Did I ever actually stop? Of course not, but traveling to a holy city such as Rishikesh, India, really brings it up close and personal. I realize I did not keep my dear followers apprised of my plans, disappearing into the comforts of home and finding writing a challenge. Two months ago when I left Bodhgaya and returned to Colorado, my intention was always to return to India. I held a non-exchangeable ticket for Feb 23rd and determined that unless the universe had significantly different plans for me and presented them to me during my time home, I would be on that flight. This time however, my trip will be different. I plan to spend the majority of my time in only two cities – Rishikesh and Dharamsala. In Rishikesh I’m already 5 days into a month-long intensive Yoga program. In Dharamsala my intention is to volunteer for the Tibetan exiles that live in this mountain community where the Dalai Lama now calls home.
I already have a tremendous amount to say – about home, about here, about me. Let me look back before I look ahead. As I noted earlier, I could not seem to find the energy to write, despite my free time and comfortable surroundings. There was this sense of a fog that always enveloped me in subtle ways. Stepping away for only a few days gives me a much clearer impression of why this was. The demands on my energy at home are so much higher – and yes I’m talking about a lot more than just physical energy. When you live somewhere for a long time, you build up a vast network of karmic ties, energetic connections to other people, places, activities and objects. Yesterday I visualized a tug-of-war that I was playing at home. I was on one end of the rope and on the other side was society, my friends, my family all wanting me to come back. To be that productive capitalist, the same guy he was two years ago and all the rest of it. There are also all of the aspects of living in a society dominated by second chakra energy, pulling on our desires, our sexuality and our anxieties. The most frightening aspect of this game of tug-of-war was that I eventually realized that I was on the other side of the rope too! There is part of me that wants that ease – the ease of a life already lived, a path well trodden and relationships that are static and easy. After spending two months playing this game, a Zen master appeared in the form of the friend sitting next to me as I related this visualization at breakfast and said “just drop the rope”. Woah. wait. Not yet. Too scary. Then what?
The immediate contrast of going from home directly to Rishikesh and into an intense practice is powerful. My trip was fantastic, facing several nail-biting detours and changes, but always in the end a travel angel would come along and make sure everything was fine, eventually dropping me in Rishikesh with a couple hours to spare before my first session on that mat. I found my friends Al & Nicole and have been befriended by the small community of people that they’ve developed after being here almost two months. I will get into the details of my course in my next post but for now wanted to highlight the aspects of life in Rishikesh. First, its one of India’s oldest and most sacred cities, located on the mother Ganga (Ganges) river. Life is very simple. I’m spending most of my time in Swarg Ashram a small community of ashrams in a pedestrian-only area separated from Rishikesh City by Ram Jula bridge. My guesthouse is a five minute walk from the Yoga ashram, there are two restaurants that I frequent and a handful of shops that have everything I might need. Alcohol and meat are strictly prohibited and the food served up is incredible vegetarian fare. I spend 4 hours in the morning at the Ashram and another 5 in the evening with a few hours to rest and eat during the day. Today class was canceled for the festival of Holi. Holi, one of the largest festivals in India and despite its roots in ancient Vedic history, today consists primarily of Indians getting drunk, spraying each other with paint and lighting things on fire. As soon as I post this I’m going to head out and check out the festivities.
Back to the contrast – the shock to the system, along with some crazy jet lag, provided a great opportunity for some lucid moments and a reset, self-likened to the old ‘reboot’ option on a computer. I found myself half-awake in challenging environs, half-asleep in others, moving immediately into my yoga course and dropping into conversation about self and soul. I’ve escaped the rope for now. I’m still holding it, but the forces on the other end have decreased and I can relax into my daily existence.
I’m looking forward to letting go, to exploring this contrast further and eventually gaining the courage to drop the rope.