Tuning In in India

In India, I experience the gamut: giddy laughter, loving kindness from strangers, heart connection, unexpected friendships, communion with cows, encounters with monkeys, blaring horns, sublime sunsets.

What I don’t think I have conveyed is the journey within to deep stillnessthe Gift of Presence – that has been my India.

Words really don’t do India justice, and I have a hard time putting some of my deepest emotions to words, so I have attached a short 90 second video of some very sacred moments that are forever dear to me.

The soundtrack is me “tuning in” with the Adi Mantra. Something we do at the beginning of every kundalini yoga class and meditation. I was chanting this mantra in the early hours of morning, when it’s still dark and the winds come roaring down the foothills of the Himalayas. I was tucked into a blanket and let the familiar chant ground me and connect me to the Golden Chain of my teachers, and connect me to my yoga mat. To my heart beat. If you listen carefully you can hear thumps and bumps in the background. They are monkeys having a morning romp before the warm midday sun makes them heavy lidded and lethargic.

I’ll be traveling back to this country, to this yoga hall, to one of my soul homes, in just a few short months. There are spots for 2 more people if you would like to join me.

We have curated a tour that delivers daily opportunities to connect deeply to your Self, to nurture and restore with yoga, meditation and Ayurveda. Time on the Ganges, swimming in waterfalls, hiking in the foothills of the Himalayas. Satsang with living saints. Stillness.

If you feel the call, contact me. I’m here to walk you through the details. Step by step.

Namaste,

Roxanna

Grandfather, India

Grandfather, India

I was twenty six years old when I saw

the Himalayan Mountain range for the first time.

I remember how abruptly

it rose from the rice paddies like

a row of hands signaling “STOP!”

“You shall not pass here.”

There is a reason the Hindus believe

their gods reside in the these mountains.

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Only gods would smash a subcontinent into Asia

in an attempt to get the sky’s attention.

Only gods would pull the ether so close

and insist to be kissed by her.

It is the nature of gods to seek residence

in the openness of sky

and there I was flying in it,

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catching a bird’s eye peek of peaks

that seemed to stretch all the way back

to my grandfather’s gaze

the first time he told me these things existted.

In those days his eyes

were my airplane windows

and I, a limb of his Bodhi tree

understood that he had grown up

where the Buddha breathed.

He had lotus blossom hands

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His stories were prayer beads

he strung around my neck

so that he could pull me back

when he saw me drifting

too far from my purpose

For whatever reason,

he saw in me a need;

an aching for the sky

IMG_4741so he produced photo albums

full of beings who knew her best,

Sepia toned images of hands pressed

together in prayer

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Black and white photographs of monks

whose eyes arced like raven wings

gleefully taking to the wind

prayer wheels spinning

to the backdrop of India.

India

the cough of car horns choking

on exhaust, exhausting jaunts

through mazes of people

amazing in their arrangements

flowers arranged in doorsteps

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side stepping copious piles of cow shit

squatting to shit over holes that belched urine smells

smelling jasmine and sandalwood

would travel by rickshaw, plane, train, and taxi

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to watch Himalayan spine

unfurl in long stretches, morning stretching

over my yoga practice, bending over the jumbled

jenga of shoddy construction,

huddling over construction paper

giving crayons to children who’d never colored before

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The color of saris bleeding into vision

like high definition dye, homeless man

dying on the street corner, dead guy by the piss wall,

the 5am call to prayer, the prayer beads, beads of sweat

protesting intense humidity, the soft

swirl of the pilgrim’s hands in the Ganges

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stirring my memory

toward my grandfather

who came to me as if in a dream,

a beam of light planting a seed

that would grow to lead my back

to the land

of my awakening.

-Lyndsey McGuire

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Rishikesh – River of Love, part 2

I wrote about bringing Lance’s ashes to Varanasi and how powerful that was for me to release them into the river.

Now on to Rishikesh, a lotus of a place, nestled on the banks of the Ganges, in northern India.  The water is cool and clean, with sandy swaths of beach and many ashrams and temples along its edge.  There is something very peaceful and sweet about this small city and the slower pace is a welcome retreat.

Beautiful Rishikesh from Laxman Jula bridge
Beautiful Rishikesh from Laxman Jula bridge

When we arrived at our hotel, our amazing host, Govind Agarwal, had arranged for our group to have a special blessing by priests.  As each of us entered the yoga room, we were given a special necklace of marigolds as the priests chanted.

Priests

Red paste and grains of rice were put on our foreheads and prayers were offered to Durga (the mother of us all), Ganesha (the remover of all obstacles) and Shiva (Destroyer of Ego and one who sits in deep meditation.)  One group member said she felt “home” as soon as she heard the powerful chanting of the priests.  The acoustics of the yoga room made me feel as if the mantras were vibrating through my chest cavity and opening my heart.

ShivaDurgaGanesha
Shiva, Durga and Ganesha

Have you ever said “yes!” to something because you felt it in your body, even though you had no idea what it was?  Months ago, back in the US, Govind had suggested having a ceremony for our ancestors on the banks of the Ganges.  Ever since he mentioned it, I became instantly attached to having it.  In fact, during the entire trip in India, my intention was to cultivate an attitude of surrender in all things, which I accomplished for the most part, but I stubbornly remained attached – like a barnacle on a wooden boat! – to 3 things:  the sunrise boat ride in Varanasi (which didn’t happen, so obviously I need to go back), the ceremony for our ancestors, and the dipping in the Ganga.

The morning of the ceremony, Govind walked us down the marble steps that literally disappear into the river.  The 3 priests were waiting for us accompanied by various bathers, curious onlookers and sadhus.  We took our seats on the marble, facing the river.

The priests put sandalwood paste across our forehead.   We offered prayers and offerings to the river, giving thanks for those that had come before us, honoring our lineage and speaking our ancestors’ names aloud.

I had brought a small vial with me – the remains of my beloved grandparents ashes – unsure of whether I would be willing to part with the last physical remnants of them.  As I prayed,  I knew with an inner wisdom that in the releasing of this ash, I was surrendering to the pulse of the universe, letting energy go into the flow of the river.  “Harold…Hazel” I said out loud as the priest poured milk into the jar and I tipped it into the river.  For the rest of the day, I experienced an uplifting of the spirit that was tangible and a peace I usually only feel after meditating.

Days later, Govind’s lovely wife, Bindia, graciously accompanied us to an area of the Ganges where we would dunk in the river.  The symbolism differs for everyone, but for me, it was an opportunity to “baptize” myself – to submerge myself 7 times, one for each chakra, in the holy river of unconditional love.  To cleanse myself of my sins, and to be born anew.  Returning to India, and bringing a group of women to India, had been a dream.  Now it was time to recognize that I had realized a dream come true and honor that part in me that had heard the call and said yes to it.  To realize that there are endings and also beginnings in a pilgrimage to India.  I was consciously saying ‘goodbye’ to aspects of myself, and experiences from the past 2 years.  In submerging in the river, I was also saying ‘yes’ to whatever was wishing to be born in me – perhaps aspects or ideas that I am not even aware of yet consciuosly, but the seeds have been planted.

Several of us were called to dunk in the river that morning and it was a powerful experience for all of us.  Much gratitude to Bindia who held our hands (with teeth chattering!) as each of us took the plunge.  Afterwards, we lit incense and made offerings to the river in thanks for her willingness to take us – the shadow and the light – and wash away our impurities and leave us refreshed and renewed.

I have so much gratitude for this journey and for all the ways I was able to be in sacred ceremony with the holiest of rivers – Mata Ganga – the Mother Ganges.  Sharing these experiences with this group of women has made it more potent for me and these memories live on in my heart and mind.  And oh Mother India,  I will return!  Deep bow.

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last night boat ride

Mother India and the River of Love – Part 1

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Before our Women’s Journey to India started, I shared with Nancy that I felt  2 themes were emerging around this trip, based on the few things I was learning from the participants and our itinerary.  The two themes were ‘mother’  and  ‘water’.  I knew we were going to Mother India and I was curious to see all the ways these themes might express themselves to each one of us.  We had chosen to go to places in India that celebrated life, death and rebirth – many of these life/death rituals happened near or in the Ganges river – otherwise known as Mata Ganga (Mother Ganges.)

We landed smack dab in the middle of Durga Puja – a celebration of the Goddess Durga – the mother of the universe, mother of us all.  What a “coincidence”!  The time of Durga Puja is a holy time celebrated throughout all of India.  Sculptures made out of clay are formed in her likeness – a powerful woman with 8 arms – and she is honored for several days with parades and dancing in the streets.  In Varanasi, the beautiful statues are decorated and worshipped, the streets are clogged with processions down to the river, and Durga is sent off in boats to the middle of the Ganges to be set free in the river, clay returning back to mud.

When we arrived in Varanasi, the weather was ominous with frothing white caps on the river that was at a record high and rain lashing at our hotel windows, creating puddles of water that soaked anything left on the floor.  The scene was all too familiar for those of us from Colorado.   We were dismayed to learn that all boat trips were cancelled indefinitely due to dangerous weather conditions.   I stared longingly out my hotel window at the river – Mata Ganga – churning wide, brown and swift, wishing to be on it.

Hotel view, there's water on the marble floor...
Hotel view, there’s water on the marble floor…

The Ganges is considered one of the holiest rivers for Hindus as well as a goddess:  Ganga.  Unlike other goddesses, she has no destructive or fearsome aspect, accepting all and forgiving all.  It is considered an honor to die at the banks of the Ganges if one is a Hindu, and if that is not possible, to be cremated on her banks with the ashes set free in her current.  It was my first time to Varanasi and I had come with the special task of releasing some of my dear friend and world traveler Lance’s ashes into the river.  What with the late monsoon floods, and rains from the typoon happening to the East, I was dubious if I would get the chance to fulfill this task.

Waiting...
Waiting…
more waiting
more waiting

On our last day, we were told that boats could make the trip and we would indeed be able to take our evening ride with a priest (Pujari – one who officiates puja – offerings/ceremony) so that all of us who were releasing ashes (symbolic or otherwise) would be blessed.  The current had finally died down enough so that the boat motors could power their way back up the river once they had drifted down to the burning ghats (the place of cremation in Varanasi that is at the water’s edge.)  Punam told me later that she had prayed “day and night” to make sure we could have our boat ride and I shared that I had been praying too!

Before I left my room at the hotel, I lit some incense and prayed to be present and open for the ritual I was about to participate in.

praying with Lance one last time
praying with Lance one last time

In some ways, it felt like the end of my journey with Lance.  From holding his hand as he slipped into a morphine sleep, to lying with his body in the wee hours of his death, to painting silks that wrapped around his body while he lay in his casket, to honoring his life at his memorial months later, here I was, in a final moment with him, releasing a baggie of ash and bone in India.

heading out, fires in the distance are the crematories
heading out, fires in the distance are the crematories
Burning Ghats
Burning Ghats
puja
puja – offerings

On the boat, a fresh wave of grief hit me and I sobbed in the dark.  The women each held my story about Lance and his family in their hearts and gave me the strength to honor my friend.

After my wave of sorrow passed, came a joyful knowing that Lance would have LOVED knowing his ashes were in the Ganges, in a place that had meant so much to he and Nancy.  I felt lighter and calm.  A nice reminder for me that resistance is really the only thing that causes my suffering.

Rock Star Pujari with Nancy and me, feeling peaceful
Rock Star Pujariji with Nancy and me, feeling peaceful
Joyful…with Somit

 

Do not stand at my grave and weep;

I am not there.  I do not sleep.

I am a thousand winds that blow.

I am the diamond glints on snow.

I am the sunlight on ripened grain.

I am the gentle autumn’s rain.

When you awaken in the morning’s hush,

I am the swift uplifting rush

Of quiet birds in circled flight.

I am the soft stars that shine at night.

Do not stand at my grave and cry:

I am not there.  I did not die.

-Anonymous