India Pilgrimage of 2010
© Copyright 1987-2014, Puran and Susanna Bair
"Moving in the light of God" (which we sang everyday). Starting in Delhi, meditating at the Dargha of Hazrat Inayat Khan, walking up Mount Abu - the highest spot of Rajastan, staying in ancient and exquisite palace hotels, riding on camels in the Thar Desert, taking photos of "cow dung cakes", sorting out or hiding leather wallets in Jain temples, shopping for Pashminas and "semi precious jewels" in Jodhpur and Jaipur, admiring the Taj Mahal, whirling between the holy walls of Ajmer, taking part in weddings between train rides, experiencing the gentle greatness of Indian people, and finding peace and spirituality on the Holy Ganges in Varanasi... What a journey!
I'm still digesting the impressions of this incredible journey - it's like an ongoing film within myself. I'm experiencing the images, the emotions, the smell, the taste, the music ... just overwhelming and unexpectedly wild. But what strikes me most, when I think of India and read all the wonderful postings my fellow-travelers have written in the "Dome", is the connectedness and the love I feel to each one in our group. We were kind of glued together to pass the most incredible exams, knowing there are friends around. I'll never forget that knowing feeling that everything will turn out to be fine. Thank you all for letting me be part of this amazing group.
The most touching moments for me: the midday meditation in the Jain temple at Mount Abu, the beats of the tabla on the boat in the morning mist of Varanasi, and the (holy) cow welcoming us as we entered the court yard of the Mandir Palace Hotel in Jaiselmer.
I learned a lot about myself: how to overcome my anxiety, weakness and limitations. And a lot about the famous American Spirit. I am very proud that we did it - and you, Susanna and Puran can be very proud of the group of people who followed your invitation. Improvements will come and the next pilgrimage will be even better. I'm looking forward to it.
Love to you all - and hope to meet you all again!
So far there are several great aspects of the trip for me...resonating on in great ways, maybe the result of a few great attunements received along the way at sacred sites or a few observations of the people and situations encountered or maybe a result of the imagined cremation I invoked in Varanasi (LOL) or a combination of all factors.
One had to do with the how utterly available people there were to heart connection. So prevalent. Even when people were busy at tasks they sensed the energy of looking their way and turned and acknowledge first with their eyes and then with their hearts - with a Namaste - so readily available and beautiful - so matching my longing DNA and knowing that this is truly their for all - so opening and confirming to my soul.
Another is evidenced in the traffic we witnessed. I only saw one driver in three weeks getting mad. My theory is that you can't NOT be present in that traffic. If you get mad you risk hitting something else in the next nanosecond. I watched drivers faces as they faces oncoming, swerving, crazy, almost constant situations and challenges and they just kept going like it was just the nature of a big video game they were playing with interest, verve and amusement. They just continued to stay in the moment...one unending moment. I love that about this India experience.
There's more as my body keeps re-calibrating to this new vibration, which to me is the real take home message - this precious new vibration.
Thank you all in every way for making this a precious pilgrimage. Thank you for bringing your greatness to share so readily. That's my story and I will stick to that - lol - until the next download.
To Your Greatness!
It was so interesting to share impressions of India with everyone after a little time back home and to note how some things have shifted, at least for me. Towards the end of the trip, I couldn't wait to go home. I had had a really interesting experience, but I wanted to go home like yesterday! Throughout the trip I was of two minds about India. I recognized that interesting things were happening inside of me, and while I was fascinated by India, I was also singularly repulsed. I confessed to my fellow travelers that something of India actually still calls to me, and I could see returning someday. Did I just say that? Big shift!
It's been interesting sharing some of my impressions of India with my numerous Indian colleagues at the hospital where I work:
No, I don't hate India now. How could I when so much love woke up in my heart? But they don't quite understand that, and I'm not sure I do either.
Dr. Doug Schneider,
I was very intrigued to realize several things about myself - I went to India because I longed for a spiritual experience and could not think of a better way to have that experience than to be on a trip to the sacred country of India and to meditate on that trip. I expected the experience would be like "a burning bush in the wilderness". I did not have that experience but I did have several spiritual experiences of the "everyday" variety - what other kind are there? One was meeting the family in Pushkar when Wendy and I went to buy water and they invited into their home behind the store, brought out the wedding photos and the 25th anniversary photos and hennaed Wendy's hand. What a beautiful group of people and so special to have been in their home.
Another was the amazing experience with the young Imam at the Dargah of Moinuddin Chisti in Ajmer. As we were trying to enter with the crush of people, I was clutching my purse and wondering why I wasn't staying outside with Sally to guard the belongings. Then after we sat in the circle, chanted the dhikr and whirled, and the Imam came over to Puran and Susanna and took us into the Dargah and then up the steps to the huge cauldrons and then to his office where he served tea, gave each of us the pink "sash" on our heads or around our necks, and then talked and had his picture taken with women and men, it gave me hope for the sexes in the Muslim world, especially after he put the scarf of special honor around Susanna's neck and not Puran's.
Another was sitting in the Dargah of Hazrat Inayat Khan and listening to Karunamayee and her veena and tabla players play and sing. I do not think I have ever in my life seen such a display of connection and oneness between and among people. They were truly ONE and the music was mystical and moving and so very beautiful. Visiting the Hope Project, the school, the room dedicated to Noor-un-Nisa and seeing the looks on the faces on the children was another magical, spiritual moment.
Another was our sitting together on the train platform in Agra waiting until almost daylight for the train to arrive and with people sleeping on the platform, cows wandering around and our becoming colder and colder, we still held it together and seemed to know instinctively that there was really nothing we could do about the train and acceptance seemed to be the mood of the moment. For me, to accept and go with the flow without complaining and bitching loudly, was new and nice. I've almost even forgotten the garbage everywhere with the cows, goats and pigs eating it.
Another thing I realized about myself is that I tend to isolate and then feel left out - I don't feel as comfortable talking with each of you as most of you seemed to be with each other. I totally enjoyed and treasure the conversations that I did have with each of you, but I realize I do this to myself and by becoming aware, hopefully I will stop isolating and then feeling lonely. It is interesting how we do these things to ourselves without realizing the role we play in our own life and how we feel about it.
With love and hugs to each and every one of you. I miss you and my heart loves reading all your postings. See you in my memories and in the future.
It has been hard for me to reflect on the pilgrimage, since I feel oddly divided almost literally as if part of me is still in India. It is as if I have been torn away from a new love, and part of my heart refuses to leave her side. This trip was so abundant for me, so deeply joyful, so brimming-over lifegiving, that I could never have anything but gratitude for anyone generous and courageous (not to say crazy) enough to undertake organizing it.
So India is still washing over me, and I'm not confident that I can yet catch much in cupped hands. I moved into spaces of complete overwhelm, but somehow one foot just kept going in front of the other, and some improbable deliverance always showed up.
There was of course Ed and my tale from the first official day of the trip, when a funny thing happened on the way to the dargah. Having missed Murshid's dargah by about 300 yards that might as well have been 300 miles, we found ourselves ringed in by a dozen or so Muslim men, barking at us to remove our shoes, as we were on holy ground--the wrong holy ground, from our perspective. Oh, well. No different than the rest of life. We always think we are on the wrong holy ground, or we think there is such a thing as unholy ground. Anyway, just when I at least was entertaining the possibility that we might be boiled with the horse bones in the kettles on the side of the road, along comes the local Imam, friendly as could be, inquiring without even a British accent, "So...what are you all doing here?" (This man in this place was so wildly improbable that I half believe he dematerialized shortly after.) Body language suggested that he gave these gentleman a lecture about proper hospitality, retrieved our shoes, and cheerfully walked us over to Murshid's dargah. So somehow one foot just kept going in front of the other, shod or not, and it was one bit of holy ground after the next, as always, but with even a few moments of realizing it.
And I recall a teacher moment, a rare alignment when something really new is acquired. It was during the desert dance at the hotel with the dancing woman. I was in my familiar sideline, wallflower position, when Puran literally shoved me onto the dance floor to join the whirling. Man, that was fun. Singing, too. So now I realize how much I love to dance and sing, and how hard I have worked to suppress these desires. Barbara was such a great teacher on this topic, and one of the joys of this trip was watching her hilarious manifestations (like the Khan movie playing practically in our hotel).
A little gallery of sensations: the miles of yellow-blossomed mustard fields seen sleepily from the train window, the acrid smell of train stations, the breathless first glimpses of the Taj, the Ganges. The traffic poured together, somehow sifting itself. The sinuous dance of the girl in the desert. Sing-song of the train vendors, "Chai, chai. Chai, chai." The dark night of the soul in the Agra train station Pat curled up in a sleeping bag on a rock pile, Christine working on Wendy's neck, dear Penny touching up her make-up, that amazing brown and white dog that somehow felt to me just like a person.
So on it goes, boots on the frigid holy ground of Kentucky, trying to join the dance all the way. Just to state the obvious, I am fully and completely here for any of you, and look forward eagerly to creating the next chapter together. Each of you has offered me some great gift, and I treasure every one. Lots of love to all.
Reflections on India continue to disrupt my meditation, insisting that I put them on paper. I am enjoying each of your reflections as each serve as an inspiring reminder of all the wonderful moments, opportunities, and connections from the trip. I realize now the worst fear of many people is fear of death or public speaking, but my worst fear is being lost and abandoned in overcrowded India. So the Law of Attraction fast at work provided me with the "left behind on the train" opportunity which was a wonderful adventure and lesson. Traveling with Spirit-filled people is always an inspiring, opening and learning experience. I loved the dharga in Delhi and Puran's inspiring message. Although I didn't have Ed & Steve's experience finding it, I was given the opportunity to allow fear to shrink and Guidance to flow early in the trip bringing us to that holy place. The sunset at Jaiselmer, dancing under the stars, and riding camels in the dessert....where else but in India.
The day we traveled to Moinuddin Chisti's Dharga I remember my closed in, fearful feelings and cynical attitude as I entered, sneaking in my backpack with camera and sandals inside. As we chanted, meditated and whirled, I let the backpack slide away, my head raised, shoulders went back and heart opened. I was still reeling from the experience when we arrived at the cave and I heard "May the blessings of God rest upon you. May God's peace abide with you. May God's presence illuminate your heart, now and forever more." Tears fell and I was the Lover, the Loved and the Beloved.
I loved the Hindi wedding we surprisingly were invited to attend as we waited for the train. The day at the Taj Mahal was so perfect I knew it was just for us, warm, sunny, still with few tourists. The views kept pulling me back to take just one more picture, thinking I could capture its beauty and majesty.
Meditating at sunrise on Ganges I could feel the energy pulse in that chakra of the earth. My sinus and ears are still recovering from the final tuk tuk ride to the airport in Varanasi that put me closer to the noise and pollution of the streets than I care to be again. The train rides and their anticipation will forever be in my memory of India as they challenged us to hang together and keep our energy up. The sickness, pollution, poverty, animals, tuk tuks, open sewers of India are also embedded in my mind, along with the beautiful brown eyes of the children and insistence of the hawkers trying to make a living from tourists.
My regrets include not folding more rupees and handing them cautiously to those in need; not looking more often into the eyes and hearts of the people; not keeping my mind constantly in the present to soak up all that is India; not being willing to feel deeply all the wide array of emotions that India evokes. I remember feeling so relieved that I had a clean bed, warm shower, good food provided each day but I realize now it also brought feelings of guilt for wanting that comfort so much. What made travel in India so hard for me was the gut-wrenching feelings that it forced me to look at. I was forced to see things about myself I didn't want to see but they kept coming back every day in India until I was forced to admit they were there and own them.
I returned to a good old Kansas snow storm but I remain.....a spiritual seeker fulltime.
© Copyright 1987-2014, Puran and Susanna Bair