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As I reach to find my soul, my ego reaches to find purpose in a world full of the seemingly meaningless.  The free thinking of my heart pulls me again to India…

Painted on the side of an auto rickshaw

We are now taking rest in Gunjen’s Mother’s Brother’s house if you follow me.  Let’s just call him Maamaji and his wife Maamiji.  They live in an apartment complex in the middle-of-no-where just out side Delhi in a suburb called Indrapuram.  This area is totally underdeveloped at the moment.  They call these complexes, “societies.”  There is construction dust and heavy pollution filling the ground level atmosphere.  You can even see a slight haze in the apartment when the light hits just right.

Maamiji, Avica, Nitin, Guria.

There is no way to avoid the heavy pollution.  I use jel neti pot everyday, and everyday there is  a black wad of mucus shooting out of my nose.  I don’t mean to be disgusting just making a point.  The pollution in Delhi is oppressive.  I don’t even step foot outside without using my rumaal (rag) to cover my breathing holes.  At this moment there is uncertainty, curiosity, anxiety and a bit of frustration bubbling up inside of me.

Riding on a train back to Delhi from Rishikesh

I wonder whether the vision in my head, the ink on this page and the pen in my hand will manifest into the path we are currently forcing into existence.  The Truth.  Sometimes I feel so confidently I know the truth as my Old Friend.  I know that truth sometimes means honesty.  Honestly I have no idea where the spinning world will send us.  11 years of retail labor, a failed college attempt, immense inward spiritual growth, the analyzing and breaking of my ego, building universes that crumble into themselves and start new again and again… millions of spinning wheels and yet I still breathe in and out…  Life sustains whether I remain an artist and musician, or become a recluse farmer, my lungs will still seek air… my spirit will thirst for the Divine Water of longing and passion.  The Truth is I will not be satisfied.  I will never stop.  Decades of trying… years of doing and many more to come… I will never give up.  It is my duty to whatever gifts I have.  I must make use of them.  And once I discovered that my capacity for input and output of information is limitless, I know that I still have a great mass of ground to traverse.

So many of Gunjen's cousins have little ones...

We are at the very beginning of our tour and so far nothing much is happening.  I have this feeling it will be impossible to get anything accomplished until we get to Mumbai.  I have always worked really well under the rhythm of my own whims.  Currently we are at the behest of Gunjen’s relatives.  Gunjen and I were married last July and most of her family in India was unable to attend the wedding.  So now that we are married EVERYONE wants to see us, they invite us to their house and even try to get us to spend not just the night but a few days at a time.  There just isn’t time for that.

Gunjen’s Mother’s Eldest Brother and his Wife

Although it is extremely sweet and they treat you with such divine respect, it is still difficult for me.  I have never been used to others controlling my time and energy.  It’s not like we can say no, they are family.  So as sweet as they are it still gives the feeling of being a bit trapped.  In my mind, ALL of India is out there waiting for me to explore it and absorb it into my subconscious, and right now we are stuck inside some apartment in one of the more scenically ugly places in India. Day 3

Awaiting the Ganga Arthi Rishikesh India

Awaiting Arthi Ram Jhula Parmath Ashram Rishikesh India

I have to be honest with myself.  I think that is the most important thing anyone can do.  I have no idea what we are doing here and what will happen.  Some may view this as exciting.  Nothing but open road of opportunity–yet where to begin?  This cluelessness is actually only making me full of anxiety.  As much as I may pride myself in being a meditator or sadhu or whatever… I still can not shake this feeling of being lost.  It always makes me feel like I’m never accomplishing enough–constantly spinning wheels of frustration.  It cases me to act out on the only other person around… my beloved Queen Gunjen.  I feel that I’m never satisfied and this frustration elevates to create dysfunction in our relationship.  For this I feel terrible and even that much more lost.  I know I know what a sob story.  You think India would teach me to not be so wrapped up in my own problems.  Still after 31 years of spinning wheels and frustrations I’m ready for my path to completely unfold.  Maybe it has and I just can’t see it because I’m so blinded by my own selfish desires.  I don’t fit into the modern world of human kind.  My desires are radically different… even different from my closest friends in the US.  Gunjen shares my desires and she has been a Goddess with her loving helping heart.  If anyone understands me it’s her.  So, what to do?  Trust in the heart beat and the rhythm of the Divine?  Yes–this is a constant practice of mine–yet where is it leading me?  It is embedded in our DNA to ask these questions.  So far it has lead me to India many times.  That in itself could be considered a lifetime of accomplishment, yet for me it is still not enough.  To what end will it lead?  I wish it to be the building block of my legacy.  Is there such a thing as living your legacy?  Or is that something that only takes form in your children or perhaps your death?  I can’t help but continuing to feel lost and confused.  I even feel like less of a person if the visions and sounds in my head, heart and soul are not produced into the physical form of my reality.

Lakshman Jhula (swinging bridge) along the Mighty Ganga River Rishikesh India

Tomorrow we leave for Rishikesh.  I told Gunjen I wanted to go back to the exact same spot, and do the exact same thing that I did last year.  It was that magical, and I wanted the love of my life to experience that same thing…  While we are in Rishikesh we will take a side trip to the northwest to Deradhun.  Gunjen’s Mother’s eldest living sister is their with her family.  Both of these places are scenically breath taking and become the whole reason why I come to India again and again.  I can’t wait to touch my feet to the sacred sand of the bank of the Mother Ganga River for the second time!

Day 4

It is peek season in India for tourism during the months of Oct-Jan, which means it is more difficult to find decent train and plane tickets while in India.  To avoid that for just this time we are taking a car to Deradhun with Maamaji and Maamiji, so that they to can visit Usha Mausi (Gunjen’s Mother’s eldest living sister).  Deradhun is a beautiful mountain town that over the past 5-10 years the population has exploded causing major congestion of the main roads that run through the middle of the town.  The higher we climb in elevation the greater the number of bandars (monkeys).  Droves of families of bandars roam these forest mountains scouring the trails of human debris for food.  These bandars have inhabited these mountains for much longer than the Tibetan people.

Tibetan Buddhist Stupa in Deradhun India

In Deradhun there is a village dedicated to Tibetan refugees.  The center of the village is one of the worlds largest Tibetan Stupas.  This is a huge bonus for Gunjen and I to come and visit Usha Mausi.  Oh but of course we have scheduled some time to visit. I can see the Stupa from a great distance and upon entering the boundaries of the Tibetan community the vibrations change.  The air seems lighter and a state of peace and calm  wash over my chest.  This feeling of peace could also be self-born from the practice of deep breathing I engage in when preparing to enter a sacred space.  I have a practice of purification before entering such places because the heart and spirit open deeper to receive the vibrations and blessings completely. The grounds of the temple and the great Tibetan Stupa are exceedingly clean for India standards.  The lawns, plants and grounds are so very meticulously maintained, which I feel adds to the experience of serenity.  The white marble and plaster of outside the temple is so bright you have to squint just to bare the sunlight reflection from the Stupa.  There are four levels in the Stupa and each level has a different shrine dedicated to a different deity or aspect of the Divine.  All along the inside walls of the Temples are meticulously hand crafted wall paints of ancient Tibetan pastimes.  My eyes bare witness to tales of ancient Tibetan wisdom and tradition.

Peace and Compassion

The vibrations of peace exuding from this sacred building are indescribable.  All of the young monks that maintain the temple are so sweet in nature, they carry on with their daily duties with a purity in their hearts that is cultivated over their lifetime.  So advanced in patience and what it truly means to serve and survive.  To me this temple is a flagship for indigenous societies, that no matter the slaughter and destruction of Tibetan lives and culture, the spirit of their sacred and ancient traditions lives on in this special place.  If only the American and South American tribes could have such a tribute for their nearly extinct races of peoples.  I pray that these traditions never die, and live on in the hearts of those lucky enough to experience this place.

Entrance to Temple dedicated to the original in Lhasa Tibet

Gunjen and I were accompanied there by Usha Mausi’s son Vibhu Bhaya and his wife and kids.  If we visited the Stupa by ourselves we would have sat and meditated for hours and possibly never left!  Even still it’s best that we carry on to Usha Mausi’s house and pay our respects to her and her family.  They are waiting for us…

We arrive at Usha Mausi’s with Maama and Maamiji.  We meet and greet everyone in the very formal way that Indian people especially family greets each other.  Vibhu Bhaya brings Usha Mausi outside.  I can see her silhouette shuffling through the dim house and when she steps into the light the sun gently touches her creamy brown skin.  Usha Mausi smiles with limited energy and I can since that she is very happy to see us.  I bend down and touch her feet and she gives me blessings, “Kush Raho” she says, meaning “be happy.”  Tears well up in my chest.  The more we meet Gunjen’s family the more I feel accepted.  With open hearts they are greeting and accepting me.  This is something I’ve always longed for.  Usha Mausi sits out front and we join her  for one of the top 5 reasons why India is one of the most fabulous places in the world… CHAI!  Usha Mausi has a lovely garden in front of her house that is very well maintained, beautiful flowers, marigolds and tulsi.  On all sides the peeks of mountains give their respect to the golden glowing sun above.  Usha Mausi and Gunjen strike up conversation as Maamiji wildly cracks jokes and moves about the house with the kids.  Usha Mausi must have heard from Gunjen’s mother that I sing bhajans (Indian devotional songs) because she asked me to sing.  I sing for her the few bhajans I know.  She shakes her head, bats her eyelids, and through the small crack in her mouth I hear her say, “Bohat acha laga,” which means she highly approves.

Usha Mausi’s family home in Deradhun

Again I tear up of course.  I’m emotional in that way.  I don’t mind no matter the criticism, I’m in tune with the world around me and I receive the emotions of others very deeply.  There was something that was telling me that Usha Mausi was pleased beyond words to be with us, and maybe in someway felt very connected to Gunjen’s mother.  Gunjen and I actually leave for Rishikesh that night and come back the next day to spend some more quality time with Usha Mausi.  Maama and Maamiji take their leave for Delhi/Indrapuram, and Gunjen and I spend a lazy afternoon with Usha Mausi.  We show her wedding photos and video and every artistic thing we can show her from videos I’ve made.  Usha Mausi was a painter and actually the reason why Gunjen’s mother became a painter.  Although she was in physical pain her eyes told me so many stories of happiness.  I felt that she was very content in that moment, and Gunjen and I were sad to leave her.  Two weeks later while Gunjen and I are making plans in Mumbai Usha Mausi leaves her body and passes on.  We were the last of her relatives to see her alive.  Such a tragedy, such a sad part of life.  Later I will tell you about the vision I had of Usha Mausi during a meditation in Mumbai.

Usha Mausi feeding me mithai (Indian sweets).

Two bandars guarding the gates of a temple. The monkeys with the black face are said to be direct descendants of Hanumanji. They are a lot bigger than they seem.

For now we were on to Rishikesh, and with family visits respected I truly feel like we can let loose and be vested in our visit to this Holy Ganga town.  Gunjen and I happily board our bus to return to Rishikesh.  It’s early in the trip and we haven’t felt the wrath of population because of being driven around by relatives.  We squeeze in with the charging crowd moving toward the bus.  At the buses entrance Gunjen and I are giggling to each other at the scene of a small woman smashed against my stomach.  She expresses her understanding of the joke by saying, “Very people,” (meaning there’s lots of people) in the cutest little Indian woman accent… you can imagine.  We reached our hotel rather late.  Hotel Gangotri is 150 rupees, which is 3 US dollars a night.  The hotel has a balcony and over looks right next to the sacred river Ganga.  A sweet Indian family lives downstairs and runs the hotel.  There is no tv and no ac, it almost feels like an ashram if it weren’t for the stoner foreigners that are staying on the same floor. The pace in Rishikesh is completely different from many other parts of the world.  Time slows to a gradual stroll.  There is a short conversation I have had with many foreigners here, it goes like this, “How long have you been in Rishikesh?”  Foreigner says, “Oh not too long just about 3 months or so, I’ll be here until the end of the year.”  Where they get the time and money to do that I don’t know, but I can see why they would choose this place, or rather why this place has chosen them.

Wondering along the banks of the Sacred Ganga River

The peaceful vibrations of the Mother Ganga call to me, they bid me to rest leisurely along the shore, meditate, breathe and become a wonderer swimming in the vibrations of the Divine.  Gunjen and I set no schedule we simply meander along the river banks of the Ganga as I imagined peoples in India have done since the beginning of civilization.  It is so easy to spend several hours simply walking around and taking in the scene, which is precisely what we do.  In the evening around 4:30pm I convince Gunjen to walk to the Parmath Ashram Ganga Arti site.  (Arti is the waving of flames and giving songs, prayers and offerings to the sacred River Ganga).  This is part of the “doing the exact same thing I did last year” experience of Rishikesh.  Gunjen and I arrived early at the site, the sun is still bright yellow in the sky and reflects an intense light from the marble steps at the mouth of the River.  We touch our feet to the chilling waters of the sacred current.  Instantly you feel lively and refreshed and also with a great since of oneness and peace.

Instantly rejuvenating healing waters of Might Gangaji

After some time of quietly absorbing the calm of the Ganga the young pandits (young priests) begin filing into the steps and the Yajna (fire ceremony) begins.  Every evening this beautiful group of Bhaktis (devotees) rest at the Ganga River Banks and sing and express their pure hearted devotion to this sacred place.

Leading Swami of the Parmath Ashram and some young Pandits behind him singing beautifully during Arthi

This mixed with the Yajna creates an atmosphere of the deepest, purest most indescribable feelings.  I loose my identity and become a part of the experience as a whole.  I am a burning cinder of sacred bark, I am a floating flower petal willing carried by currents into the heart of the River, I am the Golden Orange Sun setting and aiding in the peace and purification.  My meditations are united with the purity of the ceremony and the hearts of the Bhaktis that live only for the sake of devotion and service!  If at any moment in my life I feel that I need a rest from modern grind or even wish to forget my life all together and join in the inner spirit I know exactly where to go… To be continued…

Sivji can even meditate with a bandar on his head!

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