Random thoughts on a journey….

Here, in the US, we have order and a certain life rhythm that we take for granted. Of course, we all know that ultimately, we have no real control. But we do hold things pretty tightly and at least on surface presentation things go much as planned. Or at the very least we can pretty easily sustain the illusion of control. When you travel outside of your regular surroundings and especially to a place like India, that illusion can be shattered.

On the Ganges
On the Ganges

In making a spiritual pilgrimage and traveling to India I think I hoped for some deep spiritual revelation to come. It is a trip I have anticipated for years. I traveled with a spiritual group with a focus on spiritual sights; temples, sacred grounds and the places of gurus. I believed somehow that I would feel closer to the roots of yoga, this practice that has been so meaningful in my life. That I might just understand something new or in a heightened sense that would solidify in some way the teachings that I treasure. And I do. But in a subtle way; and a way that I did not necessarily anticipate. In a way that, rather than solidify anything, perhaps just helps shed a bit more clearly some light on the path to non attachment. And that light was turned up not so much by the historical and spiritual context of the sights but rather by simply being present, in the small way I could be as a visitor, within the context of life there.

buddhaDaily life in India is seemingly run through with religion. Even for the non religious, the underlying spirit of Hinduism, Buddhism and Islam is everywhere. And yes, there are a multitude of other religions represented as well. A new temple being dedicated means that an entire neighborhood is inundated with loud chanting and music played over poor quality loud speakers for days. Sick, I lay in a hotel room and wonder how anyone can stay sane. I recognize that not only is religion an important part of daily life and so perhaps this intrusion is more easily absorbed but that there is also a general sense of acceptance about the lack of control of environment that people live with.
There are people everywhere.
Noise, everywhere.
Filth, everywhere.
Still, beauty, everywhere: in the people’s faces, altars on the street, the piles of vegetables in all the colors of nature, those children laughing. Despite or maybe because of the lack of control, life happens and the flow continues on.

Life happens out in the open. lifeonstreet

On the street, barely out of the pathway of the rush of humanity moving from one place to another, all the elements of life are occurring.
Children playing, fish being cleaned, stacks of vegetables for sale, a man being shaved, dogs and people sleeping, cows walking, someone urinating, garbage burning, chai being served. A wild cacaphony of movement and sound; sight and smell; pleasure and pain.
A small, elderly woman carries a heavy bundle on her back, moving past a small group of men smoking and shooting the breeze.
Children in matching school uniforms run alongside traffic breathing the fumes and dust that are making my eyes water on their daily trek to school.
Other children crowd the side of the tourist buses hawking trinkets or simply begging for coins.
Business men ride past in a rickshaw pulled by a man with holey shoes. He looks 60 but is probably 40.
Women in beautiful saris walk through muddy streets. How do they always look so clean?

Under a 3rd generation "sapling of THE Bodhi Tree

Under a 3rd generation “sapling” of THE Bodhi Tree

India, a trip I have considered inevitable for many years. To go, to experience something close to the roots of yoga, to feel the spirit of yoga within the thread of daily life. A naive romanticization? Is the spirit of yoga part of that thread? I think so but it may take awhile to integrate it all and really have a sense of how. But hey, the Buddha searched for enlightenment for seven years. I have time!

This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to Random thoughts on a journey….

  1. Kara says:

    Welcome home, Leslie 🙂 What a beautifully honest assessment of your experiences. No doubt it will prove helpful to many people, whatever path they happen to be traveling. Can’t wait to hear more about your trip!

  2. Bonnie MacDonald says:

    Dearest Leslie;
    What courage, what truth, what an act of devotion. I followed my heart teacher to Tibet/China last summer on pilgrimmage and you have so eloquently described my sentiments. Love from your Northern Yoga Sister Bonnie

  3. Linda Olsvik says:

    Hi, Leslie. TJ told me you were going on this trip. All I can say is let it settle in. It will become much more than you think today. Sometimes it is so much that it takes the body and mind to absorb it. It will definitely become a part of you.
    Best Wishes, Linda

  4. Myra says:

    Leslie, thank you for sharing your deep, honest and profound experience that I am sure will continue to unfold into a semblance of transforming reality. Life is life, where ever we go it is meant to bring only openness, the answers are within. I hope to play in a journey to India in the near future. I would like to stay for at least 3 months to absorb, participate and experience the myriad of truths that they live in, many of which you spoke of. And spending time in some Ashrams. I am clear, perfection does not exist, merely efforts of individuals towards different ends. Welcome home to familiarity.

    • Thanks Myra! India is definitely worth the visit! A three month stay where you actually remained in one place for a longer period of time would be really interesting. We were traveling every 2-3 days which adds drama (when you are with a group!) and is also energetically exhausting. Of course, in three months you could also see so much more than we did!

  5. Glen Fielding says:

    Hi, Leslie-

    Thanks for sharing your keenly thoughtful reflections on your visit to India. Although I was sorry to learn that you were sick on the trip, that certainly didn’t stop you from having a rich and fascinating experience, whose meaning, clearly, you are continuing to unfold.

    I was especially taken with your perception that “life happens in the open” and with your suggestion that in so many ways, the daily life you beheld was wildly messy, perhaps even chaotic, and, at the same time, saturated with stabilizing religious rituals, symbols, and practices. Maybe the juxtaposition of life chaos and religious continuity is like yoga, at least to the extent that yoga is an exploration of the play of opposites and the search for an underlying, balanced center.

    Your observations also reminded me of some of my experiences in India, several years ago. I remember early in my trip, I visited Rishikesh, which I had envisioned as a global mecca for yoga, surely embodying the calm majesty of the Himalayas and the rhythmic flow of the Ganges River. All I can recall of my first evening in Rishikesh, however, was the swarming, horn-blasting, three-wheeled mechanized rickshaws that I ended up calling the “taxi death squad” because they charged through the streets with seemingly no regard for people who might be in the way. The first evening there, I remember jumping to get out of the path of one of these vehicles, only to land in a heap of wet cow dung. I jumped from one problem to land in another, perhaps revealing, as yoga can do, a more general life tendency, in this case to “overcorrect, ” resolving one misalignment only to find that I’ve pushed myself into an opposite misalignment. Alas, I certainly did not find a balanced, underlying unity in my early experience in India. Fortunately, I ended up loving my experience there. But it was not an uncomplicated love.

    In any case, I really appreciated your writing about being in India and the meaning it is holding for you.

    Best wishes,.


    • Glen, thanks for your thoughtful comment. It is really interesting to talk to and hear from others who have traveled in India….it certainly seems to deeply affect everyone- each perhaps a little differently but deeply.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s