Daily Click: Journey

Jen Elephant

Amber Fort, Jaipur, Rajasthan

“So we can take a jeep or ride an elephant to the top. Which do you prefer?” he asked  nonchalantly.

“Why wouldn’t we ride an elephant? Is there some cruelty to animals thing I’m missing?” I looked at him bewildered.

“Well, because sometimes it’s hot and the elephant will take twice as long.”

We rode the elephant… because it’s all about the journey….

Daily Prompt : Journey

Daily Click: ESCAPE

Over a year and a half ago I bought a one way ticket from San Francisco to Bali and have been traveling around South East Asia on one way tickets ever since. Three months ago I arrived in India on a one way ticket from Bali.

These photos are from a houseboat trip on the Kerala backwaters in India. Houseboat trips feel like pure escape…

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This Small Thing

Cross walkThis small thing came flying by and my heart stopped. I’m not exactly sure what it was that went whizzing by my face, but it caused me to turn my head quickly and that was when I saw him. I saw him standing in front of a parked black Lexus. His Ray Ban aviator glasses hung from the button of his light blue shirt that was neatly tucked into white loose trousers fitting  his body perfectly. In that moment I realized he was staring at me. Had he been staring at me long? Had we met before?

I wasn’t sure and the more I tried to focus on his face, the more I realized I was staring at him. His dark, wavy hair, the small sharp nose and chiseled feature of his chin. We stood there for what felt like 10 minutes but couldn’t have been more than 30 seconds, just looking at each other in wonder. For a moment I felt frozen in time. As if I couldn’t move or speak and whatever I was thinking about before that moment was gone. All thoughts vanished. The only thing running through my mind was, “Is he going to walk away? Is he going to just leave me here?”

He didn’t walk away and he didn’t leave me there as I started to cross the street. At that moment the light turned green, people started moving quickly, cars stopped at the intersection and I began to move with them. Gracefully putting one foot in front of the other I walked towards the black Lexus. As I gently brushed away the tingling feeling from whatever whizzed by my cheek I saw him smile. He gave me a big, wide, warm smile and I noticed he hadn’t shaved. He had a rough five o’clock shadow and he was grinning from ear to ear. My stomach felt tense, my movements stiff and there was energy, a connection that seemed to be pulling me in his direction. I could feel myself in a current. The green man on the stoplight started blinking and I felt myself relax as I walked closer and noticed his outstretched hand waving and his bright, infectious smile. I stood in front I him and he was laughing nervously as he said, “You must be Jen. I’m Sam. I wasn’t expecting us to meet like this. I thought we’d meet tomorrow when I had some time to recover from travelling.”

And we laughed together. It was the first of many times in our lives we would laugh like that. It has been said an indication of transformation taking place within you is that you encounter more and more meaningful coincidences in your life. More and more synchronicities, which accelerate to the point where you actually experience the miraculous. It took many months of getting to know each other, only to realize, it was all in that initial feeling we had when we ran into each other on the street, the day before we had been set up to meet for the first time. That moment of knowing how sweet it felt the first time he said, “This is the first time I’ve met a woman who is more beautiful than her pictures. You’re more beautiful than your pictures you know; they don’t nearly capture your deep, rich laugh.”

Kumbh Mela 2013 Part 2 – Varanasi, India

I have so many photos from Varanasi and my first post was really popular so I’ve put together another selection. If you want some background on what the Kumbh Mela is please check out my first post Kumbh Mela 2013, Varanasi, India.

Hope you enjoy and thanks so much for your positive comments.

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Kumbh Mela 2013, Varanasi, India

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Kumbh Mela is a mass Hindu pilgrimage with over 100 million people visiting the Ganga River to bathe in the sacred waters. It is also one of the most polluted rivers in the world today and I’ve read it’s been deemed unfit to bathe in. This year the Kumbh Mela at Allahabad was for 55 days, with 6 auspicious bathing days. It’s considered one of the worlds largest congregations of religious pilgrims.

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Every third year it is held at one of  four places by rotation: Hardiwar, Allahabad, Nashik and Ujjian. The rivers at these four places are: the Ganges (Ganga) at Haridwar, the confluence (Sangam) of the Ganges and the Yanuma and the mythical Saraswati at Allahabad, the Godwari at Nashik, and the Shipra at Ujjain.

Kumbh means a pitcher and Mela means fair in Hindi. The pilgrimage is held at these four places because it is believed in Hinduism that drops of nectar fell from the Kumbh carried by gods after the sea was churned.

Naked, ash smeared, intoxicated Sadhus camp out along the ghats in Varanasi and tourists (like me) give them a small donation to take their picture. Traditionally Sadhus are renunciates, who have left behind all material attachments and live in caves, forests and temples all over India and Nepal. They are solely dedicated to reaching moksa (liberation) through mediation and contemplation. Today, unfortunately, many of them are addicts dedicated to achieving this through the charas, taking “donations” from tourists and quite charming to talk to.

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I Have Known the Rapture of Travel

Carrie-Anne Moss Trinity Matrix door with 3 people matrix_Door

I have known the rapture of travel.

The moments of waking up in a completely new city, new country, not knowing the language and having the whole day ahead of me to do whatever I want. Every moment is an adventure. Walking out of the hotel to find a cup of tea or explore what’s around the corner feels like a sci-fi movie.

Why science fiction? Because I realize in those moments everything is a choice. It’s all about my perspective how the day unfolds the way it does. So many options are available that I’m completely unaware of. Things happening around me I couldn’t possibly understand and have no way of knowing about through my intellect. Some experiences are beyond knowing, they are simply about feeling. They are beyond scary because I have no life experience to compare or give them context. I simply sit back and receive, get into the experience and for the first time in my life get very comfortable with saying,”I don’t know.”

I don’t know where I’m going next. I don’t know why I came to this country. I don’t know why I’m still here. I don’t know why I’ve haven’t been in love yet. I don’t know why I’m not married yet. I don’t know why I don’t have kids yet. I don’t know why I still don’t miss home.

In those moments I have to remind myself it’s all a choice. It’s a choice about how we look at the very next moment. When I’m in synch with that I’m in the rapture of life…and travel takes me there. Travel seems to be the portal to show me where my negativity can push me off course and where my trust in saying “yes” to opportunities that make no sense to me what-so-ever can somehow lead me to a greater, deeper connection with others. The experiences that show me how interconnected we all are around the world and even beyond.

Do other people have to travel to feel that way? I would love to wake up one morning in San Francisco and feel that sense of excitement about the day. That feeling of exploring life in that city. I had that feeling when I was a kid and I lost it along the way. What I remember now is waking up every morning in San Francisco with a deep feeling of dread. Dread of having to check email, dread of going to the office…again. Not wanting to talk on the phone and feeling there wasn’t anything worth talking about.

Life wasn’t working out for me the way I wanted it to. I thought it was just my life. Now I’m realizing this is a common feeling for people. Every day I felt like the day got away from me. My thoughts, time, money and energy were all going in so many directions that I allowed other people to choose and direct my life unconsciously. Other people were advising me. Other people were giving their opinions. I listened closely, (people told me it’s a strength) intently and mimicked them perfectly. I did what they said and things worked out just as they said. Then, one morning,  I woke up saying , “What the hell? How did I get here? This isn’t what I wanted …”

Celebrating Summer with Jurassic Park 3D

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Remember when exams were over and it was the last week of school before the summer holiday? Yesterday, I got that feeling back spending the afternoon with 115 of the kids from Bowenpally Government School in Hyderabad, India when we went to see Jurassic Park in 3D. These are kids from very poor families so going to an IMAX theater to see a move in 3D is something they don’t get to do. The whole experience was more exciting for most of them than the movie itself. Some of them would put the glasses on for photos and then take them off during the movie and look around and talk with their friends. Luckily we had most of the theater to ourselves.

Shreedevi Chowdary and Swati Sanghi are very involved in supporting the NGO the BPGS ShreePassionate Foundation in building up this particular school and creating positive experiences for the children. A few TV channels came along with some of the Hyderabad press to cover the outing and the children LOVED having their picture taken and being interviewed for sound bites on TV. The movie theater donated popcorn and Chaitanya and his colleagues from the Passionate Foundation arranged the bus ride, breakfast, lunch and snacks for everyone.

BPGS Bus Jump 1The movie scared some of the kids but that didn’t effect their fun and laughter. What’s more fun than spending a school day at the movies? It used to be one of my favorite things to do.

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HYDERABAD HOLI

Part of the fun of staying with Shreedevi Chowdary of Hyderabad is that I’m getting comfortable with the press. It’s fun being on the other side of the camera. Sometimes we have to fake it until we make it in life, so it was a blast to have a photo of me looking like a professional photographer turn up in a society magazine thanks to Shree.

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Every year, thousands of Hindus participate in the festival Holi. This festival has many Holi 3-1purposes. First and foremost, it celebrates the beginning of the new season, spring. Originally, it was a festival that commemorated good harvests and the fertile land. Hindus believe it is a time of enjoying spring’s abundant colors and saying farewell to winter. It also has a religious purpose, commemorating events present in Hinduism. During this event, participants hold a bonfire, throw colored powder at each other, and celebrate wildly.

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“Holi is the day to express love with colors. It is a time to show affection. All the colors that are on you are of love!”

Shreedevi Chowdary

Shreedevi Chowdary

“Let the colors of Holi spread the message of peace and happiness.”

Swati Sanghi

Swati Sanghi

“Holi is a time to reach out with the colors of joy. It is the time to love and forgive. It is the time expresses the happiness of being loved and to be loved through colors.”

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Mysticism and the Inner Way

Photo Courtesy of Isha Yoga Center

Group Photo Courtesy of Isha Yoga Center

Pulling up to the security checkpoint at the Isha Yoga Center I saw the outline of the Vellangiri Mountains stretched out against a clear blue sky. Not knowing what to expect or even what clothes to bring, I arrived in Coimbatore to do the Inner Way program with Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev because of a recommendation from a friend.

“If you’re open to meeting a Guru who’s something special, you must do this program. It will be profound, “he told me.

Sitting with Sadhguru was an experience I can’t articulate. Some people believe he’s not human; he is an energetic, embodiment of something divine few of us understand. Some can’t find the words to talk to him or hold a conversation. Sitting on his yogi bench hooked up to a mic with a huge screen to his right, at times I thought we were on Oprah. “South Indian mysticism has its own flavor,” he once told us,”It’s not better than other styles of mysticism, it simply has a unique flavor.” Part of the experience was about expanding consciousness, feeling something energetic shift and take root through his transmission.  Magic happens inside us, we just need to tune into it. At times, I felt as if an energy transmission was happening inside me and something was being subtly awakened. It wasn’t anything I could understand or explain intellectually, it was something sensed and experienced.

He didn’t talk “spiritually”. Instead, you felt his absolute love for all human beings and sometimes his total compassion for our stupidity. He distilled complicated yogic sciences down to the bare minimum we needed, to taste the experiences he was talking about. He amused me endlessly with his passion for racing cars, flying planes and charming snakes.

Photo Courtesy of Isha Yoga Center

Sadhguru – Photo Courtesy of Isha Yoga Center

Quietly, I questioned how and why I came to such a magical place, meeting this particular group of people. Before I arrived at the Ashram I had that strong inner voice telling me to not get caught up in thinking about what it was going to be like. My expectations were based on life experiences up to this point and I had not  experienced anything like this before.

Every day at 5:30am we woke up to someone playing the drums. At 6:00am, we’d hear the second drum which meant it was almost time to go. Then at 6:20 someone walked around playing the flute, which told us we needed to be on our way to Spanda Hall and on our mats ready to start at 6:30am. The yoga mats were set up for us with soft cream-colored cushions and small back support chairs. Each day would build on the practice from the day before, with the Sadilaja asana, Surya Shakti and Suraya Namaskar, until we were in Shavasana (a favorite asana). The two final days our practice included Sadhguru’s transmission of the sacred Shambhavi Mahamudra.

Photo Courtesy of Isha Yoga Center

Photo Courtesy of Isha Yoga Cente

Sadhguru led discussions about the yogic sciences and meditation. He shared life experiences, made fun of people who were falling asleep in the front row and kept us laughing with extraordinary storytelling. One morning our session was a short hike into the mountains to have our talk and lunch by a stream. Every night there was a fantastic dinner accompanied by live music, which Sadhguru usually attended.

Our class had 115 participants from UK, Spain, Lebanon, Bulgaria, India, China and the U.S.. Over the five days, I gelled with a small international group of friends. As we processed Sadhguru’s talks, danced to the Sounds of Isha and took in the beauty of the place I felt myself relax.

Photo Courtesy of Isha Yoga Center

Photo Courtesy of Isha Yoga Center

Over lunch one day as the program was ending, Shreedevi Chowdary of Hyderabad, turned to us and said, “If any of you come to Hyderabad just let me know. I’ll have my driver pick you up at the airport and you’re welcome to stay.” Feeling at ease I chimed in right away, “I’ll take you up on that. I’d love to come and stay.” She made me feel her invitation was genuine. In that moment my journey took another twist and turn.

Where do you meet a live Mystic & Yogi in India?

Sadhguru

Sadhguru

“Why are you going to Coimbatore?” he asked me. I noticed his mustache was little long. He blue and white shirt was neatly pressed, he spoke English and he was dressed like a business man.

“I’m going to an Ashram for a week. I’m not exactly sure of the name, I think it’s called Isha. It’s a last minute decision.” I told him.

“Ah, yes, how do you know about Isha?” He asked

I explained that I had been travelling with friends for the last week when our tour guide Bharat, from Delhi, mentioned it. He has been going for a few years and loves Guru Jaggi Vasudev. He recommended I go for  Mahashivarathri, a Hindu festival celebrated every year in honour of Lord Shiva, the Adiyogi – the first yogi.

Dhyanalinga

Dhyanalinga

Bharat found out Sadhaguru was leading a program  called “The Innerway” for 5 days before Mahashivarathri. All my friend could tell me was that it would be  transformational and something I  must experience while in India.  I went on-line and read what I could about the Guru and his Ashram / Foundation. He’s a mystic and a yogi who facilitates mediation and yoga programs all over the world. The Ashram has a Dhyanalinga yogic temple, with a 13 foot 9 inch lingam made of high density granite. The temple is purely a meditative space that does not ascribe to any particular faith or belief system. The Isha Foundation is a non-religious non-profit organization entirely run by volunteers. One of the many social initiatives funded is called Project GreenHands. The project is currently in the Guinness Book of World Records for planting over 8.2 million trees by over 2 million volunteers. I decided to throw caution to the wind one more time and do the program.

“I have many friends that go there. I’ve been once. It’s very powerful. It’s magical. You’ll experience magic after a week there. Really,” he said. I could feel the excitement in his voice.

Not knowing how to respond I stayed quiet. Silently I was thinking, “Good,  I want to experience magic in India. I wonder what he means.” I listened to him tell me about a German colleague that was considering going to the Ashram on his last visit to their office in Coimbatore. In the end the colleague decided not to go. He wasn’t open to a new experience  that he  didn’t understand or have context for. It sounded like he was trying to advise me to stay open to a mystical and spiritual experience. Something different from our Western ways of thinking and understanding. Again,  I sat quietly nodding my head and agreeing it was about staying open.

After the plane landed we said goodbye at the baggage terminal, he gave me his business card and said, “Here’s my email, please write me after your week there. I would really like to hear what you experience. Really. Please tell me about it.”

I smiled politely and gave my word that I would send him an email as we shook hands and said goodbye.  Waiting for my bag at the carousel, I felt inside this was the sign I was heading to the next place I needed to be. Whatever doubts or negative thoughts I was holding onto were all in my head.

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