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Nature Bathing

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My first week at Osho has been a surreal week in many respects. It has been awhile since I have been around such an international community of people. We flock here from all walks of life with, by all accounts, a common goal … become better global citizens, more aware of ourselves and others as we move about our lives, aiming for compassion, kindness and love in all our interactions … a lofty goal … easy to adhere to in a controlled Ashram atmosphere … harder when back in the so called ‘real’ worldπŸ˜—. Indian nationals understandably constitute at least a third of all residents, followed by Europeans … Germany comprising a good portion of the European contingent, but Finland, Sweden, Norway, Romania, Czech Republic, Italy, Spain, France, Israel, Canada, America, China, Korea, Japan, Iran, Fiji, Australia, Britain, Ireland, Wales are all represented! Yes, certainly international participation permeates the Ashram.

The energy generated by a crowd of like minded individuals meditating and dancing in the pyramid auditorium is so strong and powerful that it literally blows me away! A very intense and internally moving experience. After a number of days, I sensed a personal need for space, for balance away from the group dynamics and energy.

As such, I got up very early one morning and decide to skip the scheduled dynamic meditation and instead opt for a walk through Teerth Park. Technically it is an extension of Osho Ashram grounds but really more an extension of Koregaon Park itself which surrounds the Ashram grounds.

The quiet in the early morning hours is broken only by birdsong. So peaceful. Surprisingly, and I must say, thankfully so, I see no one else strolling in the park! I was told to keep an eye out for snakes by the gate guard, but see none … too early for them as well perhaps. It was an undeniable pleasure to be on actual dirt walking paths!

There is virtually not a speck of earth on the Ashram walkways that is not covered in concrete tile, granite or marble including the interior of all the meditation buildings and guest houses. The appearance is certainly lovely and zen like, and cool marble is heavenly in bare feet. Undoubtedly the maintenance and cleaning is substantially easier …. but dancing, standing, sitting and walking on such hard surfaces for a week has taken a bit of a toll on my body … this walk through nature is a delightful and welcome respite and my knees are literally dancing with joy, thanking me with every step πŸ™. Discovering a bench along the way, I walk over, settle quietly and surround myself in nature’s music, nature’s healing ambiance ….

Osho statue in the park …. perhaps he is watching me from the spirit world and is surely chuckling as I break rules and take photos … I like to think he would approve 😊

Osho Rules

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Although it was never my intention to participate in six weeks of complete silence, zen monk style … I may reconsider, after five days of very dynamic meditations several times a day!! Just kidding … sort of πŸ˜—. Osho believed very much in a Zorba-Buddha existence, where pleasure and spirituality walk hand in hand. It is fun certainly and I do enjoy dancing … the whirling not so much. However there ARE at least a dozen meditation styles available, yes many incorporating vigorous movement, but completely silent sitting meditations are also available daily to suit every palate. I purchased a ‘silence badge’ from the compound shop the other day. I may use it yet 😊. I observe many here do indeed participate in silent days, hence the buttons.

The agenda above on a typical day at Osho ….

Osho International University of Mindfulness, implements some rather strict rules within the commune, ashram, resort …. πŸ˜—. I was not expecting that for some reason. I naturally presumed a more relaxed atmosphere on rules at a place of spiritual learning. Aahhh … that valuable lesson resurfaces … never make assumptions! It would hardly be the first time I have skimmed over the fine print. What surprised me is just how far the maroon ruling extends! We wear maroon robes during the day, exchanging them for white robes for the evening meeting and the evening meeting only!! … my first faux pas πŸ˜— I walked over to the cafe after the two hour meeting hoping to enjoy a bedtime ginger tea and was told to change back into my maroon robe … the server looked horrified that I would even consider walking into the cafe wearing my white robe!! Oh vey!

(Found a fellow Finn wandering the meditation halls … born in Liperi in the township of my own birth! Never in all these years in Canada or on my many global travels, have I ever come across another Finlander born in my home turf!! Liperi is a rather tiny community!!! What are the odds …)

The ‘maroon by day rule’ also applies to the swimming pool. Only maroon suits allowed! I argued that no one would see my black swimsuit under the water while swimming and I would throw on my robe in the blink of an eye after my swim. Didn’t wash … the office manager was not amused and merely frowned at me while saying ‘no madam, absolutely forbidden πŸ˜—!!! The Ashram shop had a few teeny tiny women’s suits that may have fit my seven year old granddaughter!!! Is this why perhaps there are rarely more than two people in the pool??? … maybe there is an ulterior motive with a hidden message involved there somewhere πŸ˜—.

Off I went to the recommended Phoenix shopping mall, hailing a local auto rickshaw or more commonly known by tourists as tuk tuks. After a long harrowing ride through Pune’s chaotic road system … typically no one in India pays attention to lanes whatsoever … motorbikes, tuk tuks, cars, buses, trucks move along, all vying for an extra inch of space, weaving an interesting moving tapestry of vehicles that, incredulous as it sounds, manages to propel the traffic forward with few accidents! Horns are honking constantly … strangely, drivers rarely if ever get angry or lose their temper when cut off … it is the accepted way of driving here and only foreigners think it crazy! I breathe a sigh of relief as I finally arrive at the most grandiose modern mall, full of shops with all the globally recognized brand names!!! The middle class continues to grow in India and sadly, in my opinion, modern malls are part of that growth. No secret to anyone who knows me that I am not a fan of malls in general. I did note, there were only locals in the mall … perhaps the 5% of the population that can afford it! I was the sole tourist in sight … interesting to be the minority of one in a crowd of thousands!

For a few hours, I was led on wild goose chases throughout the mall by kind, well meaning, helpful shop keepers including the young man manning the mall information booth!! Given I only found five swimsuits (alas, nary a maroon one in sight) in a mall twice the size of Chinook Shopping Centre in Calgary, I would surmise swimming is not yet a popular sport for women in India!!! At least I managed to get 15,000 plus steps in 😊!

Back at the ranch, as a last resort I chanced to check out the outdoor kiosk a five minute walk from Osho’s. Murphy’s law prevailed! The lady just happened to have a room behind her stall, full of maroon robes, shirts, swim suits, scarves, shawls and oh yes, women’s swimsuits in all manner of sizes!! Cashing in on the Osho maroon mania πŸ˜—. I did wonder why the office did not guide me to the kiosk in the first place?? … hmmm … being led astray by well meaning folks, who love to help foreigners is so typical of Indians. Even if they really do not have the answers to your questions, they try regardless to help! I wobble my head side to side and say to myself … ‘oh well’ 😊

The country remains one of mind boggling contradictions and this little Oasis in the muddling middle of Pune is no exception. As is my norm, I adjust.

Another rule … absolutely no photos anywhere inside the compound!!! I took a few very early one morning before I was told in no uncertain terms that it was forbidden … the grounds are so beautiful I wonder why they do not want us to share this with friends and family?? The marble meditation pyramid and silent hall are serenely stunning but alas one must go on the Osho website to view.

So yes, the rules continue to confound and annoy but I shrug them off, hoping no more rules surface to confront! Stay tuned as invariably, if there are, I will surely bump into them just as I am breaking them πŸ˜—

Maroon swimsuit in hand, I head towards the pool and spa area for a welcome break from the meditational whirling to enjoy the cool pool waters. Heaven answered my call … the ‘resort of many rules’ has a true Finnish sauna!! My faith is restored! I finish of a great swim with an even greater sweat in the sauna!!! Restoration complete πŸ™

Zen Living in Pune, India November – December 2018

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After a long and somewhat arduous journey (arduous primarily because of the weird transit in Frankfurt … a two hour connection turned into two km winding walk, two security checks, lots of confusion from the airport staff etc. before finally arriving at the gate ready to board asap … no time for a bathroom stop!! …… very unorganized for Germany … this was followed up with an unanticipated two hour fuel refill stop in Azerbaijan, necessitated by the tiny plane with only twelve passengers on board although it could have accommodated a hundred …. obviously this all played into the confusion at the airport … so a Frankfurt-Delhi connection that should have been a 9-1/2 hour flight turned into one almost 12 hours πŸ˜—!!) Aaah the travails of travel πŸ€ͺ

It was a pleasure to arrive at the serene ambiance and gardens of Osho International Meditation Resort … instantly restores and soothes the spirit. As I walk through the gates into this little oasis of calm in the middle of Koregaon Park, it is hard to believe what beauty exists in the midst of the chaotic streets of Pune, a city of somewhere between 3 and 9 million souls … hard to get a definitive answer on population count from a local! Over the years, I have learned to shrug ‘Indian style’ in the face of these kinds of discrepancies πŸ˜‚ … Indeed I may have almost perfected the musically wobbly side to side head shake/shrug myself!! It is brought into play when one does not have an answer to a question, or does not wish to commit to an answer or just simply does not wish to address the question period!! … the list for the ‘usefulness’ of this gesture could fill a book πŸ˜‚! Truth be told, after a few trips to India, I have actually grown rather fond of it .. charming in its own way πŸ˜—. First time around I found all this head wobbling more than a little annoying particularly when requiring a response but over the years, less so. Embracing and understanding, or at the very least, accepting cultural quirks helps enormously when travelling. Eventually, I have learned to adjust to all the differing customs and quirks around the globe and for the most part appreciate their value even if I do not always agree with them. What is a great casserole or soup after all, without a zillion different ingredients to create a unique and delicious flavour?

So yes, over thirty hours of airplanes, airports, breathing in stuffy recycled air, compounded by little sleep, can leave one a tad cranky … not the best part of travel by any means but a necessary one. I adjust πŸ™ƒ. The negatives shift into history as soon as my head hits the pillow in my, happy to note, very clean zenny room in Pune … home away from home for the next forty days.

Tomorrow … a zen living ‘adventure’ begins!!

Thanksgiving 2018 .. October Moments with Family

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Fall’s orange and yellow hues were not quite yet in full ‘bloom’ as I drove through the Rockies towards Calgary. What was unexpected however was the early very heavy record breaking snowfall a few days later … wow … 😲

Mother Nature’s snow dump made for some interesting days … mostly spent shovelling and attempting to dig my car out from under a few feet of snow …. it kept snowing for days! No sooner had we cleared a path, than it would once again disappear! Being Canadian, we learned to go with the flow … errrrr … snow πŸ˜‚!!

Also made for a wintry white family weekend in Kananaskis …. I personally love being in the mountains any season … the snow and piercingly stunning blue skies created a magical landscape!

Love time with family ❀️

A beautiful weekend followed by Thanksgiving dinner at Sarah and Rob’s where we were treated to both a roast turkey and a smoked turkey! Rob and his brother Jackson were the ‘turkey chefs extraordinaire’! A most delicious feast indeed!

Never keen to leave these munchkins and no sooner do I arrive back in Kelowna, than I find myself missing them πŸ˜™ Yes, children grow up so fast and no where is it more noticeable than in the lives of grandparents who are well versed in the quickening trajectory of our lives ….

Fall is certainly in full bloom in Kelowna!

Early Fall with a return to Vancouver Island with Mickey and Gordon

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Early fall was perfect for a return to Vancouver Island with my good friends Mickey and Gordon. I always enjoy the ferry ride over and the fresh sea air after this particular smoky Okanagan summer felt nothing short of heavenly! I breathe deeply, letting the freshness wash through me. We visit Mickey and Gordon’s grandchildren Tiernan and Georgia and their partners Jay-Lynn and Connor in Victoria and Mill Bay and move on to the amazing ‘Bridge House’ at ‘Point No Point” a short drive from Sooke. The small seaside cabin we had booked earlier, was undergoing renovations so they put us up at no additional cost into their largest ‘cabin’ … stunning views surrounded us … A wonderful soul soothing West Coast week in every respect! Mickey, Gordon and I have been friends for almost five decades … in four short years, we will indeed hit that milestone and I hope we can celebrate in some fine fashion exploring some remote corner of our world. Travelling has always been a passion for us! Over many years, we have explored countries together around the globe … some research would be in order for something fitting for the 50th milestone of our friendship! At times I feel my friends know the ‘real me’ better than anyone in my life. They accept me, warts and all … oh yes, no rose tints here … they DO call me every now and again on various things but kindly so, well ok, not always kindly πŸ™ƒ … Mickey remains as candidly outspoken as I am πŸ˜™ but the acceptance is never questioned. Fall, my favourite season, finds me usually in quiet contemplation …. no exception on this rainy fall Kelowna evening! I feel such gratitude for the gift of friendship❀️.

August, A month tinged in a poignant mixture of joy and sadness

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My sister Raija Tyyne Maarit Leppanen passed away in the late evening of July 30th, a few short months after her 63rd birthday, cancer having taken hold in her throat area, compounded further by early onset dementia. My sisters Margaret, Maija and I had been sitting with her since early morning into the late afternoon, sometimes singing songs from our youth, or I, chanting my favourite Sanskrit Gayatri Mantra, sometimes reminiscing, sometimes just sitting in silence. The air was certainly tinged in sadness … so much potential now slowly fading into a quiet death. I cradled Raija, lying beside her as she passed. It was my first time holding someone as they took their last breath. Three months later, I remain in awe of the moment and am slowly moving into yet another new awareness of the preciousness of our lives. How important to love and accept rather than judge and critique. Negatives and positives live within us all! Death is such a teacher … Accept, breathe deeply … let the good prevail! I was very touched by the memories both my children and husband shared for the memorial service … humorous memories. How fitting for my sister, who in her finer moments, her early years, always had a great sense of humour! The memories everyone shared including a wonderful letter written by an old friend were heartwarming. It was a memorial tribute at its finest, to pay homage to the good in all of us. I was happy to see Raija’s sense of humour return in her last year of life. Today, three months later, I picture Raija’s soul flying … saying “well that lifetime was a bit of a weird ride but cool to be back here flying free again, waiting for the next lifetime of lessons” πŸ˜‚!

My son Tim and his partner Liseanne made it to the memorial service in the nick of time, which warmed my heart no end. They stayed to visit for a few days, treating my sister Margaret and I to a wine tour of various small vineyards in the area. A most enjoyable afternoon sampling tasty local wines, including mead wines 😊! Tim and Liseanne’s visit ended far too soon. However, the positive side of that left me much needed quiet time for reflection, contemplation … life, death and all our various incarnations.

Savouring Summer with Family and Friends

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No Summer feels complete, without a visit to Linda and Court’s piece of heaven on Kootenay Lake. Linda was recovering from a knee replacement operation and was not totally mobile yet but we still managed a side trip to the Yasodhara Ashram, always a great outing where we sit in quiet meditation and chant. Our friendship has always had that something extra special … it sometimes seems we have known each other forever … living our whole adult lives as friends, sharing, always sharing … through decades of dinners and theatre nights, from drumming circles to the infamous Mackid New Year’s Eve parties, or ‘girls’ trips to The Kingfisher Spa … those Vancouver Island spa weeks were some of my favourite times with Linda … a memory from such a spa week still warms me … we had been laying down reading for a long time after a spa treatment and realized we had not spoken a word for hours!! … the comfort of true friendship!… knowing we do not always have to fill the silence with words, that our presence is all that is required ❀️

Sarah, Aliana, Oliver and Sarah’s sister in law Lisa and her daughter Brooklyn came for a ten day visit in July … the moms were enrolled at a university course for a week, while the kids and I enjoyed a lot of beach and park time in addition to the various Kelowna entertainment offerings of mini golf, Enerplex, bowling, kangaroo farm etc. It was certainly a whirlwind week of swirling youthful energy to spare 😊

Watching morning cartoons 😊

A Webb, Overmann, White, Gauss, Cuddie (the Exner arm and a few Webbs from Calgary were missing this year) picnic was held at Tim and Angela’s. Steve and Jenn were housesitting at Tim and Angela’s who generously allowed our troop to invade their gorgeous yard! Goofy Uncle Otto kept the little folk amused in and out of the pool … he remains a big kid at heart and of course the little folk love that πŸ€ͺ!! Maija on the other hand, loves her photo bombs πŸ™ƒ!!

Newest addition to the family is cute little ‘Nila, a sister for Meelo … Margaret and Brad’s grand-doggies! A great second annual get together!

Lisa and Brooklyn head for home and Sarah, the children and I head for Vancouver Island where we found a great little gem of an Airbnb home on Glen Lake! Managed to fit in a beautiful afternoon at Butchart Gardens, complete with high tea. The week was a most perfect finish to a BC summer holiday.