Thursday, June 10, 2010

Mountains and Trains Whisper the Dharma

Blessings everyone! After a hot stinky no-sleep 20 hr journey from Rishikesh to Dharamshala, I have arrived at 7,000 ft to the cool mountain town of Mcleod Ganj, home to his HH the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan Government in Exile. It is literally a breath of fresh air from the hot sticky banks of Rishikesh and Haridwar.

I will attempt to paint a picture for you of my experience with Indian transportation, but seriously these words are nothing my friends. Took a rickshaw to the Rishikesh train station where we waited to board a 10hr train to Chakki Bank. Now it is "off season" for tourists, however, it is "high season" for Indian vacations - everything was sold out, could not even get a cheap sleeper ticket, so we we forced to sit at the back of the never-ending long train, in "General" seating. Traveling with a friend named Ruth from Spain, we squeezed onto the train with our bags and managed to find a small crevice of a seat with a Hindu family. We sat down at the perfect moment, because right after hundreds more Indians boarded the train, with no where to go but stand, sit, squat, lay, climb, sway, squeeze, sweat, push, shove, shout, or somehow find contentment amidst the festival attendance on board this train. After a few hours, Ruth and I managed to jump up to the second deck and squeeze in with the luggage, as we looked down upon sea of Indian people. At every stop, somehow more people were boarding, and no one seemed to be leaving. Indian trains defeat the laws of geometry and mathematics. I discovered the true meaning and purpose of Indian Hatha Yoga and asana practice: to be strong and flexible enough, both physically and mentally, to find an easeful position which allows for sleep. Forget moksha or samadhi. Sleep is the ultimate peace - and finding it on an Indian train the ultimate attainment! We wore sunglasses to look as cool as Bob Dylan - and to shield our eyes through the night from the fluorescent light blasting at our heads.

What is so wonderful, I am discovering, about travel in India, are the little moments of joy and peace found within the storm of chaos. At every train stop, vendors selling food, chai, soda, and snacks hand mystery meals through the railings to on board passengers. For 20rps (about 50 cents) I had one of my best meals in India: Rice and Daal with Cucumbers, Potato Samosas with yummy sauce, and hot Chai - it was absolutely delicious and left me smiling from ear to ear.

Finally arrived in Chakki Bank at 2:30am, took another Rickshaw through the ghetto to bus station, where we waited painfully sleepy til 5am for the bus to Mcleod Ganj. The bus would not have been so bad if not for the brutal train ride the night before, but it was so rickety and bouncy, driving up hill around windy roads, falling asleep for 10 minutes at a time, kept banging my head against the window frame, waking up delirious and smiley, stinky and excited. All of a sudden, giant snow capped mountains appeared through the dirty bus window.

I am really diggin Mcleod Ganj. It's touristy, but not as "in your face" as Rishikesh. Everything is so much cleaner, the air so much fresher, and the natural beauty is astonishing. Green green lush trees and shrubs, paint the landscape, amongst Himalayan mountain giants. And the food!! ahh soo yummy. My first taste of Tibetan food - vegetable momos and thukpa noodle soups - delish! Bald headed red-robed monks add color to the busy streets, filled with amazing Tibetan handicrafts, restaurants, and book stores. Every 50 ft there is a sign for a Yoga Teacher Training or Tattoo Studio, Rebirthing and Hypnosis, Reiki, Tibetan Cooking Class, and all the cool New Agey practices.

I am staying at the simple but so beautiful Shiv Shakti Cottage, about a 15 min walk up hill from town, tucked away in the trees, with stunning views of the mountains and valley below. A Tibetan tattoo artist named Deep is letting me stay in an extra room with he and his mother for very cheap, in exchange I am teaching him yoga. I am so blessed to cross paths with him and to receive this wonderful stay. I am learning much about the area from him and his friends - soon his motorcycle will be fixed and he's gonna take me to all the hot spots. The room is perfect, and it feels so good to unpack my things and settle here for the month, as I await my beloved Charlotte at the end of the month. The constant traveling and moving takes much energy, and it is good to plant some mountain roots and focus on my sadhana. Starting tomorrow I will begin a 5 day course at the Himalayan Iyengar Center with Sharat Arora, senior teacher and student of BKS Iyengar.

The weather has been great, and quite Humboldtesque. Beautiful and sunny during the day, and rainy in the evening. Actually last night it poured monsoon style harder than I've ever seen, for like 20 minutes... then passed like a thought cloud. Thunder and lightning rumbles throughout the valley in the evening. And, after much stipulation, I have severed the bonds yet again - yesterday I chopped off my Humboldt-hair. Once again, reborn, fresh anew like the mornings dew - treading a little bit lighter on the path. Ahh anitya "impermanence."

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