The mountains are calling.
For as long as I can remember, I had dreamt of the Himalayas. The mountains were calling.
I could Shhh… them all I liked, but they just wouldn’t shut up.
18 months ago I finally decided it was time to listen. I would turn a big dirty thirty the following year, and I may as well tick it off the bucket list. I started to manifest a trip to Nepal. To hike, breathe mountain air, volunteer on a housing project close to my heart, and to cross over to India and live the ashram life. One day I awoke to set the wheels in motion, and to my horror, I discovered that instead of manifesting a trip to Nepal, I had manifested a devastating earthquake, wiping out half the country. Literally within hours of my logging on to book flights. Sh*t.
Well obviously I had nothing to do with the earthquake and there is so much ego in in that statement it makes me sick to type it, but the timing of this incredibly unfortunate incident was impeccable for suggesting that I was NOT going to Nepal that year. So I decided to listen to the Universe and see what it had to say to me. I was in the middle of Saturn Return (why did no-one ever warn me?!) and the path I was on was not serving me. Yes, it was time to tune in and listen.
Of all places, I had a calling to a particular Ecological Community perched on the side of a volcano on a lake in the middle of a shark filled lake in the middle of Central America. I’m fairly well travelled with 30 or so countries under my belt, but Nicaragua? I’m horrified to say I had never even heard of it! A near death experience that had me out cold for longer than I desire to know and a month dosed up on pain killers in bed, followed by a trip to Burning Man in the middle of the Nevada dessert before landing in the volcanic Nicaragua was the recipe for rebirth and is where some magical manifestations started to happen. Stories of which are for another time. The most interesting of these experiences was not only joining, but starting a Circus in Nicaragua. All of the elements appeared and aligned as I so much as thought of them. The time also always seemed to be 11:11. Hmm… it would seem that I was on the right path.
Exactly one year since leaving Sydney, I again experienced a strong calling to the mountains – this time, straight to Rishikesh, the Yoga capital of the World. Without skipping a beat, and knowing only great things would come of it, I jumped on the opportunity to tick this biggie off my pre-30 bucket list and to complete my Yoga Teacher Training.
With the big thirty around the corner and no idea where I would actually be when it came around, I started a funding campaign for my friends and family for the money that would otherwise be spent on a birthday present to help me achieve my goal. My ‘Not so Dirty Thirty’. This way, they wouldn’t have to scratch their heads thinking about what on earth to get someone who is essentially homeless and in an unknown destination, nor waste money on unnecessary things that I simply don’t need. Even better, in return, I could host them a class when I am a qualified yoga teacher. The gift that keeps on giving!
So far, the support has been overwhelming.
Rishikesh: en route.
Leaving Patong for my 4 flight trek to Rishikesh. 20 minutes into the late night bus ride to Phuket airport and I realise that IT’S THE WRONG DAY! Yes, that’s right, I am arriving at the airport a good 24 hours before I’m scheduled to. Sh*t.
Not the type to panic, I actually feel a sudden sense of joy that I have an extra full 24 hours in limbo land… score! Arriving at the airport, I get myself some wifi to check out where to stay for the night. Damn. The pickings are slim and the prices are three times that as Patong, and the quality is less than three times as poor. Maybe they will give me a better deal as a walk-in? The closest hotel is 350m from the airport. I decide to walk and check myself into a shocker of a place that is basically the granny flat off a garage. And the price is higher for walk ins. By this point I’m exhausted, hungry and am having a killer internal dialogue about how sh*tty the situation ended up. I start walking to find some dinner, seething. I’m hungry, my room sucks, its costing me a fortune. Then I stop. I realise where I am. Again, alone. In a dark street in Thailand. No-one knows where I am, its limbo land. And this is what I live for. Suddenly my spirit lifts. I realise how free I am, how fortunate I am. I think of the timid girl in Patong who was shocked that I was going to India alone – “aren’t you scared??” and I feel liberated. In the darkness I walk alone, looking into the depths of my consciousness and finding light.
This is how I find it. This is why I walk alone.
I find a local restaurant, take a delicious thai meal washed down with a Chang then head across the road to the supermarket. What a place! The aisles are packed to the rafters with everything from coconuts to children’s fairy costumes and there are little Thai faces staring at the blonde beast before them giggling as they shout out “hello!”. I grab myself some supplies and head back to my garage just in time for the rain. Rain, rain and more rain. I have a tummy bug and end up spending my entire extra day in limbo land in bed in my garage with the rain falling hard. When I finally have to check out, I head the 350m to the airport and find myself a seat to call home for the next 7 hours before the first leg of my flight.
Arriving in Bangkok.
Little did I realise when I booked my flight, I had a 1 hour trek from the domestic airport terminal to the international airport. At 12pm with a connecting flight at 5:10am. Yikes. I run and just make the free shuttle and manage to get myself through Bangkok check in without falling asleep and start searching for somewhere to call home for the night, well at least for the two hours I have remaining. Bangkok airport. What an experience! Luxurious cushioned seats and enough room to cartwheel the whole way to the gate. I find a bench to call home and fortunately manage to wake up as my flight is being called for boarding.
Start leg 2 of trip to Rishikesh.
I think I’m the only non-Indian man on this flight. The man in front will not stop staring at me. Thankfully I’m seated next to a charming young Indian guy who had just finished volunteering to teach English in Thailand. He is very liberal and becomes my first friend in India! Turns out he’s on my next flight too. My little guardian angel warding off the otherwise blatant stares from the older men on this series of flights. He even manages to score me a free vegetarian meal. What a sweetie!
The last leg.
I arrive in Delhi and have one more leg to. I decide to grab a drink and find that they have Boost Juice here – only it’s called Joost and the service is less than desirable. Oh well, I have a boost of vitamins to counteract the zero sleep I have tonight.
Finally I arrive in Dehradun and a jolly man is waiting for me holding a sign with my name on it. We jump in the car and start driving through the jungle. There are monkeys everywhere and he tells me stories of elephants and tigers. I am blown away and declare that if I see an elephant I will fall to the ground in a puddle of tears. I never expected to be so close to them in the wild! The jungle here is the most beautiful thing I have ever seen and almost brings me to tears. We wind around bends of lush green and waterfalls. Finally we come to the Ganges and I’m blown away. Its the end of rainy season and this infamous river is INCREDIBLE.
As we near the hotel, we are dodging brightly coloured locals en route to the Hindi Temple, cows that belong to the Ashram and are roaming free, and street dogs lazily sleeping in the sun. The hotel is opposite the Ganges with the soaring mountains in the background. I have made it.
I’m greeted by some very young faces and start to panic that I’ve made a poor choice for my teacher training… these kids are going to teach me philosophy?! And then Vishnu walks in and in an instant clears any doubt in my mind. This man is unearthly. I am in the right place.
I drop my bags, meet my roomie, Dee – an incredibly bubbly Kundalini fanatic from London and take myself straight to the rooftop yoga studio. I open all of the windows looking straight onto the ganges and start my practice, alone. The energy of the mountains and the Ganges are penetrating the room and despite no sleep, I have an incredibly deep yoga session and fall heavily into Savasana. Without going into details that will have you thinking I’ve completely lost my marbles, let’s just say it was an INTENSE meditation!
After yoga practice I decide to head out for a walk to get my bearings and bump straight into Dee and a friend. They are heading to a ceremony by the river, so I decide to join them. We walk along, the local children waving frantically at us giggling and their parents smile with the most heart warming grins. I feel welcome here. We pass so many cows it’s ridiculous and I grab myself some street potatoes with chili. De-f*cking-licious. Finally we make it to the temple where the ceremony takes place and I decide to grab a banana leaf filled with flowers, candles and incense to let go on the river. There are people everywhere and I imagine they all want to sell me something, but no, they just want to get me down to the river in time to experience it. A man decorates me in bindi stamps, throws me some matches for my banana leaf and sends me on my way. We arrive to a collective consciousness like I have never experienced before. We are so welcomed and encouraged to be right down the front. We are blessed with water, with smoke, with song. Everyone has so much joy and its so overwhelming that Dee starts to cry! Is it a special day? Well of course, it is today! This ceremony will happen just the same tomorrow, and the next day and the day after that. A whole hearted celebration given so much energy every single day. It’s out of this world. I can’t believe I’m here.
And we haven’t even started yet.
Rishikesh: day 1.
The course officially starts today with a ceremony at 10am. I decide to hit ‘Nirvana’, an organic cafe in our hotel / yoga academy and grab myself a coffee and get some work done before things get crazy here. Feeling bad about coffee being the first thing I fuel my body with, I also order a Detox Juice.
A detox and a retox. Nice.
From this point on I have decided to kick the coffee habit. It doesn’t serve me and I really don’t need it, so farewell coffee. It was nice knowing you. May we meet again on non-addiction circumstances. For now, my body needs a cleanse so tea, juice and large amounts of water are on the horizon.
I soon find out that the internet is abysmal. So word of warning, my communication which is usually abysmal, is going to slip beyond the abyss in the next month. But not all is lost, my second intention aside from kicking coffee is to write a blog post for every day of this training, so I plan to make up for the non-communication with a regular account of what is going on with T on the hippy trail in little old colourful Rishikesh.
I decide I need to channel some more feminine energy after getting called a boy from the security guard in Delhi airport, so I run down to the closest market stall to grab some earrings. My diamonds were long lost to some lucky Nicaraguan and I’ve been living a fairly jewellery and make-up free existence. With the big 30 coming soon, I should probably make an attempt to look a little more womanish. So I find some gorgeous hand made brass ring earrings that remind me of an aerial lyra. The circle represents so many things to me, so I agree to the price of a whopping $2 but realise I left my money back in my room. No worries, no-one in Rishikesh is chasing money and they all pay Karma forward. He tells me pay him tomorrow, the day after, whenever. No worry. I love these people!
We are asked to wear white to the ceremony and I managed to grab something appropriately covering the shoulders and tunic like while I was in Thailand so I dress for purity, pop in my new feminine energy mascots and get myself to the opening ceremony which involves a lot of chanting, flowers throwing herbs into flames and dancing. We experienced our first “breakdown” of the group. Anyone I studied design with will know what I mean when I say this. Yep, day one and there are already breakdowns. Takes me right back to the good old Design Centre Enmore days.
After the ceremony we have a lunch of rice, paneer, roti and ginger tea. We eat slowly, sit at communal tables and talk about our experiences from all over the world. We have amongst us Canadian, Romanian, British, Spanish, Indian, Danish, USA, German and Singaporean nationalities ranging from 18-49 years. We have Physicists, Medical Students, Google staff, cafe owners, and nomads amongst us. Its incredible to see such an eclectic group of people here for one thing and I wonder what on earth the Indians think about this phenomenon (aside from the fact its making them quite wealthy!) but they all seem to genuinely welcome us and want us to not just learn but understand the way of life. They want us to have health and good fortune, and they really aren’t chasing us for money. A change of pace from Patong to say the least!
The second half of the day included classes in philosophy, Ashtanga yoga and Meditation, which was rudely interrupted by monkeys running up and down the roof! After this was dinner, walks and a new routine favourite – tongue brushing! I’ve never practiced this before, but we received a welcome kit with an industrial looking copper device that I discovered was for cleaning your tongue. I gave it a go and WOW! I had some sh*t living on my tongue!
Rishikesh: Day 2.
There is always dark in the light, and light in the dark. The enlightened can see light and dark in all situations.
Today I woke to the first alarm in a good year or two. I would have relied on waking up naturally, but Dee decided to set one for us and that’s how we awoke. We had a 6am start which involved a communal meditation and OM chanting session, followed by cleaning out our sinuses with a netti pot. I hadn’t used one of these things since I had my accident and was passing crazy amounts of blood clots, so I was a little intimidated. Regardless, I soldiered on thankfully and nothing but clear liquid came out, and man it felt good! Cleaning your sinuses like this makes you so in tune with the sounds and smells around you, instantly making you feel more connected to nature and the surrounding environment. I look forward to starting each day this way and topping it off with a detoxing ginger and lemon tea.
We move on to classes of Hatha Yoga, Pranayama, Philosophy, Anatomy, Ashtanga and meditation. We have a couple of hours break in the middle of the day fro self study, so I take the opportunity to grab a massage at the Ayurvedic studio next door and spend the next 90 minutes in HEAVEN. I’ve just been in Thailand being spoilt with Thai Massage, but this thing was next level! I will definitely have to make a second visit before the month is up.
Rishikesh: day 3.
Our first day off, but certainly far from an off day.
It’s our day off, but regardless I decide to kick my day off with some 5 Rhythms meditation. We have breakfast scheduled at 7am before our outing, so this means I am up at 6am to dance, dance, dance! The free movement feels fantastic after sitting in classes and all of the structured asana classes and is the perfect way to start my day.
After breakfast, we all pile into a couple of Jeeps and hit the clifftop roads, winding through the mountains and dodging cows. We are off to see a cave. Not just any old cave, this cave has been shelter to many meditating yogi’s over the years and is considered to hold with it some incredible energy. It is situated by the Ganges and at the foothill of some incredible ficus trees draping from the cliffs above.
After we all cramped in the cave like sardines we emerged, one by one to make our way down to the sandy bank of the Ganges. The sand is glistening with gold flakes, and butterflies are fluttering everywhere. The light is spectacular and a light mist defines the mountains in the foreground from those in the background. So what else to do? We roll out our matts and get right into a juicy asana session in the beating sun with sweat beading out of every pore on our bodies. At the end of practice, we run down and jump in the river to cool off. LIFE IS GOOD!
Back to town and I find myself a quiet cafe to get into the zone to get some work done and document my trip so far. The leads to my first bidet experience.
Anyone that knows me well enough (and sorry for those that don’t and we’re happier that way) but I have a really tough time in the WC department when I’m traveling to new places. Its quite clear this lifestyle really doesn’t support my digestive habits! Well anyways, I’m on a roll and smashing out some writing, sipping tea and totally relaxed and there it is. The urge to go. Okay, no problem. I take myself to the WC which so happens to be in the middle of the restaurant, sort myself out and to my horror realise that there is no paper, just a tap which is attached to a hose coming out the back of the seat… interesting. Through all my travels of 30 some countries, I have managed to avoid the bidet experience. Until now. Let’s just say it wasn’t a horrible experience, but not one I’m rushing back to. I’m pretty sure I’ve shot some kind of typhoid onto my backside and its still playing on my mind. Experience complete, moving on.
Vishnu arranged an Acroyoga session for us that night, so I headed up for class and had an excellent little jam session with a new friend, Mav. We bonded over being “homeless” by choice and got busy planning meditations, aerial classes, thai massage, acupuncture, sound healing and Chinese Cupping sessions. Can’t wait to catch up with this beautiful soul again!
Rishikesh: day 4.
Paying it forward. Third time’s a charm.
Again, today I start my day with 5 Rhythms dance meditation and I feel amazing. The energy it creates helps me deal with the severe pounding in my head caused by the caffeine withdrawal. Instead of the coffee, I drink 2 bottles of fresh water and my body is thanking me for it.
Being the token Aussie in the crew, I find myself being called on to help in any situation of the creepy crawly. Last night I saved a couple of girls from what was described as a monster beast of an insect in their bathroom. I came busting in with a glass and piece of paper to carry out my duties, only to discover a harmless cicada. I threw the cup aside, picked up the poor little guy and let him go. As I walked back in explaining how harmless they are and really nothing to worry about, the girls start screaming again and pointing behind me. The poor little guy had adopted me as his mum and flown straight back onto my backside and was eagerly climbing it! In the end I managed to get my point across that this guy was okay, and had him safely outside the room and my backside bug-free.
This mornings Aussie to the rescue was not quite so harmless. After something small and black was spotted in one of the girls yoga mats she had just carried up from her room, I jumped in to discover a big black scorpion coiled inside. I grabbed the bag and took it outside as some of the yoga school staff ascended the stairs. Curious as to what the commotion was, they came over to find out and just about sh*t their pants when they realised and started fighting over who would have to deal with it… way to keep your students calm, guys! After living in Nicaragua for close to 10 months, the sight of one of these guys provokes nothing in me. I’m starting to think that just a little bit of fear might be good for my long term survival?
After the scorpion incident, I go to check on Vera, a Canadian girl with a heart of gold that I had shared a long deep conversation on the Ganges with. She had been quite ill for two days and no-one had checked in on her today. She eventually answered the door and said she was feeling better but had only been living off bananas for the past two days so I arranged to have some tea, honey and fruit be delivered to her room. Two good deeds done. Paying it forward!
Now onto the third. This one left me feeling pretty powerful.
I could see that Dee had some tendencies to hold onto control and had been sitting on some fear around letting go. We had been asked to do some partner stretching in our Hatha Yoga class, and this exercise brought it all up. She just did not want a bar of it. I had seen this in acroyoga before. It’s all about trust and communication, so I applied a few techniques, pushing her to examine that emotion that was stopping her from wanting to participate and that’s when she crumbled. Breakdown time. Having been around many of these moments before, I was so happy for her and stoked to have pushed it out of her, but on later reflection I doubted myself and thought she might not have been ready yet and I might be dealing with one pissed off roomie. When I saw her next I gave her a big hug and apologised, but she looked me straight in the eyes and said ‘no, THANK YOU.’ They were powerful words and reaffirmed that I’m on the right path.
Today happened to be the god Ganesh’s birthday and symbolises the removal of obstacles, so Dee went to the market and bought herself a little broke statue to commemorate the removal of her obstacle today. We find a little home for him on top of an electrical box in our room and I decorate it with my flowers from opening ceremony.
Rishikesh: Day 5.
This whole blogging every damn day is getting hard! I missed my first few days so had to do a lot of back tracking and catching up. It feels like I’m always chasing my tail. But here we are, the evening of the 5th day and I’m writing about the 5th day. Sweet as!
It honestly feels as though I’m living a lifetime every day here. My typical day consists of waking up around 5am for my own meditation, tea at 6:45, Hatha Yoga at 7, followed by Pranayama then breakfast. After breakfast we have anatomy, an hour of self guided study then lunch and an hour of rest. The afternoon consists of Yoga Philosophy, Astanga Yoga and Meditation followed by dinner. By the time this is done its 9pm, so I grab myself a tea and get to blogging or head out for a walk. In the case of last night, I unexpectedly ended up on a wild ATM chase on the back of a scooter, dodging cows in the pouring rain wearing white pants with no underwear. Classy. The worst part was, none of the 4 ATMs we visited actually worked, so I am officially out of cash. Lucky they believe in the whole ‘pay it forward’ thing here, so I just owe every man and his dog in town money.
We had a new Philosophy and Pranayama teacher today and he is absolutely brilliant! Vishnu had to leave for business for a large part of our course, which is quite disrupting to the energy balance here, but I think it’s a blessing in disguise. I’ve actually learnt more in one day from this teacher than the past few collectively with Vishnu. I guess everything happens for a reason.
Meditation was a delightful revisit of OSHO, which I spent a lot of time practicing in Nicaragua. Our meditation teacher advised to learn so we can teach to others, but only practice one religiously – whichever one gets you there. That’s all that matters. So far, OSHO takes the cake. Physical movement is so important for me to connect to prana, I guess that’s why circus has been so big for me too.
I’m starting to love the routine and can’t wait for it to start all over again tomorrow.
Rishikesh: day 6.
Today was a hard day.
I skipped meditation this morning, opting for the extra hour sleep in before heading for tea and Hatha class. After Hatha we had Pranayama. We used a cleansing technique that directly worked on clearing the front cortex of the brain, the area of my accident. As it started to unblock the energy stored there, it bring tears and snot and all of those delicious things. Our guru picked out 4 people from the class who essentially couldn’t breathe properly and had us diagnose them. Once it clicked and they had the breathing thing down pat, they could return to their seat. In the end, Nelly, a girl from South Africa was left. She was laying in front of the guru on the floor trying all she could to breath into his hand on her stomach, but she couldn’t do it. This went on for what felt like hours. It was torture to watch this human unable to breathe in front of us and not be able to do anything. As the room cleared out at the end of class, I took a moment to process the last hour and massage out my tension – the nerves in my face still very raw. One of the young hotel staff walked in and was shocked to see me upset and I did what I could to convince him I’m fine, but ended up telling him all about my accident.
Only 10 minutes later, almost like it was symbolic, out of nowhere a beautiful brightly coloured baby bird falls out of the sky. It was alive but in shock, trying all it could to breath. Mouth wide. Panting. It had flown straight into a window. I jumped right in and found it a nice little dark pot to rest in and some water. Poor baby bird hit its head really hard! I left it with the hotel staff to keep it safe from the cat that roams around the hotel and head to anatomy. By this stage my headache and general fogginess is atrocious. I want coffee. So bad. I sit through anatomy class almost as if I am floating above my body which is falling asleep. Our teacher Kelly looks at me: “you’re worried about the bird, aren’t you?” Where on earth am I?! I can’t seem to wake up in my body, so I take 10 minutes after class to stand on my head hoping some oxygen will do the trick.
Soon after, I headed downstairs to do yet another ATM run. Every day I have been trying to no avail. The young man I had been speaking with upstairs was on the desk and feeling sorry for me, made it his personal mission to help me get my money out. On the back of the bike I jump. Déjà vu.
As we wind down the streets doing the standard cow dodging act, he tells me all about his own head injury and how long it took him to recover. He then gets me to the ATM, and hallelujah, it works! I have cash and can start paying back my debts all over town. As he tells me that whatever I need, just see him and he will sort everything out, don’t worry. I start leaking tears out all over the back of him. Wow, the people here are something else.
Aaaand I’m a mess.
I get back to the hotel and am exhausted and crash out for 20. I wake up and feel no better. The dark side decides to go all out and skip class this afternoon. I then immediately talk myself back into it. Dee hurts through the door and changes my mind in a second. She isn’t going to Astanga and she tells me just to listen to myself. Great advice. Instead, I’m going to take a shower and head out for a wander in Rishikesh. I haven’t had a chance to mosey about the street yet and I just need to get outside of my foggy head.
I head out for a wander and poke around the markets. I’ve been noticing a pull towards moonstone, and we have been talking about Moon energy a lot in class. My energy is out of whack since being here and moonstone is supposed to be a good balancer, so I find a handmade brass bracelet with two moonstone pieces embedded in it for a whopping $2 and decide to catch up with my Acro friend Mav. We spend a leisurely afternoon by the Ganges, feeling like I’ve known this soul forever. I’m so thankful for someone who gets my weirded out mood, and that we have comfort in silence.
Eventually I head back to the academy for dinner and stumble into a full blown Indian birthday party with Bollywood music, cake smashed all over faces and the most joyous dancing you could imagine. Not the end to meditation class you would expect!
My mood is still low, but I’m feeling more balanced and grateful for the afternoon off. The sensation around the injury in my head is still there but I do feel a bit clearer after the release and secretly hope for more of these moments, because its the only way to clear the stagnant energy.
Tomorrow is a new day. A new chapter.
Rishikesh: day 7.
Today, everything changed.
4am I wake up to an army of ants in my bed, marching in single file. Determined to get to an unknown destination near the proximity of my head. Strange.
I’m wide awake so I head to 5Rhythms and have an insane dance session. I am loading the music from Youtube and the connection is so slow, I end up dancing the first segment of the meditation three times. I wake up from an enlightening Shavasasna and head downstairs to shower. I realise my backside is covered in cake and its smeared onto my back. The birthday face-cake-smashining aftermath from yesterday. Great. Since Vishnu left, they just don’t seem to have been cleaning the place quite as well so they should be.
I get myself clean – shower, coconut oil pulling, clean teeth, scrape tongue then head out for some netti pot action to clear my sinuses. I’m standing there with water streaming out my nose wondering if the gunk we’re flushing out is good or toxic for the plants I seem to be showering with boogers and salt. hmmmmm.
I down myself a ginger, lemon and honey tea and shoot a message to a friend back in Australia who had been asking whether the asana practice had been challenging. My response was something along the lines of – “No, not at all. We haven’t really moved past salut to the sun, but I guess getting all of the correct alignments and how to adjust people has been useful.” Well, I think that friend may have just manifested something wonderful as the whole class ended up as a deep Hatha flow and got into all of those deep, juicy parts and I found myself folded like a pretzel and hovering above the floor. The focus and sensation in the body is the ultimate connection and I feel so lucky to be alive. Then, my second Shavasana for the day. I’m actually glowing after this one, bouncing around with new light in my step and it isn’t even 9am yet. This is what I came here for!
I notice the whiteboard filled with notes from yesterday’s philosophy class that I missed, so I took a quick snap on my camera for later reference, laughing to myself at the one word standing alone in lower case amongst a sea of capital letters that spell out organs. I don’t know whether it was conscious, or subconscious coming from the celibate guru’s hand, but it was definitely noticeable. See attached what board image to see what I’m talking about.
Pranayama. Holy Sh*t. What can I say. Our guru took us through the same breathing sequence as yesterday. Again, and again. We sat, we Ommmed (which ironically is MOO backwards. The abundance of cows think we have it all wrong for sure! Walking on two legs, Mooing backwards. What up, people?) We then lay down for what was my third intense Shavasana of the day and guru did something unworldly to the energy field around each person. Once we came to again, everybody looked different. They were literally radiating. Their colour had changed. I could see space in their bodies, they stood taller and the collective atmosphere had shifted. Anyone would think we are on drugs. I’d had a number of these experiences before and felt it quite humbling to be back there, but it was so powerful to see the transformation before me of those who had experienced it for the very first time. Literally a metamorphosis happening before my eyes. Now we just need to grow some wings and fly out the window.
We all floated downstairs for breakfast feeling positively buzzed. The conversations of the group have fundamentally changed, and small talk is very difficult to stomach. Thank god, whatever that is. I take a moment to think about the food and the journey it has taken before it reaches my plate. Vero, an old soul trapped in a 21 year old Canadian body and I recline as everyone leaves the table and start talking about the cosmos underneath the table. We’re in some kind of time vortex and don’t realise until Dee comes and drags us to Anatomy class. This is where we learn to walk. Man, walking is HARD! So many imbalances in our body come from the feet, our connection to the Earth. We just haven’t figured out the basics yet.
Thursday afternoon we have off for study and reflection for everything we’ve been jamming into our minds. I decide to go for a walk. I want to have a mala made with sandalwood and moonstone, so draw out a design and get walking to see who can do such a thing. I pat the head of a cow that has taken a liking to me on the way. They are so peaceful and there is something so calming about the symbiosis.
I walk past many stores owned by Nepalese. Most of them come here for 3 months of the year. My market friend who sold me a bracelet the day before jumped out and asked if I’ve still been looking at moonstone by any chance. His brother just so happened to have a beautiful mala of a high quality stone with lots of sheen. I fall in love with the stone, but I have my little design with me and decide to keep walking and DISCO! I find a store packed to the rafters with crystals and mala (yes, I am a full blown hippy) and start wandering about looking for someone to help me with my design. The store is disjointed, the staff don’t acknowledge my existence and there seems to be a jackhammer of sorts out the back. For the first time, I can’t fathom buying from this store with its negative energy – especially stone or mala, so I make a quick exit and continue down the road.
Across the street is exactly what I’m looking for! A small, quiet store for custom mala design. Perfecto. I take my shoes off and step in the door, and of course who is taking up the three seats inside – three friends from the academy. Typical! We start designing but they just don’t have the stone I’m after. Everything else is perfect, but something draws me back to my friend down the road. This whole process leaves me feeling ridiculously indecisive and frustrated. Repeat behaviour pattern right there. I guess its a lesson to learn about the heart and the head.
So I step out, and typically there are another four people from the academy. Seriously?! We have some kind of gravitational pull right now. We decide to take dinner at the German bakery for something different as the flavours of breakfast, lunch and dinner all seem to be the same. I grab myself a plate of fresh hommus, olives, roasted eggplant, grilled tofu, wilted spinach and potato. De-fing-licious.
I also clear my outstanding karma bill for the peanut cookie they gave me earlier that day.
Rishikesh: day 8.
I don’t have scoliosis. Hallelujah!
This morning I wake at 3:20. A little too early for my liking, so after a lot of tossing and turning I force myself back to sleep and manage to have a sleep in until 6. I head out for some plant watering via my nostrils and am treated to a black tea. A nice little dose of caffeine to get the fire burning for this former coffee addict.
Our haha class is again fantastic. I was introduced to a new spinal twist that accessed underneath the shoulder blade that has been causing me intense pain for a few years now. No physiotherapist has been able to help me so far. This reaffirms my love for yoga and its power to liberate us to heal ourselves. I can breathe into the tension and it starts to melt away. Next up, Pranayama with the guru. We start our session similarly to yesterdays, only today we stay seated and have a slightly different focus. As I gaze into my third eye I can see a cave with a light and then am washed out with intense indigo light that is pulsating. Its so beautiful and the energy feels so pure so I just chill out here for awhile until guru brings us back. As we rub our hands, creating energy, I see two big blue balls of light shining through my eyelids when I bring the palms of my hands to my face. Divine.
We’re all burning through food at the moment with all of the asana practice and are delighted to find omelettes on offer at breakfast. We wash it down with some sweet milky masala chai and appreciate the extra protein.
Next up, Anatomy. We’re talking about the spine and scoliosis. Nelly volunteers herself to the class as she has multiple scoliosis. Kelly strips her down and starts drawing on her spine and talking about the tightness to one side that is the root cause of scoliosis. My hypochondria sets in. The tightness and intense pain I’ve experienced down my right side for years must surely be pulling on my spine! Sh*t! When Nelly sits down, I immediately jump up in front of class and asked to be assessed. Kelly asks the class to check me and I can hear Dee saying I’m way off centre. Heart racing, this is not good. They check my shoulders and hips and look at the muscle. They can see imbalance, but Kelly confirms that there is no curvature of the spine. THANK GOD. I’m very conscious about working out the imbalance though. I think its a combination of the repetitive injuries to my left ankle and the overcompensation with my right side, as well as overuse during aerial training. Of course I am thinking about the classes we teach at Momentom and have started documenting all of the exercises that will balance out the imbalances that our art creates.
During philosophy we learn about the masculine and feminine sides of the body and their relationship with the sun and the moon, and the importance of their union in Hatha Yoga philosophy. I have so much gratitude for our teacher for the way he offers everything he has lived and breathed his entire life to our eager faces. All this talk of sun and moon gives me the urge to run to get my moonstone mala in my 10 minute break so I can wear it to meditation. Making good time after being the only person in Rishikesh running, I find my moonstone and as they try to put it in a bag for me, I suggest I will wear it out of the store. They all stop and stare at me.
“Aren’t you going to cleanse it?” Ahhhh yes I was going to skip this step, but I offer
“You mean in the Ganges, right?”. A man in the corner chimes in,
“Well yes, but this is moonstone, so you should really wait until Monday. But first, you need to soak it overnight in milk.”
“Milk. Seriously?” My fries chimes in;
“He is an astrologist. You should really listen to him. Stones correlate to days in the week. First you need to remove negative energy and then you need to charge it.”
Okay, so I run back to meditation class with my negatively charged moonstone that I’m not allowed to touch and join in a circle of OM. We then all lay down with our heads in the middle of the circle and break into an hour long laughter meditation. My cheeks and stomach muscles are aching from the uncontrollable bursts of laughter encouraged by my classmates giggles. It just goes to show how contagious laughter is. I remind myself to laugh more often. Joy spreads joy, suffering spreads suffering.
After meditation, I have an urge to scale the tree and set up my silks. The tree next to our kitchen is just perfect, so I set up and have a play. When I come down I hear some faint clapping and turn around. The building next door has a sea of tiny faces peering over the balcony at me. My heart melts and I give them a big wave.
Internet is still down so I join everyone for dinner and Vero serenades us with her Ukulele and all feels right in the world.
Rishikesh: day 9.
We start the day with hip and shoulder openings in Hatha which have me half crying half laughing.
I know that hips hold a lot of emotion, but I had no idea how much the shoulders hold onto! WOW! Shoulders are known for carrying stress and protect the heart. As it turns out, mine are completely locked. I guess that it has something to do with the aerial work and I really don’t spend enough time in my asana practice to open them. Ouch. I’m really not sure if I’m crying or laughing during shoulders. Luckily hips are slightly more bearable… for me. I hear sobbing and turn to my left. Anna has her head flat on the ground in pigeon and is pretty much drowning in her own tears. And we haven’t even made it to pranayama. Please let’s just skip to breakfast?!
After this intense session I’m so sleepy today I literally cannot keep my eyes open in Anatomy class. Kelly is talking about breathing vs respiration. Its interesting but I just can’t seem to wake up. Not enough oxygen? Apparently not the problem. As it turns out, I breathe like a champion. Must have been all those years of swimming and cycling as well as the good old yoga practice.
Philosophy is nearing and I really want to be in tune for this class. Should I grab a coffee? Of course not! mmmmm what to do? Consult a Guru.
I tell ours of my sleep ailment and without skipping a beat, he has me testing the flow of oxygen in my nostrils and then laying on my left side to activate my sun. The rest of the class quickly join in and 5 minutes later I feel like I’ve just taken a shot of espresso. I’m good to go! It really makes me wonder how on earth we became so detached from ancestral knowledge. So simple, so effective.
Many of the gestures used in yoga are starting to make sense.
Guru moves on to explain the 5 states of mind:
- Kshipta [ Disturbed ]
- Moods [ Stupefied ]
- Vikshipta [ Distracted / Destructive ]
- Ekagra [ Concentrated ]
- Nirvdha [ Absolutely Concentrated ]
The first three states of mind are the cause of disease, pain and suffering, and the latter being the desired states. I sure as hope I don’t fall in the category of stupefied. Ouch. So many of us are asleep in these repeat behaviour patterns, numbing ourselves with loops of distractions and destructive behaviours.
He also explains the 5 causes of pain:
- Avidhya [ Ignorance ]
- Asmita [ Ego]
- Raga [ Attachment ]
- Dwesha [ Hatred ]
- Abhinivesha [ Self preservation / fear of death ]
Attachment is loud and clear for me, and makes me think of an explanation from the other day that the enlightened see the light in the dark as much as they see the dark in the light. By being able to see the dark in the light, we avoid attachment and just accept things the way they are, without judgement. No being and no thing truly belongs to anyone and we should never desire people, things or situations to conform to our expectations of reality. We need to practice non attachment to let things ebb and flow, and gently steer our boat down the steam – merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily, life is but a dream.
I take myself to Soul Cafe for my break to work on some projects from Momentom. I grab a chai masala and put my headphones in, setting the energetic field to get sh*t done! Only problem is the internet is barely functional. Again. I battle on and get in a groove and end up missing the start of my Astanga class, so I grab another chai masala. And I’m BUZZING!!! Holy! Normally, I wouldn’t even notice having a couple of teas over a couple of hours, but I just can’t stop buzzing. This is insane! What was I doing to my body with that coffee addiction?! My acupuncturist friend, Britt, said I had an overworked adrenal gland and now I understand why. Wow. Just wow.
I make it just in time for meditation and we have a guest tutor from one of the ashrams who has dedicated his life from childhood to Hindi music. This guy was at our opening ceremony and all of the hotel staff have joined us, so we know its an honour to have him in the room. He asks us to sing with him, and of course his song of choice is Hare Krishna. All I can do is laugh. I am in India, after all.
Tomorrow we’re going to row the boat down the stream for reals. They have organised white (or in this case brown) water rafting for us. I duck out for a “late” tea with Mav seeing as he’s leaving for Deli tomorrow, and have to more or less break back into the academy as I missed curfew. I feel like a naughty teenager! Only its only 10pm and I’ve only been drinking tea!
Oh shoot, I just realised I had another tea. I will NEVER sleep tonight!!
Rishikesh: Day 10.
The word I would use to express the actions of three cups of tea yesterday afternoon is regret.
I did not manage to sleep a wink. I tried every trick I could think of – all of the Gurus wisdom on sleeping on one side over the other was out the window, counting sheep was fruitless, meditation was ineffective. Mind is racing. All I could do was massage the knot that was in my stomach. Honestly this thing feels hard as a rock and is bulging. What on earth is going on down there, tummy? Its so sore!
Eventually I catch a slither of daybreak and jump out of bed to wander the streets. I still haven’t crossed the bridge over the Ganges and half of Rishikesh is on the other side. The streets are so quiet at this hour and I remember why I love daybreak so much. When I finally arrive at the bridge I witness a man walking towards a trash can with a big pile of rubbish. He stops about 1 meter short of it and drops everything on the ground. He turns and walks away. A sacred cow walks up and starts eating plastic from the trash in front of the bin. India – WHY?! I turn and follow a couple of working horses onto the narrow tensile bridge and stop to take a photo of the people washing in the Ganges below. Suddenly a monkey comes running along the bridge ropes, so I stop to snap him too and the damn thing lunges at me bearing his teeth! All I could think of was my friend who contracted rabies from a monkey in Bali, which left me screaming and jumping backward, much to the amusement of everyone else on the bridge. I scurried along and ended up being lured into a jewellery store by a man rubbing his crystals together to create sparks. Pretty cool until he starts asking me to pay for his mothers hospital bill and she is going to die and he has tears rolling down his face. I apologise, I’m on a morning stroll after all and really don’t have the money laying around for your mothers bill. That knot in my stomach does not feel any better. I feel like a terrible human being and head home to wash it all away.
Breakfast is still hours away and there is no chance of sleep, so I end up chatting to Dee and am so grateful for sharing space with her during this month. We secretly think that we were put in a room together to balance each other out and the girl is in need of some grounding, so I give her a piece of smokey quartz that I obtained in Nicaragua from an unnamed circus artist who stayed with us, and decide that its a good time to give Chanel some rose quartz after a conversation we had last night. Vero walks in the room, so while I’m at it I give her some Lapis Lazuli. She’s so grateful because its her favourite stone. Amazing. The good vibes are making me feel slightly better about the woman who’s hospital fee I didn’t cover.
Breakfast and then onto rafting.
Half of the group backed to of rafting and somehow I’ve convinced most of them to change their mind and come. Some of this convincing was offering myself, the token Australian, to jump in and save them should anything happen. Taking one for the team.
We pile into the back of jeeps and head off. Not far down the road we stop.. strange. We heard the start was about an hour away. As we start to jump out, we’re told to get back in and then start to have ores jammed in the back with us. Oh, I see. Suddenly we have a raft being attached to our roof, we’re signing a waiver and a man jumps on top of the raft thats on top of the jeep thats on top of some really dodgy roads. Lucky we signed that waiver. Safety second!
So the actual drive is closer to half an hour and when we arrive everyone piles out, thankful to have made it in one piece. As we start gearing up, I notice Dee making a beeline for the Jeep. She jumps in and is set to head home. Not so fast, Dee! I drag her out of the car, taking her hand and jump in one of the rafts volunteering myself to paddle up front and we start the most magical trip down the Ganges. There has been a lot of rain so the water is running at a fun speed, and there is no danger of hitting rocks. We hit some great rapids and past spectacular waterfalls before jumping off the raft in all directions when the pace slowed. Guess who is first in the water and having the time of her life. Dee.
As we climb out of the river I can’t find my bag with shoes and top, so I have to do a walk of shame of sorts wearing a onesie with tights and no shoes on the cow patty highway. Dripping wet. We hand back our gear and have to walk home. I found my gear but there is no way I’m putting my feet in my shoes now, so I head home in said condition.
Dee has an appointment with an Ayurvedic doctor and I’m super interested in what he has to say so I join her. Next thing I know, I’m laying on his bed and he is reading my pulse. Something to do with my reproductive system and my digestion. That knot in my stomach, perhaps? Yes, apparently I have a problem with Pitta, so my stomach is very acid and has internal swelling that is pushing my intestines down and putting strain on my reproductive organs. All this from a pulse reading?
Next, he turns me over. I have compression in my lower back and need to stretch more. I also have tightness here and here – he points to two spots on my leg that cause agonising pain. The same areas I struggled with in my hip openers yesterday. This man is good! Next he looks at my spine and finds the source of that tension I thought was causing me scoliosis. Next – snap! Without warning he more or less jumped on my back and released all of my vertebra before explaining that my spine is very flexible but has too much air in it but I should feel much better now. Ummm thanks?
He recommends a diet of NO rice and NO spice. Does he realise we’re in India?!
No chilli, no garlic, no ginger. None of the things. But he does want me to eat Turmeric and lots of it. I think back to Sydney when I was taking Turmeric supplements. Easily the best I have ever felt, so I’ll give it a try. He also says that Dee and I need to talk to our guru about Shankparchalan Kriya for some kind of cleanse. Right on.
I end my day sitting here in Nirvana cafe sipping on my Ayurvedic turmeric and milk concoction and anticipating a night of slumber after my caffeine induced insomnia last night.
Rishikesh: day 11.
They say that Turmeric opens your Pineal Glad which is linked with the Third Eye. I can’t remember the last time I dreamt, but last night I dreamt all of the things. My Ayurvedic concoction is a keeper.
I let the kitchen staff know about my diet changes this morning. They give me a Tulsi tea instead of ginger and i douse it in honey for energy in our asana practice. They let me know they will prepare something different for my meals. I’m grateful they are so accommodating.
Our Hatha teacher is n/a today and we have a replacement. Aside from the fact I can’t hear a word he says, I enjoy his different style of sequencing. I love feeling the energy from different teachers and I feel that flow is an art form. Its so expressive. I definitely could have gone deeper into this flow, but the class we’re pretty sleepy this morning so many of them were taking time out to rest and the teacher had to adjust to accommodate.
Pranayama was again, very cleansing. At the end of class I approach the guru to ask him about a cleansing practice the Ayurvedic doctor recommended. He asks me to sit and I can see he is sensing my energy as he closes his eyes and ‘mmmmm’ s. He opens his eyes, looking at my scar on my left ankle from my motorbike accident in Nicaragua. “how old is that?” I start explaining that, and the other bike accident, my bicycle incident, the barbed wire on the volcano scar, amongst others. “All on your left side. Your moon is out of balance. You’re always keeping up with the boys aren’t you? You need to balance your feminine energy. Once you do, you will stop having accidents.” So interesting. Next he moves onto my question, which is an extremely long word written in my notebook that I cannot pronounce. “You want this? Hmmm!” I explain that it was the doctors order and he advises he will do it. It will take 3-4 hours and he will prepare the food that is required. I have no idea what I’ve gotten myself in for. He would like to do it in a week or two and will invite the rest of the class to join if they are interested.
He then tells me I should avoid honey. Damn.
I head down to breakfast and Raj greets me with a huge smile and a pot of food especially for me. He remembered – excellent!! I sit down and open the lid….rice. I forgot to tell him I can’t eat rice, damnit! Lucky for me there is fresh fruit and oatmeal, so I eat that instead and offer my turmeric rice around the table. Embarrassed, I let him know and pray for him to remember at lunch.
I After my talk with the guru I decide its time to charge that damn moonstone and start channelling some feminine energy. I have an hour break so I run down to the Ganges outside Mav’s place. I remember there is a platform that extends out into the Ganges and is below a beautiful tree. I set an intention around letting go of old and channelling of new energies. Once I’m done I run back and am just in time for Philosophy and Yoga Therapy. These classes are unreal. This is our first Yoga Therapy class and we learn about Acupressure. I think I’m going to love this class!
Lunch. I’m handed a pot of plain beans and fresh chapatti. Thank you Raj!
I spend my break at Soul Cafe trying to get through some more emails. I’m helping to organise a bus tour from Nevada to Nicaragua filled with circus artists with Momentom Collective, so the work is more fun than a chore. Apart from the limited internet, which is the bane of my existence at the moment. While I’m at the cafe, Dee messages me. There is a MONKEY inside our room. Woah! As usual, I’m running late anyway so I run back to make sure she is okay and to get to Astanga.
I learn that there were two monkeys in the Astanga room before I arrived there too. So weird.
Fortunately the humans won and all three monkeys retreated, but I get the feeling this is just the beginning of the monkey battle.
I topped the day off with an out of this world meditation. I’m going to thank the moonstone for that one. Time to reflect and get myself some turmeric love.
Rishikesh: day 12.
Again, I’ve accidentally missed Astanga. I’m sitting with Vero in a tiny nook at the base of a 13 story temple. The walls are decorated with what could only be described as spiritual propaganda. A man on the street points to the chart on the wall and tells me I’m a Scorpio and I have a big sting. Ouch. I’m actually a really nice person, I hope you know.
Knowing very well that we don’t actually want the future read from the lines in our palms, we are gaining a memorable experience with this kind man with turmeric coloured powder on his face. As he squints through his glasses he tells me of the good health I’ve had, am having and will have for my life spanning 78 years (strangely the same age my Shamanic experience revealed). He tells me I’ve been thinking too much but I will let go in 2017 and good fortune will come. I practice yoga and meditation (well, I’m in Rishikesh, the Yoga capital of the world after all?!). My last boyfriend was very bad for me, but my current boyfriend is very good for me (excuse me?). I will have 2 children (maybe I will eventually adopt monkeys in the jungle) and I am from Mars so I should wear red coral on my right ring finger -the one I broke in Barcelona. Red, fire. Get out of my life. Where is my moonstone?
Next up Vero. Lucky for her, she will live until she is 80. Thats a good 2 + 8 = one decade after me. The things you could do in a decade! She also had a bad ex boyfriend and her current boyfriend is good. She also will have 2 children. She also thinks too much, but she will have to wait until 2018 for her good fortune. We both travel well. Again, we’re in Rishikesh, buddy.
Not so much enlightening as it was an enlightening experience.
It’s not all bad that I missed Astanga. I had a great session at Hatha this morning and finally nailed my headstand to scorpion transition. Not only that, but I nailed my Warrior A pose. Man, that thing is harder than it looks! I was picked out to be picked on by the teacher. With my injury on my left ankle, I’m struggling to keep the outer edge of my foot down which is throwing my hips off, which is throwing my right knee out, which is rotating my right foot outward. This reminds me of the problem I have walking. I’ve started bringing so much consciousness to the way my foot makes a connection with the ground and the alignment of my knees and ankles that I’m tired. Breakfast please?? Raj stopped preparing special meals for me, and just made sure there is some sides I can eat, so I eat some fruit and sprouted mung beans.
I don’t know if it was the beans, but I can hardly keep my eyes open in philosophy. We revise the five Yamas and Niyamas and he goes on and on about Brahmacharya, which he describes as celibacy. I feel he is focusing far too much on this one, almost like he can sense that someone has broken their celibacy. Well unfortunately there will be no more yogis to come to school if everyone is strictly celibate, but we get your point. Don’t be wasteful with our energy, but lets keep up the human race.
Yoga Therapy is quickly becoming one of my favourite classes. We basically learn how to manipulate the body to release stress. It reminds me of Thai Massage and I’d love to start practicing it, so expect some Yoga Therapy sessions if I end up in your part of the world!
On my way out of class, I spot some wet monkeys out the window. Cute! I go check them out and then realise they are jumping from the high fence and diving straight into a water fountain. My future children! This is way too much. I call Vero over and we stare at these little guys swimming and wrestling in the water, chasing each other back up the fence and diving in again. So playful. If this doesn’t bring a smile to your face, I don’t know what does. I much prefer them this way, than walking into our bedroom unannounced. Lunch… salad. Hm.
On my way out for our break, I again serendipitously find myself on the back of a motorbike. I have to go pay my fees, and the one credit facility in Rishikesh is finally available today, so away we go. Finally, my training is paid for. I’m out of debt. Big warm thank you to everyone who has sent me birthday money to help fund the training. It has been an enlightening and transformative experience so far and will stay with me for a lifetime. I really can’t think of a better present than my presence here and I feel so blessed for having the opportunity. I hope to keep spreading the love throughout this journey, and send so much love and gratitude to my family, longest and closest friends, circus tribe, and new friends. I want you to know you hold an eternal place in my heart.
My official birthday is not until November, so I’m keeping the Go Get Funding account open until December.
Rishikesh: day 13.
Life is a rollercoaster. When the darkness falls, I step outside and find this peaceful scene. A calf being protected by its mother in the middle of the street. They stand like this all night, until the light comes again. Watching, protecting, together, union. Light and dark, up and down. I’m thankful for my mother, the moon who always lights my path in the darkness, and supports my journey, no matter how obscure. I don’t tell her enough how special she is and she did a great job. You are perfect, and I love you.
This morning was fabulous. I woke up energised, got on with my cleansing, tea and had a great Hatha session followed by an enlightening Pranayama where I could feel pure white light radiating from me and my spine has never been so straight. I enjoyed the subtle energies around me like the sun hitting my skin, and the scent of fresh fruit at breakfast. Philosophy class was very engaging as we learnt more on Asana practice. I squeezed in a refreshing nap before Yoga Therapy. This was the twist. Unlike the stress relieving Thai Massage style Yoga Therapy, we instead used an emotional release technique. It reminded me of some OSHO methods I had used in Nicaragua, so the process was familiar and welcome, but nothing changes the intenselyly draining feeling of such a release. I’ve been working on my right hip and there are some really deep dark issues in that one, so my energy is all out of whack.
Its G’s last day and the crew are heading to a cafe together, but I need some alone time and to get onto some emails. Again, the internet is failing me. Zee, I sent you an essay of a birthday message but it was lost in the Rishikesh internet abyss and I don’t think you received it. In short, happy 30th baby x.
As I head up for Astanga, I notice Vishnu is in the room. He returned to Rishikesh today and it feels as though he has been around all of the classes reclaiming his territory. We’ve developed and come so far in the week of his absence that he seems like a stranger. There have been some mixed opinions about the Astanga Vinyasa Asana class, so he stays a while watching to check in with what’s happening before disappearing, like a snake. I love the flow of this class and my right hip has opened up so much since the Yoga Therapy session. Its unlocked some crazy energy and I find myself singing, laughing and flowing through the class and then cartwheeling straight into meditation class, where we all fall into a pile on the floor laughing as I’m contorting through the air space, Vero is holding a Reiki session on Dee and there are a bunch of people around the room in various meditations and asanas. This is our life inside the bubble of the Vinyasa Yoga Academy.
After the dark, the light will always come.
Rishikesh: day 14.
Homelessness comes with its challenges. I bunker down with a decadent chocolate ball and cup of chai to sort some things out.
I have spent a considerable amount of energy in Europe sorting out some laptop issues. I had to abandon the issue rather abruptly and now have a couple of hours up my sleeve to try to sort it out. I can’t find an email for Apple and am without a phone, so I try my luck replying email to a purchase order I made in Canada. It goes along the lines of:
I need help with an enquiry on a laptop I was attempting to trade in when I purchased the order attached to this email.
Mine is a bit of a special case. I’m currently in India, the laptop to return is in Switzerland and I purchased this one in Canada.
Originally I was quoted a trade in price in Geneva, which I was unable to have honoured in Zurich. I needed an English keyboard and didn’t have time to make a special order in Zurich, so I asked a friend to bring the laptop to Zurich from Canada, hoping to return the laptop to Geneva where I was originally quoted the trade in.
I since have moved onto some business in India and will not be returning to Switzerland any time soon. A friend in Zurich is in possession of the laptop for trade in. Can you please advise who I can speak to, which country and how I can arrange a trade in price?
I have no phone access in India, just email.
To which I receive a reply:
Thank you for your recent email. You have replied to an address that cannot accept incoming email.
Great. They tell me I can phone them at X Y and Z. It’s that impossible to email Apple. I’m trying to list the thing on Ebay so I can get something back for it, but they need me to confirm with a phone. The internet is so bad that I can’t contact home to ask them to confirm the listing. So far I have managed a listing on Craigslist. Not ideal.
Bahumbug. Maybe I should have taken the afternoon to see the Beatles Ashram instead. Ah well, I’m on a sugar high so all is well.
Vishnu had us start the day with a guided meditation at 6am. This is time for my own dynamic meditation, so I’m feeling a loss at missing my first thing vibe. For me, his meditation guidance was difficult to follow, more distracting than anything. I feel that his energy is mis-aligned to the collective group now that he has been away for so long. That said, he’s trying really hard to slide back into our lives. He offered to take us to his Guru’s ashram for evening meditation today, as well as give us a free Reiki attunement so we can practice first level Reiki. I’ve been seeking this out, so I’m stoked to have the attunement.
In the evening I climbed my tree again and put on a little show for the kids next door, their little faces peering over the fence. Its the best way for me to burn off energy. I miss the work in Nicaragua and look forward to getting back there.
Rishikesh: day 15.
Like an animal, I find myself howling at the full moon on a rooftop by the Ganges in India at the foothill of the Himalayas, a hot cup of cacao in hand. I am surrounded by a family of Spanish, South African, English, Canadian, American, Danish, Singaporean, Brazilian and Japanese Gods and Goddesses.
Vero just led us through a cacao ceremony. Drumming sweet beats on her handmade drum, singing with brass bowls and strumming her ukulele. We set intentions to mark the significance of the full moon. There are fireflies all around us and the moon is beating down on us. Magic is everywhere.
I spent my morning meditating by the Ganges, feeling the subtle sensations of the wind on my skin, the sound of the river flowing and feeling the vibration of the mountains all around me. My brain feasted on yogic knowledge of the systems of the energy body and the anatomical significance of Pranayama techniques.
I’m fuelled with fresh chapati, salad, curried vegetables and lemon tea.
I spend the afternoon in the tattoo studio watching Vero leave a permanent mark of a sun on Dee.
My mat in Astanga is drenched in sweat, toxins streaming out of my pores. I move through dynamic meditation, with my eyes closed. Breathing, jumping, dancing. My energy is on fire so I string my silks and dance some more before dinner of fresh homus and cucumber before preparing the music for our ecstatic dance.
Then we dance, the hours passing. I’ve never felt so present. This is union.
Rishikesh: day 16.
The ants go marching one by one. Hurrah. Hurrah. OUCH!
Coming down from my cacao high last night has left me so lethargic. After struggling through philosophy, I crash in my bed for a power nap. I’m not there one minute before I feel that my skin is crawling. I AM COVERED IN ANTS! And the little guys are biting!! Ouchie!
I grab my sheets and take them downstairs to wash and dread seeing the state of the replacements they give me. Dee has just tried making her bed with three different sets of oddly stained white sheets. We choose the least offensive and return the others. I see the hotel staff inspecting them, sizing up whether they really are dirty or not. We look at each other and give a knowing “everything is going to be just fine” OM.
Eh, what can you do?
I haven’t been able to eat much because of the no spice and no rice diet, so I head up the road to Pyramid Cafe and grab myself some Soy Chunks and Kombucha. Straight up protein and cultures. I can feel literally feel the Kombucha dancing in my throat.
Still low on energy, I take it easy in Astanga. The teacher can tell something is up and keeps giving me strange glances. I’m usually bouncing around my mat but today I’m moping around in pigeon pose stretching out that problematic right hip. In meditation all I can see is Turmeric yellow as we work through the Solar Plexus. Or maybe its the daily Ayurvedic concoction the doctor ordered.
I have an appointment tonight for a piercing. Its at Dude tattoo studio, where Vero has been stick and poking everyone in our class. Vincent has also come for a piercing. The piercer only comes in once a week. There is another girl there to pierce her Naval. We all cram into the tiny studio and wait. He’s running really late and I’m starting to lose patience. Finally he turns up, and Naval girl go first. The piercing man is overweight, dripping in jewellery and is coughing between drags of a cigarette. Hm. He’s partially missing a finger. Interesting. Naval girl is lying down and he has lined up the clamp on her stomach, needle in hand and the power cuts out. Just like that, we are thrown into darkness. Someone pulls out an iPhone and with the torch, they just carry on. The tiny studio is a sauna with no fans running and I feel sick in the space. I look at Vincent and he is all smiles. Well, he’s one happy camper, but I am OUT OF HERE. As Naval girl picks up her things, she walks up to me and whispers in my ear “make sure he wears gloves when he pierces you”.
EW. I’m so done.
Rishikesh: day 17.
Sunday loving. Loving Sunday.
My 5am body clock jolts me awake. Today, I decide to head left and end up at Ram Jhula. At this time of day, the streets are calm. When I say calm, this is of course comparatively. I take my camera out and film the trip across the bridge. Motorbikes, monkeys, cows selfie sticks, food carts are just some of the things I have to compete with on my journey.
The sun is glistening off the surface of the Ganges and monkeys are running amok, bouncing on the roofs of store holders as they start setting up for the day. Brightly coloured men and women are down in the river washing themselves in the holy water. Smiling faces are announcing Namaste and Hare Om. I am stopped by a few groups to be involved in their selfie stick activities. Grab the blonde monster and strike a pose! I walk past temples with the sounds of Hare Raya, and past the smells of fresh Chai being brewed in street carts, There is a young boy outside the Ashram chasing cows away with a stick. From what I can tell, he is armed with the task of with preserving the steps from cow dung for the ceremony coming at sunset.
As I start back for home Sanjay and Jen come skidding to a halt in front of me, embracing me with smiles and hugs. They are on an ATM run on the little hotel scooter, which has decided to call it quits in the middle of the road. I help Sanjay kick start it back to life and wish them on their merry way before I am stopped by a blue horned cow just begging for some love. I start scratching his neck and behind the ears which sends him into some form of bliss comatosis and he follows me starry eyed down the street and halfway home, stopping to give his love a new focus to a woman hand feeding him chapatti.
Its well before 9am breakfast, so I head down to my favourite spot the Ganges for some meditation and inversions before heading back to the hotel. There is a day trip planned to the Himalayas today, but I’m feeling quite grounded and want to ride that wave so I get onto some computer work before heading out for lunch with Vero. On our way, she points out a studio that does tattoos and piercing. After my bad experience last night, I think why not pop in and sus it out. The guy in the studio is interesting to say the least and just so happened to perform hypnotherapy on Vero last week. He seems to live in a different dimension. Somehow I instantly trust him and within 5 minutes find myself with a needle in my left nostril! Feeling V must be ravenous by now, I suggest Little Buddha for lunch and we climb the stairs to a little vortex oasis eating felafel and sipping on Limonada.
I had to stop mid conversation, jaw dropped, taking in a group of twenty something cookie cutter Lululemon type girls walk in with matching mala beads, buzzing about their teacher training course. The popularisation of Yogic Asana has a polarising affect in me, as I’m sure it does many others. I know I also fall into many categories in other people’s eyes. The yogic way is to not cast judgements. Overall, I settle on the fact that it has a positive affect of bringing mindful practices to a broader spectrum of places where the population have inherited an “asleep” life, one where we lost touch with ancestral and cultural knowledge. One of the most profound perspectives I came across was from the Tibetan Monks when they were saddened that they almost “lost compassion” when dealing with the invasion. For so long, they had kept the powers from their practices secret, living in retreat. The invasion forced them out of retreat, along with their practices. They said that they (invasion) thought they were destroying their culture, but instead they were spreading it. It parallels what happened with the Bauhaus and the wildfire of the Modernist movement.
So in short, I’m stoked to see so many fresh young faces on this path. I’m also secretly stoked that I am in such a unique and diverse group to do my training with.
After digesting that, next stop is Dude. After years of UM-ing and AH-ing about tattoos and the pursuit of the “perfect” moment, I jump on the fact that I am with a tattoo artist in a tattoo studio, celebrating the direct translation of my name T(ea) to Chai. We mark the occasion with the Sunscript version of the word on my finger. This way, every time I think about lifting a coffee to my ex-addicted mouth I will think Chai. I will think India. I will think Yoga. I will think V. And I will think serendipity. I will remember not to get weighed down in decisions and to practice non-attachment. I will remember to be visualant to synchronicity and plant seeds for manifestation.
Next up, I find myself on the back of a moto again. This time its Mav’s crazy ride and we’re on the same bridge I walked this morning. Same same, but different. Watching the whirlwind of another globetrotter reminds me how I can come across to the grounding pillars I have in my life and I take a moment to send them some love. I’ve got a tendency to neglect the people who matter most to me, forgetting that although they are in my thoughts, my stories and my moments every day, unless I express it to them, they never know. Not that this has anything to do with Mav or his actions, but pondering lifestyle choices took my mind here.
Love, light and all things bright to those pillars. I appreciate you more than you will ever know.
As I have a dejavu moment of walking back into Little Buddhas to meet Mav’s group he’s taking trekking in the Himalayas, they greet me with an air of familiarity. “You were meditating by the Ganges this morning, and then doing all kinds of things on your head.” Yes, we are all connected and the world has a way of coming in a full circle of itself. We never know what is around the corner or why, we just don’t know anything. All there is is the present moment and our ability to be present in it. Connection of the mind, body and soul. Union.
The pursuit of Union.
I’m over halfway through my training and we start teaching this week. I can’t believe how fast its moving and I just can’t wait to put all my knowledge into practice.
Thank you to everyone who contributed so far to my training. SO MUCH effing gratitude.
Rishikesh: day 18.
Today flies by. I start off warming up a Hatha Asana class and leading my group through Sun Salutations before activating our breath of fire in Pranayama, using ancient techniques that leave you sweating toxins from every pore, seeing the colours of all of your chakras and the ability to not think about needing to take a breath for an extended period of time. We scoff down breakfast and again, I struggle to keep my eyes open in Philosophy. We’re discussing Pratyhara, which is essentially withdrawal of the senses. Not in the sense of deprivation, but rather converting from extraversion to introversion. I find time for a quick nap before Kelly’s class, where she delves into Ayurvedic nutrition.
Itching to get some fresh air, we duck down to the Ganges for a dip. I meet a Saudi Arabian girl traveling alone. She seems scared to jump in the Ganges alone, so I invite her to swim with us. Its such a strange feeling to submerge yourself fully clothed, but the experience is entirely refreshing so I do my best to move past the weirdness. We end up in a jewellery store in the darkness of a blackout drinking Chai in our wet clothes. I buy myself a couple of dollar bronze rings before heading back to class. There are more blackouts. I try to contact a few people from home today but its impossible with the power outages. By the time I finish classes and get myself online, its too late in the evening.
Astanga class saw me break a glass full of ginger tea, and stack it on the wet marble stairs, giving my hip and elbow a really nasty bruise. Again, my left side. I head back to my room which is literally crawling with ants before I remember that I bought a box of sweets yesterday. I open it and sure enough, its swarming with the little guys. I go and see Raj in the kitchen and he takes them from me, suggesting he feeds them to the monkeys and the cows. I wonder if this is why we keep having monkeys visit our room.
Its a strange day and was over as fast as it started. I guess that’s Monday for you.
Rishikesh: day 19.
Tuesday. The day that wasn’t.
Come Wednesday, legitimately 50% of the class cannot remember Tuesday. I have even written double dates for the 20th in my journal. What I remember of Tuesday:
- 5 rhythms trance dance
- Teaching my first Hatha class
- Seeing rainbows in Pranayama and being grateful for a guru to teach everything he learnt as a child to a random bunch of misfits in a small town of India.
- Debating the merit of coming to India to be close to the source of Yoga and eliminate third party interpretation of scriptures, vs. maximising learning through a cohesive teaching methodology from my own world. Of course there are advantages and disadvantages of both and either path is merely a stepping stone. I desire to come back to India and live and breathe the teachings for a deeper understanding.
- Reading the applications for my next adventure, the Circus Bus. The calibre of talent on that trip will be out of this world. Our artists include people from Canada, USA, Chile, New Zealand and include yogis, dancers, jugglers, roller bolas, fire artists, aerialists, musicians, gymnasts, slack liners, tight ropers, trapeze artists and hula hoopers just to name a few. The tour starts in Reno, Nevada and travels through Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras and ends in Nicaragua. We will be stopping to teach workshops and perform at community centres, venues and transformational festivals before going on a performance tour in Nicaragua. Very excited about this one! http://momentomcollective.com
Rishikesh: day 20.
It takes 21 days to form a habit. I am almost there.
21 days of writing.
21 days of Kriya.
21 days of Pranayama.
21 days of Hatha.
21 days of Astanga.
21 days of Meditation.
21 days without coffee.
I have started teaching my own classes, my preference lending to Hatha flow incorporating my own flair using chanting, savasana techniques, music and tibetan singing bowls to set the energy. The intention for my class is total submission with a focus on breath, relaxation, strength and alignment and has a strong focus on hands on adjustments. This will of course develop organically over time.
I’m blessed to take my new practice on the road with the circus bus tour, training circus artists and delivering tailored classes for bringing spirit to body. I can see sunrises with meditation chants and singing bowls, dance meditations and Hatha flows. I also envision yoga therapy and reiki sessions on the road.
And what about that thing hanging from my nose?
Ah yes, that thing is supposed to shoot straight up the nasal cavity, bend down the throat and then your hand is supposed to catch the end and pull it through your mouth before rubbing it back ad forth like dental floss. Serious yogis will do this with force, so that the soft palette slowly reshapes, allowing room for the tongue to fold up on itself and taste the so called nectar located near your third eye. I cannot manage to get the thing past the back of my throat and I’m pretty sure I’ve bruised my tonsils. Geo on the other hand is on the path to nectar bliss. Try anything once, right?!
And that purple thing on my hip?
I may have mentioned this the other day in passing, but I STACKED it on the wet marble stairs the other day. Bright purple lines instantly appeared on my butt. That’s right, its a picture of my butt. Sharing too much? I haven’t even touched on my toilet shenanigans. Lets just say it involves one particular cafe seems to set me off and some fancy ayurvedic pills. I can go a week with no movement but here, I always end up dashing to the ladies which is also the gents, which is also located in the middle of the cafe, which also has no loo paper – just a hose located at the rear of the bowl. Yikes. I’ll stop the oversharing here.
Rishikesh: day 21.
Old habits die hard.
I made it. 21 Days. Manik, my new friend the jeweller, offered me coffee today while I was placing an order. The temptation passed straight through me. This feels good. I feel clean and energised. More focused. I am proud of beating my addiction, and proud that I will be ticking two items off my pre 30 bucket list this month. Jasmine, co-founder of Momentom, had asked me to identify my top 10 bucket list items a couple of months ago and I had no idea how I would go about achieving them. Yoga Teacher Training and kicking the coffee were both high on the list.
While searching for a tailor with the intention of having some yoga tights made, I found myself in a baron view with one of the best views in Rishikesh. Fabric adorned the walls and a small table sat in the corner of the room with a lone sewing machine. Not quite what I was looking for, but a memorable experience none the less, I instead found myself placing an order for some handmade bronze septum rings, rings, earrings and bracelets today to take with me on my travels. I’ve always dreamed of a reliable contact in India that will manifest the wild creations in my mind. Now, I have Manik. We sip chai and talk logistics in the dark as there is yet another power cut. I will send him some images and sketches of my designs as well as take on a number of his own, taking them en route and testing what is popular before placing a second order. Manik will mail my order anywhere in the world. These things are always easier than they seem.
Today’s Hatha class flowed beautifully. I had awoken at 5 for meditation and Kriya at 6:30 so was ready for Asana practice by 7am. I tried introducing music to this class, but there were two other classes going on around me, so I had to make do without. After Hatha, our Guru Pandey Ji [hathayogaguru.com], broke down the Pranayama sequence he has been teaching us for the past month. Pandey Ji came from a small village, Rashidabad Brahmnan, in the North of India and has been living and breathing a yogic lifestyle since childhood before furthering his lifestyle and teachings with academic study. The sequence he has been teaching us has been taught under oath to not be documented in any scriptures. This means that the methods he has been teaching us cannot be found in any book. We are blessed to be in his presence and his knowledge is unquestionably outstanding. Tomorrow he will swallow magnesium in front of us. Reflecting on the debate from yesterday confirms that this, we would not find in a Western style course. This is the beauty of studying at the source.
Kelly takes us through our last session of Anatomy. It has been interesting content, and Kelly is an unquestionably fantastic teacher, but I am across the majority of content from my prior studies in Fitness and Personal Training from a decade ago. Regardless, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed her teaching style and insights from a more textbook style approach. Our Yoga therapy classes are due to start up again. Three sessions in, our teacher became ill which put a halt to our classes. I was lapping Yoga Therapy up, so am keen as mustard to sink my teeth back into it.
Prioritising my jewellery order, I miss the double birthday shenanigans planned for the afternoon.
The academy have organised some form of ceremony followed by a kombucha party at the Pyramid Cafe. I bumped into Dee who had also skipped out on the Pyramid Cafe, only she had attended the prior ceremony. Apparently it was so painful she had to walk out mid-ceremony. While everyone was dolled up and energised to spend the afternoon off celebrating, they were forced into a silent lecture-style meditation/ceremony which involved flowers being thrown at the birthday girls. Sure, under other circumstances (and the sentiment in general) would be lovely, but the girls were really just craving a day off! Lets just say it’s been a long month so far, and I’m feeling fabulous for taking some time to myself this afternoon.
After placing my order, with the evening to myself, I decide to head out for Tibetan Momos – a dumpling stuffed with spinach and cheese and served with vegetable soup and to study my Asanas for tomorrows class. I wash everything down with a fresh Lemon Mint juice. Not one ounce of a coffee craving.
Rishikesh: day 22.
Yoga by the Ganges, lemon nana and Reiki attunement.
By the time breakfast has come, I have been up and moving for 5 hours. Silent meditation, dynamic meditation, asana practice, asana teaching, pranayama. With a blocked nose. Raj has cooked us what looks like an omelette but is instead a chickpea flour pancake of sorts. Its surprisingly delicious.
During philosophy we talk about the source a lot, and some form of Himalayan Ayahuasca.
We will be following this with the long awaited Yoga Therapy, but have just been told we have an hour break before class, so I head down to the cafe for a sneaky chai masala. I notice a man in the corner as soon as I walk in. No, not a potential lover type man, just one who’s presence and energy is piercingly intense. He obviously feels it too and sits near me after I order. Okay Universe, what are you telling me here? I find something to talk about. He’s holding a book on Osho. “Oh, so you’re learning about Osho?” He laughs. “Learning? I’ve only been practicing for 17 years.” Okay, yes we’re in India. So naturally we start talking about meditation and yoga. He is a Hatha Vinyasa teacher from the South of India and has come to Rishikesh for a holiday after hiking the Himalayas. He wants to know what I’m doing here. He says that there are some world renown Yoga Teacher Trainings in Thailand. I explain that’s where I’ve just been. He then says that actually some of the best programs are in Australia.. so I explain that’s where I’m from. I then start to tell him about the dialogue this week regarding coming to the source vs. taking a Western style course. He explains to me that almost all of the yogi masters who are worth learning from are out across the globe spreading seeds, and the ones that are left are essentially the left overs. Great. The whole thing reminds me of people who travel to Peru to have an “authentic” ayahuasca experience but often fall into the tourist trap. The reality is there are Shamans across the globe who will host a better experience than most of the faux Shamans in the Amazon, just as there are Yogis across the globe that will offer a far superior training than those in the Himalayas.
Everything works out just the way it should. You can gently steer your ship, but don’t try to send it up stream.
So what message did the South Indian Yogi appear to send me? “Satyananda Yoga Mangrove” are the words he punched into my laptop. The words he said at the same time were along the lines of one of the best Yoga practices in the world. So where is this world renown Ashram? Mangrove Mountain, 20 minutes from where I grew up of course. Naturally. Even more bizarre is a friend mentioned it to me just a could of days ago as they returned from a retreat there.
And as fast as he came, he left. Like a cat. Or maybe a snake. Never to be seen again.
Onto Yoga Therapy and I learn how to read imbalances in Ayurvedic Dosha composition by looking into my peers eyeballs. Apparently I have way too much Pitta which is causing e to be overly physically active, causing irritations on my skin and all kinds of digestive problems. Sounds about spot on. He then delvers the same news as the Ayurvedic doctor down the street. No spice. This time he also says no milk and no sugar. Unless of course it is taken at night with turmeric, in which case I can eat spice and milk. I don’t really understand this logic and am pretty down that my only vice since kicking coffee is out the window. Chai Masala is all of the things that are bad for me.
V and I have come down with some form of head cold and have been struggling through the day so we decide to go swim in the Ganges after lunch to cool down and freshen up. On the way down the stairs, a second snake appears. This one is in the physical form of a snake and it slithers across my path. Ciao little guy.
We bump into Geo down by the river and all chill out doing our own thing. Geo having a moment to himself, V swimming and me upside down on a platform jutting out into the river. Bliss. A small child appears with impeccable English. He is trying to sell me flowers. I ask about why he isn’t at school and where his parents are. School is finished (its only 2pm?) and there is some form of disability with his father. I feel bad telling him I don’t want his flowers because I can find flowers anywhere and tell him to start thinking up something unique that he can give me that no-one else can. Vero suggests he starts making some art. I ask him about the crystal he has in his box and explain why a lot of the tourists like them and like to spend money on them. I explain to him how to cleanse it in the Ganges. Eventually he decides to move on and I hope that we’ve planted the right seeds rather than giving him a quick and easy 50 cents.
We head up to Little Buddha for a quick Lemon Nada – lemon and mint juice before heading back to class. Little Buddha is bustling with yoga teachers, travellers and sleeping dogs. We sit by the window overlooking the river and can do nothing but laugh at the deep electronic music completing the scene.
We end the day with a surprise Reiki attunement. I now have the light. Right on.
Rishikesh: day 23.
Sickness kicks in and I’m not as shiny as I thought I would be after a month at the source. In fact, I feel terrible. Bloated, sniffly, and my skin has broken out from my Vata imbalance. No spice in India is way to difficult.
Sneakily, I take the day off. I hang out in bed for the first time. I’m usually up before 6 but today I make it to 7 and feel guilty. I trudge up the stairs to sit in on Hatha even though I cannot move, but our teacher hasn’t turned up, so I turn around and head back to bed. There is no point in going to Pranayama seeing as though I cannot breathe, so I grab a chai at Soul and work on a couple of things. I have some Malware affecting my browsers and I can’t seem to get rid of it. I hope it’s not capturing my sensitive data. I can’t really get around without booking flights and so forth on my laptop, so I can only hope I’m in the clear.
I head out for a walk to take some money out for my jewellery order. Of course the ATM doesn’t work and I end up making a bunch of friends on the street. One reminds me of the bear from the Jungle book and is trying to sell me a handmade mangowood drum for $10. I am actually very keen to buy it but seeing as the ATM doesn’t work, I’m all out of cash. He insists I take it anyway and pay him another time, but I’m sure I’ll never see him again so I decline his offer. I also meet a yoga teacher from Goa who is here to train at the Ram Julha ashram. The place sounds amazing and I hope I can find some time to train there in the next couple of days.
My wandering finds me placing another jewellery order, this time for Mala beads. They are handmade with sandalwood and different stones like moonstone, turquoise, jade, quartz, tiger eye, etc and I will have them finished with my brass charms that I’m having made. Eventually I want to start making these myself, but I remember to take things one step at a time and not bite off more than I can chew!
Eventually I end up back at Moonlight Cafe and stumble into a Hang drum jam. This is one of my favourite instruments, so I’m in for a treat. We decide to head down to the Ganges to end the day. The sun is setting, Hang drum is playing, Goa Yogi is there swimming, Eddie and Hary Om turn up and we start an acroyoga jam. So present in this moment. A sick day turned to bliss and an afternoon I’ll never forget. I’m so lucky to be alive.
Rishikesh: day 24.
The last Sunday Funday in Rishikesh.
Not quite the Sudnay Funday as we know it in San Juan del Sur. Today I took time to rest and get better from my cold. The day included planning Hatha class over tea at Moonlight cafe, sitting in on tattooing at Eddie’s studio, beetroot juice with a local friend at Freedom cafe, more class planning at Nirvana cafe, a long awaited Skype to Australia, a trip to Ram Julha, night time motorbike rides, felafel at Little Buhhas and seeing my first jewellery samples.
Feeling nostalgic of my time here, I threw together a few clips that have summed it up so far. Simple, bliss.
Rishikesh, India from Therese Lowton on Vimeo.
I am in the last days now. We have a few days of examinations, and then I leave India. It is sad to see this experience coming to an end, but I also know that it is just the start.
Gratitude to everyone who has helped me on my journey. Family, friends, tutors, yoga teachers, guardian angels, strangers. You all played an integral role in creating this present moment. Without your existence, I am not here.
Rishikesh: day 25.
Old friends, old habits.
One year ago, I arrived in Nicaragua after spending over a week in Nevada dessert dancing with strangers in the Playa Dust at Burning Man festival. I knew nothing about the country and was struck by a moment of what the hell just happened to me and I’m so far from home! I was still recovering from my accident and knew nothing about the country. My senses were peaking and I noticed every tiny ounce of energy around me. On my first day walking down the street, I literally bumped into two friends from home, Nancy and Ben. Guarding f-ing angels. Needless to say, we got busy catching up on lost time and a week passed by in a blur.
When I finally acknowledged it was time to move on to my volunteer / ashram / eco-community project I started the long trek to my volcano home across land and water to Isla Ometepe. I was carrying a large backpack with contents suitable for potential volcano hiking, backpacking, city living, hot and cold conditions as well as the remnants of Burning Man. Having far too many contents, I also had a satchel and was juggling all of this with a bicycle that I thought would be awesome to ride around the volcanic island on. The most valuable item in this mix, which was reminiscent of a turtle on wheels, was a hand drawn map with instructions on how to walk to my target via back paddocks stretching across a volcano. The last few weeks had taken their toll on me and I was on the brink of giving up. Out of nowhere, anything guardian angel appeared in front of me. An Aussie guy from Melbourne. He left his girlfriend up in the states to come to Nicaragua for a visa run and we shared the trek to the island together. He took one look at me, my bags, my bike and then made it his personal mission to get me to Inanitah. Together we trekked across the side of the volcano laden in bags and doing our best to decipher the map.
Not knowing what to expect on the arrival to this far off land, as we walked through the gate I was greeted by Michael. A 29 year old guy from Sydney. You’ve got to be kidding me, the world IS a small place.
And the Melbourne guy? Just proved himself even more of a guide by catching the gigantic pig who had just broken free with his bare hands, explaining that he grew up on a pig farm. And just like that, he disappeared. Gratitude to whoever sent that gem my way!
Fast forward one year. I am in my final days of my Yoga Teacher Training in Rishikesh, India and who turns up on my doorstep – Michael, now 30 years young. It’s so nice to feel a familiar and knowing smile and embrace. So much has changed in that year and both of us have come to new strengths. I’m seeing things come back to a full circle.
We celebrate by heading out to an open jam session and drink Chai served in coffee cups. Hard-f*ing-core.
Rishikesh: day 26.
Last day of training. Examination day.
Today is our last day. Vero and I are teaching Hatha class together. V starts us off gently with some beautiful words on intention and closing our month together, and I take us through some more challenging floor sequences before dropping the class into a deep Savasana and massage session.
Session two. Pranayama examination. The term examination is a loose description. Its more of an informal discussion and demonstration session with the class.
Session three. Asana examination. We enter the Bamboo Hall and the room is set up with a matt and blocks at the front of the room for our demonstration which includes introduction to the posture name in English and Sanskrit, a demonstration of the posture, an explanation for what its good for, its strengths, who should avoid it, the therapeutic benefits and so forth. Easy peasy.
Session four. Our last exam is written and covers philosophy, meditation, asana, pranayama, yoga therapy, nutrition, ayurveda and anatomy teachings. We were all placed in the bamboo hall together and the teacher conveniently disappeared for the majority of the test. They pretty much set us up not to fail this one but I’m surprised at how much I have learnt this month and how much I am able to recall.
Session five. Dance. Michael is in town and that means a line up of unreal world electronic music. His friend Roy is here too with a Hang drum, so of course we take advantage of the situation and come together for another cacao ceremony. I sneak the guys up to the bamboo hall and grab the speaker from downstairs. Sanjay catches us and makes me promise to look after the hall.. and no fire! His first thought is fire. I’m guessing this school has seen some crazy rituals over the years! This time, the whole crew join in and we have a beautiful moment sharing our experiences (around a group of lit ghee fires..oops) of the last month and setting intentions for moving forward and taking our practice into our lives back home (or back on the road for some!). The energy of our group is unbelievable and we dance the hours away until we can dance no more. Finally Roy takes over Michaels beats and calms us down in Savasana and eventually serenades us with a beautiful Hang sound healing experience.
Hearts open and full of gratitude, we made it.
Rishikesh: day 27.
Its official. I can teach ya’ll Hatha & Astanga Vinyasa, Pranayama, Meditation, Yoga Therapy, Ayurvedic Nutrition, Yoga Philosophy with a little bit of Reiki in the mix.
Okay, that’s a large statement. Yoga Teacher Trainings are designed to be a launch pad of eternal self enquiry and self study. We are always the student. We never really graduate. In our case, we have been equipped with a set of techniques that can be taught to others to help them discover their own union with the mind, body and soul.
We came to the source here in Rishikesh. The Ganges and Himalayas rich with the vibration and energies of gurus spanning many generations. How could that not resonate with us? Without the training, that alone has the power to shift your own vibration and perception of reality. We are always reprogramming the dream. I have been debating throughout the entire duration of the course (and well before, in fact) the merit of being here over a Western style training. Today brought it home for me the invaluable experience of being here. Standing in a room with Pandey Ji, Moksha, Kelly, Satu and Ravi, those who had revolutionised our existence for the last month was immensely powerful. Not so much through the content of their teaching, but their grounding in this realm. Understanding by being. Historically, yogic gurus and masters would give their students only snippets of what they need. This is not a textbook education, but one that allows the spirit to understand its purpose in its entirety. I keep swinging like a pendulum to the idea that we would learn more in a more highly efficient course, but we aren’t robots. We are exactly where we need to be and we will gently steer this ship in the direction we need to, surrendering to the natural flow and rhythms, just like the masters and their students for centuries.
Looking around the circle I see the faces that not so long ago were strangers. They are now family. Reading their aura and their unique quirks and energies instead of their physical appearance or stories. Telling them about the world with just a look rather than words. This has been an experience that will stay with us forever. We are connected on a very deep level and I know that saying goodbye would be a lie. These souls will very much be part of my life and will be welcome in my tribe regardless of circumstance, wherever our paths may cross again. I’m so excited to see their stories unfold.
After the ceremony, I let out some pent up energy of excitement with my silks. I gave up on the dream of taking them to the Beatles Ashram and settle on that being the next Indian adventure. One that includes a Royal Enfield. Sorry (not sorry), dad.
Vero and I plan to catch up with Michael in the afternoon, but first take a quick card reading from Vero’s deck. I shuffle and all that jazz and end up pulling the card of Service. We are here to and will find joy in serving others. This is the perfect card to reflect on our graduation and moving forward with my new practice. I shuffle the deck and thrust it in front of V. She’s in a rush so splits the deck in half at random. Service. Exactly the same card. Good intention for both of us.
We meet up with Michael and spend the afternoon drinking juice, and end up working off Michael’s tension from riding so far yesterday with a 4 hand massage. Wow, he was in need! It felt good to share some good energy with him and remind myself how tiring it is traveling solo and we all need some TLC. The power of the human touch is incredible. As Michael dozes off in bliss, V and I working away, I remember our card reading. Giving really is a great feeling and I’ll take this intention with me. We end up in a vortex giggling about a parallel universe lightbulb industry in Rishikesh. Hours later, emerging from the giggle vortex we head to our place on the Ganges. A familiar little face comes running up at me. The flower seller from the other day;
“Do you remember me?”
“Of course I remember you, buddy. I refused to buy your flowers until you could think of something more creative and uniquely YOU to offer me.” I reply.
He whips out a notebook and starts flicking through colourful drawings, looking up at me with a sparkle in his eye. My heart actually melts. The cheeky guy suggests I pay him an exorbitant amount and I enjoy his youthful confidence. I explain to him what a sense of humour means and then I offer him a vastly reduced amount, but what is the equivalent of 30 flowers and ask him to invest some of the money in a new book and some pencils.
This acts as a reminder that we are here to serve each other. Little gestures go a long way and the seeds we plant will grow into galaxies if we give them energy.
It takes a lot of work to make sure these seeds are only of the most pure intention, because the universe doesn’t know good from bad. So, beware the individual planting anything toxic into their reality. This dream we have designed for ourselves is a mirror of the vibration we put out there. Create peace, love and union. Pass on judgement, violence and ego. Keep yourself pure and observe your own power of manifestation.
A big heart felt gratitude to everyone who contributed to this journey which started just shy of 30 years ago. Your energy, impressions, inspirations, faith, trust, encouragements, unconditional love and acceptance have placed me in this exact moment of time. Together you have given me faith, empathy, trust, confidence, determination, intention, compassion, fearlessness, agility, flexibility, joy and love.
Rishikesh: final thoughts.
And we’re done. All “certified” Yoga Teachers, whatever that may mean. One more step in the journey, and recognition for our practice and understanding of practice.
To farewell each other before we spread the yoga seed like Modernists of the Bauhaus after it was forced closed, we head out for dinner. As we leave Rishikesh we will be taking our teachings far and wide across the globe. Australia, Central America, South Africa, Scandinavia, UK, North America. Is this movement actually beneficial, or are we repeating learned mistakes? I believe that anything bringing unification to traditional methods is a step in the right direction. As with architectural typology, I lean to vernacular methods and biomimicry, bringing the connection back to the local and not trying to reinvent the wheel. Living in symbiosis with everything around us, not against it. Honouring and being open to notice what is right before us. We have learned a philosophy that we will adapt to each locality, not a set of commandments to apply universally. By learning Yoga at the Source, we have had the opportunity to live and breathe what it means. To feel the benefits first hand and then use our own interpretation for its application.
Despite my cold turning into a full blown sinus infection with aches and pains throughout my body and fear of the oncoming 5 flights to my next destination, I feel in tune. Every person I meet, I am meeting their spirit. I do not see their identity. They are there to teach me something, should I choose to see it, and I to them. There is an exchange happening.
I take one last walk through the streets, wrapping up a few loose ends. My jewellery order ends up being a bit of a flop. I haven’t parted with any money, but he just hasn’t been able to keep the deadline. I’m not sure how much more clear I can be than I have to leave the country at midday tomorrow I can be? He assures me he will ship it and send me bank details for transfer after I receive the package, but I’m of the mindset I’ll believe it when I see it. I’ve envisioned this being a fantastic little side business. I will continue to give it some energy and I am not letting it go, but I will not waste bad energy after good and remind myself to practice non-attachment. The Universe tends to throw us an abundance of opportunities. They are always all around us, and once we free ourselves to notice them, we can throw our energy at any single one of them with astonishing results of manifestation. Microcosms of potential realities of exponential expansion, should we choose to pursue them. Sometimes we have planted something not so pure into these seeds, and unfortunately the impurity will grow at the same rate as the purity. There is a line we need to be aware of that we can detach ourselves when something is no longer serving us, knowing that there are endless alternatives in our field.
I’ve been on the hunt for a Tibetan singing bowl and have been testing the bowls at every store and market I walk past. There have been some beautiful ones, but I’m yet to come across the one that wants to go on tour with me, until today. I stopped at a small Tibetan owned store I have walked past a number of times to buy some prayer flags and then start wandering through the back of the store and decide to pick up a couple of bowls, then I notice one with a beautiful inscription all over. Many of the decorated bowls have Buddha engraved in the base, but I don’t know enough about Buddhist philosophy to want it looking up at me every time I use it. This one just has Tibetan lettering and when I enquire into the meaning it is om mani padme hum. This resonates with me as it takes me back to the closing mantra of a performance in Nicaragua, and a very special moment sitting in meditation on a friends piece of land. It is a mantra of joy. Moving beyond its aesthetic beauty, I found it also produced the most beautiful vibration. This soon became the first singing bowl I made water jump in. I sat there for close to an hour talking to the store owners. One was from Nepal, and the other from Tibet. They married and live their life in RIshikesh while their families are back in their respective countries that they cannot visit. I feel guilty for my self entitled freedom, holding Australian and UK passports, roaming as I please. But does this really equate to freedom? This couple, with their tiny space are full of smiles. They are surrounded by the magic of the Himalayas and the Ganges. They rub shoulders with a constant flow of the enlightened, and those seeking enlightenment every day. Their spirits are free, regardless of their physical limitations. Of course they long for home and freedom of their people and borders, but it does not consume them, they are free from corporate slavery and they have the ultimate gift of presence.
As it comes closer to midday, I decide to head down to the Ganges one last time. As I turn the corner I hear a little voice shout out. Lalta and his friend, Angela are sitting on the steps in the sun drawing in their book with new pencils. Lalta told me he bought the pencils with the money I gave him for the first drawing. Internally, I light up. This is what planting the right seeds feels like. A gift that will keep giving. Today, I decide to buy a banana leaf flower boat and set an intention for my departure from Rishikesh. As I let it go, I watch it weave its way downstream. It keeps getting distracted and stalling, but it is well on its way. I concentrate on my intention of only planting the right seeds, reflecting on Lalta and the one that I already planted and watching it grow in this small time. A group of people notice how intently I am watching my banana leafs journey and they look directly up at me, like guides, and state loud and clearly, “You can just send another one. There’s plenty of them right in front of you!” pointing to Lalta and the abundance of flowers he is holding. His face grinning up at me. That simple. Thank you, guides.
I can’t leave without offering my time for one last selfie with a family of scantily clad Indians bathing in the river.
I smile as I take the steps away from the Ganges and walk down the main street of Rishikesh one last time. When I get back to my hotel, Robyn is there. She has a gift for me to open later. She looks at me with an expression that melts me. This woman just oozes motherly vibes. She embraces me and says she cannot find the words but when she looks at me she feels so proud. She says my family must be so proud. For some reason, this sets me off and I’m crying. I pack away her gift to inspect on my long journey out of India.
Michael arrives at the Hotel. He has offered to ride me to the airport on his Royal Enfield. This ends up being one of the highlights of the experience as we tie down all of my possessions and head for the winding roads out of Rishikesh in the lush Indian forest. It feels amazing to be on two wheels again and feel the wind on my face. I reflect back to the journey into Rishikesh and all that has happened.
Every decision in my life has lead me to this very moment and I’m so happy to be here. The present of presence. This is the goal.
I extend a special thank you to those who supported my training for my “Not so Dirty Thirty”.
Mum, Dad, Kim, Brian, Rani, Ryan, David, Lex, Keiren, Harmonie, Bonnie, Scott, Karl, Zee, anonymous donations. Your gift will stay with me forever, and hopefully come back to you ten fold. Team Momentom for inclusion, faith, trust. For creating a platform for each of us to pave our own path and support each other doing so. Yoga India Family: Diane, Jerryd, Salad, Robyn, Prakash, Geo, Molly, Anna, Paula, Vero, Jen, Soni, Sangria. Sanjay, Vishal, Pandey Ji, Moksha, Satu, Kelly, Ravin, Vishnu, Raj. Eternal love for you all.