Wednesday, October 21, 2009



I am overwhelmed.

They aren't afraid of getting really Real here. So much that has happened, I wish that I could word it, that I could transport whatever it is across the ocean because I want everyone who cares about me to understand how very Real it can get. I don't think I was ready for some of this stuff, for other bits I've put it off for way too long. Some of it may be too far beyond my grasp for a very long time. I can't even decide if I like any of it.

I'm sorry that I don't know how to be less vague right now. I'm just not sure how to translate all of this. Mostly...


Lots of love.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Po feels Po-etic

Ah, India.

You, my darling, are a land of many contradictions.

From all over the world to meditate in your breathtaking scenery, to absorb the wisdom of the ancients. And yet, strangely to me, so much of you is chaos. An erratic assortment of modern and ancient, a veritable mosaic of bright colors mixed with the dullness of hard packed earth.

Why is it, India, that your streets offer a breathtaking buffet of tasty bits, but those bits cannot be eaten without a great deal of risk? Is it a struggle you relish in imposing on those with unfortunately weak intestinal systems?

Why is it, India, that the ceremonies performed here to worship the gods, the sun, the greatness of life are not complete without the heavy dollop of cheesy kitsch?

Why is it, India, that your people call the might river Ganges "Holy," yet worship it with offerings like industrial runoff and garbage? Do you enjoy the mixture of your ancients ashes mixed with the refuse of a nation?

Is this all part of your plan, India? To provide a land so full of extremes? To force those who live in you to find the balance in the chaos, the middle ground that provides the only sanity in between?

Saturday, October 10, 2009

A bit of toilet humor (finally)

Yesterday, Vishva held out a little bottle of pills and shook them over and over again, giggling. Vishvaji giggles a lot, I think he's the happiest and most centered person I've ever met. He easily commands a room but lightens the atmosphere with just a grin.

Anyway, the pills.

"Two things is happening when peoples they come to India. Either things gets very exciting, lots of fun trips to bathroom. Or no excitement for days. Most peoples experience this sometime when get to India. These pills they fix the non-excitement. You come, we talk, if you need less excitement in your life. I pass these around you take."

So amazing.

The students here have formed a "C" team and a "D" team.

Take from that what you will.

On another fun bodily function/fluid note, this morning, at 6 am in the glorious morning, my nostrils were cleaned with a neti pot. This involves taking a specially designed pot, filling it with lukewarm water and Himalayan rock salt, and running this through both sides of your nose. It was weirdly satisfying. Weirdly. I can't upload picture, but just google image "jal neti" there's lot of quality images that give the general idea.

Honestly my breathing has never felt so clean. Also, because we dried our noses and then rubbed the inside with ghee, everything today has kind of smelled like popcorn butter. Which has been wonderful.



I've been thinking about it, and I'm not sure I've every really felt this healthy. I haven't been here long, keep in mind but in the last 10 days no alcohol, drugs of any kind (including caffeine), nothing but wholesome vegetarian meals have passed these lips.

It's strange to me how little I really miss from home.

My creature comforts here are: my bowl, my plate, my cup, my spoon. I have a blanket, a pillow, and a key to lock my room. All I've needed to bathe is a bucket and a small cup.

I have clean water to drink.

My yoga mat acts as my meditation cushion, my desk, my chair, and of course, my asana floor.

A few days ago, two of my three pairs of pants got pretty mouldy from me accidentally leaving them in the rain. I have found, however, that the third pair of pants is more than sufficient at clothing my bottom half. Also it's a wonderfully lazy way to live when the pants act as both pajama pants and day pants. I find it saves up a lot of the useful time I was wasting on putting on/taking off pants.

The other day at breakfast, a bit of honey nearly put the students here wet our pants (number one this time) with excitement.

When I look at it, the short time I've been here has shown me the most austere lifestyle that I've yet been exposed to. Lots of the things that I left at home aren't here. I just can't remember, really, what those things were needed for.

Sometimes, I feel a little bit silly.

Here we are, perched contemplatively at the foot of the Himalayas, dissecting yoga and purpose and better living. We debate and lecture over finding our paths and finding ourselves.

Those of us perched were each able to buy both a plane ticket to India and to pay for this teacher training.

We each have a closet full of clothes waiting for us back home.

Surrounding this ashram are people who cannot even imagine ever leaving Rishikesh, much less India. Surrounding this ashram are people who have one everyday outfit and one festival sari.

Hence, I feel silly.

I'm trying to remember that this ashram was built to serve as a sanctuary for introspection. And inevitably, part of introspection requires a selfishness, and a turning a way from the world. I came to this ashram to learn about me. Not surprisingly, turns out that there's a hell of a lot more here to learn about.

Socioeconomic problems, sanitation problems, the incredible differences in wealth. The world, as it turns out, is a very big place with lots and lots of unfairness. Duh, you say. I know, but give me this time to realize how very naive I have been.

I am so ridiculously priviledged, even by Western standards. I have the luxury of taking an entire month off to go learn about a rather esoteric lifestyle and philosophy in a country on the other side of the world.

For the first time ever, I'm really starting to believe that there should be a balance. Those with priviledge need to not only find contentment in what they do but also have a responsibility to try and reflect that contentment out onto others.

Let me clarify. Sometimes I think we associate being socially responsible with personal sacrifice--we all need to join the Peace Corps or volunteer or donate or whatever. But really, maybe there are small things that we can do that contribute that really take nothing away from us. Individuals are not going to feed the world, or save the environment, or stop bad people from doing bad things.

In yogic philosophy, there is the concept of dharma. From what I understand, this is the idea that we each have a specific niche in the world that we best fit in. It's not our destiny or our fate, really, but just a place where we find our Selves comfortably settled in. Like, for my sciency people out there, the place where all your entropy is lowest. A place, a job, a mindset where you energy is the calmest and most removed from its normally chaotic state.

Once you find your dharma, you kind of automatically are giving back. Think of the most content, most centered people you know. Doesn't it just make you feel better to be around them? They don't even have to do anything, really other than be their very own Selves.

I'm not sure where I'm going with this, but I'm pretty sure I'm taking a sharp veer into Idealistic Youthton. Population me.

...can you be a cynic and an idealist by the way?

Is this place just getting to me?

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Taking the angle out of theta

So hum, so hum, so hum.

I am That, I am That, I am That.

We chant it, we sing it, we meditate to this mantra. All with the hopes of putting our minds into a place where we understand that all is One (the capital on the "O" is important), that there is a greater (insert what you believe here, some examples: God, power, energy, lifeforce, thingy) out there that we are all a part of.

Yoga, I am finally starting to really understand, is so much more than the poses. Though asana, the physical practice, is a definitely a part of a yogic philosophy, it is only a small part of a much greater entity. Yoga is all about finding the divine, the beauty, in the present moment. Asana, breath with movement, can help to take you there--giving you that, "ah..." moment where everything is right in the world, where you can really settle in a relish the here and now. A yogic lifestyle is all about finding those "ah..." moment in most of, if not all of, our days.

If you will, take a moment and think about how your normal thought patterns run. Mine are, almost exclusively tuned into:
1) Funny/stupid moments in my past.
2) What, exactly I'm doing with my future.
3) What and when I'm going to eat again.
4) Really good times I've had with people I love.
5) How wonderful toilet paper is (I think about this one a lot in India)

Point is, without conscious intent, it is very very very difficult, if not impossible for everyday human beings to live just within the "ah..." moment.

Hence, yoga.

They tell me that there are three main brainwaves that everyone experiences. Beta waves, which comprise the jumping, leapfrogging thoughts we have, the busy bee waves. Alpha waves, which we have when we're relaxed but still have some jumping. And theta waves, the "yogic" thought waves, which we have when we are relaxed and thoroughly within the moment. No jumping, no wanting, no present and no future.

Delicious, theta waves, they are. So much so that people will dedicate their entire lives to finding them.

I'm not sure where I lie in all of this. I'm a pretty skeptical, cynical person--and today I sat in a class where we discussed the negative energy of sarcasm. From an analytical perspective, I really do see how a "yogic" lifestyle would be pretty, you know, awesome.

What if I can't still be me? I'm starting to realize that what I'm learning here has the potential to transform the way I view my life. I just don't know if I really am ready for that, if I even want that.

Sometimes, especially here, I wonder how in the world I'm going to find a balance in all that I'm learning here with all that I already am. Vishvaji, the guru/teacher here, always tells us in our asana practice to "appreciate what we have." I have a lot of trouble with that one, myself.

On a different note, have you ever had a gooseberry? I wouldn't. But try the buttermilk, it's fantastic.

I wish I could upload some photos. The hills here pretty much break my heart every time I look at them they are so ridiculously beautiful.

Friday, October 2, 2009


Yeah made it!

After a 2 hour flight to Chicago, a 5 hour layover, a 14 hour flight to Delhi, and a 10 hour bus ride to Rishikesh...I am here, I am safe, and I am wondering what the heck I got myself into. I'm also wicked excited. The jet lag isn't as bad as I thought it would be, but part of that could be attributed to the fact that I slept nearly every one of those hours on the plane before crashing in the hotel. I don't think I've slept that much, like, must of been some 20 or so hours that I was essentially in a row. It was fantastic.


Driving from Delhi was a really fun adventure. Delhi, to start off with, is a city that I will be happy never to see again. It cracked me up to hear the pilot describe it as "misty." What he really meant was "polluted as hell, so much so that you can't see the sky even in the middle of the day when the sun is at its zenith." Take L.A., maybe some Rio, and pile it all on top of London during the Industrial Revolution. Then drive a fleet of poorly maintained gas guzzlers over it until you form...icky. I wasn't a fan, but fortunately I won't be spending many hours there.

Okay, anyway the drive. Oh...the drive was hilarious. My roommate (Kate!) and I couldn't stop cracking up at the ridiculousness of it all. Bikes, mopeds, rickshaws, trucks, cars, pedestrians, cows, donkeys, you name it all freely sharing the freeway. Lots of honking, as far as I can tell, is key to survival when driving here. So is gunning it even when it may seem to the inexperienced observer like a terrible idea. But despite the chaos, I had complete faith in our driver. There's something to be said for how alert everyone has to be to handle driving here--no texting or eating or shaving while you drive cause these may lead to certain death. Jsut honking, and lots of glaring.

A 10 hour journey later (at somepoint we stopped at an Ayurvedic healing center and got delicious sweet things that were carroty and nutty and oh so right it was fantastic).

And so the ashram. Anand Prakash Ashram, located in Rishikesh, the mouth of the Himalayas. Considered one of the most sacred places in India, it is located next to the Holy Ganges and the well known city of Haridwar. The building is a yellowish gold with red trim (what else is there to say...there's a garden! It's pretty too!).

I am in a group of 30 soon-to-be-yoga teachers, all from around the world. We have people from Japan, South Korea, Sweden, Austria, Latvia, Lithuania, the US (a definite minority), and lots and lots of Canadians. I can already feel my "o's" getting a bit longer, my speech slowing down a bit to match the rhythm of my Northern neighbor's. My roommate, Kate, is from Alberta. I think. Apparently I suck at Canadian geography but anyway I'm excited to have a buddy to share this experience with.

Will probably not have a chance to much updating of my blog while I'm here. The schedule is pretty intense, and I have a feeling I might need a vacation from this trip when I finally get home. They definitely keep us busy:

5:30 wakeup
6:00-7:30 Yoga practice
7:30-7:50 Mantra and meditation
8:00-8:30 Breakfast
8:30-9:00 Fire Puja
9:00-10:30 Philosophy class
10:40-12:20 Techniques class
12:30-1:00 Lunch
1:00-2: 30 FREE TIME!!!
2:40-6:00 Techniques, asana class, practicum
6:00-6:45 Dinner
7:00-9:00 Kirtan, story sharing
9 pm-I pass out from exhaustion

Silence in the ashram is observed from 9 pm - 9 am. I love it and think it should be observed worldwide. There's something about waking up to the perfection of the misty (it's real mist in Rishikesh, not just nasty) foothills of the Himalayas, having a silent yoga class, and eating delicious (oh, the food!) breakfast in complete quiet. All while still sharing the experience with a group of focused and dedicated students...pretty cool! It's a bit like the military, really. Honestly I think the only way I could really handle this mentally is with the structure they provide. It will hopefully keep us all busy and social and sane.

So I know you all want to hear about the food to which I say HOLY COW (there are some of those around) I WOULD LIVE HERE JUST TO HAVE THE FOOD. Right? Eh? Alright, I couldn't live here long term but the food is definitely in the ashram's favor. It's very simple, vegetarian Indian food--dal, chapati, rice, a veggie (cauliflower/okra thus far), maybe some tea. Loving the simplicity, the spices, the heavy use of ginger. I'll probably get tired of it eventually, but right now I am perfectly content with it. We have each been given a plate, a spoon, a cup and a bowl and strict instructions to wash and dry (drying is key to killing amoebas...mmm...). There is a bell rung at mealtimes and we all meet in the dining room where there are little tables that we sit in front of while the "karma yogis" serve us little bits at a time.

Simplicity and austerity. I kind of feel as though I'm living in a monastery. I kind of am.

I hope you all are doing well. I will do my best to update around once a week but I can't promise anything. Computers are a bit more accessible in the states.

Much love to all,