Diary and Reflexions
It is New Year’s Eve and I have just settled in at the Buddha Café. A dimly lit rooftop hangout very popular with travelers and overlooking the Ganges river. The food is cheap, and the portions large, warm scarves and clothing abound as it a brisk but not unpleasant tonight. The music is Indian-techno, heavy beats interlinked with chanting and it is playing very loudly. The wisps of cool air around me are pungent with the light smells of curry and cannabis. Rishikesh is the yoga capital of the world with many temples, old and worn, several long spans of walking bridges over the Ganges River, larges crowds both Indian and foreign, wandering “Sanyasin”, Hindu holy men, sitting and sleeping on the roadside as motorcycles and jeeps pass with hurried impatience, Indian style driving with one hand pressed firmly on the horn, along the narrow potted and half paved streets This is a valley of grey skies, the mountains gathering the days burnings of leaves and paper, intermingling it with the exhaust of motor rickshaws, lumbering trucks and buses in to a smoky blanket of mist that never dissipates.
Snaking my scooter around crowds of Indian families on holiday, haphazardly driven motorcycles and cows aimlessly wandering without fear or care is a daily ritual. Crossing the overly crowded pedestrian bridge across the river Ganges on my motorbike is a challenge I try to avoid. The bridge is only five feet wide and crowded with walking families. Yet, to take the road bridge over the river adds seven kilometers to the 300-meter journey. My evening repast has just arrived, it is a Navratan Korma, A rich, creamy and flavorful dish that literally translates to nine-gem curry. The “gems” are the fruits, vegetables, and nuts in a light sauce of spices, yogurt, and butter. With a side of buttered Nan, a grilled flatbread of flour on the side. It is quite nice.
Although Rishikesh is not the peaceful serene utopia one might expect from the birthplace of yoga, it has its charms and opportunities to study. Yoga, several thousand-year-old Hindu practices designed to bring you closer to achieving the goals of Moksha, to freedom from ignorance and towards self-realization and self-knowledge. Thankfully for me the only requirement for achieving this facet of “Moksha” is simply to try, or even better, to not try, to achieve it. The idea is to unlearn who you think you are and simply ‘release yourself’ from the thoughts of your self-realized conception of existence. Simply let go. Simple enough, I guess, I may have to let you know how that one goes.
I have chosen to take the path of yoga teacher training as it incorporates all the aspects of yoga, meditation, religious and spiritual history, chanting, breathing and begins at the very basics. I have also found that the best way to learn a new skill or technique is through understanding how to teach it, as you cannot teach what you do not fully understand. I learned more substance and insights into the practical nature of the spoken English language in one month of Teaching English as a Foreign Language training in Barcelona than I did at University.
Of course, my previous studies gave me the background and knowledge to gain the insights I was exposed to in Spain and reveled an entirely new school of thought to me on the subject. Languages are as alive as rolling clouds and as changing as a rushing river and using language to intimately communicate is a very complicated human ability.
Having said all of that, I do not believe anyone can teach you how to find inner peace and awareness. Yet, given the proper environment and concentration of thought, a person with knowledgeable insights from a learned teacher might walk down a new path that has been opened up to them and encounter a greater understanding of what already exists within, but often remains undiscovered, hidden by our own preconceived ideas and the noise of hectic modern living.
A moment of truth and misery
At the age of thirteen, my father moved our family from a farming town in Nebraska where I had already fought all my battles and had found my place. I had a very normal and fulfilling childhood there, to a very small town in Montana. It was cold and wet and dark and all of the social clicks had long been formed and I was definitely on the outside.
That first summer my older brother and I were offered the opportunity to go to summer camp, a wilderness survival school high up in the mountains. Many of the others there were older, bad boys and girls, from rich families in New York and Detroit, sent to the remote Montana enclave by their families, hoping the experience might reform them. It did not.
Early one morning I was walking alone down a wilderness trail when a girl several years older than myself appeared on the trail coming towards me. She was Hawaiian and the most beautiful person I had ever seen. My heart literally stopped, and I could not catch my breath. Warm waves of incredible pleasure and unmasked desire overwhelmed me. Later that day I was walking with one of the female councilors and I told her in confidence of my great love and affection for the girl. Being the youngest boy at the camp I had no friends. Hours later as I walked through the compound all the other “inmates” at the camp were laughing in my face and teasing me mercilessly. The councilor had spread the news.
I went to my upper bunk in the dormitory and wrapped my arms around myself feeling dejected and wondering what the Hawaiian girl, my love, my goddess might think of me. Not long after she appeared in the room with one of the older boys and they lay on the bed of the lower bunk next to mine and wrapping their arms around each other began to kiss and make out, all the while laughing and giving me looks of scorn, enthralled by the suffering they knew that they were inflicting on me.