That means peace, rest, calmness, tranquility, or bliss in Sanskrit. It has similiar meanings in Bengali and in Hindi:) . We used it quite a bit in Kolkata for “just chill” and here in the chantings, the most common being “Om, shanti, shanti, shantiiiii”... I feel like its the way of life here too.. just peaceful. Im back up in Rishikesh, where Robyn and I came the first of March (here’s that blog). We both really liked it and I knew I wanted to come back. So I’m here, almost two weeks already, being shanti shanti :)
|So perfectly appropriate for India|
The majority of the days have been sooooo chill.... not-a-thing-in-the-world-could-bother-me type of days (i have to say most and not all cuz one day I was mmassssively frustrated by hours and hours on the phone with customer service-- think Dell hell! hahah I had to ground myself to my room after that and literally “peace out” ). I sit. I people watch. I walk. I look for, or just let circumstances happen. They always do :) It’s crazy easy to meet people here, just randomly walking on the street, the person on the same bench, or a lot of the time in cafes. Many are set up as one big area, seating open on the floor with pillows everywhere. No bars here (recall alchohol is prohibited, and enforced! I tried to find a bootleg bottle of vino one night --no go!), and places close at around 10, so nobody can wait till the wee hours of the morn for liquid courage, just gotta strike up a convo if you want to make pals ;). I like this. I’ve met so many interesting people and have been more than busy, hence 13 days for a new blog :/.
|Not that Im interested, ewww, but did you know Bud has a non-alcoholic beer??!|
Since I’ve been in India, I’ve really not been traveling solo. I was with my lovely Robyn first, then w/ Danny, Hemley and pals, so this has been the first real “alone” I’ve been. Oddly enough, I’ve been the most social here because of meeting so many neat people. I guess it's not so odd because you're more approachable solo and I too chat w/ others more. One thing I love the most about traveling is the people. Travelers and Indians alike, typically have either a realllly interesting story or a really neat perspective. There’s Lena, the kind, motherly massage therapist with her 20+ years her elder boyfriend, Isham- ex awesome at everything turned spiritual endorphine seeker. Swami Ken the big white bearded guru with a decent world following and a killer sense of small chat! Heath the hottie surfer, traveling going on a year, the ultimate in shake face and card tricks :). Danielle, the cali girl with an open-hearted spirit, and ever opening mind; Abrao, the Brazilian but Indian at heart, sadly heading home; Sandeep the simple yet incredibly complex Sadhu; Anika the blissed out yoga girl; Manish the wannabe model/watch-out ladies man; Vicky the sweetheart Indian, loyal, kind, intuitive soul; and Maruti, my pea in the pod, an Irish American turned yogi with incredddible storiesl! Each one of them has a unique look, talk, body language. They are all just “a person sitting at another table”, with their own interesting history and stories to tell. Same as everyone I pass. Any old babu on the road could be an enlightened guru with loads of wisdom to share. Any kid, woman, man with a healing touch or maybe just one little story that can shiver my spine! I feel like I’m walking around in one of those undercover shows, where everyone around me holds some magic secret I need to know... I just need to talk to them and find it!!!! The trouble is just getting past the small chat to get at the heart of each, unfortunately having to narrow down to the ones that I really feel a connection with, while still keeping my individual time to nuture my own individual needs and creativity. Not as easy as it sounds!
|Danny from Isreal, Manish and Vicky from Varanasi, Danielle from Cali, and Heath from Coco Beach, FL!|
|This babu seems to have the secret to relaxation :)|
One day a group of us, who met at a cafe in the pic above, rented motorcycles and drove to a hike and waterfall! Yes!!!! As soon as I saw the water, I couldn’t even fathom changing into my “swimsuit” (shorts and tshirt) so just ran in and started climbing up the rocks--- ohhhh my gosh it felt soooo good!!! There were little caves up along the way and the water was really almost like rainfall it was so spread out, and I was right next to two rainbows!!!!!! That was really cool! After, we went to an orphanage where a little kids fair was in full swing. I tried rhododendron flower juice-- (which was awesome!), got a bollywood dance lesson (for adults, whew!), and Danielle and I got Bollywood makeup! Hottieesss :). On a side note, Danielle just posted her blog and called me an “intense ball of energy”... so I suppose my shanti shanti is more inwardly happening than externally :) hahah
|Me in my happy place :)|
|Hhhhhaa Manish's model pose! Gotta admire his confidence ;)|
|You can see the rainbow!!|
|The advertisement said, "Dare to be Beautiful" Bollywood makeup, $1 :)|
My fav day has def been the day in nature (surprise!), out in the hills w/ Maruti. We started at 7am, spent 8 hours traipsing off thru the mountains, along the creeks, up into the highest elevations of the rishikesh mountains. We spend a good bit of the time completely off trail, “using the original google maps... our intuition” (good one M!) We (he) made a shrine, made videos, sat in waterfalls, posed on fallen limbs, climbed trees, and shared lots of stories--- of which his are increddddible!!! He’s on the fence about writing them into a book-- YES I SAY! I’ll promote :). This experience and the waterfall again are drilling into my brain that I for sure will settle up in the mountains :) ahhhh, looking forward to that :)
|Meet Maruti aka Dennis. He knew about this trail because he came here a few days before and built this shrine. He's been here in India (and all over) on a spiritual journey for 4+ years. He's got incredible stores. He's pretty much awesome!!|
|Hot day + cold water= fabulous!|
|One of our many awesome views back to the town. We had the best day! I see a great future friendship for Maruti and I !|
Everyday consists of at least one yoga class, mostly two. That shit is powerful! I’m getting very comfy in it and feeling very strong... and bonus, getting some new sweet poses for great photo ops no doubt!!! At first I was a bit impatient... most of these classes start with at least 1/2 hour of breathing, or simple simple movements like twisting your wrists. US classes are never like that... we go straight to the “good stuff”. Ironically, as I’ve realized the benefits and calmness that comes with these exercises, I kick myself (can actaully do that!) for not accepting it sooner! That’s the thing about india... Patience training is in full swing everywhere! 2hr wait for a 3 min doctor consulation... (same in US really...You’d think someone could come up w/ a better system :/). Twenty minutes for a bottle of water? 2 hours for a veggie burger? 2 days for internet service? No Indian seems to mind. I’m def conditioned for instant gratification coming from the US!
|Utilizing one of my new poses :)|
With all these different groups of people, my days have been full: Meditating, Temple visiting, off trail climbing, tea breaks, motorcycle rides, secret caves, puja ceremonies (in this case blessing to the holy Ganga River) and lots of cafe time :) We’ve went to the beach, played cards, games, and had a ridiculously hilarious time playing “shake face” (see fb photos to join in the LOL :). And even in my down time, all sorts of little things happen that make up every magical day (like getting my ears deep-cleaned on the street!!).
|Me and this dude, sharing a moment :)|
At each event (or non event), everything seems so significant I want to write each detail, but 13 days later when I try to sum it up it gets tough! I need more blogs! How is it that I have nothing I have to do but I still need more time in each day?? Geez louise :) Since Im way too behind to detail all the awesomenesses, I think I’ll just write about some interesting observations from here:
1. Everything I’ve learned about eating right goes out the window in India. In US: Avoid packaged/processed foods. Don’t have too many carbs. Eat tons of fruits and veggies, raw being best. Here is totally opposite! Nothing raw because you don’t know where it’s been, what’s touched it, or with what water it’s been washed. Hmmm... I guess no sushi ;) I was more brave before, but fighting my stomach issues (almost well now, had my first solid poooo in 3 weeks!!) I’m listening to the advice now. Only things that have been cooked are okay to eat. Every meal is 90% carbs, and, it’s better to just eat something you’re sure about...like packaged goods. I’ve taken quite a few liberties with this... I could get used to eating cookies for dinner :) Yummmm
2. A man’s sexual desire is universal; here, there, or anywhere. Repression is def not the way to go, India. You can tell a man that sex/women/pleasure is bad... but he’s still gonna want it. It’s just natural! The mass majority of men are very respectful, but I’ve had FIVE “hey now” encounters here. An unprofessional massage(that i paid for!), a sketchy yoga- aka “watch my ass” - lesson (that I left after 3 poses), a surprise va-j-j tap while I was mediating (whoa! from a Sadhu no less!) a dude on the beach just sitting and watching (waiting for my dress to fly up), and even the nurse when I went for stomach issues rubbed waaaay too low! I can’t say I blame them for trying. There is the general notion that Western women are “easy”. In general, we’re much more talkative, open to invitations, looking for a unique experience. Im so guilty of that (being talkative, not easy!), and I suppose in a repressed country, where the native women hardly even acknowledge a man unless they are married, white skin is seen as an invitation to try. I suppose similar to me assuming every latin man is passionate and every black man well packed :) haha. I haven’t felt nervous or scared for my safely, just a bit shocked or perturbed. I can deal w/ that; in fact, where are the balls on guys I’m actually attracted too? Wink wink!
3. Multitasking is overrated. One thing Im really liking about India... you don’t see people doing so much mindless multi tasking- like that which has become americas image: Walking and talking on the phone. Walking and eating. Walking and talking and smoking and drinking starbucks! hah. Here, you do what you are doing, you’re present in each thing you do; awareness! Why not kill two birds with one stone though? When I drive, talk, and eat I’m being efficient, right? Technically, yesssss.... I am the queen of multitasking; it’s easy, its convenient... but is it good? Am I in the moment? Why always in a rush? Here, You walk when you walk, simply stated. If I paid more attention to my body when I was walking, maybe I’d feeling my feet and achilles a bit sore, I could walk more on my toes which feels better. Just eat when you eat? I’m alwayyys thinking of something else when I eat....sometimes scarfing a whole meal down in an instant, not even tasting anything, and being way overfull after. What was the point? I needed the calories. Well that sucks (and probably why I got a few extra pounds!) And, most importantly when you talk, you really listen. I love to talk and do others things... but am i really listening? Part of my attention is diverted for sure. What is more important at that moment than the person you are talking to? Nothing (unless it’s a sales call) :) For sure in the future I’ll have to eat my lunch on the go or talk and drive, but it’s good to be reminded how important being in the present moment is, and Im making a conscious effort to think about what Im doing, not always what Im doing next.
4. Beautiful is always around, some places just harder to see. One morning I was standing looking out at the field and flowers from my ashram's yoga hall. It's a beautiful site, obvious they are trying to make an oasis here. If I compare it to the gardens at Versailles it could hardly be considered noteworthy. But why compare? I am here now, and this is beautiful. Why ever compare? That’s one thing that gets us in trouble. With relationships, with material things, with our situation... not appreciating what we have because you’ve seen something else “better.”
|The beautiful garden next to the Yoga hall at Parmarth Niketan Ashram :)|
To go even deeper with that thought... why even stress about your surroundings? Isn’t it all about your inner beauty? Yes it is! Incredible as India is, the truth of the matter is the place is dirrry dirty- everything is: Roads, animals, seats, walls, doors, water. The nicest restaurant here is still dirtier than a hole in the wall pub in US. But you get used to it, and it begins to be less important. When everywhere is coated w/ a cloud of dirt or dissarray, where do you find the beauty? Inside. I’ve met soooo many people that are just... good. The real beauty is in the simple kindnesses. One day I was in a shop, and the owner starts turning me and calling to his wife. I’ve got a hole on the top of my shirt I didnt even realize, and he’s so excited to fix it for me. He mentions its good karma for him to repair it (or his wife at least :) Yes it is indeed :). Another day I asked someone where the ATM was, and they proceeded to give me a ride to it! I needed new medicine and the doctor hand delivered it! The fact that every Indian I’ve befriended has made sure to let me know I can call on them if I ever need anything...and knowing they are truly sincere. These little things are the real beauty of India :)
|Getting sewing up in a random little shop :) ...Where I also had great business idea. |
Everything happens for a reason!
|Yes yes yes, somebody's got the idea! :) ...and how courteous of this monkey to |
stay put long enough for me to snap the pic :)
|A beautiful Puja ceremony, with fire routine, music, offerings to the Holy River Ganges. |
Multiple of these happen every single night at different spots along the river!
India is awesome. It just gets better everyday. In just a few days it will be 2 months I've been here already! Ohhh the woa’s of deciding to stay or go! Your guess as good as mine... we’ll see which way the wind blows tomorrow :)