On the 24th of December we had a very special day. We travelled 10 km north of the ashram by jeep and then hiked about one hour up 250 stairs to a beautiful temple on top of a mountain.
The first order was to greet and pay respect to the Gods,
then the Arti or fire ceremony and finally preparing the food over an open fire for our picnic. The food tasted wonderful. We enjoyed subjai (a mixture of vegetables and rice), yogurt, potatoes and masala as we sat high above the mass consciousness, enjoyed our new friendships, savoured the clean, clear and warm sunny air.
Christmas day was extra special for me. My friend Mike that stays at the ashram is getting ready for a trek to Everest Base camp (this will be his 8th trip) mentioned that he was walking to town (about 6k) to a special Christmas church service. He invited me along and I accepted. Christmas morning was sunny, warm and I prepared clean clothes for the day and the walk to town.
We were a few minutes early so we went to the German bakery for ginger tea and a pastry. I had an almond goodie. It was yummy in my tummy.....remember I have been living off rice, chapatis and subjai for the last month. I ate every last crumb.
The bakery is located just over the bridge in Laxman Jhulla and a great place to watch the monkeys and people strolling along the bridge. Within a few minutes we were on our way along a narrow path winding along the upper river bank. Finally, after weaving our way through many twist and turns along the path, we came to a tiny ashram that has three guest rooms. I was greeted by a lovely woman referred to as Swami Mata Ji. Upstairs she had a very small chapel big enough for a few people. It had a special energy. The windows looked out to the Himalayan mountains and it was free from the noise of town. Poinsettas, a small manger, candles, photo of Jesus and Hindu symbols such as aum etc...were at the central alter. Very quaint. There were just three of us. We enjoyed a special Christmas service which was a combination of Christain and Hindu. We even sang Christmas carols. I was delighted. Have you ever had one of those very intimate experiences with people that you never met before and yet it is like you have known them all of your life? I was enchanted, touched and felt accepted for me. I even remembered the words to the Christmas carols. This is a Christmas I will always remember.
After the service, Mata Ji offered us special Indian sweets and we enjoyed a friendly visit in the gardens. Before heading home we wandered to the local book store. My favorite place to go. I love books and the store here has everything under the sun, a great place to explore. Mike and I walked back to the ashram really enjoying the day. By the time we got back it was late afternoon. We had walked about 12 km. By this time I was hungry. Dinner was extra spicy and served around the camp fire.
I plan to come back next year to lead a group of women wishing to have a special inspiring experience here at Phool Chatti Ashram.
It is the 26th and this morning I have my last yoga practice at the banks of the holy river Ganga at Phool Chatti. Until next year, I embrace her with pure love and respect. It is now time to head off to pack for my adventures back in Haridwar and the train ride to Varanasi.