Wednesday, February 22, 2012

A taste of Shiva's challenges!

Who said that India is only beauty and goodness?

We had a taste of Shiva's challenges yesterday. Waking up at 4am to catch our flight from Chennai, we were ready to experience the grand celebration of Mahashivaratri in Varanasi or Benares. The plan was to land by 1.30pm in Varanasi. Little that we knew that we would spend half the day in Chennai airport, the other half of the day being flown to Southern India first, then to North to Delhi, and then South again to Lucknow, and many of hours of the night in a bus for the slowest, most uncomfortable ride of our lives. Yes we did arrive, but it was 3am... The attitude of the group was amazing though, a group of yogis cultivating patience, non-blaming, optimism...

And then the new day came with a morning practice with Arun that fixed it all. What followed? A long walk by the river ghats that was just perfectly interesting and mysterious... a visit to the red colored temple of Durga right when the bells were going and the hindus were performing their devotional rituals... a boat ride to watch the fire ceremony of Aarti at night... corpses being burned at the cremation grounds just as life was going on as usual 10 meters down the river... and a private music concert that may never be forgotten: The family of Vikash Maharaj has been devoted to music for centuries. Listening to Vikash and his two sons playing classical Indian music was one of the most enchanting and healing experiences of my life. The business card of his son Prabhash states: "Tabla Player/Human Rights Activist"

Did you know that music can heal the earth, the water of this earth (through their eco documentary "Holi Water") and all living beings?

You'd be convinced if you had a chance to listen to them... Heavenly!


Monday, February 20, 2012

Spirit Tour of India Itinerary—2012 with Vivi Letsou and Arun Deva

1. Sunday Feb 12:  Arrival at Chennai
After arriving at 5am we slept for a few hours and then practiced Asana with Vivi 12-2pm.  Our welcome to Chennai was a spicy hot Indian lunch.  Quite a wake-up.
 Afternoon visit to Kapaleeshwarar Temple of Shiva, also dedicated to the female aspect of divinity, Uma or Parvati, the second wife of Shiva, after Sati.  We sat on the ground by the tall colorful Gopurams (sculpted & painted towers) and meditated.  Amidst the noise we found a beautiful quiet respite, and the breeze in the air made for the perfect weather as the last light of the day faded away.  Stella, our youngest yogi in the group, said this was her most effortless meditation. 

 Then we went for a promenade on the beach right in front of the Vivekananda house.  The sand beach stretched wide and long, and was shared by many boisterous Indian families. It was dark now and our long walk along side the beach was quite pleasant.  Kalliopi stayed behind. By the time we got back she had bonded with several lively children who were glued to her iphone camera, in complete awe of her colorful photo collection. 

2. Monday Feb 13 --Chennai
7am yoga practice and meditation with Arun.  We practiced asana and pranayama in the tradition of Sri Krishnamacharya.


Visiting Swami Vivekananda’s house, we found out that they were holding a Vivekananda Navaratri celebrating his visit and stay in this rounded shoreline building, back in February 6-14 of 1897.  It was moving to follow the journey of this spiritual giant through photos and writings from his studentship with his guru Sri Ramakrishna, to his journeys across United States and Europe and back through India, a country that he helped revolutionize through his famous speeches, “Arise and awake. 

Our bus drove us 2 hours west to Kanchipuram, where we visited two temples: the active worshiping temple of Shiva known as Sri Ekambaranathar Temple, meaning “Lord of the Mango Tree”. 108 shrines with shivalingams lined up around the main inner sanctum. One of them is believed to have sprung up from the earth.  We were blessed by a Brahmin priest who presided over a mango tree bearing four different branches of four different types of mango—each representing one of the four Vedas. His blessings for good luck forturne, fertility, family health, came at a price, as the priest was asking for higher and higher contributions from each succeeding member of our group…  We were all awed the next temple we visited.

The Kailasanatha temple is the oldest and maybe most beautiful temple in the area.  Build by a Pallava king in the 7th century, it has been tented by the same family of Brahmin priests for centuries. It is not an active worshipping temple, so we were allowed to the inner sanctum, where we were blessed by a humble and welcoming priest.  The stone yard surrounding the temple housed smaller shrines carved out of stone. Each one of them depicted a different deity and they were beautiful and mysterious.  As we walked outside the sun was setting, and we each climbed up on a stone shrine and sat inside close to the mythical stone carvings for a wonderful meditation. 

Kanchipuram has been a major silk manufacturing center for centuries. Today 15,000 families continue to weave silk exclusively, so of course we could not resist the temptation to visit the town’s silk co-operative shop and buy, well, a few silk scarves.

3. Tuesday, Feb 14—Chennai departure for South Tamil Nadu.
We started with early morning anusara practice focusing on grounding and opening our hips, drawing inspiration from Vivekananda’s message for each one of us to connect with our inner strength.  Breakfast.
Departing for the beach town of Mahabalipuram  we arrived after 2.5 hours and visited first the magnificent ruins of the world heritage monument called the Shore Temple.”  Beautifully carved out of sandstone this temple is comprised of two spires (sculpted towers)  and was situated in such a way as to face both east and west, so as to greet the sun at sunrise and sunset.  It was build by a Pallava king in 7th century.  Even though the capital of the Pallava dynasty was in Kanchipuram for centuries this site was important as it housed the state’s salt mines.  We spent some time in this very pleasant site by the beach, and entered a tiny temple in the back of the main one where Vishnu was reclining, blissfully reclining on the 1000 headed snake Adishesha as the world was being created during the night of Brahma.  Our guide explained that during the last Tsunami a few years ago, the sea receded for minutes revealing another 6 temples which were buried, and still are, under the sea. 
Then we visited the finely carved the nearby site housing the Five Rathas, or Chariots, 5 small temples carved out of a single rock.  Each one is presumably inspired by the main heroes of the Mahabharata Epic and dedicated to the main deities: Durga, Shiva, Vishnu, Dharma and Indra. This whole site was covered by sand and was unearthed only 200 years ago by the British.  There was a special joyful energy around here, and the whole group delighted in walking around taking pictures, striking a yoga pose, and just having a jolly time. Afterwards we drove to yet another site featuring a large rock which was carved with whole scenes of Indian mythology. One of the carvings depicts the figure of a man standing on one leg, praying, and that’s where the site derives its name: Arjuna’s Penance

 4. Arrival at Podicherry hotel where we stay 3 nights, feb 14, 15, 16.
Hotel Anamalai.

Continuing on for another 2 hours on our bus, we had the opportunity to talk more about Indian yoga and philosophy teachers, mythology, and issues of contemporary life.  We stayed in Podicherry, which is a bustling but pleasant town by the sea, three nights.  Our main focus was visiting Auroville during the next two days. We also enjoyed listening to Arun’s enlightening lecture on Ayurveda, its history and principles of health & balance derived from the Ancient philosophy and science of Samkhya.  Arun took our pulse and surprised all of us with his accurate reading.  He explained to us about our body types, the current state of our health, and gave us advice concerning food & rest.  At night we loved riding rickshaws as a group and exploring the restaurant scene, and the neighborhoods by the sea, purportedly influenced by French architecture.  In the morning yoga came as a great relief for our traveling bodies, and we delved into the spirals of anusara with great joy. Backbends gave our spines and muscles just the opening that was needed. The theme was finding Shiva/auspiciousness in our own inner nature.  

5. Wed Feb 15--Visit the spiritual community of Auroville.

Auroville was the dream of the Mother who was the spiritual wife of Sri Aurobindo. It is a vast community spread on thousands of acres that were acquired through funding by many nations and people who believed in this ideal society.  It is set up for people to live, work, create in harmony with nature and with spiritual values.  This communal style of living was to aid people to connect with their Higher Self of Psychic Being…

“True happiness does not depend on the external circumstances of life. One can obtain true happiness and keep it constantly only by discovering one’s psychic being and uniting with it.” Sri Aurobindo and the Mother. 

The heart of Auroville is the Golden Dome Meditation Building, or Matrimandir.  It houses a large central meditation room lined with white walls where people are to enter barefoot, silent, and sit in simple meditation, devoid of any religious affiliation.  You cannot even put your hands together in Anjali mudra. The goal is direct connection with the Divine without the aid of religious habits or forms.  In the center a large crystal sphere refracts the light of the sun, coming down through the roof in one single beam, which symbolizes divine consciousness descending into the material world. Truth be told, we found the absolute quietness and vast emptiness of the place soothing. We all left this place inspired to create a community like this in our own land.  Sri Aurobindo and the Mother sought to inspire the world with exactly this idea: “Yes, the psychic being is behind this whole organization, this triple organization of human life and consciousness which is an immortal one. It is because of the psychic that we have so clear a sense of continuity…
6. Thursday Feb 16--Visit the Nataraja Temple in Chidambaram.
Our bus drove down South, through bustling towns, villages, and stretches of green agricultural land.  We were rested and in festive spirits so we chanted, told jokes and shared myths about Shiva, and his Nataraja dance in 5 acts: Creation-Sustenance-Dissolution-Concealment and Revelation. 
 After about 3 hours we reached the famous Nataraja Temple.
You always enter the temple courtyard through a huge sculpted tower, or  Gopuram.  This temple features four intricately carved Gopurams. We entered through the main one facing the East.  We hired a local guide eager to get the job but found his standard explanations a bit repetitive, and the grounds around the temple hard to actually walk on. The dirt and the stench around the water pond outside were so strong that some in the group got dizzy.  In the photos you see only the beauty of the setting, but being there is another story. We dismissed our guide and entered the temple just in the right time to be rewarded by the rare opportunity to watch the 6pm Puja.  This is one of the few temples that allows non-hindus to enter all the way into the inner sanctum.  The pujas, or ritual ceremonies are done by the priests several times a day, but the 6pm puja is the main longer and more elaborate one. Mesmerized we watched the priests on the main elevated shrine chant, while making offerings of fire, water, ghee, etc to the divine Shiva and his devoted cow Nandi,  accompanied by an escalating symphony of bells and gongs.  It was a real fete for our eyes and ears. Its true mystery intrigued us, though it may take some time before its meaning is unraveled in our minds.

7.  Friday Feb 17--Departure for Tiruvanamalai in the morning.
After a dynamic Anusara class that was aimed in opening our hips and stretching our spines we enjoyed our breakfast and got on our bus.  We must say that our driver and his assistant are just wonderful, respectful, and very efficient companions. They took care of us in a splendid way.

On the way to Tiruvanamalai we stopped in a quiet spot in nature, to visit a very small but powerful site, known as the Kaliamman Temple. We were greeted by an eager, very cute and curious family of monkeys.  Further down there was a pond and an even smaller active worshipping temple dedicated to Hanuman, tended by a sweet old Brahmin priest. He chanted blessings and anointed each one of us with grey Bhasma ash and red Kum-Kum pigment. 

8. Arrival at Tiruvamalai, visit Sri Ramana Maharishi’s Ashram.   
Arrival by late afternoon at Hotel Sparsa.

Evening walk around the Mountain and possible visit of the temple and cave of Sri Ramana Maharishi.
Our hotel here was very comfortable. Sparsa is an eco-hotel and Spa where we got to relax, swim in its nice pool and enjoy deep restorative massages. On our first night we visited Sri Ramanashramam. Some of us sat in the room where over 200 men and women were chanting Avdaita chants written by Sri Ramana Maharishi in the Tamil language and also chants by Shankara.  Others sat in the quiet meditation room, and others observed the puja in the main Hindu temple.  We also walked in the grounds around the main buildings. Many pilgrims from all over the world, and also many India people walked in this large but quiet yard. A feeling of quiet devotion is very strong here. 

9. Saturday Feb 18
8am-12noon: Yoga practice, lecture, meditation with Mansoor
A nice surprise awaited us the next morning: We had a chance to meet and practice with our dear teacher and friend Mansoor, who comes to Greece every year.

Not only did we savor the asana practice with him, slow and meditative and profoundly invigorating as it was, but we had the pleasure of hearing about Ramana Maharishi’s main teaching from a teacher who practices jus that, connection with the truth through awareness. The process of letting go our mind’s constructions brings us closer and closer to the heart of awareness.  How do we get there?  Simply by observing and asking, Mansoor says…”Where is this thought appearing from?”  As we keep asking we eventually get to the answer: “Everything is simply appearing in Awareness. You then see that all is happening in Awareness and your heart is opening. The True Self resides in the Heart. Practice just watching and living in the heart.”

 In the evening we visited the Arunachaleswar Temple dedicated to god Shiva in his Fire Element.  In this sacred hill, Arunachala, Shiva appeared as a column of fire, creating the original symbol of the lingam.  At the temple we queued up to watch the 6pm puja which was partially obstructed from our view.  We saw people wave their palms over the flames of lighted ghee and wash their heads in the light.  The temple was lively, full of sadhus and visiting hindus dressed in their cleaneast dotis and saris for the ceremony. Friendly families befriended us and children slept into our lap to have their photos taken with us.  The pleasant evening came to a close with a delicious organic vegetarian dinner at Sparsa.
10.  Sunday Feb 19--Return to Chennai.
After a wonderful morning practice with Arun, we set out on our return trip to Chennai. 
Arriving in the early evening we enjoyed a delicious dinner at our hotel’s vegetarian restaurant. Surprise upon surprises: Mani, our dear friend and visiting teacher from a few years back, walked in to greet us at the restaurant it was a real delight to catch up with him.  He now heads the Shivananda center in Tokyo, and was in Chennai, his mother’s homeland for a short while

11. Monday Feb 20--Fly from Chennai to Varanasi
morning flight

After a 23 hour Odyssey we finally arrived in Varanasi.
 Who said that India is only beauty and goodness?
We had a taste of Shiva's challenges yesterday.  Waking up at 4am to catch our flight from Chennai, we were ready to experience the grand celebration of Mahashivaratri in Varanasi or Benares.  The plan was to land by 1.30pm in Varanasi.  Little that we knew that we would spend half the day in Chennai airport, the other half of the day being flown to Southern India first, then to North to Delhi, and then South again to Lucknow, and many of hours of the night in a bus for the slowest, most uncomfortable ride of our lives. Yes we did arrive, but it was 3am... The attitude of the group was amazing though, a group of yogis cultivating patience, non-blaming, optimism...

12. Tuesday Feb 21—At the sacred city of Varanasi
Or Benares, the city of Eternal Light!
 And then the new day came with a morning practice with Arun that fixed it all. What followed?  A long walk by the river ghats that was just perfectly interesting and mysterious... a visit to the crimson colored temple, Durga Mandir, right when the bells were going and the priests were performing the 5pm puja.   It was a truly devotional ritual and we were gifted with the permission to watch it. It was a gift to be able to witness the deep devotion of the people making offerings and whispering prayers, men and women of every age… Then we took a boat ride to watch the magnificent fire ceremony of Aarti at night in front of the river. We sailed by the cremation grounds and watched corpses being burned just as life was going on as usual 10 meters down the river. Our group gazed on speechless and mystified.  Then we had the joy of a private music concert that may never be forgotten: The family of Vikash Maharaj has been devoted to music for centuries. Listening to Vikash and his two sons playing classical Indian music was one of the most enchanting and healing experiences of my life.  The business card of his son Prabhash states: "Tabla Player/Human Rights Activist"
Did you know that music can heal the earth, the water of this earth (through their eco documentary "Holi Water") and all living beings?
You'd be convinced if you had a chance to listen to them... Heavenly!
13. Wednesday, Feb 22—From Varanasi to Sarnath.
 We visited the site where Buddha gave his first shermon and several monasteries build by the Japanese, Tibetan, and Thai people.  In the afternoon some of visited the noted British Tantric scholar Mark Dyczkowski.  We sat on his living room facing the river listening to a lecture about Kashmir Shaivism as the afternoon sunlight gave way into the night.  Then we walked by the river and concluded our day with India pizza and apple-pie with ice-cream.  
14. Thursday Feb 23 Group departure for Delhi.
Vivi stays behind for a special meeting…

The group departed for Delhi while I stayed behind for a day in order to take a special trip: I was to drive to Allahabad in order meet the head of the Himalayan Institute, Pandit Rajmani Tigunait. 

On the back of the taxi I had the chance to ruminate on the events of our trip.  All of a sudden an exhilarating joy overtook me and everything seemed to shine with an extraordinary beauty.  Finally, I started to really see India and its people with new eyes.  When you first get here you are a hit by a reality so different than your own, that you cannot escape the mind’s trappings. We feel assaulted by the dirt, crowdedness, and traffic. 
Preferences and criticism rises up. Looking at other beings with critical eyes it is so easy to miss their essence.  Now I looked at every face that we passed by and I saw a deep sense of humanity in every single one of them. Even the animals in their relaxed ways got nearer to me. We passed through villages, driving literally through people’s homes and green fields with yellow blossoms.  Being in nature was a welcome respite. 
When I arrived in Panditji’s place after about 4 hours, I was pleasantly greeted by his family, colleagues and students and enjoyed one of the most tasty Indian meals.  Everyone was so welcoming and relaxed that I felt like a part of the family.  A young American couple, Jeff and Chelsey walked me through the grounds and showed me the huts they were putting up for a special wedding scheduled to take place that weekend. They talked to me about their Humanitarian Project in Africa. The Institute has set up a center in a remote part of Cameroon that provided local people with ayurvedic medicine, a large library and training in farming, construction, and carpentry. Hearing them talk of their work I was greatly inspired and I saw the puzzle pieces coming together: this should really be the aim of our yoga practice today: a life that heals the earth, our own heart, and reaches out with generosity to other beings, humans, plants, and animals.  This was my greatest and most inspiring lesson in India. Sitting back to the table with Panditji and the team we concurred that every business card should have a slash: musician/activist, doctor/activist, yogi/activist!
It would be hard to describe Pandit Rajmani Tigunait. His earthy demeanor, sweetness, and welcoming way belie the fact that he is one of the most eminent Sanskrit and Tantric scholars in the world today.  Talking to him, joking and laughing, you forget that you are sitting across a revered yoga master exactly because he embodies the very essence of love and sweet devotion.  I could sit and talk to him for endless hours, but I felt this was just the beginning and they had much work to finish before the wedding group arrived the very next day.  I left the dear family in the Allahabad campus just as the sun was nearing the other bank of the river… It was a magical moment and I was saturated by the deepest love, and gratitude. 
Yes the spirit of Yoga is still alive in India, and we can enliven it wherever we are with our heroic action of offering our time, energy, enthusiasm in projects of service. It is not too late to heal the earth, and that is exactly what is needed of us right now. 
Here is my haiku:
Traveling in India, joy finally arises.
The mind stops comparing, judging, separating.
Love paints a sweet picture.
Mystery revealed!
15. Group tour of Delhi Feb 24.  
On that Thurday evening, February 23, and next day, Friday Feb 24, our group is happy to be in a familiar western environment. Delhi is a cosmopolitan city with large freeways, high-rise buildings, fancy restaurants (the group enjoys particularly dinning at a very expensive Italian restaurant) and nice shops. There is also a wide choice of galleries and museums but given the limit of time, they opt for shopping. They come back with bags full and mind at ease.  Shopping gives us an illusion of comfort, a familiar sense of belonging or somehow creating order in our lives.  I arrive from Varanasi at night and we all meet at a posh neighborhood, at the house of Arun’s aunt.  Dolly auntie has invited our whole group to her large home for a sumptuous dinner and here is where we all meet again for a joyous reunion.  Traveling together has made us a tight knit family, and we all felt the separation though we were only apart for a day and a half.  We know that after tomorrow we will start missing another member of our group: Arun will stay in Delhi in order to fly back to Greece on Monday, while the group takes off for Rishikesh early the next day. 

16. Saturday Feb 25. Early morning departure for Rishikesh.
Arrival at Rishikesh in the afternoon.

We are supposed to stay at Parmath Niketan Ashram for 2 nights, but upon arrival there is dissension in the group.

Some are missing the comforts and cultural offerings of Delhi and express the wish to head back on the next day. Others find it hard to stay in the ashram where even the choice of a hot comfortable shower is questionable.  We hold a round discussion meeting after dinner and the uncertainty of the situation creates discomfort in all of us.  I express the wish to have the group stay together, and immediately I surrender:  “Let the best thing happen. May everyone in the group have a good experience in this trip.”  By the next day everyone has decided to stay and Rishikesh rewards with rich experiences and choices: some enjoy sunbathing at a lovely beach on the riverbank; others enjoy the wide yoga offerings—there are many classes, kirtan sessions and study groups.  And the many shops by the river display everything the yoga market has to offer from CDs to ayurvedic herbs, to malas and silk scarfs.  After a strong anusara practice of arm balances in the morning, we each head out to experience the town on our own. I end up river rafting with a group of new friends, four young people from Brazil, Australia and Whales. We quickly bond and take Ganga’s blazing currents with great excitement.  We chant “hey Ganga, hey Ganga, hey Ganga ma”, and scream our lungs out as when it is time to pedal fast and conquer the waves. The cold water splashes us, sending freezing shivers down our spine, but the sun shines brilliantly and we on a an adrenaline rush, so it all feels divine: the trip down the glorious river and the beautiful landscape of mountains surrounding us. Finally, we are embraced solely by nature. It is relaxing and exhilarating at the same time!
Next day, after our 7am anusara class, my rafting buddies take us on a special yogic experience: an asana and pranayama class with their 104 year old yoga teacher: Yoga Ananda Ji!  We are treated to an experience of a lifetime as we try to keep up with the lively commands of our teacher; He urges us to move dynamically through each asana and pranayama practice, then he yells at us to RELAX!  He bursts out laughing every so often, sending laughter waves to the whole class! 

At one point, Yoga Ananda Ji shows off, stopping the class to perform a very hard asana, tying his legs around the back of his neck, all the while laughing his heart out! He seems to be having a great time sharing his light-hearted yoga with all of us eager westerners! And he promises to come visit us in Greece!

On Monday when it is time to leave Rishikesh, several of us express the wish to stay longer.  Alas, we only had a slight taste of the offerings of this Yoga Mecca, but since we really do not have the luxury of time, we vow to definitely return!
Our minibus charges up the mountains for a quick visit to Ananda Spa. We have lunch at this 5 star resort, enjoying a great view of the surrounding forest and the resort’s lucscious gardens. 
17. Monday Feb 27—Return to Delhi at 11pm
We arrive at Ahuja Residency where we stay 2 nights.
18.  Tuesday Feb 28—Visit to Agra
The Taj Mahal is India’s most famous building for a good reason!  The most extravagant building ever build for love, it was built by Emperor Shah Jahan as a memorial to his second wife, Mumtaz Mahal.  It stands against the Yamuna river in its exquisite splendor of white marble architecture, decorated by Persian inlaid flower patterns, and embellished by pietra dura scrollworks and quotations from the Quran.  We enjoyed our walk through the ornamental gardens, the main mausoleum, and the adjacent mosque and then sat on a restaurant’s garden for our final meal in India.
The return trip by train was to be our last big Odyssey experience in India.  Delay upon delay, our train did not arrive in Tunla station for hours, but by now our group had become so yogic-ly minded that we faced all difficulties with great patience: we took turns reclining on the dirty station benches, mediated and gave each other reiki (to the curious amazement of Indian people staring at us), and made friends with all the animals surrounding us: monkeys, rats, goats, cows, and the thousand of birds that were gathering in undulating patterns above us as the day was coming to a close.  Finally our rickety train arrived and making ourselves comfortable even in this unfamiliar environment of reclining beds instead of seats, frayed brown blankets and faded curtains that were to act as divisions  between wagons, we all huddled together and rested as best as we could during our long ride back.
22. Departure  from Delhi Feb 29, at 9.20am.
Next morning at 6am, we gathered outside our hotel to bid our goodbyes.  The Greek team was heading off to the airport while Rusa was staying behind for a later departure to California.  We remembered our inspiration when we had first set out on our “Spirit Tour of India”—to recognize the Divine Feminine source of energy, mystery, and connection rooted in this ancient tradition and manifested even today.  In a way that was not at all planned or predictable we had each made a journey of personal transformation. 
Now gathered in a small circle holding hands, we could not help but realize we had come to the end of our journey together.  We had witnessed a lot and we would need some time to regurgitate our experience of India.  It had been colorful and rich, but it was not always easy.  Some of the obstacles had to do with our own resistance to a world so different, and our own personal judgments or difficulties. 
I remembered reading about Swami Rama sending his student, Pandit Rajmani Tigunait, on a journey to discover the feminine Goddess out in a poor mining village. Panditji comes back very angry, infuriated by the poverty and unfairness he had witnessed. Swami Rama then finds the opportunity to teach him:  “Spirituality requires transformation—a qualitative change. When you can transform our grief into compassion and kindness, and when you can transform your anger into indomitable will and the power of determination, then you have begun walking on the spiritual path…”    
Earlier, I had read this passage to Takis who was trying to deal with his own anger at some of India’s abject poverty.  And it was only hours ago in Tunla’s train station that I had caught Takis feeding crackers to a mouse, cajoling and whispering as if to his favorite pet. 
If Takis befriended a mouse, I shared with the group, it means the Divine Energy of Compassion had done her work within all of us. The experience of the trip would probably take time to unfold, but for now it was enough to hold the energy of the group in our hearts.  Each one of us had been touched deeply by our adventure. The many symbols and diverse experiences had served as mirrors pointing to familiar or forgotten parts of ourselves. And now in this final circle, we were reminded that all experiences are made sweeter through the sheer act of sharing.  Each one of us had brought their own unique vital energy to the group. The three weeks we had spent together in the foreign rich land of India had already made their indelible mark.
We embraced each other and chanted Om one final time, as the night sped away, giving way to the new day! 
Thank you, India, and thank you incredible team, or rather, family members!

Friday, February 10, 2012

Respond to the Anusara crisis

Some of you asked me to respond to the Anusara crisis, so please allow me to post what I shared in the page of the Certified Anusara Yoga Teachers page:

Dear friends, there've been warnings about 2012. In Greece we have been witnessing the shattering process that threatens our socio-political structure and feeling the pressure in every and all relationships of our lives. Watch-out friends, the crisis will only escalate in every level. The question is a very personal one: how do we take care of every living being in the most compassionate and fearless way? How do we stand with truth and ahimsa and what is it that makes us stand up and speak out for what we believe? Let our truth serve as a mirror for others and for ourselves. May what we see make us stronger and clearer. Krishna tells Arjuna that action equals thought and vice-versa. Our actions are harmful when our thinking process is convoluted. Let us look at our thoughts calmly, courageously. Let us not be motivated by personal gain or satisfaction. In Buddhism one is supposed to practice for the benefit of all beings. Anusara always encouraged individuality, but the very notion of svantantrya was obviously misinterpreted and abused. As we go back to the drawing board, let us remember the basics.. Satya, ahimsa,...brahmacharya... In the process, let us remain unflinching, and still find compassion in our heart. All of us will reconnect with our own practice here. A great thanks to all of you who stepped up to express your truth. Peace, courage, love to all!