Sitting cross-legged on the floor at the Oasis Café waiting for a very exciting moment- a fried egg. Flies are swarming in the sunshine. As the sun rises over the Himalayas and light comes out so do the cows, the dogs, the horses, the monkeys, and the flies. I arrived in Rishikesh, India one week ago and will be here for two months so I better get used to it.
Rishikesh is a holy and spiritual town for Hindus. It is here that yoga started more than 3,000 years ago. You cannot find any meat and the last chicken coops at street-side markets are visible ½ mile before Rishikesh. Eggs are possible, but only at a few westernized cafes. Good thing Oasis Café is right around the corner as it is my place to go crazy and indulge in an egg or veggie burger with pan-fried rosemary potatoes.
Country of Opposites, Yoga, and Cows
Incredible India, as the tourist campaign slogan goes, is a place of opposites. Only in India can you embrace the beauty of hundreds of people chanting along the holy Ganges River, but just a few seconds earlier while walking down the street can you find yourself dodging cow shit and trash. Only in India does the traffic chaos function like a well-oiled machine. Streets are lined with scooters transporting entire families with small babies and of course no helmets, there are jammed pack tuk-tuks and trucks carrying produce with seating space on top for people. There are busses with luggage on top and of course people too. People on bicycles transport their daily goods to sell at the market and those with no bicycle push their vegetable carts. Then there are the brave ones, school children included, who have faith to cross diagonally into oncoming traffic. It’s a real life game of Frogger.
Of course in the middle of all this are the cows that righteously lie down on the road. As the cows are holy in India, everything maneuvers around them. My temporary best friend now is not my dog, Ingrid, but a baby cow that hangs out at the corner shop on my street. I have been told that feeding the cows is good karma. We can all use a little help, so each night she gets some of my dinner and gently eats from my hand. I won’t be eating veal anytime soon and am very happy my last meal before leaving the States was a great cheeseburger at a Manhattan diner. It may have been my last. Being with the cows everyday, I can see how gentle they are. They beg like dogs and go to people’s front doors and moo for food or a rub on the head.
My yoga teacher training program started this week. My body aches from the four hours of yoga a day. The heat exhausts and irritates me, as I am not used to it. My room is basic; the water shuts on and off. When I arrived I had to clean my room. Laundry is done in a bucket. The food at the school is sattvic, meaning, bare minimum. Breakfast, lunch, dinner – it’s all the same to me. Curry, dal (lentils), rice, curry, dal, rice, and you guessed it, the same again in the evening. The same vegetables are served daily, since they only serve what is in season. Makes sense and an opposite idea from the States where we can get tomatoes and anything we want in the middle of winter. I wouldn’t change anything. I learned more this week than I have in years and many of my questions have been magically answered. The teachers are amazing and although sitting in meditation at 5am is painful mentally and physically, there is a calmness that I feel and LOVE.
It Is What It Is
After my first day, I started to get the claws out and complained to myself and some other students about the things that inconvenienced me and how can this be so. Then I thought, Pam, you are in India learning to become a yoga teacher. You came here for the full spiritual experience. You are living ashram-style and this is not a luxury hotel on a beautiful Greek Island. Deal with it and move on. I did.
Now when I walk through the streets I accept the crowds of people and notice their colorful clothes, the heat is way better than the horrible winter, the noise also includes a loud speaker of Om that wakes me up in the morning, and the gifts from the cows and the flies…well this means that I can laugh each day as I walk together with cows on my way to class. No where else in the world will this happen. As with everything in life there is good and bad, pleasure and pain, sunshine and rain. The key to a happy life is to find the balance and keep it in the center of the two. This is what yoga is about. So to keep my balance in the center of cows and swarms of flies, I just hold my breath and walk fast.
I have been watching people clean with Indian-style brooms. The men make and sell them and the women use them. Typical. When people clean the areas around the storefronts, the lobby of the school, or even the area on the street where people often take a seat, they use these brooms. It amazes me. They just push the dirt away from the small area. I never saw anyone using a dust pan to pick up the dirt. We all know what happens to the dirt. Of course, it just blows back to the same spot and the people push it away again.
Pushing dirt away….hmm, made me think about my own life. How often I did not want to deal with things that were too painful. How often I denied that maybe my decisions were not the best ones for me. How often I blamed others for my own emotional challenges. I pushed lots of dirt away and it kept coming back. I still push dirt, but it has been a lot less once I started to trust my intuition and listen to myself. Only when I started to admit that I did not have all the answers was I able to learn and grow.
So my friends, think about this for a moment.
Is there any ‘dirt’ in your life that you keep pushing away?
Do you think you have all the right answers?
Are there emotions or challenges that keep coming up in your life?
If so, then take the time to confront the dirt and get a dust pan. Sweep it up and throw it away.