holiday in India that coincides with the full moon in March. My first experience with Holy Day was four years ago in Nepal. It is the day when all Indian people get in touch with their inner children by running around throwing bright colors (paint, water, you name it) on anything that moves. “Happy Holy” they scream as they smear a handful of color in your face. Even the cows and dogs get it. For this reason, many westerners and especially women remain holed up for the day. I stayed in the ashram and did not venture out until late in the afternoon when the excitement had died down.
Niko and I walked to the abandoned ashram nearby where the Beatles came to visit in the late 60’s and wandered around the grounds. The trail to the ashram was overgrown and a number of monkeys hovered menacingly about. A large stone or stick seems to keep them at a comfortable distance. The ashram itself was overgrown and slightly eerie, but pleasantly peaceful, until a groundskeeper finally chased us off. We then headed down to the bank of the Ganga to watch the sunset. I prayed for peace and happiness in the lives of my friends and family, and just as the sun was about to disappear, I put my feet in the frigid Ganga water. An Indian man told me the Ganga was like his mother, and I thought of the Virgin Mary who hangs around my neck. I realized that both are symbols of protection and nurturing, and as symbols, they can do much to keep us spiritually strong.
Yesterday we went for a full swim in the Ganga. It was so shockingly cold that I literally couldn’t speak for a moment or two. In an unguarded moment, I even swallowed some of the Ganga water by accident. So far there have been no repercussions and all bowel function continues normally. Later in the afternoon I had my first real yoga class. It was challenging and, while I am quite flexible, I lack strength, which I hope to build up over the next few weeks. Already my posture is much improved.
This morning I fasted before my consult with Dr. Vishnu, a practicioner of Ayurvedic medicine. Ayurvedic medicine seems to be the answer to my prayers. One of its principal tenets is that all disease is brought about by wrong diet and wrong actions. Ayurvedic tradition is more than 6,000 years old, and has a lot more to offer me than modern western medicine, which is profoundly ignorant of the workings of the mind. I start classes tonight and will consider an extended form of study if it suits me. Those who know me well will recall that I have an undiagnosed fainting disorder and a profound interest in nutrition.
until next time,
much love and light to all,