This year I decided to return to India. I was last there in 2009, Kerela. They say that India calls you. She did, I had missed her with all her dualities, complexities and simplicities. Her expansive, geographical, social, historical, spiritual and cultural essence beckoned me once again. I have been to India many times, both as tourist and also to teach yoga. I lived there for almost 6 months with two of my children who went to school in Goa. An unforgettable experience for us all.
However, I felt a very different calling this time. I was ready to head to the North.
It had been the end of two years of psychotherapy and EMDR treatement for my CPTSD. As is typical of me, I don’t do things by halves, so I ventured out on my own, to a terrain unfamiliar.
First stop was Varanasi, The Ganges, Assi Ghat, via Delhi. Then on to Sarnath for a Vipassana retreat, now that deserves it’s own blog. Soon come.
I have documented this venture on film, in writing and audio for my book, here is a little snippet of my experience Amasu Travels
The journey was challenging, enlightening, upsetting and humbling. The North is very different than the South where I normally go. Remembering my first trip to Kerela. I am literally flooded with memories of our experience of the Tsunami of 2004…another blog.
There are two places I have always dreamed of going to in India, Varanasi and The Himalayas – home of His Holiness The Dali Lama. There are many stories that I will share from this trip, many miracles and many poignant and shifting moments. I planned to visit; Varanasi, The Ganges and Sarnath – where The Buddha gave his first teachings and then on to Rishikesh – home of the yogis.
But then, everything changed, suddenly and dramatically. My friend who had encouraged me to go on this trip and promised that together we would go to Rishikesh, bailed out on me! Just left me hanging, in the middle of nowhere. I cried, I felt abandoned, triggered by all my vulnerabilities, my old ‘stuff’ surfaced like a shock wave. I had fortunately managed to book a nice room, that was safe, clean and big enough to practise my yoga. I remained there, in hiding. Only going outside for food. Many of the locals were so fascinated with how I looked, ‘same same but very different’ I felt like a freak show, they would stare, take pictures and ask for joint selfies everytime I walked down the dirt streets and market stalls.
It was horrible. I know they didn’t mean any harm but for me it was akin to what my ancestors suffered and what I have struggled with all my life…a feeling of not fitting in. Being judged, laughed at and scrutinised. I covered my hair, my body, I tried to become invisible but they followed me around like I was an alien, fallen to earth.
There were many Tibetan Buddhists making pilgrimages to Sarnath, Buddhists from all over the world actually. But I saw red, drawn to the deep red and sunshine yellow, hundreds of them, chanting, smiling, smiling at me. Their attitude was very different, no separation. I met my first Tibetan Monk at breakfast in a place owned by a German woman who had been living in India for more than thirty years. Kelsang, the Tibetan Monk was staying at her guest house. This is a whole other story and I will share it in future blogs.
All things happen for a reason. Karma, cause and effect. Perhaps I should thank my friend for abandoning me because what happened as a result, was that I met
Kelsang, who became a wonderful friend, we are still in touch, he teaches me Buddhist philosophy and I record my poems and send them to him for his English development.
We met again in Delhi five days later at the Tibetan refugee camp,which was like a kinda run down Soho, atmospheric and edgy. I loved it, we ate noodles, had chai and set off on a twelve hour bus ride, into and up the mountains towards spectacular views of the Himalayas. At sunrise, I had arrived in Dharamasala.