In the Life, Three Things are Important: India, Part 4

I wake to the sound of someone hacking mucus out of the their body.  I realize it has to come out, but it’s four a.m.  This ashram is loud, and is built in such a way that there are little barriers between different rooms.  From my kitchen area, I look out a window into a square shaft that acts as a skylight from above, but if I stand on my tip toes, I can see someone below in their bathroom.  The tops of the bathroom wall are screens only, so every sound you make is shared with everyone in ear shot, and it echos.  I put in my earplugs and pull the covers over my head, breathing in the lavender essential oil I use to hide the mildew smell of the blankets.  I fall back to sleep, dreaming I’m riding down busy India streets on a motorcycle with a random person from my past who seems to be my boyfriend at the time.

I wake again at five minutes to seven.  This time, I hear a screeching and then the sound of many fast foot steps running across the roof.  Monkeys.  I sigh, roll over, and find my slippers.  I put on warm clothes, make my bed, and do yoga.  Shower, eat oatmeal, and join my class at 9:30.

Several Ayurvedic Medical Doctors (certified in both Ayurveda and western medicine) have flown in from Pune to teach us.  They are wonderful!  We spend the morning learning about herbs and herbal applications,  and the afternoon learning to cook herbal medicines that are both tasty and useful.  I’m adding so many tools to my Ayurvedic tool bag.

The sun has finally come out after four days of clouds and cold, and my body is shocked by the heat.  It might be 75 degrees in the sun!  At break, Cathy and I walk over the coffee shop for a small cappuccino to placate us until lunch.  Lunch isn’t served until 1pm, and my stomach rumbled at 11:30.  We go for the conversation as much as the coffee, as we have met several interesting people while either walking to coffee or at the coffee shop itself.  And so while the Ayurveda is great, this is what I’m really loving about this trip: the unexpected wisdom of the locals, hidden behind jewelry store counters and large cups of coffee.

Last Sunday was our day off, and we walked the mile or so into the next town up river, shopping and taking in the sites.  This area is the gateway to the Himalaya Mountains, and the shops show a Nepalese and Tibetian flair.  We had a wonderful day meeting store owners, finding hot tea, and expanding our pallets at great local dives. One store sold the most beautiful and unique clothing we had seen yet, and we spent time there, trying on clothes and talking to two young men who run the store.  The liked us and asked us to come back, and we promised we would.  Near the end of the day, we walked into a small and unassuming jewelry shop.  As we walked in, the owner, a middle aged man, handed us each a small stone and said it was for good luck.  The look in his eyes was honest, earnest, and happy.  His small son, maybe three years old, was also there and kept handing us more stones, which the man insisted we take.

My friend bought a beautiful bracelet from him, and I asked him if he had any blue sapphires.  Personally on this trip, I have been working to face the feelings of fear, worry, and saddness that keep me in constant protection mode.  Some people have noticed this about me; that I come across as guarded and sarcastic instead of heartfelt and honest.  I have known that I carry this with me, but had become so used to it that it was my mode of operation.  I mentioned in an earlier post that on the very first night we were in Rishikesh, we met a shop owner who is also a healer and intuitive of sorts.  When he focused on me, he noticed how my heart was heavy, making my heart energy “unattractive.”  Although this comment upset me at first, I realized how true it was and it lead to a wonderful open conversation with my friends and some powerful and insightful meditations since.  That man also mentioned that the proper gem stone therapy (a therapy we also use in Ayurveda) would be with a light, clear blue sapphire.  So while I know that the work I must do is within, I’ve been keeping my eyes out for one as my special gift from India.

After the jewelry man wrapped up Cathy’s new bracelet (a beautiful piece with mother of pearl and other precious stones), he took me to his small back room, opened the safe, and took out what blue sapphires he had.  I said I needed one that was a clear, light blue.  He looked at me and said knowingly, “For your energy and your heart.  For astrological purposes.”  I nodded, stunned.  He showed me what he had and I picked up a small piece that spoke to me.  “Trust that your fingers know which stone is yours,” he said.  He was right.  As I picked up other, larger stones and felt them in my palm, nothing felt more like mine than the small stone I chose first.  I asked him the price, expecting something exorbitant that I couldn’t possibly afford.  Instead, he first showed me what he paid for the stone.  It was written on the packaging, next to the price, per carot, that he was supposed to sell them for.  My piece weighed in at just 1.3 carots and cost him 2700 rupees.  He sat back on his chair and looked at me thoughtfully with kind eyes.  “You and your friends are nice people; students of Ayurveda, which is good.  You need this stone to help you with your energy, for astrological purposes.  Here is the price I paid for the stone, ” he flashed me the 2700 on the calculator, “so why don’t you pay me what your heart feels is right.  I’ll make you a silver ring out of the stone for free.”

Two days later, my friends and I walked back to the town, stopping only at the Nepalese store to see our friends for tea and an impromptu dance party before heading back to the jewelry store to pick up the ring.  It is more beautiful than I could have imagined, and my heart felt very good with the price I paid him — it was something I could afford, and he seemed so happy to make me a deal.  But there’s more.  After the ring was paid for an securely on the middle finger of my right hand, he read our palms.  The first time we were there, my friend had asked if there was a palm reader near, and he asked for her hands and told her very accurate information about her life.  Today, he shocked us even more as he recounted details about me that he simply could not know — including dates, people I knew, relationships, saddness and lifestyle.  He read all of us, and then served us tea of three kinds of Tulsi leaf.  The conversation turned to life, or “The Life,” as these Indian men pronounce it.  How do we successfully and happily navigate life?

I flashed back to a conversation we had with Dr. Gupta on the second or third day in Vrindavan.  He said that we go around, searching for the meaning of life, spending money and time and resources, when really, the journey from the head to the heart is only 20 centimeters.  As if to expand, the jewelry man said, “There are three components to The Life.  First, desire for happiness.  Second, knowledge, and third, energy.”

He expanded this.  We need to have the desire to be happy 24 hours a day.  Only then can knowledge and energy help us.  With knowledge, he means having the tools necessary to making our lives as happy as possible and learning to avoid those things which may look nice and shiny but ultimately lead to unhappiness.  For example, meditation, pranayama, eating good food prepared with a happy heart, treating others with love and respect — these are things that bring true happiness.  And energy — we must have the physical energy to make it through our lives and the emotional energy to seek happiness yet be unattached to how that happiness manifests (for example, happiness could come through a big change that causes chaos for a few moments, but ultimately leads to bliss).  We also need to learn to raise our energy vibration up through the chakras to keep our subtle, and thus physical, energy clear, pure and high. 

We mentioned how hard this is in the Western world.  He said, “If you have a thousand jobs to do, don’t do them.  Instead, eat good food prepared with a happy heart.  If you have a million jobs to do, don’t do them, instead clean the body thoroughly, inside and out.  And if you have a billion jobs to do, don’t do them.  Instead, share your happiness with others through something as simple as a smile.”  The basic message to me sounded like a call to stop working so hard.  Wake up and realize that this type of fast and furious lifestyle is not a happy one, it’s depleting and ulmamitely leads to unhappiness.  We work so hard we forget to eat, so then our body is unhappy.  We are short of time so we feed it with fast food made by unhappy people, and our body is unhappy and even toxic.  We drink alcohol in order to go to sleep and coffee in order to wake up, and so our physical body is ill at ease (read: diseased) while our subtle body tries desperately to ground itself.

I have a lot of work to do, but I’m finally realizing why I needed to come to India.  The studying is great, and I’m very happy for the knowledge that I’m gaining.  But what’s emerging from my soul is the reason I am here.  Something inside me has been working its way to the surface, to be dealt with so that I can come closer to that evasive, everlasting joy we all seek.  And it may sound strange, shallow or surreal, but I’m finding the tools I need to deal with myself in the back rooms of the shops of local people, who share their wisdom over a cup of tea and a smile.

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