Interesting how schools and universities and classes teach us the knowledge we need to interact with the external world; the skills we need for the workplace. How many classes offer you a way to find yourself? How much time do you spend getting to know yourself? You probably spend a whole lot more time getting to know other people and places, don't you? THINK about this for a while, it's truly fascinating...This is why meditation has been nice for me so far, and time will tell if it is a path I will continue to stay on :)
So onto the train escapade! Chris and I knew that the overnight train we wanted to RIshikesh was full, but there is always a back door in India. We went at 6:15am on the 13th to get a ticket for an overnight ticket on the 15th because at 8am the counter opens and one can acquire an "emergency quota" ticket. We were able to do this, and Chris offered a bit extra of an incentive the night before, so after waiting to speak to the gentleman first thing in the morning, then waiting for our number on the line, and then returning 20 minutes later, we were invited into the office to take care of the transaction. There we settled the ticket and wouldn't you believe what a little extra cash incentive will do for a hardworking guy! He seemed stressed throughout the process, but the Indians were even more stressed...pushing up against each other in a line where personal space was totally available...but that's not their style. There was even some yelling and harsh gestures going on - thought there may have been a brawl...crazy around here - people don't just patiently wait in line here :)
I bathed in the Ganga River, which is the holiest River for the Hindus. I did it here and not in Varanasi for reasons I will discuss soon! Bathing in this river is believed to get rid of your sins and cure diseases I believe. Also, bathing in certain parts on certain occasions are supposed to do interesting things like wash away 7 years of sins. Many gods here like Shiva, and the one with an Elephant's head (forgot the name) are believed in, and these two contribute to the superstitions many Indians have. The "Ohm" symbol is also prevalent here which looks somewhat like a "3" with a moon and sun to the upper right hand side. It is a very popular sound or mantra used in meditation. This symbol is quite powerful and goes much beyond what I write here, and its hard to express all of its meanings, so google it for more info if you'd like!!
The act of meditation is where the body relaxes itself and the mind is focused inward on one thing (usually a mantra or sound) to keep it focused on just one thing. The goal is to keep the mind from wandering, not wanting to angrily chase away fleeting thoughts, rather ignoring them and letting them fade. Many exercises are used before for breathing through the nostrils and stretching for the body. Also a clean wash of the hands and body is usually necessary. The goal is ultimate focus and tapping into your unconscious, said to have been achieved by many famous yogis. I am still learning a LOT more about it, but find myself at least slightly understanding more about it now, and dispelling some myths an
So the other day, we went to the Beatles Ashram, which is just a few minutes off the beaten path past our ashram! It is not a huge tourist destination it appears, because it is located in the strip past where all are walking. The Beatles stayed here with the infamous Maharaji back in the 60s and studied with him; this was where the White Album was created. We saw nothing but trodden pathways overshadowed by ferns and plants, and rundown buildings with shattered glass and interesting steps leading up concrete structures, sometimes only extending out one side with no evidence of support...HUGE colorful spiders were abundant and black and white mosquitoes as well...
Animal interactions here are quite different because the animals are wild. Vicious dogfights are common and quite comical is what I will call the "accidental union" of partners. Here, instead of getting married, dogs engage in acts which you might think would satisfy their sexual desires, yet leave them joined together for a bit...all the while with a third canine not quite understanding or respecting the situation and trying to join in on the action...I will leave the details up to your imagination, but can tell you that watching this scene develop is highly entertaining!
Monkeys interact quite humanly with one another, until they decide to get wild and attack one another (usually over food) I saw one interacting with a cow, and it jumped behind another monkey and began a humping routine...strange! Usually, interactions between cows and dogs appear peaceful. It is funny to see people chasing cows away from their stores with sticks, being careful of course not to step in the fecal matter that the animals have left behind!
Swasticas and Stars of David are quite prevalent here, yet they do not carry any meaning relating to the Jews of Germans. I am still in search of the meaning...
I showed my Twix wrapper (I was craving one so badly) to a gentleman at a Tea Stall, asking if he had a garbage. He smiled, staring me in the eyes, took the wrapper and conveniently walked three steps in the opposite direction and flung it into a small disorganized pile of rubbish located nearby to him and turned to me and said with that same smile, "This is India". So, the need for a place to put all of this garbage would be great, because as of now it goes EVERYWHERE, except in trash bins because they seem to be nonexistent. The cows enjoy munching on the garbage in some of the pits that include a plethora of these tasty items.
Power Yoga: What is your first impression? Imagine one hour of a highly-enthusiastic, slightly overweight Indian man throwing his hands up and down, breathing quite heavily and yelling out different postures, along with other strange things. This was the first time that yoga appeared to me to be energetic rather than relaxing...although at the end of course we went through a relaxation process for our bodies...
A bit of advice:
1) Orange Robes are worn by many seemingly spiritual gentleman here, some of whom are crosseyed and quite strange-looking. It appears that many want to give you more than a spiritual journey, but expect some cash as well!
2) Beware of tuk-tuk drivers who will take you to hotels that they receive commissions from! They will go as far as faking a phone call to convince you that your reservation has been cancelled or taking you to a duplicate guesthouse as one mentioned in the Lonely Planet, which is not in fact authentic. Tourist Agencies charge high prices for houseboat setups in Srinagar (Kashmir) so set the houseboat up by yourself if you want to venture into Kashmir.