Mother India

Just re-read my last post and laughed at the part where I said I hoped to remember why I wanted to come to India so badly. Happy to say I remember. Or, rather, I discovered.

I had a rough day and a half in Rishikesh. I was overwhelmed, tired and not having very much fun. Then a monkey stalked me on a bridge and stole my bag of clothes (new really cute clothes) and ran up a cable with them. It was a long day and an even longer story but a few highlights were that the roads were closed due to a wild elephant killing a motorcyclist, hoards of tourists (Indian) crowding the narrow streets from the nearby town of Haridwar (a festival where two million pilgrims came to celebrate and over 100 were killed in a stampede just the day before) and us walking several km through said crowds on a hot, smokey, dusty day – through traffic backed up for miles only to discover we had walked the wrong way. Through it all I told myself this was all part of the experience, I walked past wild pigs, cows eating plastic bags, impossibly skinny puppies that little kids were torturing, and stare after stare from the locals – we were the only Westerners. That all led up to being terribly lost and rushed to get to our Vedic astrology appointments with the lovely and wise beyond-his-years Annand. Which led to us hurrying (as fast as one could go on a bridge 5′ wide that’s choked with tourists, beggars, motorcycles and cows.) Which led to my “monkey stealing my bag” incident. I know it may not sound like much, but to me it was the last straw. I burst into tears once across the bridge and sobbed publicly without stopping. (more public staring) I was a total wreck. I made Rebecca take a picture of me. I look like a fragile old woman. I’d post it but I can’t figure out how to do it on my iPad. I wanted to document my lowest point in India. At that point I wasn’t sure if there would be more to come. As of today, it remains my lowest point.

There has been so much written about India and many references to the dung and the lotus blossom. India is all of the continuum. It is the darkest despair and the holiest heart. It brings me closer to my self – the shadow and the light. Annand said the evening we finally made it to his place: “India has a way of not letting you fall into a routine.” I think he is exactly right. In other words, don’t have expectations. being in the “flow” is always optimal but India has a way of forcing one to be in the flow whether you like it or not. The more a person needs to have it be a certain way, the more in trouble they will be.

That day on the bridge I was swimming upstream the whole time and I capsized. It took me about a day to start floating back up for air. First I had to cry a lot. Not even sure what it was all about but I sure felt vulnerable and exposed. After a day or so I started to feel grateful to the monkey for cracking me open. After that, the trip got a lot more enjoyable.

I want to write about the very best part of India – the people – and specifically the women – but I am at a fancy hotel in Udaipur, sitting poolside, and my tea just arrived so that will have to be tomorrow’s post. (I wrote a long piece about the lovely women and lost the whole thing – boo.)

Until then let me just say that I love this country and I knew I would. Not sure how I knew but I just did. And Rajastan is amazing…I hope I get back to Udaipur sometime very soon. Hear that Andy?

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Just discovered wifi on my floor in the ashram. (Or cell block ‘H’ as I refer to it.). I’m in heaven with the wifi! Yea!

Very hard to describe this place or this experience. I’m not experiencing jet lag which is great but I think there is a lot of cultural overload! I’m looking out at a huge banyan tree and the misty tree covered hills in the distance. Every few minutes a bunch of moInkeys bang across the plastic corrugated roof of the ashram wreaking mischief. I am blowing off Gurmukh’s class since there is more yoga until 9:30 tonight and I’m sore from her 3 hour class yesterday.

In an hour I’m going for an Ayurvedic massage where I’ve been told I will wear a loin cloth (I asked if I would need to provide my own and was told “no” which is good because I’m afraid I didn’t pack one. (!)

Later today is a concert with Snatam and then lecture and Kriya with Guru Singh. He’s the guy who has an album with Seal and sings that song “I am who I am that is that” – it’s beautiful.

He wakes us up every morning at 3am playing a beautiful song on his guitar – his voice is incredible. He has a pied piper effect and people are compelled to take a cold shower and then head down to sadhana. I have resisted thus far.

We are right on the banks of the Ganga. It’s pretty surreal. Wish I could post photos but haven’t figured out how to do it from my iPhone.

So far I’ve been incredibly healthy – thank god! Travel has been mercifully easy – not the case for many others.

There are people from so many different countries. It’s truly amazing. So much. There are cows, dogs, cow shit everywhere, constant horns honking, prayers, and monkeys!!!

I’ve basically forgotten why I wanted to be here (India)but am hoping I shall remember. Trusting and surrendering. Guess that’s what it’s all about. Trista shared what her friend Valerie texted her: India tears you down so she can build you back up. Ok. That’s it for now. Sat Nam

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Today’s the day…

The hour has arrived (almost.)  My ride will be here in 25 minutes.  I’ve been up since 2am – 1:50 really – can’t sleep.  When I was pregnant with my first child, a midwife suggested that when I went into labor, I savor the secret for awhile and sit with the knowledge that a baby would soon be born before I shared the news.  That struck a chord in me and when I woke in the wee hours of the morning with labor pains, I got up and lay on the couch, writing in my journal: “Today’s the day!  Today’s the day I get to finally meet you, my sweet daughter…today is the day I get to see your face.”  Those hours were so very potent and holy.

Fast forward to almost three years later and find me in bed, pregnant again, taking a nap with my girl on a snowy afternoon.  I remember thinking, “Either I just wet the bed or my water broke.”   I lay there, watching the snow come down, hearing my daughter’s breath. Wise with knowing that things would never be the same for us – with this new addition.  Loving the awareness that a baby was about to be born, wondering if I could possibly love anyone as much as this child next to me…would there be room in my heart?  (there was)

This morning I woke up a full hour and a half before my ride.  Thoughts racing.  From the mundane: “How am I going to get that travel pillow in my backpack?” to the cosmic:  “What will Mother India do with me?”

I light a stick of incense (from India) and a candle to Ganesh, the remover of obstacles.  I kiss my sleeping husband and snoring dog.  I make some mint tea.  I sit in this dark, quiet home, savoring the magic of this private moment.  The cat purrs on my lap, a sweet companion.

I’m ready to see what shall be born.

Sat Nam.




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Who do you think you are?

In a world full of people, there's only some who want to fly. Isn't that crazy? - Seal

Who am I to think I can travel half way around the world?  What kind of mother would leave her kids for 3 weeks, just because she’s always wanted to go to India?  What makes me think I’m worthy enough to spend this money on me alone…?  These are the questions I’ve been asking myself (and yes, others have asked of me as well) over the past few days. Doubts and “shoulds” come squeezing in, crowding overwhelm and fear who have already taken up residency in my head.

A dear friend suggested I get very clear about why I was going to India and it struck me that I haven’t really put it into words yet.  Only feelings.  I just know that I’m supposed to go.  And that’s not very helpful when you’re trying to convince your husband that it’s a good thing to be gone for almost a month, to reassure him that you’ll be fine halfway across the world, and that no, I won’t fall in love with a sadhu and stay there.

What I’ve been able to come up with (re. words) is that this feels like the biggest thing I’ve ever done in my spiritual life.  (Having my kids and meeting my husband were the biggest things I’ve done in my personal life.) This feels like a quest.  Like an archetypal journey of epic proportions in my spiritual development – a giant evolutionary step for me as a person, as a healer, as a teacher.  And surely, the dawning of the Aquarian Age, in the company of 1,111 people, chanting and praying on the banks of the Ganges on 11-11-11 is pretty potent stuff.  Don’t you agree?

I’m saying ‘yes’ to this inner call and stepping into the unknown with nothing but my inner compass to guide me – and truly, that’s all we ever need, to listen to that voice within.  That voice is as saying as clearly as any message I’ve ever received that this is what I must do.  And so I shall.  I leave you with a poem from an inspiring woman I know and a quote from Yogi Bhajan.  Both of these offerings soothe my heart when my inner critic is banging her pots and pans together.

Butterfly Woman

I am a traveler–

one foot on the bank of forever

one foot on the bank of now.  

My head in the sky.

My feet rooted in the soil.  

I dance between heaven and underworld – 

seeing through the veils between.

I found my power, 

like I found my body–one day, 

swimming in the river, feeling

my soul like silk. I discovered this second skin

of me, and the the one who I am always becoming.

I re-membered these hands that reach out 

into the world to heal, these eyes 

that can see beyond seeing. 

I once believed 

that the cocoon was death.

And it was. The death 

before the birth

that brought my wings.

-Laura Weaver

“The time has come not to search for God, but to be God.  Time is not to worship God, but to trust and dwell in the working God.  The fact is there is nothing more beautiful, more worthy, or more conscious than you.”

-Yogi Bhajan

Sat Nam

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Global Sadhana

Getting cozy during Global Sadhana

40 days until 11-11-11.  In honor of that…Golden Bridge and Spirit Voyage are hosting a “Global Sadhana.”  (sadhana = spiritual practice)  If you’re interested in joining me in a 40 day meditation, click here to get the particulars – the whole thing takes approximately 15 minutes or so.  I did mine this morning and it was so sweet.  We start with a 3 minute pranayam (breathing exercise) and then an 11 minute meditation that has a particular mudra (hand position) and we get to sing along to a beautiful mantra.  This is why I am so drawn to Kundalini Yoga – it encompasses everything I love about the 8 limbs of yoga all at once!

29 days until I leave for India. I vacillate between excitement and fear, and for some reason, a lot of tears.  I know this trip is going to be big for me.  I know that it’s been in the stars for me.  This moment, this time in my life, this age, this year even.  Especially this year.  2011.  No accidents.  This is one of those trips that I know will be life-changing even before I take it.  As much as I try to imagine the trip, I know that nothing can prepare me for what it will actually be.  I’ve given up trying to “control” how it will go (haha I know…as if I could control the future anyway…) and started to settle into the now.

With the knowledge that I will soon be half a world away from the people (and Ruby) that I love more than anything, I have begun to sink into each day, stretching the minutes out to make them last.  I’m appreciating where I live, the season with its beauty, and taking more walks (with Ruby.)  I’m appreciating time spent with my children (how on earth will I be able to leave them for 19 days…?) and not even complaining about all the driving to after school events I have to do*.  More time together!  I’m appreciating my husband in a new way, really seeing this man who supports me on the home front, tending the nest so his eagle wife has a place to come back to.

Part of being in the moment and savoring each day will include my meditation.  I love that this 40 day sadhana will accompany me to New York** later this month and then follow me to India and culminate on such an incredibly powerful and auspicious day.  I love that some of my dear friends are doing this sadhana and we will be connected through prayer and that I can take comfort from that if I have a moment (or two) of homesickness or overwhelm on my travels.

That’s all for now.  I’ll leave you with a photo of some of nature’s startling beauty here.

Sat Nam

October's Offering

*seriously, you would not believe how much driving there is with 2 active kids!

**don’t I travel a lot?!

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Sweet Garden of Innocence

“Where were you on September 11th?” my son asks me at dinner.  “I was at the airport in New York waiting to fly home to California.”  I reply.  “I was with your dad and your sister and you were in my tummy.”  He can’t believe it.  “You were in New York?  At the airport?” he asks with awe and disbelief.

I’ll never forget it.  I was impatient to get back to my home after a long summer stay with in-laws, extended by a rare illness I had incurred after getting bitten by a wasp while pregnant.  Just after the morning sickness cleared up at 4 months, I was struck with nausea, vomiting, high fever and lethargy.  “You will most likely miscarry” my unsympathetic OB told me over the phone.  I was in shock.  It took weeks and several trips to the hospital and finally an ultra-sound to soothe my fears that this baby, a boy, was healthy and I too was starting to feel human again – now five and a half months pregnant.  I couldn’t wait to get back to my life and start nesting!

“What’s the hold up?” I asked the ticket agent at the United counter.  “Looks like there are going to be some flight delays” he said, “apparently a plane flew into the twin towers.”  Huh?  I wasn’t prepared for this information, or any other information that came flooding in over the next 48 hours.  Soon after the ticket agent told me to expect delays, the entire airport shut down and we were directed over loud speaker to collect our bags and exit the airport immediately.  I remember my daughter (then two) being disappointed we weren’t going on a plane ride and explaining to her that we were going back to Gramma and Poppa’s house.

Life, so precious, felt very tenuous.  Back at my in-laws, my husband and I went to the empty playground and pushed Lili in the swing, wondering what would happen next.  The skies eerily silent, the neighbors lit candles flickering on their porches.

It would take us another 3 weeks to finally make it back across the country to California. Little did I know that we would be leaving that beloved state just a few short months later to move to Boulder, Colorado after my husband lost his job.  My son, a healthy, active 8 pounder, would be born in January on a cold snowy night and my marriage would end less than two years later.

On this 10 year anniversary of September 11, 2001, I am struck by how the planes crashing into the twin towers marked an end of innocence for me – a false sense of security really.  Fear came into me in a way that I had not experienced before.  Being a mom, I fear some things more than ever.  I fear dying and leaving them behind while they’re still young.  I fear something terrible happening to either one of them.  I honestly don’t know how I could survive it.  I’m flying tomorrow and so is their dad and for a few brief hours, we’ll both be up in the sky, on separate planes, leaving our kids in Boulder without a parent in case of emergency.

What does this have to do with Kundalini Yoga?  Not sure.  I just felt compelled to write about this tonight.  I do know there are beautiful kundalini mantra for me to recite tomorrow if I get scared or sad.  I also know that Yogi Bhajan spoke of the chaotic times coming our way, where 1/3 of the people would die, 1/3 of the people would go insane, and 1/3 of the people would be here to aid the others.  I’m sure 9/11 falls into the “chaotic times” category.  Guess this is just what’s living for me.  Sat Nam.

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Kundalini Yoga and Hair

Wooden Comb on Butterfly Wing

Just a short post today while I work on a longer one.  I’m feeling a bit gun shy re. posting since the last one (about sex) went straight to my husband’s business Twitter account.  Oops!  That was a blooper.  Still working out the kinks on this technology thing.  Duh.  He wasn’t too excited that his colleagues* got to read about our shamanistic romp.  Aye yi yi, I cringe to think about it.  (*These are engineers I’m talking about.  Think high-school AV club, all grown up.)  Oh well, everything happens for a reason right?  It would be kind of funny if it weren’t so awful.  So Ethel and Lucy!

So I’m playing it safe today by posting a picture of a beautiful wooden comb (made in China – does that ruin it?) that I purchased here in Boulder at the Whole Foods for $2.99. Why wooden?  Well, I’m having difficulty finding that reference, but the books are specific about the comb being wooden.  And they are not that easy to find, trust me.

Now that I’m starting to write I see that this is not the short topic I thought it was going to be – there’s so much about hair in KY and Sikhism and Yogi Bhajan has a lot to say about hair.  But for now…let me say that part of the “Yogic Lifestyle” includes preparing for sleep, with a series of steps that make a lot of sense.  One of the steps is combing your hair with a wooden comb.  (Other steps include cleaning the mucus from your throat until your eyes water and washing/massaging  your feet with almond oil –  great and all but I prefer to skip to the easier, less time consuming tasks like combing ones hair.  Even better, maybe I can get Andy to do it for me.  Yea!)

More on hair in another post.



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