Finally, some peace has arrived. Yesterday concluded an intensive month-long program on esoteric yoga and meditation at the Trika Yoga School. To the celebrate the occasion I rallied our classmates for a bonfire down along the Ganga beach. I’ve been wanting to do this since I arrived in Rishikesh but, curiously, haven’t seen anyone else doing it. It began to make sense, however, once I began scouring the woods and the area for wood. In a town where the villagers use wood for cooking, there is simply no wood to be found. So I managed to find some villagers who’d sell me a bundle of their “fuel”. That was easy enough, but getting this huge bundle of wood on down to the beach proved quite challenging. It was well worth the effort though, and soon we had fire, stars and moon, and good people gathered around a fire with guitars and singing songs. This is and will always be one of life’s most enjoyable past times. Great way to celebrate our “graduation” from level one of this yoga program.
Friendships have formed up naturally and easily here, due largely to the fact that we spend all of our days together. Classes begin just after sunrise and continue until around 10 pm. The course was demanding and quite tiring, but everyday would reveal extraordinary teachings and breakthroughs that kept me always eager for more.
Yoga means “union”. 2500 years ago, the great self-realized yogis of India began practicing the science of yoga that promotes awareness and union with divine consciousness. This blew my mind when I began learning all this stuff. My ignorance previously led me to believe that yoga was just a form of exercise– an alternative to the mind-numbing drudgery of jogging. I’ve attended yoga classes back home but never had I heard a single word about using this time to connect with God and to fuse your mind and body with the divine presence that is all around and within us.
Our teachers at school are amazing! There is one teacher in particular who is living proof of the power of a disciplined practice of yoga. His mind is sharp, his communication is powerful, and his whole presence is like a laser beam of conscious living. When he speaks, every one of his words finds a home in my heart and mind. Our lectures cover a wide range of spiritual topics that promote a healthy lifestyle for yogis as I attentively scribble many notes.
I rented a bike to get me back and forth between class. It is a total piece of crap, but it does the trick. It’s a typical Indian bike; it weighs about 100 pounds and has no gears and so anything but going downhill requires tremendous strength and willpower. The pedals are falling apart, the chain comes off whenever I go over big bumps, and the bell only works some of the time. This last defect is perhaps the most concerning. The streets of Rishikesh are full of obstacles and road hazards and as I ride along I always feel like I’m flirting with catastrophe. I ride very slowly—as carefully as I can, trying to dodge the cows and weave in between the babas and the throngs of oblivious pedestrians. Something supernatural guides the path of my bicycle because astonishingly I don’t crash! There are so many near fatalities, but the swift hand of divine intervention guides these handlebars just in the nick of time. Sometimes I feel like Moses, as the sea of pedestrians magically parts just when I think I’m totally about to take out a big group of people.
I am thoroughly in love with India- the people, the culture, the traditions, the mindset. I love it all! It’s tourism unlike anywhere else. In other places tourists have itineraries and they go from one town to the next checking stuff out and getting on to the next destination. While I was in southern India I felt that way too, but then I forgot what I was looking for. In Rishikesh, pretty much everyone comes because they are spiritual aspirants of one kind or another. There are so many paths one can take and here in Rishikesh there are courses and gurus for every practice. People come and then they never leave, for the path to God is a long and winding road that never ends.
Sometimes at sunset I go down to beach and smile to see all the different peoples practicing their spirituality. Some are doing yoga, others are meditating, a group of smilers are banging bongos, playing guitars, and singing devotional songs in exstacy. A sadhu is standing in the Ganga with his face painted, praying and performing a religious ritual. A funny western dude has headphones on and is doing some wild hip hop dancing while a large group of Hindu pilgrims are sitting beside him eating chapatis with bewildered expressions on their faces. Indians are very tolerant people. Given the unlimited range of self-expression here, nothing is really all that strange here. It’s just different, and no one has a problem with that. In our home country these people would stand out like sore thumbs and would be regarded as total lunatics. In India, us weirdos find solidarity in a community that encourages us to just be whoever you wanna be.
It seems clear to me now that I will not be making it to Thailand on this journey. Funny how originally my journey was supposed to be Nepal and Thailand, and yet has turned out to be mostly India. When the spirit speaks, you can’t ignore her message. India is where I needed to be and I will be forever grateful for this experience. So for the next two months I’ll be in India and then plan on returning to my beloved home sweet home where all my dear people are.