Meditation for Trauma – Love for Orlando

A friend of mine has traveled to Orlando to offer free therapy to those affected by the recent tragic event that took place at Pulse.  He asked me if I would make a meditation available for people struggling with their emotions in the aftermath of this traumatic event. I am honored to be of service in this way. Through posts on Facebook and watching the news I see how this act of violence ripples out to the community, the country and the rest of the world. My prayer and deepest wish is that this offering may give somebody out there a moment of peace, comfort, and a knowledge that they are not alone. That we are ALL in this together. And if one suffers, we all suffer. Please feel free to share this link with anyone who you think could use it.

Ode to a Dog

Ohhh this one hurts.

Meditation dog.  Never sat down to meditate without my sidekick showing up.  Had her own sheepskin but she would usually crawl in to my lap midway through the set.

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A little too full-figured for a lap dog.  She didn’t care.

Silly dog – people would smile at the sight of her.  Some would ask to take her picture.  She made me laugh.  Every day.

Drove to Texas with Lili to get her at 8 weeks old.  She was the size of a baked potato.  A baked potato with huge ears.

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When she was happy she would roll on her back and make strange choking sounds.

Everyone thought she was a boy.  “Don’t they see the pink harness?” I would ask myself out loud.

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She loved me.  My god the devotion.  She would whine outside the bathroom door for me.  When I traveled she would go on hunger strikes and suffer bouts of depression.

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Had to stand on my lap in the driver’s side looking out the window on car rides.

Flew on the airplane like a champ.  My “emotional support” dog.  She would fall asleep as soon as the plane took off.  Lying across my lap, occasionally farting.  Nobody seemed to care.

Her breath was terrible.  All her life.

She was unafraid.  She would challenge the largest deer.  Shrilly barking at the nonplused herd.  I thought she would get brained one day by a sharp cloven hoof.

She was Mr. Magoo blind.  Unaware one time that a large red fox was stalking her in our backyard.  I had to run out in my socks and scare it away.  Then she barked like a mother fucker.

Dare I say it, she could strike quite the elegant pose in her old(er) age.

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I burn with shame to say that I don’t remember the last walk I took her on.  I’ve been pretty busy the past several days.  And it’s been snowing.  Not her favorite weather condition.

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The last two nights of her life she slept uncharacteristically close to me, up by my pillow.  It was cold outside, I didn’t mind.  Sweet comforting presence of her, snuffling and snorting.

Her last day, she ate a good breakfast – rotisserie chicken and kibble.  She took a nap with me on the couch.  I’m wracking my brain to think of what else she did.  Barked at a puppy – as was her way.  Not very friendly to other dogs, sorry to say.  She skipped dinner – that should have been a huge red flag.  She enjoyed her meals.

Last night, I came downstairs to turn off the lights.  In hindsight, I do think it was strange that she hadn’t already made her way up to my bedroom.  I saw her sleeping on the rug in the TV room.  I called her name and she didn’t wake up.  Not strange though as she’s become hard of hearing lately.  I stretched my hand out.  She was cold.

Linda called her “soulful” and that felt too deep to me at first.  I found her subtlety dismaying.  Never a licker or a tail wagger (she didn’t really have one) her face was a mystery.  Poker face extraordinaire.

She was my heart companion.  For ten years Ruby has been by my side.  When I cried, she would charge her way to my side.  Concerned.  Present.  A reassuring weight.  Her favorite place was on me or right beside me.  Always.  So “soulful” it is.  I can see that now.

I am chagrined to note that in all my “death” experiences of being and sitting with people and animals that are dying, I was a basket case when it came to this.  I was afraid to touch Ruby and I felt totally freaked out, like I wanted to run or throw up or both, simultaneously.

Grateful to my kids for their compassion and kindness last night, to my sweet friend who stayed up until 1am with me on the phone and to my sister Linda who came over this morning and did what I couldn’t.  She helped me get Ruby out of the cardboard box in the garage, set up an altar with sweet flowers, candles, oils and incense.  And chanted Akals to my soulful heart companion, Ruby.  Then she helped me wrap her in the same sheet we had wrapped her beloved mastiff, Juno, in just a few weeks ago and bundled me in her car, while I held Ruby in my arms, kissing her sweet nose, and drove me to the vet, where I left her to be cremated.

No way to fill a hole like this one.

RIP Ruby.  You are missed.  You are loved.

August 9, 2006 – April 28, 2016

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;

and 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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Lonely Hearts Club Band

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Last year I wrote a post about how I always go within at this time of year – actually I wrote that 2 weeks ago too – hah.  Well, I guess it’s a theme for me.  But something is starting to shift and lest you think that I only write about tough things, I wanted to share a bright, beautiful light that is shining on me right now.  It’s called Embracing Loneliness.

Eleven years ago, I admitted to myself that I might be sensitive.  Don’t laugh!  Sensitive people had always made me feel uncomfortable and I had spent a lot of energy distancing myself from people that seemed “overly” sensitive.  It’s been a process of accepting that indeed, I am a very sensitive person, and finding the gifts in that – it’s my creative spark, my drive to connect from the heart with others, what makes me approachable to people.  I have a gentle nature and I try to honor that and try not to get too stressed out, because under stress, my fierce protector comes in and mows everybody down.  Balance is a good thing.  Praying for that.  And working on it.  Always.

Well, now I’m on to a new one – uncomfortable emotion, that is.  Being in a long distance marriage, having one kid live in another state, and traveling a lot myself, I have a lot of time by myself.  All my life I’ve felt lonely and it’s never been comfortable for me.  Never!  I’ve done so much on my own.  I’m an only child, had a lot of freedom as a kid, saw my dad once or twice a year, moved a lot, felt like a ‘weirdo’ because I was ‘different’ (probably being overly sensitive – hah), I’m fiercely independent, a little bit of a loner – ok, a lot of a loner, march to my own drummer, not a joiner, etc.  You can probably get the picture.  All this time, I’ve thought there was something wrong with me for feeling lonely.  I gave ‘loneliness’ a value judegment of wrong…or worse, unevolved – not spiritual enough.  If I was truly connected to God, I would “never be alone” right?  We’re all connected.  So anytime I felt lonely, I felt bad about myself and tried very hard to NOT feel lonely!  Push it down.  Call a friend.  Judge myself.  Blame somebody else (ok, Andy) for making me feel lonely!

And then…something happened…something so small and every day, but for some reason, it got in and I had an “Aha!” moment.  I was having a therapy session with someone that I respect.  He leads workshops all over the world and lives with his wife and son and they all seem to have a very loving, connected relationship with each other.  He was talking about how loneliness can overcome him during his morning meditation time and he will weep with it – even when his beloved family is in the very next room!  He shared that loneliness is universal and just a feeling – a feeling to be felt and expressed and allowed to pass through.  I really did feel like a bull, drunkenly tilting my head to one side and thinking “huh….?  Wha??”  He also went on to say, that loneliness, when felt, can be an indicator of deep love and yearning – something that I can convey and share with others and further my connectedness.

I thought about how so many people in the hospice groups for the newly bereaved are overcome with grief and afraid of how overwhelming it can feel.  What we teach is that the only way ‘out’ is really ‘through’ – feeling the grief is the only thing that lessens the grief.  I am comfortable with grief, I feel it every day.  I allow it in and really ‘go there’, knowing it will pass and my tears will dry in minutes.  What if I applied this to loneliness?

The past several days, I’ve had a lot of time alone in the house, the weather has been bitterly cold, all the animals are using me as a heating pad.

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I’ve felt alone and have been missing my family, and have even felt some melancholy and existential angst about the passage of time as well as knowing that I am preparing to be away in India for several weeks – which always makes me feel as if I’m in outer space – as far away from familiar as I can get.

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But what’s different these last few days is that I’m sitting in stillness (usually with at least one animal on top of me) and lighting candles, painting, creating beauty and warmth, and saying out loud “I’m lonely” and really feeling it.  Letting myself go there.  I’m sharing it with others without (and this is big, and new) hoping somebody (ok, Andy) will make it better.  And guess what?  Big surprise.  It’s passing!  Not only is it passing, it’s kind of welcome.  In a  poignant way.  Like shedding a tear for a beloved grandparent – so sweet to remember their face, and sad to miss their embrace, but heart-opening to connect to that loving memory.  This moment of loneliness connects me to my heart.  I long for my husband and connect to the love I have for him.  I notice the beauty of the falling snow.  I’m present and aware that this moment is fleeting.  I am grateful to be in my own good company.  I heat soup.  I feed the cats.  I walk the dog.  I feel content.  So simple.  So big.

Early Morning Sunrise
Early Morning Sunrise

There is a loneliness more precious than life. There is a freedom more precious than the world. Infinitely more precious than life and the world is that moment when one is alone with God.  – Rumi

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.

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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

Catch and Release

Back when I was younger, I kept my heart under 24/7 lock down.  Nobody was going to hurt me!  Not surprisingly, by shutting everything down, I stayed closed off to giving and receiving love.  I also had a lot of heart palpitations and irregular heart beats throughout my life.  About 5 years ago I was put on beta blockers because my heart symptoms were so frequent and disturbing.  Then, one magical day, on a hike to a sacred place of mine, I prayed to Spirit to “remove the shield from my heart.”  At the time, it was a ‘throw away’ prayer, something I casually tossed out.  I just said the words at the last minute, before I hiked back down the mountain.  However, I came down from the hike and haven’t been on heart meds since.  True story.  There have been heart palpitations, but now when I experience them, I get quiet and ask my heart what it’s trying to say.  What do I need to pay attention to?  Every time, it’s been related to something emotional that’s happening in my life that needs attending to.  The heart is an amazing barometer of the emotional body.  Pay attention to it!

Hanuman in Rishikesh, India
Hanuman in Rishikesh, India

These days, I can’t open my heart fast enough.  I feel like the picture of Hanuman, and I’m ripping open my own chest, saying “Here God, let me help you!”

I found a book – or rather it found me – The Untethered Soul, by Michael A. Singer.  I have no idea why I reached for it at the bookstore, I think I liked the color blue and the horse…and something about the word “untethered.”

buy this book
buy this book

The book is small – digestible for me, and easy to read.  It talks about living with an open heart, it gives directions on how to do this, it’s a PLAN (I love a plan!) on how to keep your heart open and what to do when you feel your heart closing.  As soon as one becomes willing – conscious – to witness the energy shifts of their heart, they can be aware of a tendency to close the heart.  The book breaks down the theory of energy centers – especially the heart center – using scientific terms within a yogic context.  And did I mention it’s easy to read?!  Really.

All of this resonates for me and makes sense.  It’s like reading things I already “know” on some level, but having it in this simple format has really clicked for me.  I have been spending my past few days in my open heart, watching the tendency to shut down and close up when I experience an emotional trigger.  So far, it’s been pretty easy and even fun.  Until today.  Today I got “blind sided” by an interaction with someone.  It triggered all my stuff – my “good enough” stuff, my “scarcity” stuff, my “alone” story, etc.  I could literally feel my energy body wanting to spin out and keep all my stories alive.  It was all I could do NOT to fan the flames in my head.  Instead I went and danced for an hour.  But like a tongue poking a sore tooth, even with the book, and my meditation practice, and the physical exercise and conscious breathing in the heart, I still had to check several times on my stuff to see if was still there (it was.)

Tonight, after a long day, I am feeling more at peace.  I am feeling more ‘free’ – truly.  I have successfully stayed in an uncomfortable place and kept my heart open.  I’ve felt some pain and fear and have passed through some fire.  Having the feelings of fear or insecurity don’t make me pure or impure.  The trick is not getting drawn into that energy, and to simply relax and release as the energy appears.  “And no matter how many times you’re pulled, that’s how many times you relax and release.  Your opportunites to grow are endless.”

You will get to a point in your growth where you understand that if you protect yourself, you will never be free.

Michael A. Singer.

In this beautiful song by Nirinjan Kaur, Aud Guray, she is singing the words “Protect Me, Open my Heart, and I’ll be Free.”  I like to think she is giving her will over to Source, God, Spirit, and saying please protect me (so I don’t have to!) and open my heart and in doing this, I will be free.  A’Ho!

June meditation group

Kwan Yin - Goddess of Compassion and Mercy
Kwan Yin – Goddess of Compassion and Mercy

I have a prayer.  My prayer is to be of service.  Time feels like it is speeding up.  The planet is experiencing huge shifts, people are stressed and technology bombards us with shocking facts daily.

If you have read my blog before, you know that one of my favorite quotes from Yogi Bhajan is that in the Aquarian Age, one third of the population will die, one third will go insane, and one third will be left to deal.  Pretty grim for a favorite quote, eh?  Some days I wonder which third of the population I qualify for (har har.)

But seriously…what I like about this quote is that it confirms what I’m feeling – that things are intensifying in the world – I’m not just imagining it.  It also reminds me that I have tools I can use to feel more grounded and supported.  I would love to share these tools with those of you that might like some extra support.

Lotus Mudra (for an open heart)
Lotus Mudra (for an open heart)

I am offering a drop-in meditation class every Monday evening in the month of June.  It will be at my house, from 7-8:30pm.  We will start on time and end on time.  There will be a time for sharing, and then we will do some gentle stretches and breathing exercises and practice Kundalini meditation together.  This group will be for men and women, and all levels of ability and experience.  The drop in fee is $10.  If you are intersted, please email me for my address.  I’d love to have you join us.

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Please read what astrologer Eric Francis has to say about the media and this intense time we live in:

Our senses were never intended to extend this far, or to perceive from this point of view — especially for those who are empaths or sensitives. They are more practical, intended to provide information about our local surroundings and the people with us in any given moment. Now we’re subject to incursion by anything that happens anywhere, and most of the time what we hear about is painful.

-Eric Francis

Nature is my Temple

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Recently I sat with somebody who shared that she began her spiritual journey in her 40‘s.  When I heard her say that, I felt confused.  “Wha?” Something didn’t resonate…I couldn’t even put it into words until hours later.  There’s no age or moment I can pinpoint as the start of my spiritual journey – I’ve been on a spiritual path my whole life…as long as I can remember.

As a young girl, sitting in church, I was uncomfortable reciting things like: “we are not worthy to eat the crumbs off thy table.”  We were taught that God was love and that didn’t resonate for me.  It wasn’t adding up for me and I rebelled.  As only a Preacher’s Kid can.  (Actually, I rebelled because I was rebellious and an acting-out kid.)  My dad was pretty cool and new-agey as a Minister of Divine Science – I swear it’s not a cult, but it sure sounded like one.  My mom was, and is, a devout Episcopalian and I reluctantly spent most Sundays of my childhood in church.

I have always had deep respect for earth-based wisdom teachings and was drawn to Native American culture as a teen.  My father lived in New Mexico and  I would spend hours on my own in the museums of Albuquerque studying the history of the different tribes in the Southwest.  My father opened my eyes to the mystical realm, speaking to me of past lives, and third eyes, crown chakras…  He taught me the iChing and how to meditate.  I took it all in, feeling the truth in all of it, even as my mind struggled to make “sense” of it.  I know that my father recognized the seeker in me, just as I see it in my children now.

Later in life, I married my first husband and converted to Judaism.  I was attracted to Jewish culture;  the warmth (and fun!) of holidays celebrated with family, and the food.  Towards the end of our often turbulent marriage, I discovered kirtan – which is a type of call-and-response devotional chanting.  It was then that I discovered the power of mantra – even though I didn’t know or understand the words, through hours (and hours) of listening to kirtan music, the sanskrit words of devotion worked their medicine on me and I began taking my baby-step journey on the path to self-love.  I credit this time in my life as the beginning of consciously opening my heart.   (Always a seeker, but with a very protected heart…until the birth of my children and the discovery of mantra.)

Eventually, I got divorced and left Judaism behind and gravitated more towards Eastern philosophy; aspects of both Buddhism and Hinduism deeply resonated for me.  During my Kundalini Yoga teacher training, I was introduced to Sikhism which spoke to me as well.

Today, I call myself a Mystic.  And a Priestess when I’m not being shy.

All these terms say to me – “There is mystery and potency in the spirit realm and we don’t have to see it, touch it, understand it in order to feel it and know it’s powerful.”  Love is my religion.  Corny but true.  And…spirit belongs to everyone (not just special people who recite special prayers or pay special money to special priests, etc.)  Spirit is.  Spirit is in all of us…I am spirit (love,) you are spirit (love,) we are spirit (love.)  Make sense?

Eventually you will come to understand that love heals everything, and love is all there is.

– Gary Zukav

Varanasi – second stop on our India trip

Varanasi, as seen from the Ganges
Varanasi, as seen from the Ganges

“Brace yourself.  You’re about to enter one of the most blindingly colorful, unrelentingly chaotic and unapologetically indiscreet places on earth.  Varanasi takes no prisoners.  But if you’re ready for it, this may just turn out to be your favorite stop of all.”

-Lonely Planet  INDIA

Also known as the City of Life, this is one of the world’s oldest continually inhabited cities and is regarded as one of Hinduism’s seven holy cities.  Pilgrims come to the ghats (steps leading down into the water) lining the River Ganges to wash away a lifetime of sins and to cremate their loved ones.  To die here, in Varanasi, offers moksha (liberation from the cycle of birth and death) and it is said that when ashes of ancestors are offered into the Ganges, you are erasing 7 generations of karma from the past and 7 generations of karma in the future.  Powerful stuff.  Before I go to Varanasi, I hope to obtain some ashes of my father’s and release them into the swirling waters of the Ganges.

Lonely Planet goes on to say:  “Most visitors agree it’s a magical place, but it’s not for the faint-hearted.  Here the most intimate rituals of life and death take place in public and the sights, sounds and smells in and around the ghats can be overwhelming.  Persevere.  Varanasi is unique, and a walk along the ghats or a boat ride on the river will live long in memory.”

We have such great events planned for Varanasi, including an evening boat ride along the Ganges as well as a sunrise boat ride the following day.  We will be attending a temple aarti (ceremony with song and lamps) and receive a private concert.  My pulse quickens with excitement to visit this holy city.  I know first-hand how surreal India can seem and yet, in the completely unfamiliar and unknown, spirit resides and the veils are thin.  There is absolute potency for amazing experiences in this space of suspended belief.  Can you feel it?