See you on the playa! (radical ritual)
journal entry on Jan 4th:
The Ganga. Ice melt from the mountains, leaving a deep turquoise mixed with sky blue. I approached the waters, cupping my hands into the flowing river, bringing the water to my face and over my head. Praying for peace in my mind of so many attachments I am carrying. Feeling the answer to my problems, is deep within me. Yes, indeed. I placed one rudraksha, 12 mukhi - representing Surya, into the water and slowly walked back into family flow. tomorrow we shall bathe in these cold waters!
Jan 5th- Rishikesh Parmath Niketan Ashram
We bathed into the waters of the Ganges- although it was cold, I felt the feet, prayers, tears, and deep blessings of millions of souls who stepped forward upon the exact footsteps I stand over. The footsteps are replicated for every inch of each step, a million times over. Sins washed away, peace absorbed. Being in the Ganges was as close as I've ever felt to water element; despite being 30 meters under the sea. There is a strong sense of vibration in the running water from the Himalayas. It invites us to pray, to give in, let go, and receive the magic of Ganga in prayer.
There is an ener here. A Holy Sacred Site. The Ganges is said to have come out of Shivas head, flowing down into the earthly plane along the Himalayas, blessing man with its cleansing qualities. This site is steeped in prayer, over centuries it has served as a safe haven for all beings.
Later into the evening we sat on the steps for aarti, evening ceremony in prayer. Suddenly, the PunditJi (priest) calls me and my family's name to step forward and points his hands in intensity to sit along the fire pit with the Rishii's.
- the rishiis fill the ashram as young boys who are leading spirituality life of devotion. Typically abandoned by their parents and given to the ashram....
I steppd forward, sat down into Ardha padmasana in order to ensure space for others; knowing I would have to change sides at some point. I was nervous, as hundreds of eyes looked upon us from what seemed like towering steps above.
The PA speaker came on, followed by chanting with harmonium and a youngin skillfully playing the tabla. I saw dozens of young rishiis, wearing their Sun Colored and Maroon garments, chanting in their respective cadence. Deep and vibrational for the older teens, light and inspiring for the young ones under eleven. Out of the sea of rishii's I spotted three young attractive blonde women. I sensed they were not American, by the way they carried themselves and through the undertone of their gestures. I probably picked them out easily due to them being the few white people there, as well as me missing connection with people my age! And talking with pretty women ;) 3 months of daily intense yoga studies has been my intention, not meeting women. One of my favorite parts of traveling has always been to connect with women of cultures foreign to me! :). One of the girls was holding a flower dohna, an offering, which she would soon place into the Ganga to float into a galaxy of waterways. Holding the Dohna in the palms of her hands, her eyes closed top to bottom. Head bowed into chest. I watched her hearts prayer pour into the palm of her hands, filling the fire of the flowers with life, just as her face fell into an expresionless desire to be free... of something. A yearn to join with peace. Her eyes were closed. And Her eyes were beautiful. I could see her green eyes looking past whether or not she was western or eastern, white or brown, religious or not. I sensed her soul surrounded around hundreds of other souls praying to the Ganga, celebrating Aarti. the end of this days cycle.
Her eyes opened.
She looked down at the fire, soon to cross eyes with me.
Fuck, was I staring? I closed my eyes and dropped into the presence of the fire I sat around, syncing in with the chant of the gayatri mantra.
From kum kums, to placing dozens of offerings into the fire, we were guided by the young punditji's, the rishii's of the ashram into the face of the fire. The harmonium, tabla, and symbols were played with such attentive skill, striking a chord that vibrated devotion from your ears down to the roots of the pelvic floor, uprooting chills through the skin.
Soon, the ceremony was over and the older Priest pulled me and my family aside to a separate temple at the top of the steps, where everyone would line up to receive a blessing. He made sure we were first and they placed kum kum's upon our foreheads, tied Kalawa (multicolored sacred thread) onto our right wrist, and he also blessed each of my newly found rudraksha of 1,3,4,5,7,11,12 mukhi!
Once it it was all over, I Was stunned as to why we were treated like family, asking my Nani, what was all that special attention about?! they went on to say how they are long time friends with Swami ShukdevanandaJi - the founder of India's largest ashram! That blew my mind! The priest who took care of us told me to return with my cousins and friends.
I returned to to my room in awe, in gratitude of this journey I am on.
------------------- end journal entry
the next day we drove to Haridware, which literally means the Gateway to God. We stepped into the crowds of hundreds so I can bathe in the Ganges again. When we did this in Rishikesh, there was nobody else around. In Haridware, there are hundreds of people going into the deep turquoise waters of the Ganges. It's quite a scene!
The water is absolutely freezing. Yet.... something happens when you step in. To me, it's as if I see all my pain and internal affliction come up in front of me, ready to take its next leg in the journey of release and surrender... praying for the wellbeing of myself, my beloveds, the earth.... such powerful feelings and prayers dispel any bodily feelings of fear, anger, being cold, hot, or anything.... a total sense of oneness is experienced. Then the dunking of your head and body in simotaneous motion produces a visceral envelope of insight that I have never felt before. Engulfed in the moment.
I have been told many times, as I'm sure many of us have; God is within us, never separate. I had raised my hands in the water as if.... I am seeking to be closer to spirit. In the deepest threads of my life, I felt a strong connection to a city within minutes of being in its waters.
As I exited the waters and dried myself off, I looked around. Observing my surroundings. A very holy site this is... I look forward to returning there one day with my cousins, my lovers, those who I continue to travel with. As we walked away from the site of where people bathe, the scene changed dramatically. I have never seen as many People with Leprosy, disinfigurement, diseased, amputated, or Hard-to-look-at people in my life before. Yet... I am someone who looks. I acknowledge and recognize, walking forward without stopping to give in to the dozens and dozens of arms begging for money, food, a hand to hold, just something. It is quite sad. It is heavy. It is radical and it is REAL. It is not for the weak to travel to certain parts of India, where Life and Death can seem to be hanging on by a thread of deep devotion in the eyes of street dwellers. But perhaps, it is for those.... who wish to see what life produces on other corners of the earth.
There is a beauty and sadness to this great walk of life.
It it is a true blessing to me to have found the heart I feel inside. Once upon a time, I despised the word god. I rejected all religion. I had no trust in others or in myself. Way before yoga, I fought every conservation. Even six years ago when I was in India, I was a skeptic, until one night in Jaipur, India. When a man read my palm and predicted the upcoming five years of my life, my death, my life path..... and so far.... he is right.
India propelled me into a spiritual path at nineteen. At twenty five, Mother India has me in her mouth, whirling me around..... spitting me out soon enough into the world with some greater level of faith in the unfolding process of the universe. I trust my tribe will be there to catch when I fall into Boulder the second week of April, just days after my 26th name day (birthday!).... then stepping into surgery on the 24th.
Do you wish to have faith in your life? Maybe you do, maybe you don't. For those who read this and feel they don't, I would say..... go get a passport and go travel the world. Something profound will happen. It might be good, it might be bad. It will probably be both of those things intertwined into an amazing cosmic dance that creates a love affair with whatever story was bred while at home. There's a magic to traveling and I am blessed to be on it. I recognize not everyone can just... do that. Go travel. So, in my experience, the greatest way I found faith while being at home was through:
Yoga Sutra I.14, स तु दीर्घकालनैरन्तर्यसत्कारासेवितो दृढभूमिः॥१४॥
- It is only when the correct practice is followed for a very long time, without interruptions and with a quality of positive attitudes and eagerness that Yoga can be succeeded •
- Sah tu dirgha kala nairantaira satkara asevitah dridha bhumih
- sah = that (practice)
- tu = and, but, however
- dirgha = long time (dirgha = long; kala = time)
- nairantaira = without interruption, continually,
- satkara = with devotion, sincerity, respect, reverence, positive attitude, right action
- asevitah = pursued, practiced, cultivated, attended to, done with assiduous attention
- dridha-bhumih = stable, solid foundation, firmly rooted, of firm ground
a nonnegotionable practice cultivates a new being of mind and body. A reprogram to the psyche.
By the way, if you read this far.... I'd love to hear from you. Traveling can be lonely, and I'm not the first to admit that. I love my alone time - I love writing in my journal and taking hours and hours of car rides, planes rides.... being out of wifi and cell service.... and I love talking to You- when it is available. Chances are, I totally miss you.
I care about your experience and would like to know how you are. Whether we talk a lot or not! Don't hesitate to say hi. just the other day a friend from high school who I haven't heard from in years said hi! All my love.
Ps- all my photos can't upload to the blog in my iPad because they are high MB! Check out Facebook photo album Indian Yogan for some photos <3 add me up, if we aren't friends. Love to stay virtually connected with you.... in hopes for a physical friendship if it's not there already!
Peace for now, my friends.
alec vishal rouben