I recently returned from another pilgrimage to my beloved ashram in India. I have been traveling to India to make this pilgrimage for the past twenty five years. I haven’t gone every year and I spend anywhere from two weeks to six weeks each time I go there. The trip is a wee bit more difficult because I am a wee bit older, but it is still very manageable and I am very grateful.
I love traveling to India because it allows me to be unplugged. I do not take my I Pad or my laptop or a phone, however, this year I did take a phone to take photos with. I always have my writing pad and pens and I write quite a bit while I am there, but not this time. This time I wrote very little, instead I found myself sleeping, yes sleeping. I am a naturally good sleeper, (thank God) but on this trip, I was sleeping deeply for nine hours straight, plus an hour or two during the day. I even had to challenge myself not to sleep more.
I have been doing intuitive work for almost thirty five years now and even though I rest and I practice letting go, the work can still get inside of me. I love the work and I love going to the ashram. The holiness of the ashram heals the pain residue that happens to me from listening to many painful experiences. Since I have returned from this trip, I have noticed that I feel better, I didn’t know I that I didn’t feel at my best, but I feel like a newly mopped floor, I am ready to receive more activity.
The ashram is in a village about two hours outside of Bangalore. It used to be four to six hours out of Bangalore, but with the all of the rapid growth and development in India, it is easier to access now. The village used to be a sleepy, little village that hosted this enormous ashram, but now it is a cosmopolitan, village that hosts an enormous ashram.
When you enter the village you drive in under an arch that has angels holding the ashram’s symbol. It always makes me feel like I am going home, like I am about to visit my Cosmic Grandmother. The road is lined with signs that are in many languages with messages that my teacher spoke about while He was in his body. Yes, he is deceased now. I’m alright with this, because I had a heart to heart connection with him through a picture that I had on my desk for nine years before I would ever journey to this holy place and gaze at his eyes.
The village has a life like a human, it has had many incarnations before my teacher was born there. After that happened, it began to go through a transformative experience that could never be predicted. It is in an isolated place, and when you arrive you can hardly believe that this magical, chaotic place exists on the planet. Now, with his physical departure, the village has aged like me, it is still the same being, but it is different because of the joys and losses, the experiences of day to day wonderment and the magical transformation of practicing my teachers words. I can see it aging and I can see it beginning to re-emerge as an older, kinder version of itself.
The village has changed in unexpected ways, the cows are gone, they ate the plastic bags that were used by the merchants, they were selling goodies to the foreigners that came to make their pilgrimages. The cows did not survive and now the merchants have reusable bags that they hand out. Cows in India are revered for their gentle and generous nature. Cows will give milk to other species children — such as humans, cows give them life as well as their own babies. Cows also give birth to strong bulls and cattle that plow the vegetable fields for those humans. So they are rightfully revered for their loving kindness.
The ashram has its own dairy and if you visit there, like we did, you will not experience any foul odor. It is a quiet, orderly and a loving place. If we were cows, this would be Rancho Santa Fe. Did you know that Santa Fe means holy faith?
On one particularly hot afternoon, one in which I was not sleeping, we decided to go to a rooftop cafe across the street from the ashram to enjoy some fresh juice. This cafe has a granite counter that winds around the perimeter of the cafe. The views of the village and the ashram are wondrous. We were sitting there in this beautiful cafe, sipping our pineapple and papaya juices when we noticed a man hanging on the wall of a building across from us. He was filling in the cracks on the side of the building. Another man was supporting him with a rope and pulley device. They worked in a calm and trusting manner. They were barefoot and they were not wearing hard hats or any other protective gear. They only had the trust of one another. As I looked over the horizon, I saw workers on top of another building without any safety gear either. I realize they may be too poor to have the proper gear, but what really struck me was the trust.
There was an even tempered trust that flowed through them, they had a rhythm with their work, as well as an intuitive flow between them. I marveled at this unpretentious ability to do such a dangerous job. India is an ancient and young country, it is intuitive and chaotic, intellectual and magical. The village and the ashram are separate entities that work as these two men work. They are linked to one another through the trust that is inherent in love.
Sometimes, we humans are so afraid that if we love, we are going to be hurt, so we hold back and wait for the perfect love to find us. Watching these two men made me remember to love those who may have hurt me with their words, I too, have hurt them with my words. Learning to trust the power of love will heal those cracks in the walls of my heart.
As we drained our glasses of juice, a woman came onto the same building as the two men, she was dressed in her beautiful sari with flowers in her hair and doing laundry by hand on the rooftop. It is so humbling to see people work under the conditions that they were working. As we stood to leave, all three of them turned to us and waved and smiled. This was the only interaction we had with one another. They were always aware of our presence, but they were so focussed that they were uninterrupted by us. They had work to do and we had juice to drink and lessons to learn. That’s India.
On a different day we decided to take a walk to visit the wish fulfilling tree. It is on the edge of the village, close to the river, on the side of a hill. You must walk up many steps that are very uneven in height, as well as width. It’s best to go in the morning before it heats up too much. The tree got its name because when my teacher was a young boy, he would bring his friends to this tree and the other boys would receive sweets and treats from the tree and our teacher. These things would miraculously appear to them. I realize this is hard to swallow, but the Universe is more mysterious than our minds will ever be able to imagine. Thank goodness for that!
Now people walk the stairs as a pilgrimage and handwrite prayers on a piece of paper that has been wound with string. The prayers are inserted into the fence surrounding the mystical tree. The fence had to be put there because too many prayers were being forced into the tree itself. Everything has its limits.
There are monkeys and goats on the trail, as well as people wanting you to buy trinkets and water. On the day that we were there, a goat walked up to the altar and nibbled at the offerings, but in my heart he was also making prayers.
The villagers were kind to us and because there are not very many foreigners that come anymore, in comparison to what there has been in the past, it was interesting at how many times we were asked where we were from. One man had compassion for our country, he said, — So many bad things are happening in your country. He spoke about the flooding in the south, the fires in California, the shooting in Las Vegas, he even knew how many died on that fateful day. It was very kind. Then he shyly said something that I did not understand, I asked him to repeat it and he said, ddruump, I laughed. I asked him if he had said Trump and he said yes. We did not talk about it, the three of us (my friend Becky was there) just sort of laughed together as friends do.
My time inside of the ashram is not a private matter, it is just that it is difficult to translate into words the feelings of devotion. Devotion is not even a word that most people use anymore. When it comes to our spiritual lives, we are usually reading inspiring books, seeking out classes and like- minded spiritual communities. These things are very good, I just am one of those people who love the devotional experience. I realize I can get that here in our country.
I have experienced devotion here and I trust that it will continue, but I go there to remember that effort is everything. We get so caught up in thinking that everything has to happen fast and effortlessly. We even sometimes resent putting effort into love. Effort in our spiritual life wakes up the dormant love that lies just beneath the surface of each and every one of us.
Inside of the ashram, I experience physical pain from sitting on a marble floor with my legs crossed for hours at a time. This is not my normal, everyday experience. I marvel at the elderly Indians that sit on the floor and then get up effortlessly. It reminds me that sitting in a chair all day may not be the best thing for my long term flexibility.
There is a different flow inside of the ashram. Everyone is there to receive the never ending vibrations of love that emanate there. We are thirsty and the the temple is a long, cool and quenching drink for our hearts.
Sound changes places and the people who experience the sounds. If we live in a place where the people speak harshly, angrily and desperately, we will be affected from this. If we are in a vulnerable position in life, that kind of vibration will hurt us or make us turn into angry, harsh beings, but if we are in a place where day after day ancient chants are flowing, and songs about Divinity and celestial beings are being sung, we will begin to feel a mystical healing.
This is not magic, it is practical. This happens everyday. Our hearts are temples. I make this pilgrimage to jumpstart my heart. I don’t need it, I want it. I want to be submerged in a baptismal of sound that emanates love. I want to be cleansed of my own noisy and disruptive sounds that pound through my mind. I go there to unplug. I go there to connect.
My teacher’s love lives in my heart here in San Diego, I have that connection, but I go there to refresh the pages of my mind, to remember that long, deep, dreamless sleep heals places in me that I didn’t even know needed healing. I go there to feel the vibrations of love move through me so that I can come back to my home here and live more deeply. Love is the reason I go there and love is what brings me back here.
Peace be with you