Today is the last round of posts on India trip 2012. I shared my 6 Life-Changing Lessons from India a couple of weeks ago and then Irina, Gillian, Natalya, Tanya wrote about their incredible experiences yesterday. Today Jennifer and Katerina contemplate on their lessons learned from our unforgettable adventure. Smiles and Letting Go big time!
You Have a Secret Super Power: Smile!
Jennifer Morales – A true yogi who shares her passion for this ancient science with her lucky students in San Francisco:
The first time I went to India, I visited Kerala in the Southern part of the country. I immediately fell in love with that beautiful state, the people, food, culture, and its bright colors. But most of all, I remembered my amazing experience of being surrounded by beautiful souls.
Every place I visited, every door I walked into, every time I made eye contact with a local, I ALWAYS got a beautiful, sincere, welcoming smile. A genuine smile that came straight from the heart and shined right out through their eyes.
That is why I had to go back and explore North India this time. Of course, I wanted to visit the spectacular Taj Mahal, the beautiful Hindu temples, Varanasi (the oldest town in the world), swim in the holy waters of the Ganges River, take an elephant ride through the Ambert Fort in Jaipur and more, but what truly makes India so beautiful, unforgettable and special, is its people.
Despite the adversities they might confront every day like poverty and living in a place without the comforts of the Western world, it seems to me like they have accepted things the way they are, and there is no point to being miserable with themselves or toward others.
Here in America, people walk past each other as if we were robots. We don’t make eye contact, we don’t smile at each other, we don’t acknowledge each others presence, and if you do, people look at you as if you were a crazy person.
We are so blessed for living in a country where even the poorest person still has some comforts available to them. So why are we so indifferent towards others? We have so many reasons to walk down the street with a smile and say hello to the person standing next to us. We are not enemies. Even if we don’t share the same beliefs, we all come from the same place, we are made of the same energy and in our own way we are looking for the happiness and peace that we each deserve.
Mother Teresa said “Every time you smile at someone, it is an action of love, a gift to that person, a beautiful thing”.
Stop being a robot and smile more often, remember that you have so many reasons to do so. Acknowledging the presence of others might be the first step. Accepting your reality as it is might be the second. Start with this easy suggestion, next time you go to your yoga class smile to the person next to you. They might smile back and you might make a new friend.
Visiting India has been a life changing experience. I was lucky enough to meet the love of my life on my first visit in Kerala, I met wonderful people who not only became my dear friends, but but I like to call them my India family. Their love and support on the day my now husband and I exchanged our vows at the Taj Mahal, made the experience even more special.
Talking about the endless lessons I learned in that beautiful country would take numerous pages, but I will share with you later. For now all I can say is that appreciation of the blessings in my life both material and invisible, acceptance of whatever adversity might knock on my door, and smiling more often, are my top three lessons.
When we appreciate things, we get more of what we have, when you accept your reality you free yourself from suffering, and when you smile your brain smiles, your body relaxes, your mood changes in a positive way, and it opens the door to make new friends.
Learning to Let Go and Finding the Inner Child
Katerina Gubina – an amazing photographer with a passion for exotic adventures and healthy food:
The spontaneous trip to India started with the thought of letting go of all the expectations, labels and the familiar patterns and just being open to new experiences of being at an ashram.
Nothing that we commonly label ‘normal’ was present at the ashram- from waking up to the gong at 4am, Spartan living conditions to the surrounding environment – chaotic mess of the wandering unrestrained bulls, cows, crazy monkeys, or loud tooting motor bikes.
Letting go of the soreness from sitting motionless in the Lotus position for hours, accepting yoga classes held in a traditional Indian style were quite an intense practice on its own.
The first three days my body was shattering repeatedly “You’ve got to be kidding me!”. But once the concept that ‘we are not our body’ was introduced, it became much more manageable to look at the body as an instrument, to let go of the pain and surrender to the flow of brain twisters in the lotus position.
It was painful both physically and mentally, but the idea of letting go and just being in the moment was prevailing. It allowed me to appreciate the uniqueness of the situation even more, by accepting the new wave of knowledge and just being open-minded.
The lectures and the questions raised were pretty familiar, but either the energy of the holy place, or the concentration of all the factors gave me the tingling sensation of my life turning upside down inside of my mind.
Opening up the new levels of the mind and the body, learning that there are many layers in the mind through which we can go down to the very depths of ourselves by doing breathing exercises or yoga Nidra. Seeing the results of practice was incredible!
The uniqueness came from many angles and brought many things that I enjoyed greatly.
The reminders to appreciate unpredictability and to be fully present in the NOW were popping up everyday with the exciting force. The amazing fun experiences brought back the colors of life and its fun patterns during the celebration of the most vibrant holiday – Holi.
Boy did I feel for Titanic, when was trying to scrub off the paint in the cold water after the celebration. So when the face was still eggplant-colored and the body was freezing beyond endurance I decided to let go and be. PINK. For days.
So many revelations came out of being at the Ashram.
- Learning to let go and be inside was a big one.
- The realization that all the joy and happiness in the world is only inside, and it is now. The bliss, the happiness, the whatever you might call it – it is now.
- By having faith, surrendering and listening to the world inside we can have superpowers.
- The example of living in Ashram, sleeping 5 hours, and being energized and having surreal clarity and sharpness of the mind – this was amazing! It felt so empowering to learn to let go of the noisy brain and concentrate only on the inside. Imagine hours of silence inside the mind…no negative or any other thoughts rushing through. It is all possible and it is all in our hands.
Being open and letting go of the common and familiar helped embrace new experiences in Ashram, either the Holi celebration, early wake up, painful positions or throwing cow poop in the fire with the certain finger positions in obedience of the sacred ceremony and then accepting the cookie from the Guru’s hands with the same hands. Talk about experiences!
‘It’s a cruel and random world, but the chaos is all so beautiful.’ ~ Hiromu Arakawa
Varanasi, was yet another powerful drop in the ‘let-go jar’. I was intentionally ignoring the travel guides and reading about this place so the experience would be more real and with no expectations.
Varanasi made my eyes sore and even my camera was unable to capture the full range of the conflicting scene of one of the oldest cities in the world. The extremes of India looked the strongest there. The contrast of life and death, darkness and light was mesmerizingly powerful. They say the city changes you.
The most disturbing mix of so many things and concepts at one place and one time: the city is so dense, so concentrated and overly saturated.
The Ganges is worshiped and the water is considered holy, but the amount of dirt and disorder on the riverbanks is beyond striking. The water is polluted with all kinds of dirt, plastic, yet the locals bathe there religiously and wash their clothing.
Aside from washing and bathing, bones left from the bodies after cremation are put in the water and sometimes serve as food for dogs. And at the same time the beautiful sets of flowers in observance of the sacred ceremonies are being set away to float on the water in hopes of purification.
Some people come to Varanasi to reach deep levels of meditation, do yoga or just sit and be aware. Ironically they do it next to rest houses where sick people are kept right before they leave their bodies. Those people come to the rest houses with full awareness and expectation of death.
The powerful flow of energy, the Varanasi is famous for, is somehow mixed harmoniously with the flow of dirt, dead bodies and disabled people surrendering to the power of the water for the purification from the vicious cycle of life.
Directly behind the river is a labyrinth of filthy streets filled with burning piles of trash, dirty cows, flies, dogs and smells of oldness and decay.
Overwhelming persistent flow of the needy children with sad, sometimes harsh, sometimes greedy or friendly eyes… They look at you with such deep sorrow… At some point I could not look any longer, not at them, not at the town itself.
(If Karma theory is true, the thought of how bad the good half of the population of the country was in the previous lives to be in this extreme sickness and pain now was blowing my mind.)
The strong feeling of wonder and repulsion was rising inside my mind that had trouble comprehending the whole scene.
What mattered at that point is to see life between good and bad for what we know or see it. “Does new life grow out of rotting and decaying matter?”
Being inside and letting go of the external at this moment made the noisy thinking machine surrender again, let go and be present in the now.
The perfect quote came to my sight right after:
“Only if we are still enough inside and the noise of thinking subsides can we become aware that there is a hidden harmony here, a sacredness, a higher order in which everything has its perfect place and could not be other than what it is and the way it is.”
Being in the complete chaos, or at least letting the mind to put labels on the place around – either chaotic or disturbing… somehow gave me the feeling of the surreal clarity.
May be there was an inconceivable order to this place, that to the mind looked like chaos, because it was unable to understand it.
“It is beyond the mental category of good and bad. You cannot understand it through thought, but you can sense it when you let go of the thought, become still and alert, and don’t try to underhand or explain. Only then can you be aware of the sacredness of the forest. As soon as you sense the hidden harmony, that sacredness, you realize that, you become a conscious participant in it. In this way, nature can help you become realigned with the wholeness of life”.
Being in India does something to a person. It is impossible to come out of the India untouched as it shows such ‘raw’ side of life – joy or sadness. It is a country of wonders and extremes.
Tomorrow I will share a super easy Omega 3 rich Acai & Chocolate Sauce recipe for fruit salads on Thursday Ayurvedic Eats. Don’t miss it! It’s delicious!