I have long since left Mysore and am journeying up into the Himalayas. I have returned to Rishikesh, my most sacred of towns. It is the place where I spent the most time during my last trip to India, it is a place where I found my devotion to yoga solidified, the place where I found a deeply respected guru and friend, and a place where I found love which helped my heart to heal from past wounds. I revere this place. The bumpy bus ride up the hills had me giggling, smiling, giddy with excitement. There is so much that has happened between my last post and now. I want to tell it all. I was almost tempted to begin catching you up on all that before I posted this entry, because I did not want a thing to be missed. My plan is to spend at least an hour a day here writing my adventures up until now because they are deep and worthy and life changing. But a lady must be in the current moment. So, for today here I am. I will tell you how it is now. (Later I shall tell you the juicy stories that got me here!)
I have a boyfriend. His name is Gaura Prema Das. He is young, and spiritual, and kind, and full of life and potential. Our joining forces was a journey full of confusion, twists and turns. We couldn't have planned on finding one another, but we were forced to face the fact that life smushed us together with purpose and intent. We have lots to share and learn from one another, as well as together. I have no clue where this relationship shall go, but I do know I am meant to explore it and see.
We have traveled together from Mysore, and have many plans of traveling the world together during the next chunk of blessed time.
After leaving Mysore we headed for Mathura/Vrindavan, one of the most sacred places in India. Vedic philosophy is ancient Indian spiritual documents that tell stories that relate to the ideas of god, the nature of life, and the ways in which a person should aspire to be. In these texts the main god who is the essence of all things, is named Krishna. Krishna is often called the Supreme Personality of Godhead. The following information was taken from the official Mathura/Vrindavan website:
It is understood that Mathura City is the transcendental abode of Lord Krishna. It is not an ordinary material city, for it is eternally connected with the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Vrindavan is within the jurisdiction of Mathura and still continues to exist. Because Mathura and Vrindavan are intimately connected with Krishna eternally, it is said that Lord Krishna never leaves Vrindavan. At present the place known as Vrindavana in the district of Mathura, continues its position as a transcendental place and certainly anyone who goes there becomes transcendentally purified.
"We must understand the transcendental importance of Mathura, Vrindavana and Navadvipa dhamas. Anyone who executes devotional service in these places certainly goes back home, back to Godhead after giving up his body.
"Whenever the Supreme Personality appears, He appears in Mathura because of His intimate connection with this place. Therefore, although Mathura and Vrindavana are situated on this planet earth, they are transcendental abodes of the Lord." (Srimad Bhagavatam 10.1.28 Purport).
"The Supreme Personality of Godhead, Lord Krishna engages in pastimes there eternally. For this reason Vrindavana is better than all other holy places. Sixty billion sacred places reside in Mathura and Vrindavana. (Mathura Mahatma)
One goes to holy places in hopes of having a spiritual experience. But I have learned in life that spiritual experiences can be invited like an honored guest, but one has no true control over whether or not they actually show up. We can only make the proper preparations to ourselves, set the environment, and then wait patiently for something to happen. Sometimes it does, sometimes it doesn't. Sometimes spiritual things happen randomly, when we least expect it. But, if one is lucky, than they receive something deep and moving in place that holds spiritual power. I was lucky in this way during my short trip to Vrindavan. I shall tell more when I tell the story of Vrindavan.
I now have a Yoga certification which is recognized by the Yoga Alliance in Ashtanga Yoga. My teacher training program was so intense and amazing. When planning my trip Mysore had to make a big decision. Most people go to Mysore to study yoga with Pattabhi Jois, otherwise known as guruji. He is the man who made Ashtanga yoga famous around the world. He is in his 90's and has been teaching for many, many years now to Indians. The westerners only began to explore him, and Ashtanga yoga within the last 15 years or so. Before that he was a simple, humble teacher of yoga. He is now a very famous and wealthy man. I honor him for the wonderful thing he has done for all of us yogi's outside of India, for the gift of this precise science that is Ashtanga. Part of me wanted to come to study with guruji, because of the fact that I could go back to America and say that I studied with the man that brought us this yoga. But, I had my reservations. I had heard stories that he liked to touch westerners bottoms, and other stories that he was fiercely strict, rumors that he wasn't even teaching anymore. Also, to get a certification with guruji was impossible for me at this point, the process takes years. And, the cost to study with guruji is about double to three times as costly as other places of study. But still part of me longed to be there in the place of study with the famous man who's name my peers and colleague's revered.
A couple of years ago I discovered a little yoga shala in Mysore called the Mysore Mandala. I found it through a respected colleague teaching yoga in Canada. She usually holds retreats at this shala and raves about the teacher, the organic farm and garden, the healthy cafe, and the people. This shala was well known enough to have a nice community of followers, but it still remains small enough to be intimate with classes of about 15 students or so. Compared to the hundreds of students that attend guruji's classes daily, it seemed that personal attention was more likely in this smaller shala. I continued communication with my colleague from Canada for over two years, receiving information about her retreats, and updates on the Mysore mandala. Right from the beginning I felt a curiosity that continued to grow over these couple of years. They offered an intensive teacher training program which was Yoga Alliance approved. I have been through 2 teacher training courses, but still sought something Yoga Alliance approved. I just felt a pull to visit the Mysore Mandala, it seemed to meet my needs better than the dreamy idea of studying with guruji.
I feel so confident and joyful that I made the best decision for myself. Once I arrived in Mysore I found out that guruji isn't even teaching anymore. The main shala is being run by guruji's daughter and grandson. Friends of mine who studied with them had mixed things to say. There is no doubt that guruji left a wonderful legacy for the world at large. But, I have heard the following complaints about the current main shala:
Because there are soooooo many students practicing in each class there is barely enough room to practice, you are so close to other students that often you bump arms. Sometimes, people even practice in the dressing rooms because there is no more space in the yoga room. Due to so many students, you don't receive very much personal attention in the form of adjustments and advice. If your lucky you will receive one or two adjustments, if that during a class. Guruji passed on his legacy to his grandson Sharat, giving him charge over the main shala and all of his students that he no longer teaches. Some people feel that even though Sharat inherited all of these students in this revered shala, he has yet to earn or own his own greatness as a worthy successor. Like a young king in charge of a kingdom that formerly had a world changing, brilliant king; he needs to grow into his shoes, he is not guruji, he is Sharat full of potential but not yet the teacher his grandfather was. Some people mentioned recieving adjustments that they weren't comfortable with.
All of this information is simply speculation, or gossip because I didn't experience it for myself. I am only quoting what I have heard from people around the town. Many others....hundreds, thousands around the world flock to the main shala still, and revere it as "The Place" for Ashtanga yoga. I admit still a small curiosity to see for myself one day.
But for now I am so glad that I chose the Mysore mandala. The teachers I found there were shining beacons of humanity. I received more than my share of personal attention in every single class that I attended there.I was able to ask unlimited questions. Throughout the six weeks I practiced there, I recieved adjustments in every single pose of the primary series many, many times, which helped me to learn to do all of the poses more precisely. In my life I choose teachers that I can know, that wish and have the time to know me. I believe that knowledge is best passed between those who truly know and understand one another. I love to have teachers that I can personally ask questions, honor in person, hug in person, and offer my services and kind deeds in return honoring my teacher in person. All of my teachers at the Mysore mandala were very close to me during the time I studied there. I once had brunch at my yoga teachers home. Often after a very intensive practice my teacher would walk on my back, or massage muscles that were aching, helping me relax into meditation. (He did this for all students male and female, and had a wonderfully thorough knowledge of massage and the body!) A group of us actually ganged up on our teacher one day and decided to give him massage in return! It was such a lovely sight to be walking on my teachers back as he layed on the floor of the shala office while 4 other students massaged different parts of his body. This may not seem "professional" to an outsider. But to that I say professional smofessional, WHO CARES. It was real, we were all kind humans! He was our smiley, humble, & brilliant guide on the path of spirtiual practice. We were his devoted children, thankful and full of love. When I left, I felt as though I left behind a family that I could return to at anytime. I left with an invitation to stay at my yoga teachers home when I return. This is the kind of place for me!
Unfortunately I have a sore lower back that is currently healing, from such an INTENSE six week yogic journey. My teacher gave the kind of adjustments that took you to the end of the earth and assured you that the world is not flat, it is round. I truly experienced this as he twisted me so deeply, so many times, that I was able to almost make a full circle looking in the direction I began the twist. This felt great, but the intensity of the program broke me a little, due to my own lack of caution, and my over exertion and excitement. This also happened to other students who shared my enthusiasm for the edge of progress. I learned so much, I went to the edge each of myself, and I didn't have the tact to stop there. I was so giddy and drunk on yogic knowledge that I flew past the edge in search of deeper connection to the essence of yoga. Unfortunately, one must respect the edge, slowly pushing past it with years of daily devotion. Those of us that soared past drunk on our progress found that we had a huge yoga hang over after wards, in the form of small injuries, sore bodies, and our prescription was just to rest. Unfortunately, by the end of my program I was one of these such individuals, as was Sarah and Guara. We all got so excited by our progress that we lost the power of tact to observe our limits. Oh well, I have got a lifetime to keep on trying to get it right.
I am also now certified to do Ayurvedic Therapeutic Massage. I practice on Gaura frequently, and I hope to make some money while traveling Thailand, offering Ayurvedic Therapeutic Massage.
I also have my level 1/2 Reiki Attunement. I recieved this attunement, as well as healing and an acupressure analysis from my loving healers and spiritual, indian family Morely and Geeta. They are a couple of people who are so wonderful, and have so much greatness to offer the world. I shall share their story later.
Reiki (霊気 or レイキ) is a form of spiritual practice, used as a complementary therapy, proposed for the treatment of physical, emotional, mental and spiritual diseases. Mikao Usui developed Reiki in early 20th century Japan, where he said he received the ability of healing without energy depletion after three weeks of fasting and meditating on Mount Kurama. Practitioners use a technique of laying their hands on certain parts of the body, which they say will channel "healing energy". Practitioners state that energy flows through their palms to bring about healing and that the method can be used for self-treatment as well as treatment of others.
Level 1/2 certifies a person the heal. When I return to Mysore, on my way back to America, at the end of my trip: I plan to receive my level 3/4 attunement. Level 3/4 certifies a person to heal, attune, and train others to be Reiki practitioners. I shall use the time between now and my next attunement to practice Reiki, and heal, and keep cleansed my own Reiki channels.
So much has happened since I left America. I still haven't had a sip of alcohol, and am clean and pure. I am doing my best to stick to my satvic diet of no caffeine, garlic, onions, or intoxicants of any sort. It is hard to completely avoid garlic and onions while eating out at restaurants every day. Some people just don't get the whole special diet thing, and they cook things how they cook them and thats that. And, I admit my guilty pleasure is a chai here and there, with a coffee every rare occasion. But, it feels great to be working at this.
I have been on such an emotional/spiritual/mental, whole person process! I have had to face myself completely, I have been working through and healing years of old wounds and have been cultivating years of intended good spiritual practices. All that I have wanted to let go of inside and about myself I am working through. All that I have longed to be and set in place in my life, I have been working on!
What a wonderful moment in time. Sorry for the obnoxious length of this post. I guess I have so much to say! I am so alive, and I wish I could hug the world and give all the amazing energy that I have bubbling inside me!
For now though, all I can say is Namaste! The light in me bows to the light in you!