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1 posts from May 2011


Enlightenment Achieved.

Obviously, I have difficulty with schedule. That said, I feel a manic writing period coming on, which is clearly fantastic news for the two of you who read my blog.

Thank you, Dad and Aunt Joan.

I'm up watching the post-game on bin Laden, so this may read a little distracted. I've spent the last few weeks in India. I decided to go on a whim, since, as mentioned, scheduling cramps my style. 

Many stories from India, but after seeing Kumare today at Hot Docs, which you should see, like now, or as soon as you've voted (http://www.kumaremovie.com/home/) I thought I'd post a few emails from the trip.

This one was sent on my first day in Rishikesh... where I was pretty certain I was going to die.

"Lord, let me live in Rishikesh. And, let me be clear, I have no fucking intention of staying here. Just let me live."

Here it is. Adapted from an email to Josh.

Rishikesh is wild. It is a place of capital E "Enlightenment," people all desperately fighting to have an authentic experience, racing from yoga class to meditation to kundalini meditation, bowing and rocking and praying feverishly for salvation from cow patties, honking speedsters on motos, buffalo on foot bridges, monkeys, cyclists, and saddhus begging for change. I understand the "enlightenment" part. Moments of silence feel truly transcendent in this place, as tourists debate and compare the hottest gurus, the coolest spots to chant, and the best pastry at the German Bakery, which overlooks the majestic Ganges, and is one of the top spots in both the Lonely Planet and in my Rough Guide. Authentic experiences abound in this cafe. The German Bakery's a hive of activity. It even has a few clones -- all packed. So, not surprisingly, despite all the yoga and the rocking and the bouncing and the praying and the dodging, the average person here seems unduly rotund. Also, it bears mentioning, albeit tangentially, that in Rishikesh, even cows have the runs. Yoga is necessary here for the balance and sure-footedness one requires to dodge the stews. It's also critical for peace of mind, forever threatened by screaming motos, demands for money, offers of religious salvation, sales on chant cds or sandalwood incense, and the relentless debate about where the hell Laxmi's 4:15 Pranayama class has been moved to.

I was strong-armed my some be-robed man into a "power yoga class" after accidentally setting one bare foot onto the floor of his ashram, because I liked the look of a statue behind a gate. 

Pinki led the class on the roof. Pinki's face is all over Rishikesh. It's hidden behind her leg on billboards just past the suspension bridge. Pinki is a contortionist. She belongs in Cirque de Soleil. And somehow I have ended up in her yoga class, balancing on the edge of a rooftop. Most people in Rishikesh believe the Universe decides where we go and what we do. In another yoga room, the teacher would argue the Universe had brought me to class. Not Pinki. Pinki doesn't give a shit. Pinki's probably making a run for the Olympics and I'm just a stop gap.

"Feel the circulation in your face. mmmm hmmmm. Now stretch your booody. mmm hmmm. feels good. Breathe the fresh air. stretch to the side. Stretch your leeegs. Mmmmmm. This is good to get rid of extra fat on the beeelly. mmmm hmmm. Get rid of the fat on the beeelly. Get rid of the fat! Jessie, give me your cell phone." And Pinki continues, barking her orders, mumbling some chants, staring into the distance, thoroughly bored or, perhaps, just living on another astral plane where concentration exists in the distance or perhaps by text. 

Walked home overwhelmed by the bullshit of it all and then saw the evening aarti -- candles drifting with the current, as people gather by the cold river to pray and chant and to give thanks for the day. I was met by a man leaving an open temple, who marked my forehead with red, put seeds in my hand, and then flowers, tied a red string around my wrist and blessed me. "Health and happiness to you.     One hundred rupees.    One. Hundred."

For one hundred rupees, I said, you'd better give health and happiness to everyone I know. 

And so, friends, throw out the vitamins, because it is done. I stood on the banks of the Ganga, by the ghat and tossed my flowers into the water, where repulsively large fish leap free of the current intermittently, and I said a little prayer, before being accosted by a raggedy girl asking for money for her drawings. I gave her a pen and climbed up to the Shiva temple, where I took off my shoes and headed out to take in the view. Again, a little prayer and a moment of silence, and the sound of the water and the candles drifting past and the lights across the river and the fish still jumping, the river clearly teeming -- and I mean TEEMING --with life, and, I guess, shit -- more shit -- and soap and tradition and history and I found myself crying, moved by the place and the people, and how very lucky I am. I suspect this whole country is a living experience in emotional roller coasters. And so I laughed at myself for getting sucked in by it all, and got back to my ironic commentary, which was turning into something of a mantra as I dove into stores looking to avert the woman who'd followed me begging for the last few blocks and simply refused to shove off, in spite of the fact I'd explained that a swami four blocks back had gotten all I had. As the rick driver in Agra said to me two nights ago after hanging around waiting for me for two hours to take a 10 Rupee fare (for which I gave him 200), "I will wait."

Everyone's walking around with perfect posture, in robes, with softly focused eyes and smiles dripping with inner wisdom. They're also all 22. Or 42, by which point they really are totally crazy. "This place'll change your consciousness, man." Well, I'm excited to see how it all ticks. Yoga at 8:30. About 1100 places to choose from. Hear great things about Kabral. Apparently, he's into chakras, but I think he's just moved by the spirit of the room... Don't judge me too harshly when I arrive home with a Vedic Chant CD. Just go, as they say, with the flow.