How to describe Enlightened India 2019?
How to describe Enlightened India 2019?
One of the places we explore in Rishikesh is the ashram of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, founder of Transcendental Meditation (TM), and the place where the Beatles came to meditate in the late 60’s.
The place is a magical, mystical experience! You can feel the energy and spirit of the once bustling ashram and its devotees. There are meditation huts dotting the land, including the famous hut #9, that can be traced back to John Lennon’s voice on the White Album repeating the phrase: “number 9, number 9”.
As you walk along the paths, filled with hundreds of butterflies of all shapes and colors, you can imagine hearing mantra being chanted in the now defunct meditation hall, or hear some bird sound that George Harrison may have heard.
With an incredible view of the Ganges river, the ashram sits atop a bluff, steeped in an atmosphere of peace and stillness. It’s a wonderful place to explore and lose yourself in the past as well as find yourself in the present.
Truly a favorite outing of our group!
Tuning In, in India. I’m supposed to be home studying so instead, I made a movie of some of my favorite moments in India. I’m chanting the Adi Mantra, which I recorded in India, while it was still dark outside, sitting alone in the yoga hall, and the monkeys were banging around in the trees outside as the sun rose.
“Ong Namo Guru Dev Namo” which translates to: I bow to the Creative Wisdom, I bow to the Divine Teacher within. This mantra is used for “tuning in” to the divine flow and self-knowledge within each of us, and linking us to Yogi Bhajan and the Golden Chain of teachers in Kundalini Yoga.
It was a day like any other day, the day India called me. It was unexpected. India was only “sort-of” on my list. There were other places ahead of it. I was scrolling on Facebook when I saw it: the Invitation. It said, “Come to India with us!” I stopped scrolling and clicked. As I did, something deep inside me said “looks like I’m going to India” and that was that.
Then, by chance, while volunteering at a workshop, I ran into Roxanna; she appeared self-confident and poised, her inner beauty almost outshining her outer beauty. We had been introduced before through a mutual friend, so I mustered my courage and approached her. I said, “Hi there, I’m going to India with you.” She was surprised, and smiled a huge smile and said something like ‘This is wonderful! Once you make the decision, your trip has already begun.’
When I got home from the workshop, I talked to my partner about it and we both knew right away that even though this was a ‘big’ trip, it was to be taken on my own. I paid my deposit that day. I was elated and terrified all at once. I didn’t really know why I was going to India, I just knew that I was going.
After some deep inquiry, I realized it wasn’t about checking another country off my bucket list, the reason I was going to India was for me. This was about my spirit, my soul, my growth – it was an internal shift.
The itinerary was outlined, the activities were planned, I knew I’d be in good hands and kept safe – all I had to do was show up. Show up in India, but really, it was about showing up for myself. How many times had I really done that? How many times had I gifted myself instead of someone else? Now was the time.
The trip itself was incredible and heart opening. Spiritual tourism had always called to me but somehow, I’d never done it thinking I could do it myself, faster, cheaper, better. But this was different. With this trip, I had the invitation to let go of the details, let go of the responsibility and to let go of my own control issues. In the letting go, I was able to experience the present moment.
I’ve always been spiritual, I have great faith, but this was an opening of grand proportions! I experienced an unraveling inside me and then a reweaving. Admittedly this didn’t all happen in my 15 glorious days in India, much of it happened once I returned home over a period of three years. It’s taken that long for me to ‘unpack’ it all and put my experience into words.
Now I am preparing to return to India, a place I now consider home, a place I think of daily. I am once again in a place of emotional inquiry about what else is there to know and learn. However, instead of stressing out about not knowing the why of everything, I just smile to myself because I’ve experienced the flow of the Ganga (the Ganges) and I understand that all will be revealed to me in the perfect time. ~ Julia Myers Patterson
It’s the sound of the bells that I remember most. The ring ring ringing. The tone true and pure. Even today, thousands of miles away at Amma’s Ashram in California, tucked back into a small valley with foothills surrounding it, I recognize the sound. It immediately reminds me of the stillness within.
India is a land of contrasts and an indescribable tapestry of life. I remember seeing Gandhi’s peaceful tomb surrounded by a vast park and outside that a great conflux of cars and people. Stillness and traffic jams juxtaposed.
Heading North, leaving the city with its historical significance, my face pressed against the train window, I watch the buildings become homes and shacks and the shacks become trees and the trees become meadows. The air clears and I listen for more bells. Religion (as I call it being from the West) is different here. It’s incorporated into daily life. It isn’t just a Sunday thing. The bells ring every morning. The prayers are prayed, meditation a cornerstone of prayer, and chants takes place before daily life begins. Bright red string wrapped around wrists and sandalwood paste in white and the red Tilak announce to the world that you have participated in a ritual or ceremony. I wore mine with pride. I left them on for months until the string turned white and they started to fray.
Rishikesh in its glory, a beautiful place, two parts each on one side of the Ganga. It is a place for spiritual renewal. A place where people travel on pilgrimage. Seekers and Sadhus abound. And again the bells. Every morning around 5:00, the call for prayer announces itself. Even the monkeys are sleeping as I wrap myself in a blanket and find my sandals in the dark. I wander the closed streets and just follow the bells. I don’t know where I’m going and it doesn’t matter, really. The bells announce my path for me.
Going home I stop at a beautiful site outside Delhi and in front of me is a bell. I pick it up gently and hear the sound that is now like my heartbeat. It’s never far from my altar now that I’m back in Northern California. I ring it often to remind me of the pieces of my heart that I left in India.
-Julia Myers Patterson