I don’t usually post photographs of my food, but with this magnificent bowl of colourful goodness comes a great story. This picture, a necessary illustration.
I needed something fresh and cool and chili-free for the first time since being in India. But I’ve avoided anything “western” until today.
I found myself sitting at Funky Monkey Cafe and after about 45 minutes my order presented itself: coconut, grapes, dates, pomegranate, banana, almonds, papaya, kiwi, apple, muesli and curd…
“Ah! Wow! Beautiful!!” I said
Then my young, very sweet and smiley waiter, Summer, sat down nearby.
I noticed he was watching me take each bite, “Is good? Is okay?”
“Absolutely amazing! Thank you!” I said
“It my first time I make this”
“REALLY? It’s the BEST!”
After a little more broken English exchange I discovered he’d also never tasted the combination of muesli, fruit and curd. I immediately served him up some and encouraged him to try it for the first time.
His eyes lit up. He nodded and chewed and chewed and nodded and seemed very impressed with himself.
I watched him eat every last bite.
~ To the relentless hooting that never gave up
~ To the magical chaos and colour
~ To that constant underlying smell of pee & incense
~ To the little kids who begged for food then offered me some
~ To the strangers who spoke to me like old friends about G*d, creation & love
~ To the heat, chillies & sun salutations
~ To the street-food-wallah who cooked me fresh samoosas rather than the ones he’d prepared “only 10 minutes before” due to the slightly (massively) sceptical look on my face
~ To the chai-wallah who gave me a little extra because he claimed I “have a light” in my eyes
~ To the monkeys for the hours of amusement
~ To the electricity for choosing the best times to go out
~ To the wonderful ventilation and water pressure in the bathrooms (*jokes jokes)
~ To the frogs for helping me keep my sense of humour in the ‘shower’ (*no jokes)
~ To the sunrises that lifted me.
~ To the sunsets that said “rest!everything’s alright”
~ To the 36 000 000 Gods, I think one of you heard me.
~ To India,
for for being utterly unapologetic
for being everything and nothing that I expected,
I thank you.
On this final day, it’s almost midnight and my body, mind and soul are smiling. I’m almost too tired to write this but I simply need to reflect and milk this beautiful day the same way, if not more, than I seem to milk the sad or emotionally turbulent ones.
I made the decision last night to wake up an hour earlier and go do a meditation practice before yoga. I then opened “Wherever you go, there you are: Mindful Meditation”, the book I’m reading, and it spoke exactly to that ~ the power of waking up early to meditate, living consciously and starting your day with the best possible advantage.
“By grounding yourself in mindfulness early in the morning, you are reminding yourself that things are always changing, that good and bad things come and go, and that it is possible to embody a perspective of constancy, wisdom, and inner peace as you face any conditions that present themselves.”
So that’s what I did, even though my thoroughly Hatha’d body and restless mind were sleepy, I got up and in meditation I took myself through an aura cleansing (my google search from the night before is quite amusing), a visualization of gold light running through me and clearing out all the crap, followed by wrapping myself in bright white clear, protective light. And then the sun rose over the mountain and I felt it hit my eyelids.
Yoga was great. The repetition of the same poses (or very slight variations) can feel monotonous but at the same time seeing progress and knowing what’s next so therefore fully committing to pushing yourself just that much further is an incredible discipline. I appreciate this method a lot.
After yoga it was time, not to even begin the shower head water negotiation but, to crouch under the tap and wash my hair again. Lathered from head to toe and feeling the fresh water wash away yesterday’s turmoil til the water ran clear.
Then I blew my hair dry, yes I did, because today was the Puja (Hindu prayer ritual ceremony) at the house. I was wrapped in a fuscia sari and sat apart of the most beautiful burning of woods and ghee and sprinkles of holy water and marigolds. And red paint and rice dotted between my eyes. And mantras and singing. And holding hands to the blessed fire and bowing our heads.
It was long and hot and smokey and all I literally understood was SHANTI (PEACE) but I felt like I understood everything else too, the Sanskrit and Hindi took on its own translation in my ears and I felt a personal connection to this ceremony. I shed a hidden tear as the emotion welled up in my eyes, although I could have blamed it on the aromatic smoke, I chanted words and gave them my own heart.
Then I got a reeth of marigolds put around my neck and was fed a sweet dough. I was blessed. I am blessed. I need to get smacked in the head with a shanti stick when I get so caught up in letting the world around me, define me. The world within is so much kinder and more loyal and forgiving, perhaps my mind isn’t, but there is love and compassion in my heart and I need to let it flow through me… Not straight out of me without touching sides. Something in me has woken up.
I rested ever so slightly this afternoon and had my lecture, yoga routine and dinner. I was then rewrapped in my sari (a slightly different style) and although I was (am) knackered I went with Deepa to the festival of dancing again. And, oh my, I felt like I was the star in my own Bollywood movie. Whirling and twirling and clicking sticks to the beat and getting lost in a sea of Saris in all colours, patterns and sizes.
Walking back home, passing the sleeping cows in the road (so normal now), lifting my Sari skirt over whatever strange unrecognizables lay in the half-moon lit street, I realized “I am here. This is it. I am doing what I dreamed of and more.” And I thought my laissez-faire attitude toward India and just going with it when I got here was turning out to be a terribly misguided, unrealistic notion. But look how it’s worked out for me. A week of yoga in a beautiful town, living a fully immersed existence with this family. I thought I wanted an ashram experience. What I really wanted was a yoga course home stay. It found me.
I’m going to nod off in this warmly satisfied state. All is well. There’s something making it all work out in the end.
**Thank you for hearing me when I couldn’t even understand what I was wanting for myself.**
OM shanti ~ Namaste
And Good night ☆
Today wasn’t a strong day emotionally. Physically I’m getting stronger by the day but I’m disappointed in my emotional state.
On my yoga matt (the magic carpet that I have here at Pushkar yoga garden) I surrender and work and achieve. I feel progress daily, I see progress morning and evening. When I put my focus and efforts into my practice, all other things start to fall away (which doesn’t happen much with me). If they don’t, I think it comes down to the fact that I’m not pushing hard enough… But I may later eat my words as I know how the mind can weaken the body considerably… But maybe my mental progress is that I can be lost in yoga, for an hour now, not just minutes at a time.
I had a bit of a cry today. I vomitted too. An emotional release that’s apparently like a cleanse (if you drink copious amounts of salt water first thing in the morning on an empty stomach and throw it up, not just losing your lunch like I did!) I’ll have another bit of a cry later, maybe an emotional spew too. I’m having a bit of a cry now. I just wish there was a magic spell that could dissolve the negative energy in my being. The heaviness. It’s fucking real, and it’s not fucking ZEN.
How do I feel completely renewed and refreshed? Can I strain my being through a sieve to separate the pure from the lumpy, rough impurities? There must be some kind of crazy hypnotism and brainwashing that can clear it all out so I can start again fresh. Taking off my aura, rinsing and ringing it out like I did with my dirty, musty towe a few days agol. I just still feel like I’m carrying pain and hurt and loss from the past and burdens of fear of the future.
This isn’t very yogic of me, like I said, today my emotions are shot. OM shanti, shanti shanti. Peace peace peace. However, my attempt at meditation was a little better than the last (you’re actually not supposed to judge or rate your meditation, you’re supposed to just let it be what it is) – I’ll just say one thing, I can say that I have touched a tiny moment of ‘in the moment peace’ and so I know I have something to work with.
I was strong but quite fatigued in this mornings yoga. I woke up before the sun, brushed my teeth outside, as the Indians do. Did my nasal cleansing, and had 2 cups of ginger and basil chai. I sweated bullets in class and fell into a very short but deep sleep/relaxation when I got into resting child’s pose toward the end of the class. Boat pose, in Hatha yoga, works with holding ones breath. So rather than holding the pose for as long as your abs can take it, you hold it for as long as you can hold your breath, which is only about 10 seconds for me, then collapse.
We did some pranayama training today. And the breathing technique, post yoga, took me into the intense relaxed state where I could have sat for a good while longer when everyone started to pack up. I need to remember how powerful the breath is. I need to remember how breathing as well as clean eating effects the mind.
Yogesh said eating and breathing right gives fresh energy to the body. I’m not happy to be smoking but I’ve cut down to 2 light menthol slims a day. After brunch and after dinner. It’s not ideal. But it’s okay.
I suppose I shouldn’t have been daydreaming, but in my shivasana I had this wonderful visualisation come into my consciousness. It was me letting go of the desire to find a man to have children with; and then three babies appeared. They didn’t have faces and I hadn’t named them yet, but they were triplets and they were mine. Two boys and a girl. The combination I always intuitively have known I’ll have, or dream of having.
I’m not against adoption in my waking life, infact I think ‘why bring more children into the world when there are children out there who need a mommy and daddy?’ But that’s the thing right there, I’ve always said I’ll never have kids for selfish reasons. I’d never have a baby alone – as in, consciously not giving my baby/babies a father. Instead, I feel that my first role as a mother is choosing that man correctly. When I see men these days I see potential fathers to my children. And if they don’t cut it on that level then it’s not attractive to me. I also see genetics. So, how could I bring triplets into my world alone? It goes against a lot that I want for the little ones. But in any case, it was a beautiful fantasy.
I guess if I reach 34 with no potential man to have children with in my life, adoption, as a single mom could be an option. But nah, my soul still resists, knowing I want my kids to have a dad. A wonderful dad. Who I love to death and who loves me back even more.
Are you listening, Universe? You know this. It’s all I’ve ever wanted.
** reflection: (while listening to Yogesh talking about human consciousness) I wish I had had a stronger sense of being and self when I was faced with what I was faced with in London last month. Maybe the lesson here is the contrast between where I was then and where I am now and where I want to be as an individual, my natural responses.
He was horrible to me and I should have confronted that in a calm, centered way. Rather, the unkindness threw me into a nervous state, a downward spiral. It threw me off balance. I have a lot to learn. And who I share my time and heart with needs to bring the best out in me. And if they don’t, I need to get better at handling that without fear of loss.
I want to bring out the best in others too. I already strive for that, but it’s learning to deal with what others aren’t in relation to me.
Midday: I feel absolutely amazing!!!!! The day started off with chai (ah, chai!!!) which I watched being made. I only then realized I haven’t been drinking masala chai here (like at the road side stalls) but rather Deepa makes ginger and basil tea. WHAAAAT?!?!?! Yes!! Wonderful yoga class this morning, I wasn’t alone, apart from the troop of massive, arrogant black faced monkeys that made there way up over, around and under the yoga room, the 4 Chinese have arrived for a 2.5 day course and an Israeli girl dropped into the class. We then did the Neti cleanse, pouring salt water in one nostril and letting it run out the other and vice versa and repeat.
Breakfast was again just too divine and nutritious. A kind of big courgette (that just auto corrected into counterterrorism….) grated and mixed with chickpea flower and rolled into balls and fried, then put into a spiced tomato onion gravy. With roti (chappati) finished with ghee!!!!! Soul food. Have I said that already?
We then had more ginger basil chai, which I made this time…. Added ingredient…. Cinnamon. Mmmmmm…
I, then, embarked on a shower, hair wash and shave. As earth child as I could probably let myself become out here, I thought it was the right time. When I say “a shower” don’t imagine me in a Pantene advert. It was a constant effort between 4 nossils, 2 taps below and 2 shower heads and the game it became to get a steady stream running consistently through one vent was, to say the least, humorous… every time I turned one tap the water either stopped coming out of the other or came out of both and then stopped.
I’m water conscious to begin with, so a thorough lather, shave and shampoo with the taps turned off is normal for me anywhere I am in the world! BUT the rinse may have taken an age. I eventually gave up the shower trickle game (I forgot to mention this shower nossil needs to be scrubbed to free the water as the sand particles build up and block it daily) and rather crouch under the strongest running tap. It was liberating!!!!
I decided, who said showering means STANDING with water gushing over your head like a waterfall? Most of you reading this are lucky enough to have that, but crouching under a tap (can’t help giggling) ~ ~ ~ ~ It had it’s joy too.
I was on my haunches resting my back against the wall, with this water finally pouring over my head, just thinking “This is a cool way to wash as well.” So, yeah. . . It’s those primitive and less than glamorous moments when you get taken down to the basics and. . . it’s cool. . . it’s not something you ever planned to happen to yourself, you know? as you’re wandering aimlessly along the path of enlightenment. You DON’T imagine yourself squatting in a shower.
The sun is out today, so I did my washing. Hands in bucket slosh–slosh washing. New bucket with clean water – rinse and RING OUT. My arms!! Back to basics house work isn’t for sissies. The trick is to get in there, feet and all, the old grape-stomping way.
Heat of the sun has dried my hair and I’m double clean and fresh after all the soap I’ve been submerged in this morning. It’s 1 o’clock. Perfect time for a little read and nap.
Forgetting to cover myself in ODOMOS (note: best mosquito repellent ever with vitamin e and also coconut oil) is still my rookie error. Been eaten alive by mozzis just sitting out here in our little lecture hut.
“The first step in yoga is to engage in introspection and hereby understand the inner obstacles that must be overcome. The purpose of yoga is to weaken the hinders few which obstruct knowledge of the soul. These five hindrances are: ignorance, egoism, attachment, averism and tenacity.”
India poses you with the difficult questions, like “what should I do now?”
Possible answers: light an incense stick and watch it burn, or collect little white flowers that have fallen off the Night-blooming Jasmine tree outside and arrange them along my window frame. Or, both. Rebel.
Evening: I’m still somehow allowing exterior stuff to intrude on my yoga practice. Surely for an hour and a half my mind doesn’t need to take any opportunity to rehash the recent events of the past that left/have left me feeling less valuable or lovable than I was before. Why can’t I just let it be him and not me? Why doesn’t my mind support and encourage me and know my worth? Instead it takes any opportunity to torture me. And I somehow let it. I must have a subconscious feeling that “maybe this time it’ll be less painful, maybe this time I’ll accept it, maybe this time it’ll make sense”
I don’t want to allow this poison into my yoga practice. What a destructive mind I have! Resetting and reprogramming is going to be exhausting.
In more positive news, my biggest challenge in yoga are my forward bends. And after 3 days of morning and evening practice I could put my head on my knee in Janusirsasana and also got it down in full pose Paschimottanasana. This is huge yoga progress news for me. And although the repetitiveness of doing the same asanas day after day, morning and evening, can be tedious ~ it’s how you work to get results.
Night from me and my frog friends. Gonna attempt a little tantra meditation before bed. Although enjoying the effortless sitting on my bed listening to the festival music blowing in through my windows with the slightest breeze. AAAAAH!?! I don’t WANT TO MEDITATE !!!!
There was quite a sound track to my yoga lessons today. This morning was booming thunder and pouring rain and this evening was chanting and firecrackers. Welcome to India. My evening class came to a standstill when I looked up and saw the walls of the yoga room had turned luminous orange, we looked out to see the most beautiful sunset. I felt incredible after yoga today, while eating another beautiful Indian dinner.
Another highlight of the day was sharing my shower with a frog who I very nearly stood on (however, could’ve been said-frogs’ brother) as I was walking out my room a little later on. The family I’m staying with saw me doing the highland-fling, all legs and arms all over the place. Frog lives to fight another day. I nearly broke my neck.
Also, went to do some traditional stick dancing this evening with Deepa, her friends and her daughter who held my hand all the way there and back, chatting away in English and reciting Justin Bieber lyrics… I grabbed a Mars bar from the vendor in town after dancing and inhaled it, don’t feel healthy anymore. it’s not like me to crave chocolate or consume the entire bar but I guess I’m having sugar withdrawals of some sort.
I’m supposed to be practicing my new meditation technique which apparently takes the mind from a beta to alpha state, called the humming bee. Ears blocked and hum. For 10 to 15 minutes, noticing the breath (in for 6, out for 6) then apparently the mind should be quiet and clear for meditation. But I don’t really have the energy for it now…. There’s quite a bit of activity happening in the house, perhaps I’ll focus on that tomorrow.
I’ve also broken a personal record of not washing my hair for 3 days, 3 days not being the record in a normal work week but consider 35 degree humidity and sweat and add 4 yoga sessions…. I may wash it tomorrow, if I have time… 😉