When I first came here, I knew little about the power of mantra. During the YTT course I took at Anand Prakash I learned a few mantras, and at first it was extremely difficult for me to remember them because I didn’t fully grasp then and wasn’t very acquainted with the art of chanting.
Now It seems that something has awakened in my ability to grasp and feel the power of some if these mantras, and one of my favorite things to do now is chant. In the shower, on my walks across town, on my scooter rides, and especially in the classes I teach.
I will write a blog soon that will go more into the things I have learned about mantra that has enriched my life and practice, but for now I just want to share one of the chants I have been using a lot lately and I find it rather beautiful.
Om Asato Ma Sat Gamaya
Tamaso Ma Jyotir Gamaya
Mrityor Ma Amritam Gamaya
Lead me from the unreal to the real
Lead me from the darkness to the light
Lead me from death to immortality
Thanks to Ali for helping to awaken my love of chanting.
“My life has been hard.” It is a story I have held onto and identified with for a long time. I’ve even thought about one day publishing a book of the many very hard lessons I have lived through and I believe it would be really interesting and shocking to many.
But these stories are hard to hold onto as truths when I walk to the store to buy chocolate for my sweet tooth and see little girls playing with dolls in the pile of dirt at a construction site next to an active back hoe that is digging holes 8 feet from the girls and their dolls. They live in makeshift houses on the construction site dirt.
Then there are the starving dogs that are scary at night as you walk home in the dark and hear the desperation in their growls as you approach their sillouette in the narrow alley.
The woman and her baby girl that live in the tent IN the road on the way down the hill.
The people with missing and deformed limbs that sit one after the other on the stairwell at the bottom, one reminder after the other after the other after the other of how lucky you are and how you should think twice before throwing your money away into a coffee from Starbucks that is equal to a pair of shoes here in India for someone who has no shoes.
I met a little boy at the Ganges. He came up to me and put a rock in my hand and at first I was filled with skepticism that this kid wanted something from me. That he was going to steal. I soon came to find that this magical boy and I had a very special connection. You see, he was a five year old living with much older parents and wasn’t socialized much with other kids. This was me as a child. Only instead of a swimming pool in his back yard he had a river and his parents didn’t watch him so close as mine did.
After several visits I came to learn that this kid lived in a tent with his parents. On the Ganga. His dad has gangrene from an accident at his job and lost a leg and a hand. He needs surgery or could die. I sat next to him and read the doctors letter, feeling a bit uneasy. I couldn’t remember. Could I catch gangrene? He only needs 20,000. Rupees. Actually only 10,000. That’s 161 dollars. And he is crying to me.
I return to the ashram crying. (I have returned to the ashram crying quite a lot, but also spilling over with joy.)
I simply cannot keep holding on to a story about how hard my life was. I simply cannot go back to wearing $100 pants from a company that hires child laborers and promoting materialism when I have lived in this reality where $100 would feed a family of five for a week it more .
Some interesting stuff is coming up here. The other day I had an experience where I separated from the group I was with and was alone for the first time in the other side of the bridge in Ram jhula. At first I just kept playing in my head all of the terrible stories people kept sharing with me (many of them out of love) before I left for India. The one they heard on the news, or the one that happened to their friends friend…and I was experiencing all of this fear and constriction. As my solo journey progressed, my fear dissolved, and I was able to take in the sights, the smells, and the energy of the beautiful souls around me. It was beautiful. I will journey out solo more. This is a safe area. What this had taught me is to keep my fear stories to myself rather than sharing them with someone who may digest the fear and make it their own and have it compromise an otherwise beautiful experience.
The yoga is still super awesome.
I haven’t had coffee in over a week! It’s been chai masala, all the way. It is so good here. Also next door at Ayurpak they have delicious lassis and warm rose milk that I adore. Last night I went to bid a new dear friend farewell (for now) and I had a warm fennel and raisin milk. Interesting and quite pleasant as well as good for digestion.
Love from Rishikesh!
First cleansing day
Saturday morning was sensational. After our morning meditation it was time for satkriyas or yogic cleansing. We were instructed to bring buckets and our Neti pots and our Sutra (rubber nose floss). Many people in the training are already accustomed to the Neti ritual, but I was a total newbie to the cleansing ritual.
Vishvaji sat in the front of the room and explained to us what we would be doing. He then demonstrated several cleansing techniques that were awesomely unusual to watch but have been practiced for thousands of year and are very effective. It was amazing. For this part alone this training is absolutely worth every penny. I will mention a few of the techniques.
The first technique is called dhauti. It consists of squatting and drinking 4-5 cups of warm salt water until your stomach is full, and then using your peace fingers to throw it back up into a bucket. I could not believe my eyes nor could I believe that shortly most of us would be doing this together. I opted out of this because I spent much of my time in high school exploring this technique and do not wish to relive it. That said, is a helpful technique to know how to do.
The second cleansing technique was the Nettie pot. Simple. Warm salt water in the pot, place the spout to dominant nostril and tip less dominant nostril toward the bucket. The water streams out and cleanses your sinuses. Repeat other side. The benefits are many and you can even add certain herbs to make it more custom tailored to your needs. I will be doing this every day from now on.
The next cleansing technique we tried was the sutra Neti. The slim rubber tube is lubricated with ghee and inserted into your nostril. You slowly slide it deep into your nasal cavity until it comes out of your throat onto your tongue, at which point you grab the end inside your mouth and give your nasal passage way a good gentle flossing. This is great for wintertime and is said to improve eyesight. It also clears the sinuses and respiratory system and is said to improve both memory and the sound of ones voice.
Repeat other side.
This was definitely not pleasant but I did it with almost no problem-just a few tears. I felt a benefit and will probably do it from time to time. After the sutra Neti we were instructed to do the Neti again on each side and then lubricate nasal passageway with ghee or coconut oil. Breathing was freer and easier after all of this. Next Saturday the cleansing will get even more intense. It was very interesting to be sharing these new awkward experiences with the 27 fellow YTT, many of them whom I already feel very close to.
After the cleansing, Ali from Egypt, and Andrea my roommate, and myself took a ten minute tuk tuk to Rishikesh to obtain a space heater. It makes a world of difference. I am also very grateful that my wonderful mom sent me off with some of her very warm thermals to wear under clothes. It’s much chillier than I am used to. Now I sleep warmly.
Rishikesh was bustling. I was a little afraid to even cross the main streets alone.
A few photos from Rishikesh.
India week 2
First week of YTT is complete.
The curriculum is moving quickly and I am learning so much. I am also falling in love with the souls around me, each one of them is spectacular.
On Friday we were learning techniques for measuring lung expansion and fellow Californian Tiffany discovered that my left lung was not as open as my right, also that I was not breathing very deeply into the back of my lungs. Once she guided me through the technique that Yogrishi Vishvaketu taught is, she felt a release in my left shoulder.
Sure, the breath felt more even and my lungs felt even more expansive, but an hour after, my throat began to hurt.
They warned us upon coming to Tapovan that most everyone comes down with a cold upon arriving here…perhaps it is because of the close quarters of the ashram? The yoga room filled beautiful international bodies doing lots of kapalabhati and other types of pranayama that sends any infected breath all around the room to be breathed in by other healthy pink lungs. As of now, everyone is either with cold or fighting one off. And now my throat hurts. But hey, maybe it was just the awakening of my left lung? A girl can hope.
It is getting cold here. Really cold. I had hoped of a warm shower this morning, but instead took a cold one. I felt like crying in the shower. Or hitting the walls. I definitely let out a couple of loud groans.
We inquired about renting a heater for our room (about 5 times) and they think we are nuts. Andrea and I might be the least prepared for a Himalayan winter coming from Florida and SoCal. We will get a heater in one way or another. For now I am sleeping with layers and two blankets. I am grateful for having braved the extreme conditions of burning man, as I feel it has helped prepared me in many ways for this.
Monday, Wednesday, and Friday nights we have Transformational Experiences, which are often kirtans. Tonight’s kirtan was amazing-wonderful energy despite lots of under the weather yogis. I am really enjoying kirtan and am excited to get more into it when I return to LA. I drank some tea for my throat and my belly didn’t like it much. I was feeling a little overwhelmed during one of the chants so I went to the back of the circle and layed down. A sweet Japanese girl who I had never spoken to came to me and asked if I was ok and told me to relax as she put her hand on my belly and closed her eyes. I had never spoken to her before. She gave me reiki for the duration of the chant which was about five minutes. My heart melted and continues to melt. There is so much love within these walls.
Each person in this ashram is a light worker.
It has been a little over one week since I arrived in India and though at first I was perhaps overly careful about food and drink and, well, touching things in general, I feel more comfortable by the minute and suspect I could be happy living here for longer than the planned two months.
Having flown into Delhi, I was quick to notice that Delhi is not the most yogic place on the planet, at least where we stayed. I took a short walk with sweet and beautiful Sam from Redding, England, and along our short walk encountered many aggressive stares from the locals. Perhaps it was our doe eyes and cluelessness that garnered these looks? Even the women seemed disapproving of us, and with each passing stare I grew more weary. Where we were it was filthy and over populated with crazy traffic that seemed to never end. Coming from Los Angeles I thought I knew what crazy traffic was, but seriously, in Delhi and the parts of India I have seen so far, the lines that mark the lanes are apparently mere suggestions. There were hundreds of motorcycles, (many of them with entire families onboard) and people honk constantly more to let people know not to swerve into them than for anything else. I don’t think there is any way you could get me to drive here, it seems like way too much of a gamble. We ended up meeting up with Angela from Brazil (also in our YTT course) and hiring a driver to take us to the Lotus Temple, a beautiful Bahai temple, and though we didn’t ask, he also took us to Delhi Haat which is a market for all kinds of inexpensive Indian goods from incense to Ganesha statues, beautiful woven rugs, bed sheets, and much more. They are good at selling here, and love to bargain. It is like a game.
There are twenty eight of us in the yoga teacher training, with people representing Hungary, Canada, Japan, Egypt, Italy, England, Dominican Republic, Venezuela, Brazil, and I am probably leaving some countries out. It is awesome. I am very grateful to be getting to learn about these fascinating cultures and sharing yoga with these amazing yogis.
The ashram is beautiful. Upon arriving there was the warmest welcoming imaginable, with chanting followed by tea and then jet lag yoga, which was divine. The flight from LAX to China was incredibly hard on my body, despite several yoga breaks mid-flight. My ankles were visibly swollen but it finally went away a few days after landing in India.
The teachers leading the training are great awesome. I am very happy to be getting to practice here. The studio is more beautiful than I imagined, many large bright windows looking out to the Himalayas, especially nice during sunrise and sunset. Akhanda yoga includes lots of transformative pranayama, meditation, and just the right amount of asana. The classes are taught in the styles of Hatha, Raja, Kundalini, Jnana, and Bhakti. It is an exquisite blend. Mantra is woven into every class. The first few days were jet lag days and we had yoga twice a day. The YTT (yoga teacher training) started on Monday, and so now our afternoon yoga class had been replaced with studying technique and anatomy. It is fantastic.
The schedule is intense. Morning meditation starts at 5:20 and is followed with yoga with Yogrishi Vishvketu. After yoga we have breakfast. It is in silence. The food is good. Sometimes very simple but always very nutrition and prepared with filtered water that was chanted over at fire puja. My favorite breakfast so far would have to be the banana samosas for breakfast yesterday. Holy yum. Often for lunch and dinner we have a vegetable dish with rice and ciapati, a variation of Dal, and tea and occasionally a sweet treat. I have had a few coffee drinks out, and enjoyed them deeply. Coffee is not served in the ashram, and I am not ready to fully let go of it so I have some instant coffee in the ashram for emergencies.
After breakfast there is a fire puja, which we are required to attend twice a week at least. I haven’t gone yet. I do miss having space to myself since I am sharing a room and bathroom with the angelic Andrea from Pensacola. I have been taking space for myself during this time. I will start going tomorrow probably.
Lights out at 10 pm is very easy for me as I am usually exhausted by 9:00 pm.
Saturdays we will begin with traditional Yogic cleansing techniques, some of which are rather extreme seeming. Sunday we have a free day.
My dreams have been really trippy lately though I haven’t been keeping a good journal of them because of the regimented schedule. I am feeling massive gratitude for my loved ones. . More soon.
What a night! Dave Cipriani took us on a musical journey, the flow was sweet and sweaty, and All India Café and India’s Tandoori donated some super yummy food for us to enjoy after! Thank you to all who came out to support and raise money for Sojourn! And thanks to Laughing Frog Yoga for hosting such a meaningful evening!
If you have never heard of Sojourn, it is a project of O.P.C.C., which is a non-profit organization located in Santa Monica that manages NINE very important projects. You can learn more on their website at www.OPCC.net
Sojourn has offered services for Battered Women and Their Children since 1977. I became interested in Sojourn back in June after I discovered what they do and how passionate and involved everyone in their office is with their mission.
In the beginning of September, in Las vegas, one of my sisters dearest friends was shot and killed by her soon to be ex-husband. He then shot and killed himself. The devastating news of this shocking murder-suicide of someone I remembered fondly from childhood only made me more passionate about Sojourn. While spreading awareness and reminding people that there ARE resources out there will not bring Megan back, certainly it can help other women who are victims of domestic abuse find a way to get out and rebuild their lives. For the sake of our sisters, mothers, friends, daughters, and children, we MUST spread this awareness.
Facts About Domestic Violence
Battering is common.
- One out of every four American women report being physically abused by a husband or a boyfriend at some point in her life.
- Domestic violence occurs in the lesbian community with the same frequency and severity as it does in the heterosexual community.
- On average, 25% of female high school students have experienced dating violence
- Every year, while at their place of work, women are victims of thousands of acts of violence perpetrated by husbands and boyfriends.
- One out of three femicide victims is killed by her current or former intimate partner.
- Women who leave their batterers are at a greater risk of being killed by the batterer than those who stay.
- 71% of victims entering domestic violence shelters report that the batterer threatened, injured, or killed family pets.
Sojourn has a 24-Hour hotline for victims who just need to talk, create a safety plan, or get more information. The number is (310) 264-6644