India

My Spiritual Journey, India: Day 10

My Guruji Hersh, her husband Mike, Surekha and myself take the train to New Delhi. Her cousins, Binu and Bitoo Malhotra picked us up to spend two nights with them in their home. It’s quite a contrast from the second ashram building we just came from; from poor conditions to lavish food, pampering and servants. We visit a few historical places, The Red Fort and The Lotus Temple. There were about twenty young teenagers wanting to give me the high five. I’m not asked for pictures this time, however there is one other Caucasian woman, who is being asked. I shout out to her, “Welcome to my world.” On our way to the next stop, a woman is robbed. Her purse is ripped right out of her of hands. She’s on three-wheel scooter with her friends, right next to our taxi. She starts screaming and running after the thief causing a chain reaction with many others begin chasing after him. He bends like a pretzel through a fence, so I don’t know if he was caught. This scares Surekha and I, so we decide to cut our sight-seeing tour short. Binu sets up appointments for manicures and pedicures and to have my eyebrows threaded. Dinner is at a Chinese Restaurant. I’m being treated like a princess only in a worldly fashion. On this trip, I’ve been able to experience two completely different ways of life! I’m looking forward to seeing my family. I do miss my husband, Rick and my son, Jordan. Maybe a little more prayer and a little more shopping before I return home. A nice way to transition back to America! 17634495_10213300713931745_2426705593345451765_n 17903694_10213351081910913_2881289639615226295_n

My Spiritual Journey, India: Day 9

We travel to another Ashram located in Chandigarh, which is three hours away. Yog Sadham Ashram rented the space for this event and the conditions are less then favorable–they’re awful! There is a bad storm and we barely get any rest. The window shudders banged against the outside all night long. When I open my bedroom door to use the rest room, I’m stepping over devotees heads and bodies who are sleeping scattered all over the floor. I go to use the rest room and it is worse than any outhouse I’ve ever seen. This is unacceptable to all of us. My Guruji Hersh calls her family members to drive us to a hotel. We move to the hotel in the wee hours of the morning. I don’t know how these devotees travel from town to town and sleep in these conditions. I do realize many of these people are living in poverty. I’m beyond thrilled to be relocated in a clean hotel, with a soft pillow to lay my head down to sleep. I guess the Princess is rearing her head. We participated in the celebration, we just didn’t sleep in the rented building. In America, we have no idea how blessed we truly are. This has been another life altering experience! 17903691_1900159913598092_3566408026142387921_n

My Spiritual Journey, India: Day 8

Today, as we continue celebrating Ramnavami, my heart chakra opens up during morning prayer and tears come streaming down my cheeks. I realize how fortunate and grateful I am to be part a loving family, that just so happens to be the family of a renowned realized Guruji. Since his passing, this Ashram here in India is being run by another amazing Guru, Chander Mohan Arora. I’ve experienced first hand what it’s like to be a part of this amazing family and being included in their everyday life and traditions. They have welcomed me with open arms! We head from the Ashram to a huge celebration. As we exit our cars, the driver jumps out of the car and opens my door. There are people everywhere. The Guruji and his wife Amita, lead us walking down a white runner, similar to a bride walking down the isle on her wedding day, with rose petals and flowers scattered on it. The fragrance of the flowers is potent. People are crying and placing flowers in our hands and bowing and touching our feet. We very enter a small temple with an alter. Everyone is chanting. We head into the Ashram and people sob as they drop to the Gurus feet, as well as his families feet, myself included! They’re taking pictures and bowing their heads with hands in the prayer position. There is a feeling of royalty in the humblest sense. I realize in this moment, I’m experiencing an event that people in India only dream of. The celebration takes hours. It’s very hot and I’m perspiring to the point that I’m soaking wet. The devotees are going into a trance state, called smadhi. Some people drop right to the floor, very much like passing out. I was concerned someone might get injured but my Guruji Hersh assured me that this never happens. There are people dancing, some are singing and many rush up to the alter where the Guru sits and drop down to his feet, staying in one position for twenty minutes to an hour or sometimes even longer. This was unsettling to me at first, however, I quickly adjusted. After the celebration there was chai tea and lunch provided for the family. It was right then in this moment that I had a spiritual awakening–how does an American woman end up in India at an Ashram, with a Guru and their family breaking bread? My God, if it is true that we create our own realities, I’ve just gone above and beyond. I feel just like a princess, and this is one fabulous dream! 17884651_1900680413546042_3423756918766477473_n 17522667_1900808906866526_7812130572751748396_n

My Spiritual Journey, India: Day 7

The Guruji is a gentle and hospitable man. I’m treated like a princess here at the ashram. The people who serve take very good care of me. I keep experiencing polar opposites here in India. It’s a delicate balance. We finally reached the town of Malali. We are very close to the border of China and Pakistan. The ride to Malali was long and at times, stressful. The roads are so narrow that I closed my eyes praying to God to keep us safe. I get so scared going around the sharp corners of the mountains because you can’t see the oncoming traffic. It’s beyond me how the people living in the mountains drive here every day. I think we have finally reached the top of the Himalayan Mountains. The clouds are touching the snowcaps. The air is very cold, crisp and fresh. Definitely, very different from New Delhi where the air is polluted and burns my throat. There are apple blossom trees and the magnolias trees are in full bloom. It smells so sweet–just like the candles you buy in the United States at Bath and Body Works. We stop to eat dinner and you would think we were in a restaurant in Aspen Colorado. As we begin to placing our order, Raj, my Guru’s brother, says, “We have these Hacha Noodles in India.” His wife Anju says, “Raj we are in India” We all had a good laugh. We visited the Temple Hadimba, where I had another young person ask me to take a picture with them. The temple is magical. It looks and feels like we’re in the middle of a story book forest. The evergreen trees carry the rich fragrance of pine. It smells so good. It reminds me of Christmas time. The green colors here are like nothing I’ve never experienced before. There is every shade of green and three that stand out; a jade green, an army green, and a forest green so lush that the leaves look like velvet. Time to head to the hotel to get some rest. It’s been one long day and we have to be ready to leave at 5:00 AM. Driving straight up into the mountains, we pass a town with many hippies. One of them owns this fabulous restaurant that has tables that are low to the floor and pillows that you sit on, like in China and Japan. The young man who owns the establishment sits in back room and plays the bongo drums. He wears a grey wool hat with his long hair tucked inside. You can tell he was feeling no pain. I asked him about the giant black-light Buddha poster, and he smiled and said, “Yah mon, good for when doing acid.” Everywhere I go, people share their personal details with me. I feel like have a sign on my forehead that says, ‘Spill your guts, it’s okay!’ The town was all Jimi Hendrix and Bob Marley posters, shirts, hats, bongs and pipes. It looks like everyone is stoned. After lunch we head to the Temple. I’m thankful only have a twenty minute drive. I hope that is not Indian time, because then it could be an hour or two. Some of those mountain turns are so scary. A few times as we were rounding the corners of the mountain, we were suddenly face to face with a bus. I’m praying to make our destination in one piece not in pieces. And we make it. Thank you Lord! This temple is amazing. It has a bridge you have to cross and underneath is a crystal clear river with several hot springs. You can see the stream rising up from the hot springs in the very cold Himalayan Mountain water. 17523247_10213248050375189_5243256213230664887_nThe Seeks temple is beautiful. It feels very much like a castle. We have to remove our shoes at the door and walk barefoot though a maze of hallways that lead into an ornate temple of four Gurus singing chants. I’m not sure what to do, so I follow what the disciples are doing. If they stand, I stand. If they bow, I bow. Finally my friend Raj and Anju wave to me to accept the offering. I place one hand in the other in a cupped fashion and the Guru put the offering in my palm and I bowed my head. Now, we make our way out of the temple driving nine hours through twists and turns and bumpy roads back to the Ashram in Hoshiar pur.

My Spiritual Journey, India: Day 6

We’re off to see where the Dalai Lama lives. I’m traveling with Raj and his wife, Anju. Traveling up the Himalayan Mountains is an adventure in its self, our taxi driver is a nice young Indian man, about twenty years old. He’s very respectful and for some odd reason, despite his age, I trust his driving. He seems to know exactly what he’s doing. Driving up the mountains is very scary. You feel like you’re on an old-fashioned wooden roller coaster. The constant twisting and turning kept making me nauseous. Some of turns are sharp and narrow with cars coming straight at you with great speed. After six hours or nonstop driving, we finally arrive at our destination. The home of the Dalai Lama is quaint and peaceful. You can feel the highest Godly vibrations in everything that surrounds you. There’s a handful of monks roaming around the temple patio grounds. They all have shaved heads and are wearing a rich colored burgundy and gold robes. The purpose for the dress is to have less worldly distractions to be able to concentrate on what is most important; reaching higher states of consciousness. There’s huge beautiful statues of the Buddha everywhere you turn. Long rows of golden prayer wheels that contain hundreds of mantas in each wheel. You begin by turning one wheel and continue walking, turning one, then two, until you complete approximately forty. There is a heavy scent of incense in the temple area yet not enough to overwhelm you. And large oriental cabinets that contain hundreds of brightly burning candles. The view from his home is breath taking. You feel like your standing on a mountain top; If you should raise up your hand up in the air, God will touch it. In this moment I feel blessed and have a tremendous amount of gratitude. The driver takes us back to the hotel so we can check in. It’s a gorgeous hotel, couldn’t be more luxurious and the polar opposite from the Ashram which is primitive in many areas. I’m completely exhausted. Having a little piece of America at this moment; a shower, toilet, and a soft warm bed is heaven sent! 17800277_1898841577063259_878848732135572767_n

My Spiritual Journey, India: Day 5

This morning I thought I was dreaming when I glanced over at my alarm clock. It was 4:00 A.M. when I was awakened by the faint ringing of cell phone. Its always an unsettling feeling out when the phone rings that early. Not to mention, I’m sharing a room with five others–which is normal behavior in Indian culture. It was my husband, Rick on the phone. His father has pancreatic cancer, so I immediately assume he may be calling with some sort of update on the progression of his disease or worse news. With no light on, I’m frantically feeling around my night stand, moving my hand back and forth searching for my phone. I find it finally next to my water bottle that I knock over and it drops onto the tile floor with a loud thump. Thankfully, I didn’t wake anyone. Quietly, I text Rick back and at the same time am trying to cover the bright light that’s illuminating from my cell phone. He responds back and thank the good Lord, his father isn’t worse. Rick was just feeling lonely. I remind him to check the world clock next time he calls so as not wake everyone in the room. I’m laying wide awake now. I can’t fall back a sleep. We have quite a few people sharing the bathroom this morning, so I might as well get up brush my teeth and wash up before my walk. It’s early morning and still dark outside when Manny, Surekha and I are off for our three-mile walk. It’s really baffles me how India has such extremes living conditions–you’re either very wealthy or poverty stricken. As we start our morning walk, we’re in a gated community with two guards standing at the entrance. There are so beautiful homes and roaming stray dogs. There is one that has puppies and my heart aches for her. I can’t stop wondering the likelihood of those puppies surviving. We cross the road and we’re in an entirely different neighborhood, one of horrific poverty. There is a bull standing on the corner eating garbage. I can’t help but wonder how he got this huge disgusting sore on his backend. Walking along I get people who just stare at me like I have three heads. I think maybe they haven’t seen a Caucasian woman because there a a handful who come close to me and just stare. I bow my head and greet them with ‘namaste.’ They smile at me with a look of surprise that I even acknowledged them at all. Manny speaks Hindi so he asked a man assembling cow pies if we could take his picture. The man is so thrilled, he poses with a smile from ear to ear! The townspeople are all active doing their chores and work. There’s a man milking a cow, a woman sweeping the sidewalk and cows and dogs roaming freely. I’m noticing everything in India seems to be one extreme to another–polar opposites or is it in perfect balance.

My Spiritual Journey, India: Day 4

Celebration for Papa: There is food every where you look in the Ashram. Sharda is eating a snack. I inquire what it is. She tells me, “It’s hemp and roasted cannabis seeds.” It’s delicious, try some.” I opt to pass as she continues on to tell me it grows wild here. I respond that I haven’t noticed it–maybe the man pooping in the field yesterday was actually fertilizing his crops?
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Cannabis grows freely in India and nobody really cares!

My Spiritual Journey, India: Day 3

Early this morning, I went for a three mile walk near the Ashram. There are no street names, so the townspeople give directions off the cuff; “turn right at the end of the street, look for the blue house, then pass about ten more houses and you’ve reached your destination.” Oddly, it works. There is such extreme poverty, it left me speechless. On one street there are starving cows and dogs roaming free, eating garbage. The cows in India are considered sacred, yet when they’re old, people set them free and most often, they starve to death. In my mind, it’s better to put them down, but like so many other cultures, they’re attitude toward death is different than ours. Their attitude toward life can be, too. As I’m walking next to this open field, a car rushes past almost touching my arm. I’m forced to step onto the field when I notice a man pooping, holding his clothing out of harm’s way with one hand and swatting the flies away with his other hand. His house is made of blankets and there is so much garbage scattered everywhere, I can barely see the ground. I smell this disgusting odor. At first, I thought it was the garbage, then my nose led me to a low brick wall with twenty or so cow pies lined up across the top. I did my best to wipe the look of disgust off my face and asked what they use them for. It turns out that cow manure is quite a commodity. In Africa, India and other underdeveloped countries, cow pies are used for mosquito repellant, fertiliser, a replacement for firewood, insulation for clay huts go keep the cold at bay and in this case, because of the high methane content, it is used to produce biogas to generate heat and electricity. The poverty here tugs on your heartstrings, then you turn the corner and there’s beautiful homes that display the names of the people who live in them: doctors, surgeons, bankers, etc. In the major cities in the United States, you can often walk from the ghetto to the upper crust homes in a few blocks, but seeing such horrific poverty right next great wealth is baffling and quite unsettling. It’s 8:00 pm and I’m totally jet lagged. My head keeps bobbing during prayers. Everyone sits on the floor, very close to each other. So close that I’m feeling just a wee bit uncomfortable. I have my eyes shut and am taken aback by this woman’s screams and groans. She’s on her hands and knees, raging and bending her elbows as if she’s cursing the statue of Prabhuji Ramlal Maharsaj. She stands up and spins around a few times and goes into another room once occupied by the Guru and falls to the floor. I know this is a tranced state called samadhi, however I’ve never seen this taken to such extreme in America. Later, I was told that when the kundalini rises, if an individual isn’t properly prepared when this happens, sometimes, you get unusual responses. Mental illness being one of them.

My Spiritual Journey, India: Day 2

We landed in Dubai for a three hour lay over. I’ve heard so much about Dubai, I wished we could have stayed an extra day to look around. Sharda and Manny are friends of mine who will be meeting with our group at the Ashram. Only a few days ago, Sharda put some pictures on Facebook of a recent trip they took to Dubai. Sharda went shopping for gold necklaces, rode a camel in the desert, went para-gliding over the mountains–8000 feet in the air. To top that off, they went on a sand dune safari on rented dune buggies. I’m going to put that on my bucket list. After our layover, we flew three more hours into New Delhi. It was early morning, still very dark outside. I was exhausted and anxiously awaiting our arrival into New Delhi. I had no idea what to expect. I gazed out the window and saw the scattered towns below. It reminded me of white ash and golden embers, like scattered fires dying out everywhere. Oddly, it truly was a beautiful site. As we prepared for our landing in New Delhi, I could see thick smog. It had this smell similar to gas from a stovetop. It was burning my throat. As I walked off the plane, many of the Indian people are now staring at me, no smiles, just stares. I felt as though I have a giant pimple on my nose. It was really awkward, even a little bit scary. I wouldn’t want to be in India alone. Thankfully, I have friends who understand the culture who reassured me–more than once–that the stares are more of a curious nature. Next, I went to wait in line to get my Visa cleared in order to enter the county. Waiting in line, I read a sentence that I hadn’t noticed before. The paperwork said that they have the right to turn anyone away who wasn’t a citizen. I nervously approach the desk. A woman fingerprinted me, takes my picture, scribbles something onto my Visa paperwork and then starts shooing me away. My friends have already passed through and entered, so I’m unsure what to do or where to go. I go under a divider rope, thinking I could just ask someone on the other side. Suddenly this woman begins shouting and pointing for me to do something of which I had no idea. She is getting louder and wailing and flailing her hands in some sort of gestures. Finally I realized that she wanted to go back and start the process over. So I go back under the rope and stand at the end of the line to repeat the process. When I get to the front of the line and approach the front desk, I get the same woman as I did before. She starts pointing at me angrily now–again! Then she yells and points in another direction–I give up! I was certain that India is going to send me home. But they didn’t. Thank the Lord!

My Spiritual Journey, India: Day 1

My spiritual trip to India just began and of course, there’s drama before we even leave the ground. I was stopped by security while going through the checkpoint at Chicago O’ Hare airport. This took me by surprise, as I’ve never been stopped or even remotely questioned by security anywhere. Now, a very gruff female police officer was patting me down and looking in my pockets. She looked as though she was sure that I was some sort of criminal. While she brushed a clear solution over my hands, I asked her what this was all about. She responded with, “I’m checking to see if you’re carrying explosives.” She pointed to a diagram on a large computer screen that was behind me. I looked at a blurry, x-ray like image of a female with a yellow mark below the waist. Suddenly I realized three things. First, it was an image of me. Second, the yellow mark on the screen pointed out my personal area. And third and perhaps the most important, she suspects that I’m carrying explosives down in my personal area. I was carrying something down there; a panty liner. With all the technology these days, it’s surprising they cant tell. I hope this is just an isolated incident and not an indication of things to come

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