Thursday, February 5, 2009

:: India :: conclusions of 9 months on the subcontinent


India Conclusions ::

That ole classic spiritual book "Autobiography of a Yogi" by Paramahansa Yogananda planted this seed 12 years ago for my desire to see the ancient & magical lands of India. I spent 6 months there October 2006-March 07, and another 3 months September-November 2007. Incredible country with so many mystical temples, mesmerizing cultures & enchanting lore. I traveled around testing out different yoga teachers/schools/ashrams & beaches.

Cultural shock waves continually flowing through my mind-body-soul. From the Arctic North to the South Pole. Like a black hole, fully in control, consuming lightwaves until I feel full!

We are light beings dancing with our shadows of samsara in an eternal cycle of harmony & chaos of the Kali Age. The ancient Indian holy texts of the Vedas state that we are going through a long dark age of humanity called the Kali age, where fear & suffering seem to be increasing. India, the place where Buddha himself found a way to end this suffering & cultivate deep lasting inner peace. India, the land of Hinduism & it's massive temples & many deities. India, the land of the yogi's! I came to India, partly, to learn more about the spiritual history of yogi's, guru's, & enlightened ones that have given India & the world the jewels of enlightenment. From the times centuries before Christ to NOW, these saints have showed us a scientific path, logical straightforward techniques to end this darkness inside & manifest a lighter way of being. This is the path of self-realization, through daily medtiation, devotional ceremonies, pujas, chanting, intentions, internal cleansings, yoga & constant prayers to Divine Mother. This is a culture where people don't just go to church on Sundays for an hour, but life becomes their church & prayers roll off tongues during their daily routines. You can sense it everywhere in India...these

people are somehow closer to God & 'the goal' than us & our Christian/Catholic /Puritan cultural programs from the West.

I saw more people here smiling than any other place i've been to. Everyday....big smiles! Good energy! Innocence, playfulness, curiosity. A people ready to make new friends, "Hello friend! What is your good name?" they asked (about 10,000 times!).

I have to say that I came to India as one of these so called 'seekers' that come for the yoga, ashrams, gurus & to be around the

happy smiling Indians! I have never been comfortable with being a 'seeker'. Now, I feel that with what i've 'found' & discovered,

I am no longer a 'seeker'. What did I find you ask? I found a yoga school that is fulfilling with a five year program I intend

to go to throughout the next few years. I found a few retreats & ashrams that I can come to throughout the years when need be.

I was reminded that..."there is nothing to seek, nothing to attain." simple. be here now, & be here with gratitude! keep life simple. this is it!

But as many others have already said about India, I have to agree that it is most definitely a LOVE/HATE relationship!

What I love: The people have big smiles, open hearts & a genuine friendliness that I have not seen elsewhere!

The food was almost always delicious, and cheap! (of course, I was mostly eating non-Indian international food at touristy places). It was sooooo cheap to get a hotel room & meals! 6 months in

India for what some spend on 2 week vacations! The cheap yoga schools & massage courses that can teach you for one-fifth the price of back home! The Tibetan community of McLeod Ganj & the little I saw of the Himalaya's! Rishikesh, the holy Ganges, & many Sadhu's & yoga community there. Beaches of Arambol Goa! The people of Goa, Kerala & Tamil Nadu (they didn't seem to stare as much as up north & i felt they were more relaxed due to the beach lifestyle). The people wrapped in saris, dhotis, & turbans of every possible color....soooooo colorful India is! The live Indian music available often, & also a bargain price for admission. Taking trains to travel around, much better than the ole Greyhounds back home!

What I hate: The people were too friendly! Over-friendly to the point that you got harassed so many times EVERYDAY,

and do not have much personal space in this country. Being a foreigner, you are approached many many times, with

the same questions "From which country do you come?" & it just gets tiring over the months! It gets very tiring!!!

The staring problem. Why or why must they ALL stare so much? A completely different concept to our culture where staring

is very rude - here it is very much accepted, normal & you will get stared down like Bruce Lee about to begin a fight! Intense gazes that seem hostile at times, emotionless, black/brown dark eyes locked on you. You feel as you

are being judged (and maybe you are? maybe they are thinking "ugly stupid foreigner. why do you have money & not I? go home foreigner! go home infidel!"). My last days here after 5.5 months & I am still not used to the annoys me!

From the amazing book Shantaram (which i am excited to hear is being filmed now & Johnny Depp is the main character), Gregory Michaels says " "Foreigners were stared at in India. Somewhere in the five or more millennia of its history, the culture had decided to dispense with the casual, nonchalant glance. By the time I came to Bombay, the eye contact ranged from an ogling gaze to a gawping, goggle-eyed glare. There was nothing malicious in it. The staring eyes that found and followed me everywhere I went were innocent, curious, and almost always friendly. And that intense scrutiny had its benefits: for the most part, people stared at what I was, not what I did. Foreigners were stared into invisibility." It's true, they were almost always

friendly stares, and often...if you just did the Indian head wiggle or said hi, a huge smile would appear from their formerly-perceived-as -serious faces!

The noise pollution! Honking cars in every city, every highway, honk-honk-honking & LOUD horns that somehow get turned up past maximum volume (beyond any honk you have ever heard....somehow?).. .very bad on the nerves!

Also, in the very early mornings around 4am-8am, and also sometimes during the days at many small village temples throughout the country modern music, Hindi pop or new religious music, is played at this same volume setting - turned up so loud, beyond belief, to the point of distorting horrendously! Guess they want to wake up devotees & all signs of life in a 10 mile radius.

Perhaps what I hate about India the most is the way they treat our foreigner women....grabbing their bodies at times= mass sexual abuse! This is happening everywhere, everyday, & needs to stop! The theory is that Indians have seen Hollywood movies often showing women in mini-skirts & seen as promiscusous compared to their non-traditional ways. If I was a women that got groped, I would be breaking some noses! Totally unacceptable! You can look, but don't touch!!!

The post offices! Too many rules! Takes an hour to mail a package! You have to get it specially wrapped by a tailor. If it is books it has to be only books, and the package needs to have a hole on the side. You have to fill out FOUR forms for customs that are identical. Sometimes you have to photocopy your passport, sometimes you don't. And the packages don't always make it to their destination, as they probably make good presents for the dishonest employees.

Having to bargain ALL the time...for taxis, shopping, even hotel rooms. Rarely prices are fixed. It takes so much energy to do this all the time. If you don't, you get charged the tourist price, 2-10x more the regular local price! We'd tell them sometimes, "this is racism? why do you do this to our people?" But really, this is the asian way & has been since time here really don't think it will change soon. Good thing I went to so many garage sales & learned how to bargain back home!

But........Love conquers all. And...

Sometimes curiosity is greater than fear. I came to India with deep curiosity about these ancient civilizations, religions, people,

& places that make up this subcontinent. I admit that I came here with much fear as well. Fear of letting go of what I had back home :

good meaningful jobs doing social work, making music events, writing & performing music with a career starting to lift off, many good friends & family, and a beautiful room in a lovely big dream home that I was uber-comfortable in. Fear of traveling alone for many months in a strange new region where I knew next to nothing, did not speak any of the 300 dialects, where diseases run rampant, professional thieves & con-artists on every block, & of course fear of the unknown. I am glad I conquered these fears & jumped into this Indian abyss. I have learnt much & am grateful for this experience.

Trip mishaps :: dog attacked me & I slipped & fell & scraped up my lip & gums (nearly knocked out teeth), monkeys attacked me because there baby was scared of me, almost had a motorcycle accident in Rishikesh, but I got off 5 minutes before the driver crashed, Furuncle nose infection in Goa, allergic skin rash on thighs in Goa/Tamil Naud for 10 days, big bug bite on thigh that got infected & had to take

antibiotic & apply creams. All part of the adventure , huh?

How did you like India I am asked? I agree with Amy from Auroville who says, "I have immeasurable admiration & respect for the ancient traditions here but I find the external environment very challenging. Sometimes I literally feel like my brain cells are boiling with the heat." the Indian Hinglish (Hindi & English mix) saying goes...."What to do?" "What to do?".

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