Lola Bites Back: And Other Inspirational Tidbits

Location: Bissingen an der Teck, Baden Wuerttemberg, Germany

Laughing all the way...

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Spirituality 101: Yoga Kindergarten

Things are going well, though I certainly won't pretend it's easy. Every day is a struggle (what else is new?!) but I am learning so much that I can't help but feel overwhelmed with optimism for my future. This culture has developed philosophical ideals over five thousand years that really speak to my soul...for the first time in my life I am having the sensation that my soul is finally come home. I am not a flawless person by any means. I struggle with the same weaknesses I've always had (fear, procrastination, sarcasm, avoidance)...the only difference is that now I've been given the most beautiful, most perfect spiritual framework to center my efforts around...

Yogic philosophy is the science of the soul. One of its aims is to quicken human evolution. Vince will remember that this is one of my priorities in life, and that's why I am so enamored with Hindu tradition. It speaks directly to my soul and ignites my intuition in a way no other ethical tradition ever has. My soul is at home here.

Happily, my life can now be divided into three main parts; the first 23 years were spent groping about in the darkness: no understanding of my pain, no intuition for the truth, no ethical framework or motivation.

The next six years (beginning January 2001) mark the beginnings of my development of awareness; I was exposed to a structure for thinking about the world (principles of modern physics) and I began to experience actual intuitions (direct communication from the soul). Since this time I have been slowly unearthing bits of understanding here and there and trying to fill in the bigger picture.

Now, March 2007 marks the homecoming of my soul. The floodgates of comprehension have been opened wide and from here on out there is no going back.

This is a little daunting since the ideals of spiritual life are not for the weak of heart, but I am in no hurry and will take all the time I need to remove a lifetime of negative thinking patterns (purify that cesspool!), to learn to properly care for my body (the instrument of the soul), and ultimately, to go inside, where I will find the peace and infinite love of God...

Okay, now that I've gotten that out of my system, let me take a moment to respond to the really important questions from my readers!

What is hell is Chai?

Why, chai is the national drink! It's milk (usually with some water added) boiled with black tea, cardamom, and a couple of other spices. They serve it in tiny glass cups for 4 rupees a pop. If you're not careful, you can lose count of your daily chai and this is known as chai overload. Chai overload is not something you want to get involved in. I try to limit myself to a couple of chai in the evenings.

Love, light, and PATIENCE from Hrishikesh,

Monday, May 28, 2007

Learning How to Love God in India

Life in Hrishikesh is becoming progressively more difficult. Long gone are the carefree days of lounging at the beach and munching sweet papayas on the rocks. Indian pilgrims and tourists are flooding the city and the overall level of insanity creeps higher and higher every day, testing the last nerves of the handful of westerners who remain.

Mother Ganga has changed as well. Rainstorms higher up in the mountains fill her with silt, and as the water level rises, the current flows even faster. Already many people die in the Ganga regularly, mostly because they don’t know how to swim or they are unaware of the powerful currents coursing beneath the surface. The day our daily Ganga swim becomes impossible is the day I chelo Nepal…

The herds of huge Indian women bobbing back and forth in the streets are impossible to get around. I finally had to learn the words in Hindi for “don’t touch me,” (Kripya mujhe mat chuna) in response to the increase in random groping by Indian men. The babas have multiplied and my quiet Ukrainian neighbor at my ashram was replaced by eight middle-aged Indian women who chatter day and night. Indeed, it is rather difficult to appreciate Indians when there are thousands of them, when they are huge, when they constantly hawk lugies, when they refuse to queue up, and when they wake up at 4:30am to chant.

SO you might imagine there is, at times, some tension. Recent days have been spent searching (mostly in vain) for that one shanti spot left in the city…we are having to become progressively more creative if we want to maintain our sanity in this holy place. July is the month during the monsoon when a million Indian pilgrims arrive and the streets literally turn into rivers of shit. Thanks to some much needed moderation, I no longer feel the need to experience this phenomenon.

So the environment is a bit more stressful than before. Add to that my first infection, and now we see some real challenges taking place. In India, an infection is a reason to be very, very worried. It all started with an innocuous scrape on my right ankle. It was something that would heal in one day back home. But not here. Within two days the wound had blossomed into a full-blown infection. Maybe it has something to do with the mass amounts of cow shit sitting in the sun and stagnated water and steaming off the streets? Luckily, I am the sort of person who is always well taken care of, and one of my neighbors just happened to be a doctor in Spain. She had a look, confirmed my worst fears, and immediately took to scraping the pus off while I tried not to hyperventilate or pass out (Can you say PAIN?). It took maybe five minutes, but they were an eternity to me. When she had scraped all the last bits off, she doctored me up with iodine and antibiotics and gave me detailed instructions for cleaning and taking care of it.

The real problem with infections in India is trying to heal one once it starts. If I was in a clean environment, the open air would likely heal it in a few days. But here all the flies make a beeline for exposed flesh (food, face, eyes, mouth, etc. etc.), so the only hope is to keep the damned thing covered up at all times. This means minimum one week before the wound can heal, and that’s if you’re lucky. If you’re unlucky, your infection will explode, turn to gangrene, and require amputation. I have witnessed these kinds of infections. They are what strike fear in my heart and motivate me to take the issue very seriously. For now at least, my infection appears to be under control.

Enough about infections, let me tell you again why I love India. Two older Indian men live a few rooms away from me. While our communication is not perfect, okay barely adequate, one of the men is always smiling and saying “Hallo!” He regularly invites me for chai and has told me on several occasions “Ahh, you have good nature” or “You have very sweet nature.” The first time I heard this compliment I had tears. I am sure many of my close friends and family could come up with a number of adjectives to describe me, but I guarantee that “sweet” would not be one of them. Only in a country filled with people who are alive, whose souls are turned on and interacting with others, whose eyes shine in old age…only in a country like this would someone find it so natural to comment on another person's nature!

If this man was the only one to make this remark, I might just let it go. But others who are much more spiritually aware than I am have made similar remarks, and damned if I’m not starting to believe it (just for the record, Vince was truly the first to insist I had a sweet nature, but that was before we moved to hell on earth)…

This man’s roommate is less sweet and more stern; He prefers to grill me on my whereabouts late at night. Curfew is 10:30, and most nights I am returning home at this time. When he asks me why I am out so late, I have to admit I’ve been hanging out at the chai shop. This elicits a harsh, disapproving look followed by a verbal reprimand that I can’t completely understand. Something about how women don’t need to be hanging out at the chai shops, I think.

It’s little things like this that remind me how fortunate I am. Back in San Diego I routinely imagined my own death and wondered how many days would pass before someone found me dead in my room. A week? Maybe more? Here I have a whole throng of people making sure I am home in my cage every night, all of them ready to assist me with anything I might need. What more could a girl ask for?

Finally, I just want to wish my father a very happy birthday. Dad, you have given me so much support even when my choices were unpopular and I couldn’t really explain what I was doing...that is real love. Please know that I will never, ever forget your faith in me and I hope you can now understand a little better why I am here. (Seems I’m here to learn how to love God, and at least in Indian tradition, the first place to see and love God is in your parents.) I will never have the right words to properly express my gratitude, because words will never convey the explosion taking place in my heart, but the next time I see you, you are getting the biggest hug and kiss ever to manifest itself on this earth :)

THANK YOU parents for everything!!!!

Slowly slowly learning tolerance and patience in India,

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Yet Another Gift from God...

Rarely have I developed so much affection for someone in such a short period of fellow elephant butt devotee and I had instant rapport. Here's to the undeniable power of strong women!

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Unusually patient while waiting for a bite of watermelon.

Yet another awe-inspiring sunset.

Lord Shiva and his wife Parvati adorn my wall. Painted when I was 3 years old!

This is home! Safe from the monkeys, Indian and Western men, I lock up my cage at night and sleep on the floor beneath Shiva and Parvati.

The common latrine inside my ashram. Now if only the cows could learn to use it!

My hard-earned gray hairs don't show up on the internets!!

The ferry back when the city was not yet flooded with Indian tourists and pilgrims.

View of the ghat from the ferry.

Culture clash! Front: A baba performs holy Ganga ritual. Back: Indian tourists do obnoxious tourist things.

One of the enchanted stone bungalows from the now-defunct Maharishi Ashram.

One of many cascades found in the surrounding hills. I had to peel little red worms off my body after swimming in this one...

Can't get enough of Mother Ganga!!!!!

Regular morning visitor at Camp Ved Niketan.

Can you say luxury livin'? This is my "shower."

Ram Jhulla bridge is the only way out of Ram Jhulla.

More Maharishi bungalows...

Dr. Vishnu prescribed two years of this for breakfast. I'm still thinking it over.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

One week in Rishikesh = One month in the west..

I used to complain that I had "toxic soul"...well now I understand that the correct term is "toxic mind," so now I am working on purifying the cesspool that is my mind. This is a process that will take many years, but I seem to be constructed in such a way that once I have identified something as true I am quick to adapt myself. Seems wild to be considering an ascetic lifestyle; even wilder that it feels more natural than anything else.

Yesterday in class Swami said that some souls choose to be born into difficult circumstances in order to speed up the learning (evolution) process. There can be no doubt that I was one of these souls; I have always been attracted to the difficult (and quicker) way of learning things; I savor the pain I bring upon myself in the understanding that I am learning what I need to know. Call it practical, call it efficient. I call it divine. (Vince: remember when we realized that we had moved ourselves to the center of hell? Ha ha ha!)

The other day I was on the ferry with 57 Indian people squished all around. One young Indian man-boy asked me if I was Indian. I said no and immediately it was clear that a bet had been placed and he had won. His female companion looked at me perplexed by her loss...was I sure I was not Indian? But didn’t I speak Hindi? But my father was not Indian? The more people ask me, the less sure I am.

Today is Sunday, day of rest and relaxation; day of Ganga Yoga, Hatha Yoga, Pooja and Kheer. Day of fasting and contemplation. Day to remember that we are all divine on the inside..

Big love to all,


Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Where Does the Time Go?

Once again I am struggling to write these words. Every moment is all-consuming, leaving me with little to no capacity for articulation. Please forgive the disjointed nature of this update..

The last weeks have been nothing less than remarkable, with Mother's Day 2007 going down as the day I was truly reborn. A half hour crying and laughing on the telephone with my mother and I am a new woman!! Progress like this cannot be denied, and there can be no doubt that God's hand is in every little detail..

Every single day here is an unpredictable adventure bringing with it new challenges, new lessons, new pain and new joy. Just when the daily chaos of ear-splitting horns, lugies and spit, piles of crap, burning garbage and plastic, flies constantly landing on your food, the oppressive humidity and a million other nuisances threaten to diminish my sunny disposition, the sweet thoughtfulness of an Indian vendor or a big spontaneous smile from a child can make it all disappear (cockroaches are a special challenge, but I no longer flinch when they emerge from the toilet or die in my shower. Except for last night when one was chilling out in my sink. This was finally just too much for me).

So I said I wanted a challenge? Here's a real horror story for you: In honor of Cinco de Mayo, we ventured out of town in an actual car. That's right, a real car with air conditioning AND seatbelts! We drove the peaceful scenic route south along the Ganga where we saw peacocks and elephants until we arrived at the insane city of Haridwar, where we stopped for some cold drinks. Everything was going swimmingly until my worst nightmare materialized; As I was about to climb back into the safe, clean car, I stepped with both feet into a pool of Indian SLUDGE and sank right in past the ankles!!!! My first reaction was to vomit, and for a moment I thought I really might. Indian sludge is a special concoction of god knows what but we can all imagine and the smell is a good indication...luckily, I have great taste in companions and two of them immediately sprang into action locating clean water and soap for washing. One of them even washed my shoe for me! Now that is a true friend!!!!! After remembering what Swami says (without pain there is no pleasure) and accepting my hideous fate, we continued on to a swanky non-vegetarian restaurant where we popped open a small bottle of whisky and dined (me without shoes) on a delicious peanut salad (peanut chat), vegetable kabobs and roti (Indian bread). I had just enough whisky to get a little buzz going, forget my putrid footwear, and laugh the night away...

Life IS Stranger Than Fiction

Weeks ago I sat in a local chai shop with three Russians. One of them, a vibrant woman I had met only once before, surprised me by asking to give me her email address. I pulled out my notebook and handed it over. When she finished writing her information, she finished it off by drawing...are you ready for this???....a COW'S BUTT!!! I nearly fell out of my chair!!!!!! Then you know what she tells me? "It's the only thing I know how to draw."

What are the chances? Who would ever imagine there were two of us? I love this girl, my first undeniable female BOND, and once again I am forced to ask myself: does it get any better than this?

My Predilection for Unwieldy Titles Lives On

The beat in my head right now is the mantra that plays continuously for the cows in the dairy behind the Ganga Field Restaurant near my ashram. Presumably the mantra helps the cows produce more milk, but I can't help but suspect they are all insane as the mantra never stops and never varies. It goes like this "na na naaaaaa, na na na na na na." I estimate I've heard it at least 5,000 times.

Enough of material horrors..the real challenge in life is learning to endure the confusion; the highs are great, but learning to be patient throughout periods of uncertainty will never be easy as long as we walk this earth..

My intuition tells me that it's time to move on from Rishikesh in search of nature and solitude. I am required to visit Nepal by the end of June to comply with visa requirements and feel that a monastery will be just what I need to continue along in my quest for health and well-being. I have learned so much from my time here in this singular place, but now I am ready for the profound peacefulness of the Buddhist culture and the healing power of the Himalayas, where I'm hoping to practice patience and self-restraint. My true nature is finally emerging and, thanks to God it looks nothing like what I lived before...

I will never have the words to express how grateful I am for all that I've been blessed with. Every day I am amazed all over again by the number of people who love and support me. It is unfathomable that I could have lost so many years believing I was alone.

With love and hugs from Rishikesh,


Friday, May 04, 2007

Maharishi Ashram, Rishikesh

Moon Therapy

May 2nd was a very special day for two really important reasons; First and foremost, it was my brother's 33rd birthday (I love you T!). Second, it was the long anticipated full moon!!!!!!!!

It was one of those days when I woke up with no idea of what the day would bring and found myself going for a motorbike ride, sipping rum and sprite in the hills overlooking the Ganga, and swimming in a gorgeous waterfall pool worthy of the movies..

The moon has an undeniably powerful effect on me, and when it is full, there is only ONE thing to do. Hoping to quietly slip out of my ashram (and failing miserably), I pulled my sleeping bag out of storage, slathered myself in mosquito repellent, and, with a partner in crime, made my way to the rooftop of the tallest building in the abandoned Maharishi Ashram for some much needed moon therapy. The Maharishi Ashram (a.k.a. "The Beatles Ashram") is a magical place high above the Ganga. Mesmerized by the moon, the night passed quickly, and we awoke just in time to watch the sun rise up over the mountain tops.

The last few weeks I've been engaged in a profound mental struggle; avoiding meditation, hiding from Swamiji, and generally failing to confront the inevitable. All of this ended yesterday when, after Swami's lecture, my entire body began to ache, followed by stomach pain, headache, diahrrea, and general delirium. The pain was so great that I was literally unable to move and trips to the toilet were risky (not known for my balance, trips to the toilet are already challenging). Late in the afternoon, I managed to drag myself to a local telephone to cancel an evening appointment, and on my way back, I realized that it was time to meet with Swamiji.

The first thing he asked me was why I hadn't been to see him sooner, and I apologized for the disrespect. Our talk lasted nearly an hour; he asked me many questions about my family, my life, my spiritual quest. He corrected me when I used negative language (i.e. to say "I want to be stronger" is to reinforce the idea that I am weak) and instructed me to sit in front of him during lecture and meditation. He is a spiritual teacher and counselor, and our meeting was a huge relief for me. Afterward I returned to my room and fell back into my stupor on the floor, where I stayed until 6 am the next morning.

Today I am 95% recovered, with only a lingering headache. But how is this possible? Was this a physical disease? I needed to face the inevitable, I knew it was inevitable, and yet I stubbornly refused until my body simply forced me. I have no physical disease; I have only psychological disease. Today I am overwhelmed all over again with my own power, a power I have never fully appreciated or tapped into. I know myself, and what is good for myself, better than anyone else on this earth.

Re-energized, I sit here in front of my email box, amazed at all the beautiful sentiments I find. How many wonderful souls have I been blessed to meet in the last two months? In the last 29 years? Too many to count! Thank you each and every one of know who you are. Your love and affection inspire me and make me a rich, blessed, fortunate person indeed.

Wherever you may find yourself, whatever comes your way, never, ever give up hope. It is only when we give up hope that we truly have nothing.

with love from Camp Ved Niketan,