Thursday, August 26, 2010

Aftermath Intro

So I have been back in Kathmandu for about 5 days now, and have thought (lots and lots) about writing since before we even came back to the city.

The task seems huge and daunting, and I don't know where to begin. I think writing about it all in one go is really a huge endeavor and it makes more sense that it will come in installments.

The yatra was NOT what I expected. What did I expect? To be tossed and turned and have emotional upheavals for sure, but beyond that I tried not to expect too much - perhaps the only tangible concrete expectation I allowed myself to have was that Sadhguru, in his physical body, would be the one conducting the 'processes' - the initiations - both at Lake Manasarovar, and then at Mt. Kailash. He did neither.

It's hard to explain the emotions that came along with this - especially because they sound so silly coming from a grown woman who has never had a real conversation with her Guru - but what I felt that day, coming down from Kailash, was an engulfing, overwhelming, devastating feeling of abandonment, disappointment, hurt, betrayal, and the feeling that a huge, massive, tremendous opportunity had been allowed to let slide - and that I had really done everything in my miniscule power to make it happen. It was like leading up to that moment on the mountain, all discomfort, all emotional ripples, I was able to say, it's ok, it'll all be worth it because he'll be at the top. And he wasn't.

And so I felt shattered to a million pieces - me, who had kept it together the whole trip, supporting the ill and always coming with a smile to the Sherpas (who actually only a fraction of them were Sherpas, damn we're so ignorant) - sobbed like the world was going to end, for a full 24 hours. Which of course caused enormous worry with the Tibetan drivers who held my hand and force-fed (how do you say? force-drank?) me my bo-cha comfort butter tea...and then the Nepalis who buried my snot-covered face in their necks...

And now it's been more than a week since we left that holy granite mound, and I feel confused and disoriented and lost and unsure. Of everything. Actually, I don't even know what I feel unsure of. Maybe that's what he wants. Hahah I really sound psychopathic these days and I know it...

Oh, one more thing to keep in mind - at our sathsang at Kailash, Sadhguru made us promise that we had to leave something behind at Kailash. Anger we can't control, but he made us promise to leave behind angry words. So this is really something I'm taking to heart and going to try very hard to stick to. So it will be more than a bit challenging to relate the events that took place the past few weeks without transferring even a bit of the anger that went along with it, but I really, really, will try my best.


At the beginning...

I am notoriously bad with medication, and Diamox is no exception. Tingly limbs and extremities, and a kind of dozy headachy feeling. Well, it was good to take a day off and just chill and prepare mentally and physically for the journey that begins in just a few hours.

I went to the Jet Airways office with Nivvi, and came back, stepped out of the cab, totally ready to just roll into bed, and see a grinning white man waving excitedly at me. PRIMOZ?!? This lovely Slovenian man had been in my Inner Engineering in January!! Huh?!? So big hugs, laughter (too much noise, as usual) and an introduction to his gorgeous wife. It was SO NICE to catch up with someone who had been there at the very beginning with me on this psychedelic journey. Thank you.

I had a wonderful conversation with Linda over lunch, talking about how I ended up on this Kailash trip in the first place…and took it easy for a few hours before sathsang.

Sadhguru came in to give us our abhaey sutra – Nathalie from Lebanon was one of the women tying the string on the ladies – as the string was looped around my wrist, I could feel this electric charge emanating from it. We went up to him and bowed to him as he handed us a marigold…oddly enough, leading up to it I had strong energy movements but when it was my turn to be directly in front of him, everything stopped and I couldn’t really respond to the situation. Probably not a bad thing. We were in his presence for nearly 2 hours, and it was really powerful. It was like he was creating the energy of linga bhairavi in that room – he started off with the mantras associated with Devi, and it was so powerful, it was the same as being in that temple. He spoke about how this abhaey sutra would give us fearlessness, not directly, but because we would become less attached to the physical dimension, thus losing fear that we normally have in association with the body…and it was like you could feel the fear melting away by the second. I don’t know, it’s just too outrageous, this man, this being, this thing in front of us.

I headed to dinner, and was getting second servings of amazing falafel and vegetable shawarma which was pretty much paneer shawarma…mmm!! With babaghanoush and lovely hummus…and I hear a voice behind me say, shawarma..? I turn around while simultaneously saying it’s so deli..cious! (the … is when I realize it’s him)…how fitting…the first words I ever directly speak to my guru are it’s so delicious. Anyone that knows me knows why this is so hilarious. So we laugh and grin at each other, I am instantly re-falling in love with him, and I head back to my table, a bit spellbound and speechless. He sits down at Rathika and Linda’s table, which has now fallen completely silent (what do you say to him? Good palak paneer eh?) and I’m sort of jealous but think, well, I wouldn’t say anything anyway. But Rathika, always gracious, gets up and gives her seat to Manjiri who is another of the group for our Land Cruiser. And within minutes Manjiri gets us and beckons me over telling me to sit. So I sit empty-handed, no plate, no food, no words. And he smiles, looks directly at me and says don’t you need more food? And I just don’t know how to react and nervously pick a piece of fried okra off of Michelle’s plate. Yup. Awkward. And then there’s a random chitchat of Japanese and Chinese and how Japanese can’t say l and stupid stupid stuff…I’m basically relieved when he leaves, but am electrified at having spoken to him and being so near him.

After a few minutes Linda says, why don’t you go sit in his chair for awhile…and I do, and it is positively vibrating. Wow.

So we have our wakeup call in less than 5 hours – tomorrow we head to the Friendship Bridge on the China border. Oh, it’s on. Challoh yaar?

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Isha Kailash Manasarovar Sojourn - Kathmandu (5-8 August 2010)

Wow. What the hell is going on? What the hell has happened to my life and who I thought was me? Sadhguru happened. Isha happened. Truth happened. Is happening. Constantly happening.

I am sitting in the lobby of the Soaltee Crowne Plaza Hotel – the first time in my life (I think!) that I have paid to stay in a 4 or 5 star hotel. My belly has been full for the past 36 hours eating 5 star buffet hotel food. 6 months ago I would have thought this to be unthinkable, much less enjoy it, but my constant giggles are a telltale sign that things have changed. Drastically.

I first came into contact with Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev and Isha Foundation in January by a strange series of coincidences which I won’t go into now – and took the intro course, Inner Engineering, at his ashram near Coimbatore, in Tamil Nadu, South India. I hated it. I’ve never hated anything as much in my life. But I realized early on that for me to react so strongly, negatively, to something, meant something was going on. Something deep. So I stuck around; and within days of experiencing nightly darshans with the Guru, my body began reacting physically to him. Strongly. Oh, all those people convulsing and making funny noises and acting possessed are um, not faking it. I’m having it too.

Since then it’s been a true roller-coaster, a psychedelic drug, the most potent substance yet the intoxication comes with complete clarity, no hangover, and the deepest sense of fulfillment I have ever experienced in my years of seeking, urgently, desperately, around the planet. And so here I am, in the first group this year headed to do a pilgrimage of Mt. Kailash and Lake Manasarovar. So much resistance came in joining this trip; the cost, my prior commitments in the US, the idea of being with a group of Isha people for 2 weeks, so many things…but some crazy signs in April, with very strong effects, showed me it had to be done. So here I am.

What is going on, though? I know we’re not supposed to talk about the content of Isha programs, and I totally understand why; but – the closest thing I can say to describe what I’m going through right now is how I felt during BSP when we thought we were going to die in a matter of hours. Really. I don’t think we can experientially know what that feels like unless we actually are in that situation, or you go through BSP. But now – it’s like it’s that same situation, so strong, so real, so urgent. And what is the reaction? Supreme love, gratitude, and joy. No fear. Well, that’s not true, there’s a bit of terror.

I arrived in Kathmandu a day early; I wanted a bit of time to acclimatize to the situation, not the altitude, and it was a good choice. It seems not like a coincidence to me that Dries, the couchsurfer I stayed with, is somehow aware and respectful of the ideas of energy and yoga and healing, yet in some way is critical and one of those ‘investigators’ and doubters – which I don’t criticize – but he had 3 Belgian girls over at the same time, 2 of whom are reiki and energy workers, which resulted in a very very interesting debate and discussion about spirituality, medicine (Dries is the head of the Belgian Red Cross support in Nepal), and pretty much anything in that spectrum. I was fascinated to see my reactions (or lack thereof) when challenged, criticized, doubted…I used to be the fierest debater. Way too much pitta (don’t worry, people that have known me forever, all that agni doesn’t disappear overnight) – but now – I don’t know – it’s like my faith and certainty in Him and the path are unshakable. In 7 months?!?

Friday I spent the afternoon with Pempa, Dries’s driver and got some errands taken care of. My first Isha lunch, the full-on buffet, was wonderful and I sat alone, giggling as I ate baked Alaska. Somehow pilgrimage and 5-star hotel just don’t go in the same sentence. But if they’re going to do it this way, I might as well be 100% present and love it, no? I was terrified that the whole group would be Isha-drones. I was scared there wouldn’t be that explosive joy and laughter, that I would once again be the loudest person here (hmm I still might be the loudest…sigh) – but I have been refreshingly surprised. Many of the people here have only done Inner Engineering, and openly say they never do the practice. Yes, some are Samyama veterans – but it doesn’t feel as heavy and serious as the other Isha stuff. A total wide spread of age, nationality, religious background – it’s really amazing what this man touches.

Friday evening we had a sathsang where we watched videos of Sadhguru talking about the pilgrimage, Nepal and mysticism in Nepal, and so forth. Halfway into the rules, people in the back of the room gasp, some start shaking, uttering Shambho – and there he is. He is a living paradox; so graceful and elegant yet so laid-back and relaxed; he sits and says, I thought I would surprise you. Yup, you know how to do it. When he speaks, it’s really enrapturing. I can’t take my eyes off of him, and it’s like every cell in my body is fully fixated on him. The energy is fully flowing; fingertips are pulsating.

So I know my body is physically tired but the past few days I find it nearly impossible to sleep. The mind is going 1000km/hr. And the energy in the body is just at such a high frequency.

Saturday the Indians were taken to Pashupatinath – this is where Shiva’s head is, when his body came up in 5 different places as 5 different body parts (I don’t know enough about this to say more). Well, this is THE epitome of insane Hindu temple. I snuck in with my Indian clothing and trying really hard to be invisible (although um, I look really Nepali) – everything you can imagine; cows with red vibuthi smeared on them, a dozen pujas with a dozen different intentions and sounds accompanying them happening at the same time; a huge gilded nandi (the cow at the entrance of the temple); a huge Hanuman, a gorgeous Ganesh at the entrance downstairs; a constant flow of people coming through with burning ghee offering bowls; the smash of coconuts being cracked as offerings; so much different drumming; funeral pyres…sensory overload x 10000%. The energy here, from my experience, is diffused in so many different directions it would almost be possible to not feel it. But find as quiet a corner as possible, close your eyes, and BAM! It’s on.

It was, however, exhausting and after a nice afternoon break I spent some time in Thamel with two awesome women I’ve connected with. But back to the inner situation. I feel like I’m about to die. And I guess in some way it’s just like that. So many different traditions say so many different things about Kailash and Manasarovar – the Hindus say that you take a dip in the water and 108 lifetimes of karma are washed away…hope the water’s not TOO cold! ; ) I keep having this sense of wanting to tell everyone in my life how much I love them and how grateful I am to have been able to experience life with them, through them, and I am just like overflowing with this gratitude and love. It’s kind of bizarre though, no, to write to someone you may not have spoken to in months or years, even, and tell them you love them so much? I guess though, maybe that’s the intensity and love and gratitude and bliss that we are aiming to be at. I don’t know. I don’t know anything anymore.

All I know is this trip has to happen. I MUST go to Kailash Manasarovar. I MUST break myself before it. I must disappear. I must cease to exist. My likes, dislikes, my attachment to my body, my mind, my intellectual capabilities and sensibilities – they must all become non-existent – to let this mountain happen to me. I pray with 100% of my mind, body, and soul to let this happen. Kailash calls you, and when it’s time, it’s an intense burning inside of you. It has to happen, it’s a mission that won’t leave you for a moment until you JUST GO.

I’m on my way.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Leh to Manali to Mcleod Ganj (July 16-21)

11.30pm. I struggle to stay awake. I walk through the dark streets with my flashlight and get to the parking lot where 100 Oceans Bar is. There are about a dozen other foreigners already there, waiting. The Leh-Manali Road is only open, technically, from July to October each year. The rest of the time it is covered in snow and ice, and then there are frequent landslides. The departure time is set as midnight, and we are supposed to arrive by 7 or 8pm the following day. Roughly 20 hours. On a bumpy Indian road. Great.

Right around midnight, the 3 minibuses appear, swerving around the corner and pulling into the parking lot. We have been told the license plate numbers of our drivers, and mine ends in 9595. And here he comes, this Buddha-belly possessing piercing gazed, disarmingly smiling driver. I love him. It’s pretty cold since we’re on a road that goes up to over 5000m and it’s the middle of the night, but I manage to sleep a good amount with the rocks, twists and turns and open windows. The whole drive is stunningly beautiful, winding through glaciers, boulder-strewn valleys, bizarre rock formations of all colors – I have a great little connection with two Polish boys and the hours just pass. Of course, though, at the end of 18 hours we’re all ready for the ride to be over. It’s amazing, approaching Keylong, in Himachal Pradesh where many people break the journey for the night, we just emerge onto this pine-studded mountainside and from then on the GREEN was back. Not quite to the same shocking hues as in Kashmir, but after a few weeks in Zanskar and Ladakh, with the barren granite, harsh rock faces – awe-inspiring but so extreme – it felt like there was new life being taken in with each inhale.

Manali – what a trip. New Manali, at the bottom of the hill, is a small, crowded, dirty, noisy Indian city; go up the hill to Old Manali and it’s ‘hippie’ pothead heaven. It was, though, nicer than I had expected. So I spent about 20 hours rejuvenating, hanging with the Polish boys, and then took the night bus to Dharamsala.

Which is when I finally slipped off to sleep with my window open, letting in the pleasant mountain breeze, and woke up to liquid on my face. Foul-smelling liquid. The lady in front of me was violently motion-sick and vomiting out of the window, which was splattering onto me, as well as about the next 6 rows of passengers behind me through their respective windows. A true travel moment. Wow.

I arrived in Dharamsala at 4am in POURING rain. I thought I would get there at 5.30am, and told Tashi that so I thought, hm, what am I going to do?! I step off the bus and there he is, standing right in front of me in perfectly dry maroon robes and the ubiquitous rainbow umbrella. I love you. So I sleep in his room until my accommodation will let me in at 6am. The monks in his house were probably a bit surprised to see some random Japanese girl show up and pass out in the monk’s dormitory. Ah well.

The next several days were amazing with Tashi, lots of long walks, talks, meals, just perfect. It’s funny how multi-faceted India is and how I have really grown to love certain parts of it so much and feel so at home here now…would never have thought that could happen based on how I first saw it when I got here for the first time in 2009.