"One should lift oneself by one's own efforts and should not degrade oneself; for one's own self is one's friend, and one's own self is one's enemy."
~ Bhagavad Gita 6:5
This past fall I attend a 300 hour Yoga Teacher Training program at Rishikesh Yog Peeth at a remarkable school located just outside Rishikesh India in Uttarakhand Province. I went for a couple important reasons. Firstly I wanted to deepen my personal practice and learn more about Yoga in the context of exploring the land where it's originated. Secondly, I was desperately in need of a quest. I was in a place in my life where I needed to confirm that I was able to navigate the world independently and thrive. A little part of me believed I could but the greater part of me was absolutely terrified.
My first evening in India was full on. My traveling buddy, for whom I am endlessly grateful, and I spent 6 hours by car from Delhi to Rishikesh on narrow dirt roads lined with animals, garbage and very poor people sleeping on the ground. Our driver was impressive to say the least. I can't even begin to comprehend how traffic functions in India. To me it was just like a bumper cart alley somehow minus the crashes.
At one point I hallucinated an elephant because I was so exhausted and stressed. It was just a harmless patch of trees immersed in a thick fog. We made it to our destination at 3am. Rolling our ridiculously inappropriate western suitcases through narrow alleys around the sleeping cows and their numerous leavings we eventually found the school and were let in by a very sleepy gentleman in charge of Shiva Resort whom I would later regard as one of the kindest individuals I have ever met.
That first days in Swarg Ashram I was so overwhelmed. The smell of everything was so pungent I could hardly make it the short 3 minute walk from sleeping resort to school without gaging. I got sick on that first day after drinking a freshly prepared passion fruit juice. It was also so incredibly hot and humid that when combined with Jet Lag I was a fragile emotional mess. I felt so soft and sensitive to all the differences surrounding me. I was really concerned that I had made an awful mistake coming to India. What was I thinking!
But on night two I did sleep a little and that next morning I awoke to an entirely different experience. The mild sickness from the day before had abated but left me with a profound sense that India had quite literally entered my body and somehow changed it making me more resilient better adapted. A symphony of crickets, birds, monkeys, dogs, cows, children, mantra & motorcycles beaconed from outside my window compelling me out of bed. The crimson sunrise falling upon the lush green hills looked quite inviting so I ventured outside. To my surprise the air smelled really sweet and I have no explanation for that shift in my perception.
I made my way up to the roof of Shiva Resort where a yogini was silently practicing. The sun was rising late and bright by this point over the foothills of the Himalayas and Swarg Ashram was waking up. A large grey monkey bounded across the roof above me and I was awe struck by the exotic unconventionally beautiful sight of a northern India city sprawled out before me. The spaghetti tangle of power lines, the rough hand built brick buildings, the complete disregard for symmetry and order, the half domestic half wild animals roaming everywhere.
My heart broke open. I could feel layers upon layers of preconceived notions about the world and my place in it cracking apart exposing a part of me I didn't know existed. This malleable soft inner stuff wanted to stretch out in that wild place. It was a melding of the raw organic within me to the un-apolagetic authentic being-ness that is India. I wanted to take off my shoes and practice yoga in that intoxicating setting.
At that moment I fell completely head over heals in love with the experience of India. This was the beginning of the true journey, the moment when I started to trust and see myself as I truly am.
Stay tuned for part 2 in January's newsletter.