"When I admire the wonder of a sunset or the beauty of the moon,
my soul expands in worship of the creator.'
My last days in Haridwar were delightful with a mix of new friendships, nature experiences, rich Hindu traditions, and an abundance of markets with food, clothing, music and people.
My new friend Mr. Krishnan introduced me to a nomadic tribe of native Van Gujjars people that live in the nearby forest. The family I met is a woman preparing for her daughter's wedding. Other tribal members were there to assist with preparing the new mud huts with bright colours. The wedding is early December.
A young man named Dave from Ireland was there providing a free vaccination of the cows. Just a young missionary in his late 20's, it was remarkable to witness Karma yoga in action (self-less service). He could sure handle a cow and really interacted well with the local people.
I enjoyed being part of the festive preparations, the fresh chai and connection with these forest people. At first the young girls were shy and then were eager to have their photo taken and of course to view it on the camera afterwards. The children are like angels. In fact you can see halos around some of the children in the photos.
Our new bride to be is the young woman in the blue. Mr. Krishnan sent me photos of the wedding for me to see. It was a grand affair.
After this visit, we headed to a special place in the forest that is closed to the public. It was a time to witness more wildlife leaving the forest at sunset to cross the river and open spaces. The vistas are magic.
When I first arrived to the enchanting spot, I was drawn to meditate. Just sitting in a small hut with open sides allowed for a fabulous viewing spot. This way the animals could easily wander out without noticing us. The spotted deer with their young were my favorite.
On the way back to the hotel, I noted many monkeys along side of the road and asked why - they were just lining up as if waiting for something. Mr. Krishnan told me that they used to be in the city and people would feed them. Now they are not encouraged and are confused as there is not much food for them when the weather gets colder. Thus they line up along the road. Hundreds of them scampering everywhere. It is enough to dodge the other cars, bikes, people, cows and now monkeys.
Something else that I wanted to share with you. I have been noticing some interesting developments in many of my photos. Have you heard of Orbs? (spiritual energy showing in photos) Well, here is a shot that I took at the Meva Temple in Haridwar.
On my final evening, I held my own puja with flowers, lighted candle and sending love and light to all of my family and friends on the Holy River Ganga. The next morning, I was up early to meditate and practice Qi Gong / Yoga and bathe nude in the holy river Ganges. Well, there was no one around and it was a private Ghat. I must say that I have never felt so clean. The sun was just rising and I was ready for my next adventure.
My intention is to head to Rishikesh area - another holy city along the banks of the holy river Ganges - and experience Ashram life, enhancing meditation, yoga and awareness practice. Prior to my trip, I had done some research through the web looking for what could provide me with Puja (prayer) Chanting and a blend of Bhakti Yoga (devotional), Karma Yoga (self-less service) and Raj Yoga (meditation - Pranayama breath). I had chosen to stay one week in an ashram that I discovered in the mountains and then two weeks in another one very near Rishikesh. Also, I kept my heart open for where I was to BE!
Like everything in India, it is an adventure finding something. I took an auto rickshaw (a covered three wheel motor scooter that is shock free) for a 26-kilometer ride along an interesting road. We took a few good lumps along the way.
Well, for some reason I thought I was on a certain date and had a few days before I was going to check into the first ashram – so I had time to go to another one to check it out. I gave the driver the name and he then went on his mission to get me there.
Upon arriving to a spot, he told me to just get out and find the stairs, turn right, then left, go up, go down...follow the path and you will find it. I suddenly realized that I was not on the right day. Because I had been given an additional day in Haridwar, I really needed to go to my original destination. Could I find the instructions? No….
Oops...could I find it somewhere in my brain? Go to a place called Laxman...walk the bridge, turn left and get a taxi to take you the 5 kilometers to the ashram. I know that I had written it down...but could not find it. So I pulled out my new lap top and plugged in the new fancy internet stick. The driver was curious along with a few other drivers. All wondering where I was to go and wanting to help.
The internet would not work very well so I had to just trust the Universe. Another man told me that I could easily just walk the bridge and take a cab from Ram Jhulla. My driver left me and there I was. My inherent wisdom was telling me that I really needed to go to Laxman Jhulla.
Until now, I had been carrying my new fancy backpack in the covered bag. It was now time to really start the backpacking part of my trip. I was just putting the pack on when a young man came with his auto rickshaw and said "Mame - you want to go to Laxman Jhula?"
Well yes, I do. Get in and I take you.
I told him the name of the ashram and he said I needed to travel on the same road another 3 km to the next bridge. I trusted that he was an angel and he did get me to a spot. After travelling about 3 km we came to a stop.
"Mame, here is your spot....go down there." he pointed.
There was a little alley way. There I was...now on the real adventure. I followed the stairs and there to my amazement was the Laxman Jhulla suspension bridge crossing the holy river Ganga. Monkeys were everywhere. I made my way over a narrow bridge and then once on the other side, tried the internet again to find the instructions - which basically told me to turn left, keep walking and find the taxi.
I found a jeep, which then whisked me away to the ashram. It is 5 km in the mountains along a high windy road parallel to the river Ganga.
The Phool Chatti Ashram is located in pristine wilderness and hosts a 7-day yoga retreat. This attracted me as a good immersion into the yogic and ashram life.
Once there, I got my room. A few young people were there helping out after the last yoga course. They gave me a room that was small, dark and had no power.
Suddenly, two more women appeared enquiring about the next yoga program (the one I was going to take in a few days time). I liked one of the women from Tanzania. We chatted about our time in India and how I really liked Haridwar. Kathy is her name. She decided to come back. I gave her some money to purchase fruit and nuts since we get three squares a day and can have our own snacks. "What if I do not come back", she said. I told her to give the money to a good cause.
Well, here I was checking the place out...going for walks. By the river I saw some Hindu men. They wanted their photo with me - they like foreign women and love to have their photo taken with me. I then realized that if I was going to stay for a 7-day intensive yoga program without toilet paper, power and in a dark cold room, I needed to head to town. The next day I walked the 5 k and really enjoyed it.
I got some warm blankets, rolls of TP and a few goodies to hold me over. It was a delightful time and a ride home in a cool white car left over from British rule. Now I am set. When I arrived back at the ashram, Lalita Ji (the Swami that runs the program) was available to assist me. She told me that I had a better room - front row and private.
Well, we did have power and other amenities once the program started. I was thrilled to be there a few days earlier to really get a part of the Ashram Life.