The tour guide I who took me through south Mumbai my last day in India was very curious to know what I found different in India from the time I was there 9 years before (when he was probably like 3 years old, lol). I told him then that the signs on the roadways encouraging drivers to not blow their horns, to save water, to be mindful of trash were all new to me. That and also air-conditioned cars with seat-belts. I wrote him later to add that I noticed more people on motorbikes texting (yikes!) and that there were more western toilets. I think though the biggest difference was within my own microcosm body! (I mean, other than being almost a decade older.) The difference was more from my involvement in spiritual practices and what I was “seeking” this time.
I think it is safe to say that whenever I have gone to India I have hopes that I will get the “Thunderbolt” in some way. I will be knocked off my feet by an experience, or have a sudden download of something extraordinary. While there was admittedly a little of that going into this trip I feel like it was far less than before, perhaps because I have come to appreciate the steady climb into my being that has accelerated in the last 5 years or so because of my trainings and my practices. There does seem to be a natural inclination towards fulfilling a hunger, searching for the self and the highest something that accompanies big journeys like this, and I am in no way against that! But I didn’t leave this time with that hunger, instead I feel that packed my bags with the desire to offer something to the places I was going to visit, namely the places my teachers Gurus came from.
A Guru desires the liberation of their disciples, at least that is my understanding. The Guru who gives practices does so with the intention that the followers engage in those practices because the Guru knows that is what will lead them to liberation. And if the Guru desires your liberation, what is wanted is that you liberate! It is a show of love to give the medicine to cure samsara and reduce the suffering inherent in life. To take that gift of love and use it is, well, a way of showing gratitude, right? Unlike taking the cut glass vase Aunt Sadie gave you and stowing it in the closet until her annual visit, if given this gift we need to use it! If we have been offered a spot among the multitudes of beings who have done this practices for thousands of years, we should stand tall and active in that space! So now that I have landed in a consistent rhythm of practice (of sadhana), I felt like I was able to give something to those Guru’s who have given so much to so many people. What I was giving was my dedication, my discipline and my devotion.
When I met people in Devipuram who were from London, Singapore, Cananda, India, etc and found they do the same practices I do, I was touched. It was like meeting long lost family members. There was a mutual respect as we were all attempting the same thing-that is to embody the light the Guru offers to the world. We know we will not do any of it perfectly, but we attempt, we practice and then we show up to learn more. That in and of itself is a beautiful connection, one that runs very deeply without any words needing to be exchanged. It is just known with a nod, with a “swaha”, with an “om”.
As with many things, we may not realize what we are wanting until we either have it, or we recognize we absolutely don’t have it. Really, I didn't necessarily realize what my deep desire was going into the trip until I recognized it in the moment, many times over. I can ask myself the hard questions Ramana Maharshi asks in Arunachala, I can participate in a Guru Puja and Homan in Ganeshpuri, I can sit for an Agni Mukham in Devipuram. What I feel this showed is I trust and believe in the work the Guru gives. What else is there that I can give?
Well, I can also give this sweet story: On my way to the airport to go home the cab driver who picked me up a the hotel told me there was no way I was going to make my plane. Too much traffic! He has a huge shrine on his dashboard to Ganesha (by the way, this was NOT one of the air-conditioned, seat-belted cars I had grown fond of). I chanted mantra to Ganesha the whole trip, when not commenting on the sights around me. About 15 minutes out from the airport the driver began to exclaim “you are a lucky lady! Very lucky! We made very good time, lucky lady!” I told him it wasn’t my luck, it was Ganesha grace. “Ganesha Kripa!!” he sang out. He stopped the car in front of the terminal and I handed him the last cookie I had in my bag to offer Ganesha as I chanted the mantra. He tucked it under the Ganesha statue closest to the steering wheel, held my gaze with his smiling eyes (we had a moment) and off we went in our separate directions.
If you are interested in participating in the upcoming Spiritual Studies session
at Yoga Loka click here for details
It is very good to be home from India! As much as I love traveling, I also love coming home, even if it is to a broken furnace and no heat, and a yucky head cold.
A big thank you to Laura sharing a post last week (thank you Laura!) while I was still away. She captured the essence of the retreat and the part I always love, which is seeing people come together and finding a true heart connection.
As some have asked about the trip, I will be offering some stories and pictures here and there that I hope you will find interesting.
The question I asked most during the retreat in Ganeshpuri (other than how are your dreams?) was this (paraphrased)-"What would your life look like if you had no fear? How would you live, what would you be doing now, how would you change the way you dance through life, if you had no fear?”
Fortunately I was able to point to my friend Nitin as an example of this question in action. I met Nitin about 11 years ago when I first went to Ganeshpuri with Mukunda. Nitin has just come off of a powerful 12 year spiritual journey that started with him leaving everything behind-family, lucrative job, possessions, to find his “path”. Once he landed in Ganeshpuri he knew he was home. It was there he started The Learning Space, with Mukunda’s encouragement. Back then the Learning Space was housed in a small sooty office in the downtown area of Ganeshpuri. The following year when we visited, Learning Space was in a larger campus outside of the town and could welcome a good number of children to participate in the supplemental educational program. Now the program has exploded and is a part of over 100 schools across the Maharashtra district. During this visit we were able to see the additional building on the site which is named after my dear teacher Mukunda, and is now used for training teachers and making presentations.
If you ask Nitin how his journey has unfolded in this way, he simply says it is the grace of the Guru. Of course recognizing and receiving the Gurus grace requires something that usually freaks us out-SURRENDER. Nitin was willing to do this, and so for the past decade or so he watches the actions born from surrender unfold into a bigger picture. This includes not just the Learning Space, but also the animal shelter that he started, the Womans Cooperative he has supported, and the two books he has written. He described the huge joy that has come from seeing the young children he worked with a decade ago now taking on leadership roles and supporting the younger children. One of the young men we met, Ganesh, was a fatherless child when he started at Learning Space in the beginning. He now runs a computer department and according the Nitin is supporting village children of similar circumstances with his own money.
Paying it forward, as we say.
I have worked with Nitin on many fundraising projects for Learning Space over the years. Now, he says, they don’t need money as they have financial support. What is needed is for people to form a relationship with some of the learning space teachers. Most of these teachers are very young locals who want to make a difference in the world, as many of you do. Nitin’s vision is for people to simply have conversations, whether via email, Skype, or using some other technology. Through these conversations everyones world expands. And the expansion offered these teachers will filter into the classrooms, and your world expansion will filter into your relationships. That is what so much of travel and connection is about after all, right? Expansion! One of the retreat participants has already begun to connect some of her USA friends who are music teachers to some of the Learning Space teachers who want to start up a much desired music program.
If you are interested in something like this please reach out to Nitin directly at firstname.lastname@example.org. He will be visiting us in May, so stay tuned for more information so you can meet him in person!
If this short story inspires you, then maybe you want to ask yourself what your life would look like if you had no fear. We all have something (or many things) we are destined to manifest in this life, but often we can’t see or recognize them because of the clouding of our ordinary fears. Admitting we may be blinded doesn’t make the fears go away suddenly, but it does help us to maintain the courage and strength to move through them, reconcile them, and attempt to manifest what the heart has known all along. If, like Nitin, your heart-voice is loud enough, the familiar sounds of your fears will be less so.