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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Down Under in Amed

Down Under


As we sit down to have breakfast with Nico and Murray, our two dive guides for the weekend, I can smell the thick, dark Bali coffee sitting on the table. Ordering eggs and toast we start to talk about the sites we’re going to dive. As I look out over the treetops at the cobalt blue ocean I feel the excitement of being back diving in Amed.

Zuri fills out her paperwork before we get started. As usual, the atmosphere with Nico and Murray at Baliku is lively with constant chatter.

Zuri looks over the questionnaire and says, “Wait, you can’t be over 45 and smoke?”
I look over and notice Murray putting out his cigarette, so I say, “Guess that let’s Murray out, we can’t dive with him.”

Nico retorts quickly, “For Murray he already has to mark “No” for half the questions.”

“But there are no “Are you a legend” questions. That would be a YES answer,” Murray defends himself with a completely straight face.

“I don’t understand”, Nico replies

“I’ll explain it to you later” I quip.

“Okay great”, Nico tells me, “That very handsome guy over three will get your equipment sorted.”

And we’re off for a full day of diving at Jemeluk drop off.

Our SUV pulls up to the sight and 6 small Indonesian kids run from the side of the road to our car. A skinny 7-year-old boy wearing blue faded shorts and a worn red t-shirt runs to the back of the car and squeezes in between two taller girls to help pull out the plastic blue crates filled with scuba gear. Gathering around the back of the car the kids help pull out the oxygen tanks, BCD’s and regulators to carry them to our set up spot. As we set up our equipment I hear the skinny little boy yell out, “NNNIIICCCCOOO” and our Belgium guide flashes a big smile as he laughs at his little Indonesian friend.

What I love about shore diving is walking into the water slowly and feeling the gradual decent until eventually you find yourself 30 meters below in God’s aquarium. Immediately a Stingray swims past me. I remember being in Thailand at a fish farm feeding the sting rays and how thick and slippery their skin felt. As I look to my right I spot a lone Trumpet Fish and a small Puffer Fish swims by. Soon a little school of Razor Fish drift past and Nico cups them with his hands playfully.

Staring at the coral reef I spot a big Dogface Puffer Fish casually swimming in and out of the reef. A Unicorn fish swims by and in the distance I spot a Clown Triggerfish (Big-spotted Triggerfish), one of my favorite fish in South East Asia.

Breathing in and out, the darth vadar sound from my regulator lulls me into a meditative state. I see the water getting shallow as we begin to swim closer to the shore. Suddenly Nico is waving his arms to get my attention. I swim higher to meet him, as I’m cresting over the coral reef there is the biggest school of Bigeye Travallies I’ve ever seen. They formed a cyclone shape and swim tightly together hardly moving at all. They look like a tornado starting a few feet above the coral reef and spreading up close to the surface, beams of sunlight streaming down through them. Nico swims just under them and floats effortlessly while watching them above. I hover quietly watching him floating below the cyclone shaped school and make a mental picture of the one lone diver floating below of hundreds of Travellies as the sunlight beams down between them.

I have that picture in mind as we end our first dive at Jemeluk drop off. For our second dive we make sure to bring the camera. As soon as we descend the biggest Cuttlefish I’ve seen is there to greet us. It hovers in front of us and changes its colors and patterns. It’s the first time I’ve seen a cuttlefish camouflage. It was the highlight of the dive. For the next 40 minutes we floated around, snapped photos and enjoyed the vibrant reef and life down under.

Cuttlefish


Same Cuttlefish


Cuttlefish



Lion Fish

Lion Fish


Zuri


Nico








The Wandering Jen

The Downside of Diving Phi Phi

Photo courtesy of Tom Booth

No matter how many times I walk into situations staying open to experience whatever happens, when I least expect it, I step into a situation where I wasn’t paying any attention to how high my expectations were…and experience the crash…I know it’s common, we all do it.

This time I felt the let down on the second day of my recent dive trip to Phi Phi Island. After such a solid and positive experience on the Similan Islands live aboard I was excited to sign up for a two day trip to Phi Phi to dive the infamous sites there, Shark Point, Bida Nik & Bida Nai. It was a short two day boat trip that included four dives on your way to Phi Phi, a nice stay overnight at a hotel so you can explore the bars for an evening and then three dives the next day on the way back. It was a no brainer, sounded perfect.

The trip started out on a high note when I sat next to a really nice Australian couple about my age on the ride to the boat. Then, Tom, one of the handsome dive guides from the Similan trip jumped in the car. Things were feeling good. My expectations were high…the usual signal to relax… The boat was nice, the trip was really well organized and the rental equipment was good. There was really nothing about the crew, or the dive company or anything that could be controlled that made this a “less than average” experience. Tom was my guide again and he had his camera and we goofed around and got silly sometimes. That was all a plus.

Our first two dives at Shark Point and Koh Bida Nik the visibility was ok, not great. No one can control that, it’s simply Mother Nature so you make the best of it. We saw a few sting rays’, snapper and clown fish. It seemed amazing; unfortunately, I couldn’t see too far in front of me. Koh Bida Nik was the same, shaded batfish, scorpion fish, lion fish, puffer fish with juveniles, coronet fish and titan trigger fish. I still couldn’t see too far in front of me but there was so much life around me it was amazing. The highlight of the day was when we were on the boat during a rest period and a huge school of dolphins came right near the boat for about 20 minutes jumping in and out of the water. It was great to watch.

I digress, because I was talking about getting caught up in my expectations. By the third dive there was no visibility and the current was strong. It was a workout. I put on a smile, did the dive, and saw a moorish idol and various parrot fish but I couldn’t see them unless they swam right into me. I thought about this as I was resting after. I’m still a beginner and thought about passing on the last dive, it was going to be a night dive, and I knew there was no visibility. I’m listening to that inner voice more and more, while keeping a beginners mind. I didn’t want to miss out on anything; even though I knew when I got out of the water I could barely see anything. Why do we do that? Why is that fear of missing out so strong at the most obvious moments?

I did the night dive at Palong Bay with Tom and he was safe and very cautious. He knows the site really well. When we finished our decent we could barely see. We had our flash lights; I could see Tom if he was 2 -3 feet in front of me and that was it. Everyone else looked the same to me in wet suits. Tom was wearing bright shorts and a shirt and that’s the only way I could follow him and only if I was shining my light right on him. I had gotten into the habit of staying close to him (and kicking him in the head regularly) and this time I was so close that when he spotted a couple of sea horses I could see them immediately from his flashlight.  He knew where to find them and took our group to them as soon as we descended. I saw them right away knew the others would want to see them. For some reason people get really excited about seeing seahorses, I don’t really, and we had just seen some earlier in the day and taken pictures. So I backed off and floated above letting others in my group come in closer because the visibility was so bad. Suddenly we were descended on by a whole different group of divers. Because we couldn’t see anything it felt like they came from out of nowhere. One minute I’m floating quietly, the next these two women are treading water on top of me, kicking me and having absolutely no control over their buoyancy or anything else. Everyone in my group was backing off to get away from them and they were following Tom’s light to the see the seahorse. It was a total cluster fuck. Once I backed off I lost Tom’s light, there were what felt like hundreds of other divers all around me, everyone looked the same and I had no idea what direction I was facing because I couldn’t see anything. Not everyone was trying to see what we were looking at; it was just way too crowded down there. Suddenly it felt like there were tons of dive groups. It was chaos. Long story short, one of these girls stepped on a sea horse and crushed it trying to see the other one. Once we came up for air Tom told us she saw her smash it with her fin and he didn’t know what happened after that because he was too busy shoving people away with his hands so they couldn’t get any closer. He was pissed off when we got out of the water and the rest of us were just confused. It was so crowded down there and we couldn’t see 2 feet in front of us; total diver chaos. I didn’t know about the seahorse smashing until we got back on the boat. It turns out these girls were on our boat with their own dive guide. It sort of killed the day for me. I learned about the down side of diving, especially in crowed areas at night.

We ended up on Phi Phi Island and went to a bar for a beer. Phi Phi felt like a tourist trap to me after that. A bunch of bars, restaurants, hotels and the usual tourist hawkers. I’m sure on a different day with my peeps it would be fun. The next day the visibility was ok, not great, but we had fun. I had experienced my first lesson in overcrowded dive sites and how important it is to pay attention to everything around you when you are 15 meters underwater and not destroy the life down there. It’s a reminder about keeping my expectations in check and paying attention to everything around me. At the end of the trip, once again, Tom had some awesome photos. The photos below are courtesy of Tom Booth.

Photo courtesy of Tom Booth

Photo courtesy of Tom Booth

Photo courtesy of Tom Booth

Photo courtesy of Tom Booth

Photo courtesy of Tom Booth

Photo courtesy of Tom Booth

Photo courtesy of Tom Booth

Photo courtesy of Tom Booth

Photo courtesy of Tom Booth

Photo courtesy of Tom Booth

Photo courtesy of Tom Booth

Photo courtesy of Tom Booth

Photo courtesy of Tom Booth