The Gift – Rescue in Rishikesh

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At 6 a.m. our small group makes our way up to the meditation hall for the morning sadhana. What a delight to be practicing yoga on the banks of the Ganga River. Sounds fill the humid air as the Indian sun rises awakening birds and monkeys from slumber. Morning Arti begins with clanging of bells and chanted prayers to Mother Ganga. We gently stretch our bodies and deepen our breath to accommodate all that is surrounding us and within us.

At breakfast we’re eager to eat and discuss plans for our third day as a group. We’ve already determined India has many experiences to give us. Today we’re hiking to a waterfall in the Himalayan foothills. An opportunity to experience the switchback Indian mountain roads and the natural beauty that surrounds us!

The trek is moderate and the trail is well kept. We hike up alongside a brook and cross a few walking bridges. Occasionally, goats will pass as they forage in the brush for leaves and berries. We arrive at a smaller waterfall assuming we’ve made it, only to be lead on by Vimal, our teacher and guide. Okay, so this trek was a bit more physical than we expected….we keep breathing and climbing up.

We arrive to a beautiful pool of water and the thunderous sound of the waterfall. All in for a swim! The force of the water on the body under the fall was exhilarating. After pictures, poses, laughter and drying off we’re gathered for a bowl of Momo, spicy Manchurian noodles and then….

The longest, blood curdling, hair raising scream, out of nowhere. Stunned – in silence we begin looking around. Above us on the mountain we see two people gazing down in shock with their mouths agape. Vimal and I spring to our feet and begin climbing up. Time just stops. I know as I climbed up through the bush and jagged rocks I may be unprepared for what I am heading into.

There in a narrow, rock laden gully is a young woman badly beaten from her tumble down the steep slope. She has several contusions, is unable to move her left arm and is challenged to breathe. A friend has scurried to her aid, supporting her head. They were from Egypt and their English is good.

The next several hours that pass are a gift. We need to get help fast, we are the only folks there. Cell phones don’t work… someone hikes down to call for help. Members of our group hike up with drinking water, clean her wounds and provide hope. Time passes. We need to keep her conscious and talking. We talk, pray and sing as our mutual faith in God eases the situation.

Finally, two men arrive with a cloth stretcher as others arrive to enjoy the waterfall. We recruit 5 men to carry her down. This was no easy task. The young men are from different cultures speaking different languages, we need to communicate with each other in a coordinated manner to ensure her safety and theirs as we make the trek down.

It is painstaking trying to keep her body evenly supported in the piece of cloth as they descend. Proceeding down the mountain, there is only silence – nine men focused on balance, strength and moving the stretcher along the steep, narrow, rock strewn, twisting path. The women are holding space behind them, praying. They have to take breaks to rest often…but need a flat surface, where they can move together to lay her down, shift their holds on the stretcher, care for her wounds, then in unison lift her once again from the earth.  We all share what we have with each other – water, kleenex, snacks, and clothing.

Half way down the woman on the stretcher turns her moans of pain into a song praising God …we all join her and sing. WHAT A GIFT, to be part of this experience of community, sacrifice, and gratitude to the Divine with strangers and friends alike!

I wish you all peace, health and love throughout this holiday season and always.

A little self-care during the holidays can help tremendously. Call or email me to book an appointment. When scheduling your appointment, mention this blog and receive 10% off on healing services, private yoga, and holiday gift certificates.

 

Seasonal Transitions

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As we march through October, we’re all aware of the changes nature is creating around us. And we all have a pretty good idea of what comes next! How do we take the example nature is giving to us and mirror that in our own lives?

This is a time to slow down, shift more awareness inside and begin to soften and release the energy of summer. By changing diet, going for longer walks and paying more attention to the cues from our bodies transition can be healing and energizing.

As the seasons shift, so does the energy of our bodies. Massage bodywork is a wonderful way to peel off the imprints of summer and soften to nature’s call of slowing down and going within.

Give yourself time to relax and receive a massage. It can be enlightening as well as healing. We never know until we are touched what the various parts of our body are experiencing. The adage, the squeaky wheel gets attention, is particularly true when it comes to experiencing our bodies. Our nervous system is designed to focus on the squeaky wheel leaving the rest of our body pretty much out of our conscious awareness. Massage brings in awareness. Schedule your appointment now!

Massage increases awareness, yet to really understand the cues your body is giving a practice of yoga, breath, and meditation is optimal. Many think the body is limited to the physical vehicle. That’s only the beginning! You also have a mental body, emotional body, and spiritual body. These other bodies directly effect and communicate with the physical body simultaneously!!!

A consistent yoga practice will increase your understanding of your body’s inherent wisdom. That’s why I’m offering small private yoga classes in my home studio.

Beginning on Saturday, October 22 two classes will be available at 10:30 and 3:30, each for 90 minutes. Classes are limited to 5 people. All levels are welcome. What you can expect in a class: exploring detail in postures, learning breathing techniques, and practicing meditation within a small group. During the class I will guide, adjust, and encourage you. You will receive individual attention and direction from me to improve and deepen your yoga. Introductory offer: 4 consecutive weeks $120. Contact me to join the class or to schedule a massage.

My Initiation to Trust

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Being in the spiritual community, I’ve often heard phrases like “trust that you’re exactly where you need to be,” or “trust that there is support all around you,” and “trust what you’re feeling and let that guide you.”  It’s easy to feel trust when things are going well, but how about when you’re alone in a foreign country like India, don’t speak the language, and have to ditch your unreliable guide? That’s exactly where I was at when I experienced my very own initiation into Trust.

This story begins as a bit of a romance.  I met a young man in the village of Khajarou in a previous trip to India while traveling with colleagues as part of a Kripalu yoga lineage tour.  I’d completed a puja ceremony – an offering to the Divine Mother – on the Ganges River one morning, asking for blessings of love.  That same afternoon I met a young man from the village, and he began courting me immediately!  I was cautious, but took a risk and enjoyed taking tea with him the following two evenings. We had a wonderful connection and time, getting to know each other as the sun set behind the mountains in the distance. When I returned home he continued to contact me, and convinced me to return to India. Eleven months later, I went. I arrived on a Thursday and he met me at the airport.  By Saturday, I knew it was a mistake to continue traveling with him all over India for the next two weeks as we’d planned. He was drinking a lot and would disappear to meet up with friends, leaving me stranded. Fear began to set in.  I knew no-one in Rishikesh other than him. I asked God/the universe “What do I do?” and said “Please answer loudly as I’m having trouble hearing!” How would I get around India on my own without a local guide?

The next day, as I was walked back to my guesthouse after a yoga class, my answer appeared in big black letters on a white stucco wall: T R U S T.

That’s when my initiation began. I told my companion that our arrangement wasn’t working for me, and cut ties with him as I prepared to continue on my journey.  The next day I began a five day trek to Gomuk, the source of the Ganges river. The hotel had found me a guide and a driver who spoke very little English. As he drove, I silently named him Speed Racer.  We sped past cars, trucks, cows, and herds of sheep as we careened around hairpin curves with 400 foot drops on the side. My head was spinning, and so was my stomach. I kept picturing that word, T R U S T – and I prayed. We made it!  That evening my guide arranged for the hotel….no heat or hot water… 40 degree temperatures outside. TRUST popped into my mind again.  We enjoyed a couple of rum and cokes, courtesy of my guide, and watched the sun tint the sky pink and purple behind the Himalayas. My nerves began to soothe.  I communicated to the driver that I trusted him, but my body, however, was nauseous from our drive.   We laughed about how I almost put a hole in the car floor from the countless times my foot hit the brake! After that he showed more compassion in his driving. To my delight, after dinner I soaked in an outdoor bath continuously filled by steaming hot spring water. An amazing experience!!  The next few days were magical – the scenery, culture, and a connection to the divine that I had never experienced before. I had a private kirtan with a Swami in his hermitage alongside the Ganges as the stars sparkled like diamonds in the sky! I was beginning to have a deeper understanding of TRUST as I let go of my fear.

Sunset in India

Returning to Rishikesh I had no place to stay, nor did I have a way to get my luggage to the travel agent on the other side of the river.  Once again, I was called to TRUST. I accepted a lift on a motorcycle from a stranger, which meant leaving my luggage on the side of the road so that someone else could pick it up and deliver it to the travel agent. I parted ways with my things and hopped on to the motorcycle. Would I get there? Would my luggage get there?  My driver wound his way through the village, showing me each decent hotel until I selected one. Shortly after checking in, my luggage appeared on the back of another motorcycle, driven by a young boy.

I really wanted a yoga class on Sunday morning, so I woke up early to look for one. What I discovered is that yoga isn’t practiced on Sundays. Disappointed, I returned to the lobby of the hotel.  TRUST. At that moment, I met a young yogi in the hotel lobby. Self-taught and truly gifted, he is one of the most authentic yogis I’ve ever met.  He welcomed me and agreed to practice with me over the next two days, teaching me asanas and chanting prayers. His devotion in his yoga practice not only helped me open my body in new ways, but brought my heart to tears. He had such purity in his practice.

From there, I had no plans other than wanting to see the Taj Mahal. My taxi driver stopped on the outskirts of Rishikesh to wait for his boss. TRUST TRUST TRUST rang in my ears, my new mantra. After their discussion in Hindi, his boss offered to drive me to the Taj, arrange for a guide, then take me on to Jaipur and arrange for a hotel and guide there too. From there, I’d go on to Pushkar, where he’d also find me a hotel, then bring me back to Delhi where I had booked a flight to Kerala. Everything unfolded as planned, and as a single woman travelling alone, I felt protected and supported. That week was the experience of a lifetime, one I will cherish forever.

Lastly, we went on to Kerala.  After struggling for a few years with a health issue and looking for healing alternatives, trusting my intuition, I’d chosen an ayurvedic hospital on the internet. I had no way of knowing if it was the real deal before I got there.  I was not disappointed! I spent two weeks there on a strict diet, receiving healing treatments and drinking a lot of ghee.  The pancha karma treatment was authentic, and so was the caring of the staff and doctors.  During my stay, I completely let go of control and TRUSTED that this was exactly what my body needed for healing.

Two weeks later, as I boarded the plane to leave India and return home, I thought of all the ways that I had been challenged on the trip to trust people, situations, and treatments. More than anything, it was about trusting God/the universe – and my own instincts. It was not the relationship I’d come to India to explore, but it’s one that will last me a lifetime. As of this writing, I’m still feeling healthy and clear from the treatments, and the trip!  More on that in another blog post.

Trusting you are well,

Michelle