Thrive – Part 2

Allow my heart to burst into-
-a thousand aching colors
while love escapes the space like cracks-
-of time.

Today I choose happiness.  A few weeks ago I woke up at 5:30 am to an alarm… a friend and I would be taking the earliest train to the local beach town Varkala for a day in the sun.  I woke up groggy, grumpy, wanting to be in bed.  As I grumbled while brushing my teeth I looked in the mirror and had an illuminating thought… “I have chosen unhappiness over happiness my entire life.”  It was like a flash in my brain… I couldn’t deny it’s truth.  Overall, the theme in my thirty years of existence has drifted much more easily to unhappiness.  While this has been an unconscious drift, it is the truth of my life.  I think it is the case for the vast majority of people living in western society.  It isn’t to say we don’t have moments, or even days of happiness – we do.  But overall, we unconsciously choose stress, drama, sorrow, and essentially consistent mild forms of suffering.   We choose to live in the past, or in the future, or we focus our energies in pursuit of things that don’t actually feed our souls… offering nothing more than temporary gratifications.  We choose to distract ourselves with compulsions and addictions so that we never have to be fully present.  It was quite the realization.  I immediately said to myself, “Well fuck this!  Today I choose to be happy”.  I was instantly in a great mood, able to let go of everything.  Next came a great day.  I have reminded myself to choose happiness every single day since then… and the past three weeks have been possibly the happiest of my life… 

But we have to make the right decisions too…

I mentioned in my last post that I have been focusing a lot of energy on my health.  Last year I lost a good 20 lbs. in India (most of which from parasites).  Whatever weight I packed back on while home in between journeys is now gone, although this time it came off in a much healthier way… This Ayurveda cleanse I am doing has brought consciousness to my diet like I have never before had – every day I become more in tune with my body.  It is an enormous amount of herbal powders and capsules (25 capsules a day, and 5 loose powders a day) … the bulk of it lasts a total of 3 months and a small bit carries for 6.  I also learned from the Ayurvedic doctor that I have been over eating my entire life.  Dairy, almost all gluten, and all processed sugars are gone.  Yoga is my new girlfriend, and every few days she allows me to have a love affair with 75 steep flights of stairs until I can’t walk.  I have never felt this good physically in my entire life.  Our physical health has a direct relationship with our mental health.  If you eat like shit and don’t exercise, you will feel like shit.  The physical however is only a part of the equation.

Live as if your father was dead.  I read a book recently with a chapter that says men need to live as if our father was dead.  This isn’t to say we should wish our parents dead… I feel so blessed to still have all my parents around… but the question is, “If your father died today, (or for me, more likely my mother) how would you live differently?”  If all of our parents expectations, hopes, dreams, and subtle pressures were no longer relevant or a prerequisite from our decision making process, would the decisions and choices that we make be different?   We must follow our hearts and our intuitions.  This is true thriving.  Anytime that we neglect our hearts flow to satisfy the expectations, hopes or dreams of someone else we are doing ourselves a disservice, and are actually doing a disservice to them and to the world.  When we live in our deepest purpose, and offer our most authentic and truest gifts to the universe, (something each of us uniquely has), it serves all.  By truly living in our heart, we can truly live in love.

We take life too seriously, and yet we hold ourselves back from offering our deepest purpose to the universe.  We let our fears hold us back from truly giving it our all, and at the same time are super serious about all the bullshit.  We should give the universe every last drop that our hearts have, while remaining child like in our thoughts.  I have been trying to do this lately… there is a lot more music and a lot more laughter.  A lot more smiles.  Close your eyes, and with a huge relaxing exhalation… – let – it – go – …

I have this kickass routine going at the ashram… I will miss it when it comes to a close.  Every day is different with many variables, but this has been the fabric of my time.  Morning before breakfast is yoga, meditation and music.  Business, internet, exercise and reading time is post breakfast.  I have been doing a lot of vegetable chopping as a seva in the afternoon.  The real highlight of the day starts around 4:30 when I head to the beach.  I meditate and read for an hour, and then I chant archana while walking the beach back and forth, waves crashing at my knees… sunset spreading it’s naked fluorescent rays across the war-less bloody sky.

Archana.   Archana is the chanting in Sanskrit of the 1000 names of the female goddess Devi.  Each name is precipitated with Om and followed by Namaha.  The practice takes about an hour, and ebbs and flows in linguistic beauty like only Sanskrit can.  The practice due to the speed of chanting is like a pranayam (energy control technique through control and manipulation of the breath)… leaving your heart full of devotion and truly feeling really high.  Archana was familiar to me from the first time I chanted it eight years ago, but it has only been in the past month that I have started to scratch the surface in understanding of how powerful this practice really is.  Chanting archana has become the best and deepest part of my day… where my heart thrives.

My love for this magical country continues to grow.  This really is the place that people come to for self discovery.  India is the most illogical country on earth – and you could allow it to drive you bat shit crazy in western frustration – but it is because they have so much heart.  When we sink into the feeling of the heart, and ditch our expectations of the train arriving at all today let alone on time, we start attuning to just how lovely the depth of this culture has transcended into the languages of love.  India in many ways feels like home.

I will be sad to say goodbye to Amma – the most phenomenal being I have ever met.  We never know what comes next in life… so no guarantees… but I think the Himalayas are calling me.

With all my heart.. I hope you are thriving.

Love –
-  Michael

 

 

 

 

Expect the unexpected… thrive – Part 1

I didn’t expect to continue blogging this time around in India.. round two.  I killed the blog half way through last years trip and had confidence it held even less value for me the second time around… yet here I am excited and compelled to write.

Expect the unexpected.  Boy did I get asked about 200 times in my final months in USA from most everyone I knew why I was returning to India.  I am not surprised – it seems ‘lost’ to return to a place that you just spent seven months in so shortly after coming home – obviously I didn’t feel like I got the experience I was looking for the first time around.  The truth is, in my final months back home even I didn’t know anymore why I was returning to India.  I had forgotten what inspired me so much in the first half of my journey on round one… the ‘WHY’ of the experiences I was having in my first trip that screamed bloody murder in my consciousness that the only possibility of reality was to come back and go deeper… so I concocted stories of what it was I would do here, what I would pursuit.  These stories were for you, these stories were also for me.  I loaded my suit case with heavy books that it turns out would not be read, and I loaded my brain with the ideas of the tasks I would complete while here to make this trip ‘worthwhile’ and ‘accomplished’… not just another lost traveler’s adventure in to the self.

I forgot something important however… that isn’t how it works here… not in India.  India has a soul of her own, and the path she wishes to take us on is something we can only avoid if we close our hearts, fighting the surrender, forcing the unexpected to disappear.  When you fight India, your journey becomes miserable – and the last couple months of my trip last year exemplify this reality… India has a magic pumping through her veins… it is no secret that it is the most spiritual country on earth – and like a symphony you can close your eyes and follow her notes into the unknown of change that comes next – the sounds that might shift your life forever.

So then it simplifies – that ‘holy fuck!’ moment when you can start fully comprehending in ONLY the most beautiful ways of why you’re where you are, why you are learning what you are learning.  That ‘holy fucking shit’ moment where you realize that never in your entire life have you been happier, more powerful, healthier, or more at peace… more free.  La dee daa … needless to say I very much now know what it is that I came here to do..

THRIVE.  God we are scared shit-less of our real potential – our full potential… our deepest purpose.  How many people do you know that truly test the limits of the universe on a daily basis, giving reality every last drop of heart they have to be the most incredible version of themselves that they can be?  We are scared to fail, but the truth is we are even more scared at how incredible we really are – how expansive and vast each of our unique gifts to contribute are… so we distract ourselves constantly with compulsions of every kind, making our feelings take a back-seat to the non feeling.. to the unconscious.

I started a six month Ayurvedic cleanse about one month back… I am taking 25 herbal capsules a day along with loose powders five times a day.  It is supposed to flush my liver, colon, and intestines.  For months my master chiropractor knew something was going on with my stomach but couldn’t put her finger on it … all healers have their areas of expertise.  I don’t think I have ever felt physically better in my life – all the vitality that I robbed myself of in thirteen years of debauchery between 13-26 years old is truly starting to fade… I haven’t had this much energy since childhood.  All the work I have done healing my body in the last few years is coming to fruition.

Two months with Amma, at the ashram and touring South India.  What a truly exceptional being.  It seems like every extra year that I spend with her offers more time for me to have the smallest insights into how grandly vast her true nature is.  Her boundless love will never cease to amaze me – the acceleration of life that happens in her presence is like a scientific phenomenon… bending time and space for our own interpersonal growth.  It has been an honor.

Ran out of time for writing today… stay tuned for part 2       <3

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rishikesh, Dharamsala, And the trek inside.

Hey lovelies…

I know blogging has all but completely ceased on this journey I have been taking.  Somewhere along the way, this journey became a journey inside myself… rather than an outward exploration of the country around me and the daily experiences that entails.  There reaches a point, where it seems a little futile to write.  There is always another 14 hour train ride, and there is always another 16 hour bus journey through the mountains.  When travelling, it never stops.  You are constantly interacting and engaging with a plethora of new faces from all over the world, sharing different and new experiences every day.  There is a constant stream of new smells, tastes, sounds, and things to see that after a while you stop being able to describe. You walk out of your door expecting to see something new and ridiculous every single day, so it isn’t a surprise when you do.  So please don’t be disappointed that I have less to write about then before… there is still so much experience happening, but it is now as I said above more an internal experience than an external.

We flew from Cochin to Delhi, and took a bus from Delhi to Rishikesh.  After 9 days of 112 degree heat in Rishikesh, bathing in the ice cold ganga and meditating on the beach… lots of walks, lots of yoga.  The heat was too much, and a 16 hour bus ride later I am finally in the Himalays near Dharamsala.

It is incredible here, and I think I will be in the mountains for a while, though who really knows.  It is a totally different world, and might as well be a different country.  The people here are mainly Tibetan, refugees, and are so sweet. There are buddhist monks everywerr. It is a different culture, different environment, different air quality, different food etc. This is where the Dalai Llama lives.  The rest of India is very hot right now, so this is one of the only comfortable places to be.  I did my first Himalayan trek yesterday, which was about 16k up and down.  It was so stunning at the top… just dumbfounding.  The himalayas very well might be the most beautiful mountains on planet earth.  We were exhausted at the end of the day, but it was the beginning of getting into Treking shape.  I am excited to take some solo treks starting tomorrow…

I love you all…

Om Namah Shivaya

A beautiful tour, and time to head north.

Tour ended like a whirwind of fire landing all 600 of us that travelled ontop of each other for 27 straight days back at the ashram blissed out, exhausted, and craving more.  What a journey.  Doing an Amma tour in the South of India during some of the hottest months of the year was one of the coolest, and most challening things I have ever done.

For roughly 70% of the tour there was no where else on earth I would have rather been. The other 30% I wished I was anywhere else.  Touring with Amma tests you to your limits, whether it be the sleep deprivation, the sleeping and bathroom accomodations, the sweltering heat and long bus rides, or the fact that you are travelling with 600 other people that are being tested just as hard as you, which can leave people cranky.  Most importantly it seems like when we are touring with Amma, each person is individually tested with deep interpersonal challenges and lessons, cutting straight to the core of our individual spiritual journeys.  It is quite a wild ride, and it is so wonderful to partake in it both as a participant and observer. By the end, a huge portion of the people I travelled with felt like family, and you have no doubt that you will have many more adventures with these special souls in the future.

We landed back at the ashram about 6 days ago, and we were all very excited to be back home.  To be able to sleep in the same room more than 2 nights in a row, to have the freedom of what you decide to eat, to not be on a bus with sweaty tired people dripping all over you… to use a real shower.  What luxury.  Interestingly enough though after the initial pleasure of all this, I felt restless and bored within 48 hours.  The knowledge that my Indian adventure is almost officially 2/3 done and I haven’t left the south of India is raining on me like a monsoon in the south of India in May.

P.S – I watched one of the more ridiculous lightning storms of my life last night from the roof of a 15 story building looking over the ocean.  I am talking about 100 lightning strikes a minute in every direction you looked.  Pure chaotic wondrous beauty.

So what the future brings I don’t know, but I thought I would say hi.  I will be taking a flight (most likely) in 48 hours to the north of India, landing in New Delhi.  Rishikesh, Varanasi, Agra, and the Himalayas are calling.

Om Namah Shivaya – I love you all

 

 

The insanity that is Amma

I would like to dedicate todays blog post to my wonderful step mom Candy Grippi.

When I was seven years old an interesting event took place that it turns out would play out in full 21 years later.  My dad and step mom had bought a yacht and were living on it most of the time in the Sausalito harbor.  One day my step mom was doing some cleanings and called me in to clean the toilets.  I outright refused.  Once again she asked me to help her clean the toilets.  Again I said NO.  (Oh how children can rebel against a step parent!).  With her frustration rising, she told me once again to clean the toilets.  I responded at the time along the lines of “Candy, cleaning toilets is for immigrant house cleaners”. (Oh dear god the filthy brat ego of a kid growing up in Southern Marin).  If memory serves correct, Candy was left speechless and probably disgusted… but I DO remember that I did not end up cleaning the toilets that day.

Flash forward 21 years.  I decided to go on tour with Amma as mentioned as a possibility in the previous post.  One of the first things that happen after you join tour, is you sign up for your SEVA (selfless service / volunteer work that you will perform for the life of the tour).  I had already in advance agreed to be on the security team, and also one of the loading teams… so I thought I was cleared with a heavy load.  When I sat with the SEVA coordinator, I told him about the two positions I had already accepted.

Seva Coordinator:  That is great… but I really need someone to supervise the toilet cleaning crew.
Me:  Ahh well I already signed up for those two other seva’s so I am probably pretty booked up
Seva Coordinator:  Yeah… I hear you.  I really do need someone to manage the toilets for the tour however… do you think you could do it?
Me:  You know to be honest I kind of have an aversion towards even using public restrooms let alone cleaning them… I really don’t want to do this job
Seva Coordinator:  It sounds perfect for you then… I really need someone to manage the toilet cleaning crew.  Can you do it?
Me:  OK!

The moment I said OK, I felt a huge rush of grace pass through my body… what a strange feeling.  I immediately remembered the incident above that happened 21 years prior, and just started to laugh.  What is even funnier is the bathrooms that we are cleaning.  They are the size of a telephone booth (maybe a little larger), with a ceramic plate on the ground that you squat on, with a hole in the bottom.  Ironically for the 27 days of tour, these are also our showers.  There is a water tap near the hole in the ground, and with a small bucket we dump water all over ourselves while standing above the floor crapper.  Needless to say, from a western perspective, they are filthy and disgusting.  Talk about breaking through a life long aversion towards public restrooms and CLEANING toilets like superman punching through a brick wall.

This is the insanity of Amma.  Somehow, near her, these life long fears and aversions are readily available to face whether you choose to or not.  Personal growth is the only possibility.  The hilarious part is, I am paying good money to be on this tour.  It is crazy to think that I would pay money so that I could travel around rural India cleaning bathrooms.  It is exactly however what is happening.

We were all notified that we would be leaving on the morning of the 28th for the tour.  It is 10 bus loads (600 or so people) being driven from event to event all over South India where Amma holds programs.  Typically we arrive at one event with 6,000 to 12,000 people and that event lasts two days.  Then we have a bus driving day, and when we wake up we are at another event with 10,000 people waiting for us to run the show.  There are a few different stage and setups that leap frog each other just like a major touring band.  We, the staff, are running on very little sleep but are constantly in these enormous high energy environments.  It is up to us to run the show… each of the 600 of us have many different responsibilities.

When we awoke on the 27th, we found out that plans had changed, and we would be leaving that day instead… early afternoon.  The ashram was like a madhouse as everyone ran around like crazy people trying to be ready for loading time… we all lost over 12 hours we thought we had to pack and get our affairs in order.  By about 2-3 hours before departure however, the energy was absolutely electric.  Everyone had finished in time, and the excitement was just incredible.  It was like being a little kid with your entire school on buses heading to marine world for the day… that day you looked forward to all year.

I feel now would be a good time to mention my new discovery.  You take 2-3 large raw cacao beans and put them in your mouth.  Start to chew.  They are bitter.  Take a medium sized spoon full of honey and put that in your mouth also.  Enjoy.

As mentioned above, I am on the security team.  It is an interesting seva… there are 10 of us.  We escort Amma to and from the stage before and after the program, and we get to sit on stage with her at various points of the program to make sure nothing crazy happens.  The escorts are very exciting as we are unbelievably close to her, but most of the time this work is slow and quiet.  It is a great time to chant your mantra thousands of times as you aren’t allowed to actually close your eyes and meditate in case something happens that needs your attention.  It is wonderful to be so close to her for so many hours at a time however.  The escorts are crazy.. not a whole lot different than walking an A list celebrity through a mob mentality crowd as they enter an event.  You surround them creating a barrier and the mob grabs and pushes you instead of them.

The first program was in Cochin where they just opened the largest mall in southeast Asia this month.  It is the size of 33 foot ball fields.  It was pretty unimpressive in honesty… half the stores weren’t yet open, there were frequent power outages, and there was water leaking from the ceiling in many parts of the mall with a bucket under neath to catch.  If it wasn’t for these differences, you would think you were in USA.

The exciting moment in the mall was when a tiny mouse emerged in the food court and frantically ran for its life in a crowd of a few hundred people.  It had no where to go, and was getting kicked from person to person out of people’s fear.  I caught the mouse in my purse like bag, and carried it down four flights of stairs to safely set it free outside.  Felt good.

Not a whole lot else to say.  Doing enormous amounts of Seva.. some days 10-12 hours.  Having the time of my life however… it is an incredibly growth oriented experience.

One interesting last thing to mention… one of the sevas is called face wiping. You take some fresh toilet paper, and wipe down peoples faces right before they get a hug from Amma.  This helps keep all the sweat and dirt from Amma’s clothes.  When you hug 12,000 people in a row with their face buried in your chest, your white clothes get dirty quick.  I have done face wiping a couple times and really enjoy it.  We are in some very rural and tribal areas of India where not long ago westerners had not even set foot… now there are westerners lovingly and gently wiping down the faces of these tribal people.  I think it is even more interesting for them then for me.

Every day is filled with 100 new unexpected events… every hour a new surprise… it would be impossible for me to even fathom how to describe what an actual day on tour is like.  It is a wild ride :)

Blessings and light

– Michael

Shivaratri, Pampa River, Return to Varkala and South Tour

Ashram life was pretty radical for the 13 days that Amma was there (March 1-13).  The energy was spectacularly high daily – always something going on somewhere.  Every day flew by, and most were filled with happiness.

One day while I was standing outside next to the ashram elephant Lakshmi after performing a puja (vedic ceremony) involving lakshmi… (I still don’t understand what happened, but lakshmi was dressed in all kinds of ornaments, and I paid 70 rupees to wave my hands over some fire while some monks threw rice on me), a man walked up carrying a case that I knew the shape of.  The only thing the inside could possibly contain was a Hang drum.  The hang is the newest instrument on planet earth, created by some Swiss physicists in the early 21st century.  They are extremely rare, extremely expensive, and in the past it has been extremely hard for me to convince any owner to let me play one.  For the first time in my life however, the owner of this drum let me play… and it was unbelievable.  As a finger drummer, I have wanted to play one for at least six years, and have been denied at least a dozen times.  Playing this one for an hour by myself was INCREDIBLE…  go to this youtube video if you want to see what the sound is like. Dante Bucci – Fanfare (Hang Drum)

SHIVA RATRI.  Wow Shiva Ratri.  Shiva Ratri is a holiday in India celebrating the Deity Shiva and it occurs yearly.  You are supposed to fast all night until sunrise, and you are also not supposed to sleep.  There were at least a few thousand people in attendance at the Ashram, and the music to Shiva was incredible.  Around midnight Amma started singing and dancing, and had the entire place on our feet stomping and clapping.  It was a ton of fun.  A small group of us went to the beach (including the hang drummer) where we continued Shiva chants and more devotional music until about 4 am.  Sitting under the moon and star lit sky, ocean side on the beach, with such beautiful people…. it was such a moment in life.  At 4:45 am we went back to the Ashram to do Archana (the chanting of the 1000 names of divine mother).  It takes about an hour, and I was fully energized when it was done.  Chai time, and then more meditation on the beach before breakfast.  Finally decided around 9:30 am it was time to go to sleep, and after a 2 hour nap I was ready to rock for the rest of the day.  It was the most fun I have had in a really long time.

The room that I was staying in, while private modern and amazing was ridiculously hot at night.  So hot that my bed was like a swimming pool of sweat within an hour of lying down nightly.  If I opened the windows, mosquitoes were a problem, so I left them closed.  After sixteen days of this, I learned to hang mosquito nets covering the windows, so this problem is done now, but for sixteen days I lost sleep almost every single night (waking up 20-30 times a night from the heat).  To top it off, a MOSQUITO LAID EGGS IN MY ROOM…  I had about 50-100 mosquitoes in my room at all times for about 7 days.  No matter how many I slapped, they just kept breeding and breeding and breeding.  They like to hide in piles of clothing… so you would never know they are there.  Then you pick up your t-shirt and about 30 of them fly right at you.  Kerala is ridiculously hot at this point of the year (nearly at it’s peak) … the loss of sleep from heat and mosquito bites really started to get to me – a bunch of devotees from the Ashram were talking of going to Varkala and I decided to jump in for the fun (even though I had already been before).

The day before going back to Varkala however, Amma organized a clean up of the Pampa river in India where a few hundred of us piled into buses and were driven for 4 hours up into the mountains to what is believed to be a holy river.  Some 14,000,000 people come yearly as pilgrimage to this spot where they bathe and hike to a temple above called the Shabrimala.  The bummer is tradition calls for them to throw away something old in the river… most do jewelry or a piece of clothing… the river is destroyed.  Starting a few years ago, Amma undertook the task of cleaning it yearly.  It is amazing what a few hundred people can do to a river in a single day.  We cleaned the crap out of this place.  By the end we were exhausted, and ready for the long drive home (We left for the river at 4 am so most of us had a 3am wake up).  It was challenging though, watching more and more trash thrown into the river we had just cleaned as we walked away.  India is at least fifty years behind the west when it comes to environmental consciousness.  Amma is trying to raise that consciousness, and these projects like cleaning the river are to plant seeds in the minds of the Indian people on how to live better.  She says it will take two generations for the seeds to germinate, and considering most parents in this country currently teach their children that garbage gets thrown on the ground, she is probably right!  Still, it is very surprising and powerful for the Indians to see a bunch of white people coming to clean their country.  They asked a lot of questions… and most couldn’t understand why we were cleaning the river… it really is planting baby seeds.

Varkala.  Oh Varkala.  Indulgence land.  Tropical beach resort with gourmet sea food… one of the least expensive holiday get aways on earth.  Going with 20+ people from the Ashram was really nice… rather than ONLY indulging many of us found time daily to do all our spiritual practices (I didn’t miss a beat).  At this point… for me that means a minimum of 2 hours a day of meditation, yoga, chanting etc.  Most days it is a lot more than that.  Some nights found us all in a restaurant together with a guitar and drum playing devotional music from the ashram… it was great.  I swam in the ocean at least a few hours daily, got a couple massages, ate way too much food on a daily basis, got super tan, and lounged around with some really great like minded souls.  By day six however, it was REALLY time to leave lazy town and get my butt back to the Ashram.  When the three of us who went back together walked through the ashram gates, it was like a huge weight lifted off our shoulders.  We were so happy to be back.

I am back in the same room I had before, however I hung a mosquito net over the window and slept wonderfully last night.  Only two mosquitoes survived in the room that I know of from the previous nest, so as long as they don’t hatch another batch I am good to go.

Amma is starting her south India tour on the 29th of this month… it is 10+ stops around the South of India holding public programs.  The last day to sign up as staff is tomorrow night and I am nearly positive I will be going.  It means a month straight of travelling around on over crowded buses, sleeping in classrooms at Amma’s schools with 12-20 other men per room… bathing and using bathrooms that are very, very… India., and doing an enormous amount of Seva (selfless service volunteer work).  The few hundred staff members on the tour make the whole thing function.  Amma has 10-20 thousand people show up for each public program and they are always only a day or two apart from each other.  It is real TAPAS (a sanskrit word for suffering to attain spiritual growth), but everyone here I know that has done tours before as staff seems extremely excited.  I must be nuts to jump in, but what the hell right? :)  It still leaves me with just over 2 months to travel north India when the tour is done.

For the first time since I got to India, I truly considered going home.  My best friend’s mom passed away while I was in Varkala, and it was absolutely heart wrenching hearing him go through it over the phone and not being there for him.  I considered popping back to the states for a week to be at the wake, before returning to India to finish my trip (and just throwing it on a credit card), but he dissuaded me.  Life is so precious and goodbyes happen much quicker than we prefer sometimes. It is always good to tell the people in our lives how much we love them.

Stay tuned… I love you all.

Om Amriteswaryai Namaha

 

 

 

Malayalam, Tablas, Amritapuri.

Hi all –

I know it has been a really long time since my last post.  I guess it can only be a testament to the time I am having… I just haven’t found the time or had it in me to write.  I will do my best to catch up on much of what has occurred since I last wrote.

Kozhikode ended up being quite the experience.  There were university examinations happening the weekend I was there, and almost every hotel in town was completely booked.  After walking in the rain for a few hours, I finally found a suitable place that I enjoyed very much.  Unfortunately, I had an outdated calendar of Amma’s schedule saved in my phone, and the schedule had changed on me without knowing it. I spent my first day in Kozhikode drinking coffee, walking around talking to people, and getting a hair cut (Indian hair cuts are very funny as they go really short on the sides and leave it long on top).  I thought based on my out dated schedule, that Ammas 2 day program started the following day – however this was all occurring during day one of the program.  It was quite the surprise the next morning to find out that I had missed day 1!

Day 2 of the program was incredible, and the venue was amazing.  Think lush green forest, covered in tarps for shade, with multiple levels of seating areas and stages, all connected with wooden ramps.  I felt like I was in Neverland from the movie Hook.  What irony!  My most favorite Amma venue ever is the one I got to spend the least amount of time in.  I did however get to wander through a wholesale fruit market on day 1 of the program, and it was unbelievable.  The smells… indescribable.  This happened at 5 am, in the dark, while looking for my hotel… I have never seen anything like it.

I had a 4 am wake up to catch a train for Mangalore the next day, which was where I had a layover on my way to Gokarna to meet up with my three new friends Jelka, Ida, and Ditte (from Holland and Denmark).  Flash flood rains hit again while on board the train, and since all the windows were open the train quickly flooded.  None of the Indians seemed to care, but I thought it was hilarious.  If the train turned left or right, water would come gushing at your feet.  If the tracks inclined or declined, water would come rushing up or down the aisle.  It was wild.  I met four friendly Indians on the train who called my Indian cell phone company and straightened out some stuff for me on my account… every time I called on my own I would get hung up on immediately (I think they got nervous that I only spoke English).

I next caught a train to Gokarna, and arrived at night by myself.  Gokarna has a 10-15 minute hike in on the beach, which was a little nerve racking alone but so unbelievably beautiful.  Even at night I could see the outlines of incredible hillsides, palm trees, small jutting islands and warm ocean waves.  The morning confirmed for me that I had arrived at a place, untouched and gorgeous… a beach paradise oasis.  Think of the movie “The Beach” and you will have an idea.  Private rooms about 40 feet from the ocean are less than 5$ a night.  I unfortunately only got one night in Gokarna here as the girls were leaving in the morning for Hampi and I was along for the ride.  I had just enough time for an evening bonfire that reminded me of my college years in Santa Cruz, some really good food (with the occasional cow running through the restaurant), and a small sunburn.

SLEEP IS FOR THE UNINSPIRED.  This was my big realization on the bus ride to Hampi while everyone was conked out.  I had been running on fumes for over a week but my gas tank felt full.  The travelling life can be so amazing when you tap in and let it flow, and sleep is something you feel you can catch up on later, at some other time… maybe once you land back home.  The bus to Hampi was incredibly cramped, and one I will hope to never have to endure again :)

Hampi.  Oh my god Hampi.  Hampi is the Flinstones in real life.  Untouched mountains of boulders stacked on top of each other, with enormous temples hand carved out of stone everywhere you look.  I could argue that it should be one of the 7 wonders of the world.  The government of India protects Hampi, so it is clean.. pure.. amazing.  We only planned to stay in Hampi 2 nights, but loved it so much I ended up staying 6.  Everyday we would rent scooters and zoom all over this land of mountains and boulders… swimming in lakes, hiking 1000 foot steps to monkey temples for sunsets, and just riding to feel the wind smack your face.  I totally understand the motorcycle fetish now.  It is freaking fun.  You spend so much time in the sun all day that you are really tired at night.  Our hotel which served incredible food, played a movie each night during dinner.  I never thought I would want to watch movies in India, but it is a nice reprieve to cure some home sickness.  We watched Slumdog Millionaire, American Beauty, Into the Wild, Blow, and Locked Stocked and 2 Smoking Barrels.  (One movie each night).

Hampi also came with my first sickness of India… Ida and Ditte both got sick about a day or two before me, and then I got hit with the same symptoms.  We all think it was the Tuna Salad.  Delhi Belly… yep.  And here I had been so proud that after six weeks in India I emanated nothing but health.  Somehow the energy of Hampi kept me going, regardless of my fever and diahhrea.  I even woke at 5 am for the 1000 step hike for sunrise at Monkey temple on my last day… drank Chai with the swamis at the top and got a banana stolen from me by the alpha male monkey.  The monkeys I found out are much nastier when hungry, and seem to be at their worst in the AM.

Saying goodbyes.  I ended up having an unbelievably good time with Jelka Ditte and Ida. We spent almost 2 weeks traveling together in total, and I really grew to truly love them all.  Saying goodbye sucked, but I know now that I have future travel engagements to Holland and Denmark.  It was time for me to get back to Ammas.

Hampi is in the middle of no where, so I had to take a bus back to Gokarna, just to get on a train to Mangalore and then Kayankullam (closest train station to the ashram).  I loaded up on Imodium prior to the bus, and crossed my fingers.  This time I spent the extra cash for a bed on the bus and was actually extremely comfortable.

I planned on enjoying myself in Gokarna, but I just kept getting sicker and finally gave in to the pre-prescribed antibiotics Kaiser sent me to India with.  I started feeling immediate relief, and after three days of dosages was almost 100% again.  It felt like something was alive inside my stomach… never really felt anything like it before actually.  Only India can do that.

Gokarna was mainly sleeping, and then napping on the beach.  I could barely eat, and when I did it didn’t feel good. The dolphins came out swimming with us though a couple times, about 50 meters away, and they were doing enormous back flips just like the dolphins of Sea World.  It was AWESOME.  I also met two new friends Tanya and Greg from England who coaxed me into coming to town with them… we had a great time.

On my last day of Gokarna, I awoke realizing that the END OF PART 1 of my trip had occurred, and I was now starting part 2 of 3.

On the train to Mangalore at a 2 minute stop, I saw all these young Indian men running up the hill and greedily picking fruit from a tree.  They looked so excited, and I had never seen the fruit before.  After some inquiry, they shared with me a “Cashew nut fruit”.  It is some sort of stone fruit… delicious… and definitely a new flavor indeed.  Fruit is amazing… for most American adults I feel like it is the last untouched area of flavor exploration left on this planet.

I stayed in Mangalore one night to heal up before the 12 hour over night train back to Amma’s ashram… I even had time for a VIP screening of the “Silver Lining Playbook” which I adored.

I slept all night on the train to Ammas until 3 am or so when I felt a man fondling my bag (which I slept wrapped around my chest).  This attempted thievery woke me up and I couldn’t sleep again.  I realized though that I have become an Indian TrainmasterJi (in India you add Ji at the end of something respected).  I have REALLY learned the Indian train system.

Here comes the amazing part….

I arrived at the train station at sun rise.  After trying unsuccessfully to negotiate with the rickshaw drivers for a ride to the ashram, a car pulls up and offers me a ride for free.  This saves me 200-250 rupees which isn’t chump change in India.  Once I arrived at the ashram I booked a room, and they ended up giving me a room in these new circular buildings (a tad bit more expensive, but the bathroom are modern and clean and you don’t have to have room mates).  It turned out my room is literally one of the closest in the Ashram to Amma’s house… I can see her bedroom window from my front door step.  Between the taxi and my room placement, I was really buzzing as I felt in the flow.  On Friday nights Amma gives a talk and meditation on the beach… I showed up early to get a good seat, but at the last second got pushed off to the side.  Luckily for me, once everyone was sat, a swami wanted my seat, and told me to move right in front.  All of a sudden, I had the best seat in the house, maybe 3 feet from Amma.  Her lead disciple Big Swami was literally sitting on my meditation cushion.  Because I was right behind him, Amma looked over his shoulder 5-6 times throughout the talk and made eye contact with me beaming huge smiles.  It was wild.  Next Amma started giving Darshan (hugs)… but she was only giving them to a very small number of people as there was very limited time.  I wasn’t planning on going in for one, but as a huge surprise Amma out of nowhere pointed at me and motioned to “get over here”.  In my seven years with Amma, this was the first time I had ever been “called in” for a darshan and I couldn’t believe it.  When i came up for my hug, Amma looked at me and smacked her head twice and said, “Thinking.. Thinking..”.  She gave me the darshan, and I went on my way a bit confused not understanding the experience, however completely full of bliss.

The next day I went on stage while Amma was giving real darshans (a 12+ hour session of hugs to thousands of people who came to be embraced from all over the world).  After waiting about 3-4 hours I had the chance to pass her a note in her native tongue (Malayalam) which I had someone translate for me asking what she meant by “Thinking”.

Amma pinched my arm really hard while laughing for about 10-12 seconds, and then went into a beautiful 3-4 minute discourse with me, and for the first time offered me some personal advice based on my temperament on what I could do to grow spiritually… some changes I could make.  Her advice was in line with a topic people close to me have been trying to get me to understand or change since I was a teenager.  It was wild.  She next inquired what I did for a living…  And then she asked what I “could do”… and then she asked if I was a “teacher”.  And then the interaction was over.  A lot of times with Amma, you have to connect the puzzle pieces (if you are able to) on your own… she doesn’t just flat out say it.  We will see what I come up with.

Regardless, it is freaking amazing to be sitting in her lap like this… so close to her.  The ashram is absolutely pulsating right now with her here, and there isn’t anywhere on earth that I would rather be.

Yesterday I had my first Tabla Lesson (indian hand drums… Youtube “Zakhir Hussein” to see.  I will be doing three lessons a week.

Today, I had my first private Malayalam lesson.  I have decided I want to learn this language, and will be doing private lessons four days a week for 1.5 hours a pop.  There are only 31.5 million people who speak it, and it is incredibly challenging to learn.  There are 53 letters in the alphabet.  I feel lucky though, having learned Hebrew as a kid… I have the confidence that I can learn a new alphabet.

Malayalam is spoken in Kerala… and I am just IN LOVE with this region of India.  I see myself spending a lot of time here throughout my life in the future, and see no reason to not learn this language now.

So this is my life for the next long while… I have no intention of leaving the ashram any time soon.  My days are completely full now with selfless service, tabla lessons, malayalam lessons, morning meditations, chanting, bhajans, eating food and conversing with some of the loveliest people alive.

May we all find bliss… I love you all.

– Michael

Wayneel Marawh – This is Life!

photo

It is funny in life how much our perceptions and mental states affect the reality around us.  Mangalore, which at first I hated, ended up having some unbelievable moments.  As it turned out, while I was stuck downtown at the mall for two days waiting for Amma to come, there was a stunningly pristine beach with warm swimming ocean waters just a few kilometers north.  Naturally in my negative mental state, I didn’t find this place.  After spending some time with Amma, and surrounded by such an uplifting environment, all the negative things of Mangalore I saw around me started to fade, and incredible moments of beauty shined through.

The beach was exquisite.  There were a good 30-40 Amma devotees holding space through sunset, meditating and singing, swimming and laughing, as the violet sky ripped a glimpse of eternity through the universe before our very eyes.  I was overwhelmed with love…

So as it turns out, divine love is SPONTANEOUS.  I heard this in a teaching last week, and I can find nothing but truth in it.  Saints don’t consciously think about loving someone or sending love in a particular direction – it is more an uncontrollable spontaneous current that comes through them from the divine, for any reason at any time.  The deeper I go into this magical country, the more times I might experience this for a millisecond – it hits strong and lasts briefly – an overwhelming moment where divine love spontaneously erupts from my heart.

The mangalore program with Amma ended at about 4:00 am, and it was one of the wildest program endings I have ever seen.  Amma was being quite the funny character, playing with Kazzoo’s and singing music.  The entire scene exploded into an incredible dancing bhajan fest… and at the end even though the sun was soon set to rise, there wasn’t a yawn to be had.  We all left that night with bright round eyes, wide awake… so inspired.

Then a miracle happened!  We fit 8 people into a rickshaw and drove a few kilometers.  I don’t know how it happened.  Think of clowns in a circus.  It was fantastic :)

After Mangalore I headed to fort Cochin with some new friends… did some sight seeing and back water tours, and even went to “Jew Town” which has a synagogue from the 1500’s.  Apparently the Jews has a wonderful relationship with the Maharaj’s of India for quite a long time.

A quick side note – As many of you know, burning man has been something I have loved and partaken in since 2005.  Out on the playa (the burning man desert), people often have a “playa name” which is either bestowed upon them or chosen by themselves… an alter ego that they get to BE for an hour, a day, or a week yearly.  The very first playa name I ever took in 2005 was “Summer Rain” … and it is something I have identified with since.  As it sprinkled two days ago, I remembered taking this name.  So next I jumped on a midnight train last night to Kozhikode, as Amma comes here tomorrow for a two day program and I am loving the time I spend with her.  After drinking some Chai, one of the most incredible lightning storms I have ever seen ignited around 3am.  Fifteen to thirty bolts of lightning lit up the entire sky every minute… and as we were flying through the black night of Kerala on a train, each eruption lit the sky with the outlines of coconut trees … So majestic.  The next thing I knew, it started to pour – and all of a sudden the young Indian man next to me started yelling, over and over again, “Summer rain!  Summer rain is here!  Summer rain is coming to Kerala!  Summer rain!  Summer rain!  Summer rain has come to Kerala!”.  Here I am, standing in the open door of a train flying through the Kerala night, with lightning explosions of coconut trees surrounding my entire vision, listening to this man scream this.

A friend turned to me a few days ago, so inspired… and said, “This is LIFE!”.  I couldn’t agree more.

I then learned my first words in Malayalam (the language they speak in Kerala and no where else in India)… Wayneel Marawh (summer rain).

I got off the train this morning at 4am… not having slept a wink.  Due to the intense Wayneel Marawh, there was some flash flooding which helped prevent me from finding any accommodations to sleep in until almost 9am.  By 10 am I finally laid my head to rest, and after a 3 hour nap, the magic started all over again.

The past seven days have been some of the most incredible of my entire life. I am dumbfounded by the sheer number of life changing thoughts and realizations I have had.  All the personal growth I strove so hard to achieve over the past few years is climaxing into what feels much like a new reality.  I cannot wait to see what comes next.

I love you all…

Om Amriteswaryai Namaha 

Daniel Day Lewis saves Mangalore

I was correct in predicting that we would stay in Mysore for 4-5 days… we stayed somewhere between 5-6 I believe.  It really was a lovely city, with vibrant markets unlike I have ever seen, clean streets (in India’s standards), and clean air (again in India standards).  So far, and from what I hear, Mysore is one of the most advanced cities in India as far as modern western culture is concerned, while simultaneously not flooded with rampant materialism.  It still has much of what makes India great, mixed with some of the good things the west developed.  We saw our first bolly wood film in Mysore, and I got a haircut from an Indian barber who actually did better than many American haircuts I have gotten.  It came with a beard trim, nose hair trim, ear hair trim, and full upper body / face / scalp massage.  He charged 150 rupees… I gave 200 ($4.00).

I am officially traveling alone now… after a very loving goodbye Navit and I parted ways (for now anyways) as she wanted to head East, while I had some unfinished business west.  She boarded an overnight train with a girlfriend travel buddy at 8pm last night, while my train was at 11:45pm.  Traveling alone in India was immediately… lonely!  I am so happy though to part on a good note, and to send her off safely with a veteran travel buddy at her side.

But it is a mixed bag with some excitement.  I had a waitlisted ticket for my 11:45 train last night, that didn’t actually get un wait listed.  After waiting for over 4 hours for my train, I found out my ticket was no good.  With less than 10 minutes to spare before the train departed, I was hurriedly guided to buy a coach ticket just to get on the train, at which point I was to try and upgrade to a sleeper car from the ticket collector on board.  Risky proposition, as we have yet to travel coach… and I COULD NOT fathom doing it overnight as I wouldn’t be able to sleep as I would be crammed in with so many people / risk getting stuff stolen.  I ended up being able to upgrade to the ticket I originally wanted (still don’t fully understand the process of how it happened) and got a good five hours of sleep in before arriving this morning at Mangalore around 9am.

Mangalore.  I decided after a big luke warm coffee (I now carry around instant coffee, nescafe, and mix it with bottled water) to try to find a hotel on foot rather than by cab.  Keep in mind, I am carrying 40+ pounds of gear… maybe more.  I couldn’t find a reasonable hotel for the life of me.  I walked for close to three hours, and would imagine at least 7 miles, and everything was either full, too expensive for my budget, or disgusting.  For the most part though it was enjoyable, and I craved some exercise and adventure.  I even stopped at a temple I accidentally found for a meditation.  Finally, soaked through with sweat and back aching, I had a cab driver take me to one of the first hotels I went to on foot and booked a room.  It is about double what I should be paying, so I will only stay one night while I try to find something better tomorrow.

Mangalore.  Poor Mangalore.  Mangalore is the future of India, and the downfall of everything it is that makes me love the India of old.  There are major shopping malls here that are nicer than the ones on the coast of northern California… high rises being built everywhere.  Advertisements everywhere for rampant materialism, western culture, and every name brand you could imagine.  The people here are soaking it up … they can’t get enough of it – fully abandoning what this country has been.  I wish there was some way to convey to them how sad the people are in America… the ridiculous % of people on anti depressants etc.  I wish we could show them that materialism left us despondent and unfulfilled…

They do however have a movie theater, accidentally nicer than any I have ever been in.  With nothing to do, and loneliness creeping in, I decided to see “Lincoln”.  I didn’t know it when buying the ticket that it was being shown only in their VIP theater today.  Ticket was 300 rupees ($6.00).  I guess normally it would be 30 rupees.  I had an assigned seat, which I was personally escorted to.  The seats were leather recliners.  The big surprise about an hour in was when I was delivered a fresh squeezed mango juice and a moist towlette to wipe my face while enjoying the film.  There were only four other people in the theater, who all chatted the entire film with each other and on their cell phones, ( they all also left before the end ).  Even the staff would walk through the theater chatting at full volume with each other.  Oh India.

So…Daniel Day Lewis saved Mangalore.  I was having a bummer day, but good god he is incredible.  He never ceases to inspire me – a true master of his craft.  What a performance.

Tomorrow I will escape this city, and head to the suburbs where I will hopefully join up with Amma’s tour again – in pursuit once more of why I came to this blessed country.  Today was a very eye opening snap shot of what lays ahead for this country – and what I hope to avoid for my travels going forward.  Travelling alone is a completely different trip that will take some getting used to.  I look forward to meeting some people and making friends to maybe team up with, but it probably won’t happen in Mangalore :)

Thanks for reading, I love you all.

– Michael

 

 

Goodbye to the Ashram, On to Varkala, Bangalore, Mysore

It has been quite some time since I have blogged and a lot has happened, so my apologies in advance if this post is long.

We wrapped up our lives at Ammas Ashram in Vallickavu about ten days ago… our feet were getting itchy to see more of India and expand our adventure, as we had already spent a good portion of the beginning of our trip in the same spot.  Our days at the Ashram were very nice… we had settled in to life comfortably there and found a good rhythm and flow to our day to day needs.  It was a stunning place to go deep in meditation and prayer.  We also did a two day I AM meditation course, which is a specific type of meditation Amma has constructed … it is very powerful, and while the course was long I enjoyed it very much.

I also had the pleasure of doing a 1 hour Ayurvedic consultation with a licensed Ayurvedic doctor.  It was extremely interesting and informative, and I look forward to altering my diet in the future to his recommendations.

Off to VARKALA.  Varkala is not like India, at all.  It is a town that rests on a cliff, overlooking gorgeous beaches.  It is tropical in every direction, and is one of the top tourist destinations of India.  You wouldn’t know you are in India, as the vast majority of people there are European, Australian, and Canadian tourists.  It is pricey, and has almost none of the sweet friendly charm that India has… but none the less we enjoyed ourselves for 4 days.  There was enormous amounts of shopping and restaurants, and the food was delicious (though very overpriced).  At night, all the fresh caught fish of the day is displayed on ice in front of each restaurant.  You walk up, choose the fish you want, negotiate a price, and then tell them how you would like it cooked.  By far my favorite of our time there was a fresh caught red snapper barbequed inside a banana leaf with indian spicings and coconut rice.  You would not believe how tender, delicious, and fresh this fish was.  The meal cost us about $9.00 each, and we estimated in the US the same meal would have been over $140.  Due to incredible sun burns however we were a bit confined in Varkala to coffee shops for half our time… (stupidly didn’t wear sunscreen on our first beach day in India… way closer to the equator here).  We were able on our last day though to venture back out in the sun, so we hiked a couple of kilometers to a much more desolate beach with black sands, and swam there for the day.  We also caught an incredible theater piece called Kathakali which is traditional theater to the region of Kerala, where the men play women’s parts.  The costumes and face painting was unbelievable, and the plays are short stories from classic Indian epics like the Mahabharrata etc.  There are no words, and the entire play is performed using dance, facial expressions, and eye movement.  It was unbelievable and we thoroughly enjoyed it.

I finally unlocked my iPhone, which was an adventure… and I now have an Indian mobile.  It was a miserably difficult experience that I don’t think I would ever have the energy to suffer through again.  The bureacracy and inefficiency of India is remarkable… for a culture that is so rich and vast.  America and India both have a lot to learn from each other.  My mobile # is +91 960-585-6098

We have had many interesting experiences now with Indian cab and rickshaw drivers… as it turns out, being white often dictates a 400-800% increase in price.  We are learning now how to avoid this in most cases, but it still bites us in the ass occasionally.  What is more difficult, is all of the drivers have deals with every hotel in town, so they are constantly trying to shuffle you to destinations you don’t wish to actually be at in hopes of making a couple extra bucks.  In Varkala, one driver was so forceful he actually stopped the cab 1 Kilometer from where we wanted to be at his friends hotel and demanded full fare.  That was my first argument in India, and after huffing and puffing (and making all the indians in the area laugh while I briefly yelled in the streets with this thief), we were able to pay him 20 rupees less than what he demanded (40 cents).  I have learned since then however to maintain firmness without yelling at them – some of them are lovely and sweet but often they just want as much from you as they can get.

Jump now to a 16 hour train ride to Bangalore, where four friends from the ashram joined us for the journey.  Amma is touring south India right now, and we are joining her for an undetermined amount of stops.  We were in a luxurious (India luxurious… very different than home luxurious) air conditioned compartment, and were even able to get some sleep on the train.  There was some excitement in the middle of the night as a thief had stolen a handbag from a woman while she slept.  We of course slept with our bags in our arms and legs wrapped around them (with locks on the zippers).  On this train ride, the gentlemen across from us were the local magistrate, chief prosecutor, and 2 court employees.  It was fantastic to chat with them for two hours about Indian law, in comparison to the states, and about the future of India.

Bangalore is a filthy smelly city, and I will be happy to not return.  It is the IT capital of India, and the largest city in the Karnataka state.  There is piss and shit in the streets, with trash everywhere.  The air quality is horrible, as people burn their garbage in the streets.  Interestingly enough, people place there cows in the streets, and the cows eat garbage.  They wander paved city roads, and people dump all their trash, and the cows eat it.  What is even more amazing, is they then drink the cows milk.  In India the cow is holy, and they worship her as a mother, because she will literally eat plastics and other petroleum based products, and anything else rotting, and then produce milk.  Any disease in what she eats, she keeps inside her body, and they claim the milk is of high quality.  Because of this, she is their holy mother.  Bangalore has wild packs of dogs everywhere (there are thousands upon thousands of stray dogs in India).  Some of the dogs befriend cows and cuddle.  It is wildly cute.

Visiting Amma was fantastic in Bangalore .. and very uplifting for all of us.  We had however some excitement upon leaving at about 1am.  Our rickshaw driver didn’t have enough gas to get us home (he didn’t have the money to fill the tank before picking us up) and we barely made it.  I had to get out and help push the rickshaw for a bit… but all in all it was fun.  This is the type of stuff that makes it India.  When we arrived at our hotel however, we couldn’t find it anywhere – as at night they close the metal doors (think of a storage unit in USA) over the actual front doors, so you feel like you are looking at a completely different building than what you were at earlier in the day.  We finally realized we were at the right place, but locked out.  In a bit of braveness, I opened the metal door (which was unlocked, and crawled underneath inside the hotel, only to immediately step on one of the hotel employees who was asleep on floor of the lobby.  Next, the manager popped up from behind the lobby counter, where he was asleep as well.  It was quite the surprise for them.  We are quickly learning, sleeping in your business is a very common practice in India… people are so poor here and can’t often afford a rent of their own.  A floor space, with hotel bathrooms and kitchen nearby is a great perk to a job for them.  Long story short, with a few laughs and surprised screams, we made it happily back inside our room for a good nights sleep.

Yesterday we took a 3 hour train ride to Mysore, and from the moment we were on the train felt peace.  Our guide books claim that Mysore has some of the friendliest people in India, and it could not be more correct (or more different from Bangalore).  Everyone here has been SO friendly.  They just want to stop in the streets and chat with you for ages, about anything.  Their eyes twinkle.  The city is beautiful.  Clean air, clean smells, not too much noise, and not very much litter on the grounds.  I am sitting right now in the most advanced computer lab I have seen yet in India, at the Mysore university, as Amma is giving darshan next door at her Ashram.  The climate here is very comfortable…  I can only imagine we will be staying in Mysore for at least 4-5 days- our group seems happy here.

I have to end somewhere.  No way to even write 5% of what has happened.  Every day is filled with something new and crazy that just makes you love or hate this magical country.  For now though I am still head over heels with very much of what is happening – and only want this journey to continue.Ommmmmmmmmmmmmm

– Michael