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Where Ever I Lay My Head

July 31, 2008 - A General Update from Rishikesh

INDIA | Thursday, 31 July 2008 | Views [552]

I figured some of you might have seen the news about the series of bombings in India, and I wanted to let you know that we are far far far away from any of that and not planning on going anywhere near the problem areas. It's such an awful thing to use religion as an excuse for political violence.

We're with Amy Minkley right now, our Texan friend from our time in Japan, and 3 of her friends from her graduate school; Tim Dalton, Seema Suri, and Eric Lettrell.

Jen and I actually, along with our 4 friends, just left a yoga retreat up in the Himalayan Mountains, where we had plenty of exercise(2 sessions daily 1hr30min to 2 hrs of yoga asanas, plus hikes, meditative silent treks, etc), quiet time(2 1/2hr mandatory group meditation sessions daily plus lots of time on our own), good all-we-could-eat food, a cooking workshop, discussion sessions with holy & learned men from the area, and a library filled with books on the subjects of personal spiritually, yoga practice, world religions & philosophies, and more, all set beside a breathtaking section of the great Ganges river. The school's philosophy was inclusive, welcoming, and open-minded; conservative, but not forceful or overpowering. Something I really respected about the Swamis we met there was that they were not afraid to say that they didn't know the answer to something, and they refered to themselves as students as well. The other enrolled students were brilliant - from all over the world - and bright, positive personalities. Their company was the best part. 

And during the rest period after Yoga practice I always find myself craving western food: biscuits and sausage gravy for breakfast, fried breaded flounder, all Mexican food, etc.

Now we are in Rishikesh, another holy city along the Ganges, and a Hindu pilgramage destination, and that means this city is filled with orange-clad pilgrims, men (and very very few women) from every walk of life walking seemingly endless distances to holy sites in the Himalaya. I'm glad the season is winding down though, because even though the pilgrims are on a holy trip, we have found them to be pretty forward and at times even aggressive toward women - as in groping attempts and such. What would you expect from a huge gang of repressed men in a large anonymous mob of similarly clad testosterone. You could hope for genuine religious devotion and respectful introspection, but it seems that many of them can't overcome their baseness, even while on pilgrimage. I find it difficult while we're in crowded areas - always on edge and ever watchful over Jen and Amy especially, and I think my presence has averted a lot of hassle for them. Men leer, drifting closer, then I catch their eyes, and they veer away. It stinks that this colors my experience here, still - I'm not letting it ruin the travel for me. The city has a wonderful rural charm, and we have met a few honest, genuine people here and that feels a bit redeeming. 

Our group of six friends went to Arati last night. It's a religious ceremony honoring the lifegiving water brought by the Ganges River from the Himalayas filled with music, chanting, fire blessings, sacrafices of floating baskets of flowers placed in the river, and silence. Afterwards, we walked a bit outside of the center of town, and sat on the Ghats(steps leading down the riverbanks used for washing and worshipping in the holy river). It was after dark, and we conversed quietly as the Ganges rushed past us below and families of cows slept in the middle of the road above and behind us.

Tags: ashram, rishikesh

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