A mental lapse about the food rule cost me a bag of market cucumbers to one of the ashram monkeys! I felt a sharp pull on my arm and the bag was gone before I could blink … the monkey hugging it like a kid caught with a forbidden bag of candy … the little rascal quickly jumped over the fence and commenced munching away on my afternoon treat for Madeline and I! As I snapped a picture, a nearby ashram security guard warned I may want to put the camera away as the monkey usually follows his thievery with a second act ….. stealing the camera 🙂
Adjustment to ashram lifestyle, has been smooth sailing, but it is unlikely I would ever consider living in one for any longer than a few weeks, a month tops, peaceful, serene and spiritual as it may be. I have heard rumors here that some Westerners come and never leave …. although I made every attempt to come here with few, if any expectations, I did presume this would be a silent retreat, having always wished to experience one ….. but, not to be, as this is a very social ashram and one cannot walk far without chatting with other tourists, particularly the local ones … Indians are a gracious people, very giving and friendly and they love having us in their pictures :)!! There are also some very chatty women within the yoga group …. so, silence …. hmmmm, not so much. It is culturally very different from my treasured life in Canada, where family defines what I value most. Still, despite yearnings for the comforts of home and the love of my family …. I will always enjoy experiencing other countries. At heart, I am a nomad, a gypsy …. It is no surprise I have ended up in India. Sometime during the 17th century, tribal gypsies from parts of India migrated to Europe and are now scattered throughout the continent. It was in Finland, where as a three year old child, I became fascinated with the gypsies that frequented the summer open air markets of Joensuu …. If mother let go of my hand even for a moment, she would always find me in the midst of the gypsies, marveling, totally enthralled with their colorful, trinket laden clothing and tinkly jewelry, and the gypsies, in turn, marveling at the happy little golden haired toddler …. It is a well worn and much loved story from my childhood.
It is inevitable that something new is learned while traveling to different countries ….. over these past few years, I have come to know parts of this vast wonderful world on a much deeper level than I could ever have hoped for. Volunteering has played a big role in that …… helping out has also been instrumental in my own personal awakening. I am learning that the study of yoga goes hand in hand with helping those in need …… It is a beautiful field of study in India, where yoga is not merely an exercise geared to buff and keep the body flexible, as it is in North America, although that is certainly a welcome side benefit 🙂 …. but it is the spiritual component that has me sold. Yoga in India is about having a deep spiritual connection to God, ourselves and extending it to the world around us. The practice of yoga is, at it’s core, meant to transform us into kinder more compassionate people ……… inner and outer lives intermingled, merged, not apart …. walking strong with gentle loving steps …..
Indu teaches that precisely because of the concentration and effort required to perform the various poses/asanas, they are really a means, a tool, to focus our attention to our inner lives, our core, our spirit, our soul essence …… as I observe Indu, or her husband and mother-in-law, (both taught a class recently), yoga is like a state of grace …… as Indu teaches and moves into the various asanas, she becomes poetry in slow motion. Her voice during the prayers and chants is other-worldly, hauntingly mesmerizing …. In India, meditation, Vedic chants, mantras are integral to yoga …. it is totally foreign to an Indian, that one would have a yoga class without the spiritual element. It may have been a rather peculiar, circuitous way I ended up here in Rishikesh, but I know I have come to the right place to learn about this beautiful way of living …. It is called Yoga.
“The fragrance always remains in the hand that gives the rose”. Mahatma Gandhi
A sample of a prayer we chant every morning before asanas, in its Vedic verse:
” om sahana-vavatu, sahanau bhunaktu
tejasvina-vadhi-tamastu ma vidvisavahai
om santih santih santih