India Part 5: Reconnecting to myself indepth

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So as the journey continues in India, the land of hopes and dreams, suffering and succeeding, dying and lying, fame and shame, colours, religion, spices and MORE, I began to connect even further to my truth.

As with all my journeys I attract that which is a reflection of me and the energy that I project. I attracted tons of opportunities for connecting with the land, with the people, with the culture, with the nature and with myself. Everything really is connected afterall. I could really see this as I experienced it in depth in India.

I remember hearing, reading and knowing of many people who went to India to “Find” themselves. This was not my intention, but I will admit, there was something about India that brought up some of my inner most feelings and emotions to the surface. India has this effect on many and it’s no wonder it’s a popular choice for releasing the past, unfolding/unleashing new parts of ones being, and rediscovering oneself in a whole new way, or adding to what already exists. (In a different way then traveling to somewhere like Hawaii or Peru)

Talk about education! With more people than toilets in existence in the whole country, there’s just as much room for learning about oneself through everyday life in such conditions as the slums, the Ganges, the many villages and the streets in general. There’s as much richness in money as there is culture. There are as many flavours in food and incense as there are colours. There are as many people as there are smells and sights that can tease or tame the heart.

The compassion, acceptance and surrender I learnt for myself, for others and for life in general, is incredible really. One thing I learnt during my travels that has made traveling easier is to keep my point of view, my beliefs and my way of living on hold and actually leave space for learning something else. How do I actually know if my way is even the “right” way anyway? There are just some differences that one has to learn to accept and surrender to.

Observe the ego through moments of judgement and calm the nerves through acknowledgement and lack of judgement. Just be with what is, knowing that there may or may not be a way to change the situation, but the way one reacts and thinks is something that can be controlled especially when one is aware of their situation.

There is poverty all over the world. There is such thing as human trafficking and greed. There are many people suffering each and everyday and sometimes there is something the fortunate and wealthier people in the world can do, and sometimes there’s no much they can do.

I believe in Karma and I believe that feeling bad, pitiful, resentful, and/or obligated to do something is not only a waste of time and energy, but also an invitation for more dis-ease in ones own body/life and also in the world.

Again we are united as one in this world and so what ever energy I project is the energy I shall receive. So I choose to keep tuned into love station rather than fear station and as the Buddhists say “the energy one creates/cultivates goes around the world 8 times”. Like the butterfly effect, when I think, feel, or behave a certain way, just like a butterfly flaps its wings, this energy has the potential to get sent around the world to the other side.

And so by being present in India and observing my surroundings internally and externally from myself, I was able to reconnect to myself, my truth and feel compassion for those around me who are living their karma. I can only help them by continuing my path as I do now, knowing that when I do something that has a positive effect for me, it in turn has a positive effect on them. In the long run all the micro energy effects will have a macro effect.

And with so many people in the world, we can connect and continue to share this world together through positive thoughts, feelings, actions and reactions. Our awareness of what we can do rather than what we can’t do can help oneself as well as many others. It’s a choice to be conscious and make a conscious effort to be present and make the changes one wants to see in the world.

It may not be easy for some people to make this change, but the first step to any change is awareness. There’s room for improvement and there’s room for additions of more greatness and creativity, expansiveness and opportunity for optimality. It’s there. Let’s not compare ourselves to others, let’s focus on ourselves so that we can lead by example and share what we can actually do that’s useful to the whole world. One step at a time, day by day, letting go of history, brining in the mystery and accepting our present(s).

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India part 4: Dr. Doris: The delivery of a baby in a hospital in Mumbai! Wow!

I hopped on a train and made my way from Ooty(south India) to Mumbai (Mid-India), where again I stayed with a couchsurfer. A lovely young activist who was one of the few city girls to leave home and start her own independent reality in her own little cozy apartment overlooking the city.

She opened her door to me as she did her heart and we became like sisters, sharing stories till nightfall. We are close friends to this day.

After a few days with her, I made my way to another part of Mumbai, far more localized and literally not a single foreigner insight. The feeling of being the only foreigner was similar to that at the wedding I attended when I first arrived to India.

A couchsurfer hosted me in his hospital for 5 days. He owned the hospital and so he could do anything he wanted. His home was too small to host guests but big enough for him and his mom.

The staff treated me like everywhere else in India, with an open, friendly, caring manner and made me feel “at home”. I had my own room since there were few patients at the time.

I spent most of the time outside the hospital of course, exploring the area, getting to know the culture around me and meeting amazing people and eating local vegetarian dishes. I met up with a couple other couchsurfers for a meal and convo and even witnessed some holy religious hindu activities.

On my second day my host asked me “Doris would you like to see a delivery of a baby?” Being a massage therapist and already having seen a cadaver lab (this was an option in my last month of massage therapy college) and being fascinated with the human body and loving everything that has to do it, of course I jumped to the opportunity.

A side note: From the age of 15-20 I was obsessed with heavy rock, goth, metal, and classical rock music. I went to concerts, moshed, crowd surfed and loved horror movies. I loved watching people fight and loved anything that seemed unnatural.
After thailand and my spiritual awakening a year before India (around the age of 20) something shifted inside me and I could no longer bare to watch anything that involved human or animal mutilation or even anything involving harm to a being.

So as I stood in the delivery room, I was really excited. I’m used to acting and so to play the part of a doctor was quite easy for me. My host asked me to wear a surgeon’s outfit, keep silent and pretend that I’m a doctor from Canada.

The mother to be, lay naked on the table, covered from neck to toe with iodine, legs spread and about 5 or 6 people standing around her. At this time I wasn’t sensitive, wasn’t educated or even aware of how traumatic, invasive and nerve wrecking it can be for women and babies to be in such an environment (I’ll describe more on this from my Bali adventure 4yrs later). It was a cesarean section. I watched in fascination as the doctor began to cut above her pubic bone, blood oozing out. White began to ooze out and something started to turn and twist inside me.

I was no longer enjoying this experience. I began to feel like I did when I first went on a roller coaster. I felt nauseous and wanted to vomit. A baby suddenly appeared, a nurse removed him from his mother, placed him on a silver platter and out the door he went to get cleaned up.

I kept saying to myself “come on Doris you can do this, you’ve always wanted to see this, and this is a once in a lifetime opportunity without the doctor schooling. Come on hold in your puke, you can do this!”

I opened the door in the delivery room, exited quietly and made my way to my room. I opened the bathroom door, looked down at the squatting toilet, pictured myself on my hands and knees puking and decided to lay down on the bed instead. The thought of the dirty bacteria filled toilet touching me right in that moment, the moment of my nauseous self was repulsive.

So instead,I lay down on the bed in the room, placed my hands on my torso, gave myself reiki (remained open and present for the Universal energy to flow through me to give me whatever I needed in the moment). I fell asleep. 2 hours later my host came in and asked me if I wanted to be present for another birth in 2 hours, this time a c-section of twins! I squirmed with disappointment, as I thanked him and refused the opportunity.

I learnt a lot about myself that day and I am so grateful for the awakening that happened to me years before that prepared me for my truth. I am actually quite happy that I cannot tolerate watching something like this. In my eyes any operation (unless absolutely, really, and literally an emergency) is wrong, against the natural flow and is totally like the twisted opposite of human nature. (More on this later).

I spent New Year’s Eve with my host. He invited me to a popular movie at the time, “the 3 idiots” in hindi, which of course consisted of a wedding, a love story, a villian and lots of musical singing and dancing, as almost all Hindi movies consist of. Then dinner.

A couchsurfing experience to remember for life!

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India Part 3: preparing for the rest of the journey

So it seems that my self created thoughts are not actually what is going to happen or “suppose to” happen. I find myself shoulding on myself far too often. But this time it happened to work in my favour.

I decided that the one way ticket to India will be the beginning of my journey for the next 5-10years without returning to Canada (this didn’t happen of course, more on this later). So I assumed that if I end up in a village somewhere they may not accept physical touch, so my massage therapy background may not be the most appropriate.

I signed up for a program to learn to be a teacher in English as Second Language. It seemed to be the “in” thing to do and pretty prevalent in almost every country.

I arrived to Kerela, and ended up staying with a couchsurfing host (a family of 4) for a month. They opened their hearts, home and cultural ways to me as though I was their daughter. I even bought and wore the traditional clothing my host made for me. I went to school for 3 weeks everyday and learnt to be a teacher. I never practiced what I learnt but through the experience I made a close friend, whom I stay in close contact with to this day. She is from Ireland and was the only other foreigner in the class with me, the rest were Indian and from all parts of the country. We spent plenty of time together and just her presence and the connection we made was worth it to me to have spent that much money, time and energy attending that school.

Kerela is beautiful and I’m thrilled that I ended up there, couchsurfing and the ESL course as the catalysts for me.

I stayed in an Ayurvedic outdoor retreat clinic place in the nature for 3 weeks after the course and received incredible treatments daily including oil massage, oil enemas, oil over the forward and abdomen, herbal treatments in all orfices of my body and yummy Indian food (which I later realized is not the healthiest as it’s overcooked. BUt at least I avoided the rice, potatoes, and bread (as I have for the past 3yrs in general, so the lack of gluey starch made the experience easier)

So with a little TLC (tender loving care) I continued to my next couchsurfer, a beautiful open, loving retired middle aged English man who I stayed with for 9 days in the middle of the jungle in his incredible mansion home among deer, peacock, birds, jaguars (nonvisible) and other wild life, villagers and incredible nature, close to Ooty and Mysore. Other couchsurfers joined us and we all had a blast. He remains a friend to this day.

India Part 2: My first 20hr Train Journey

After the wedding I made my way to the South in the province of Kerela.
The train in India is one of a kind. There are 3 classes. I stuck to the 3rd class for the first 3months of my stay in India and soaked up all its glory as best as I could.

There are 4 vinyl covered beds in each cabin, hanging on chains from the ceiling. The windows are bars (like in a jail cell funny enough), so actually they are not really windows. There is just enough room under the bottom bunk to fit my 90L back pack that I tend to pack right to the last cm of space. Like with any home, what the eyes see, the space makes room for and eventually the pack got smaller over the years. “Less is More”

The people I met are really what make the journey for me and of course the view. India is full of all flavours of nature and lack of nature. The grass feeding cows (if it’s not drought season, there’s actually grass), the mothers sitting on the dry edges of the roads breast feeding or holding their babies in one hand, with their other hand free to accept whatever charity someone will spare them. Empty and Full space, blue skies, hot sun, colours galore from the saris that fill the country, smells of spices and people relieving themselves in the middle of wherever. There are more people than toilets in India and relieving oneself in the middle of public view is not uncommon. At least their squatting position provides a healthy easy exit.

The rupee to Canadian Dollar 3 years ago was 44:1 so you can imagine what a few rupees for a local meant where as for me it was like financial freedom.
(I heard recently in 2013 what was once 20 rupees is now like 50-70 and that’s a lot for some locals, even for some budget travellers believe it or not: Like a plate of food)

Back to the train: So my first experience was about 20 hours long from Gujrat to Kerela and that’s including stops. Talk about learning patience, sometimes the train could stay in one spot for hours or days. I didn’t mind because it was my first time, the youth and energy still bright and abundant. I’ll admit I am slowly starting to get a little tired of these long journeys as I reach my mid 20’s. I no longer take luxury for granted and I accept if the opportunity is affordable and available, which it is more often than not as of these last 2 years. I experienced the darkness so to say, and now the light is abundant and I appreciate, oh and how!

I remember the locals on the train staring at me, most spoke English, ad all were friendly when some interaction was made. Husbands would offer me their wives’ home made roti and daal. I usually accepted most of what people offered me. It became a Universal tradition for me to do so and to offer as well. I noticed most people in open spaces are more open than those in closed spaces like cities (Duh! that’s an obvious observation, one becomes their environment)

Only as of after my India trip have I limited what I accept, as it’s usually food and not the “healthiest”. But I do appreciate the offer and do my best to keep my nose in my own business. As most do not understand I just keep it simple and say “I’m not hungry, or I don’t feel like it right now, but thank you anyway” and sometimes they push and force me to to take it and try it. I’ve noticed this in only a few cultures around the world and depending on what part of the country.

“Guests are God” is the motto of India and so it was never a surprise when I was offered a meal, invited to sit, eat or take something first, even the last available bed, it’s mine. In the beginning I’d argue and say no that’s ok, but soon realized it was an insult to not accept, so I just took it, putting my beliefs and customs aside. It’s important when traveling to keep one’s own beliefs and customs flexible and adaptable to the new environment and ways of life. It’s only temporary anyway, unless one marries into the family AH! It can be a challenge but it’s a fabulous way to settle the ego and learn to readapt the cells and it definitely helps with the growth and expansion of a being.

As if the train ride, being tedious and long as it was, wasn’t enough, let’s add a little frequent entertainment and reminder that food and drink are available almost every hour. During those 20 hours I must have heard the words “chai, roti, samosa” and a few others maybe 164 times if not more. People walk up and down the 3rd class cars repeating these offers and waking up many in the middle of the night. Apparently a 50mL cup of sugar with coffee (yes I mean it sugar with coffee, it’s really this sweet) at 2am is a popular requirement for some. I was and am grateful to this day for ear plugs.

Of course by the time we arrived to Kerela I was convinced that the destination was worth the journey and I’m thrilled that I didn’t and still don’t focus on the destination to anywhere, but rather enjoy the mystery of the journey unfolding. No expectations, maybe a little judgement at first, but eventually it becomes draining and judgement slowly slips away, and acceptance reveals its face. Hello acceptance! Hello Sacred Land! Hello Journey to the Unknown! I’m open to whatever you have to offer! I trust! I surrender! I’m yours to discover!

India Part 1: A traditional Wedding

Preparing for the wedding. Henna! First time I wore pink in almost 10 years.

The Bride’s Henna work took 7 hours to complete. Well worth it!

Wow! talk about a White Goddess in s traditional Indian attire! eh?

Stunning Goddesses from all over India gathered for this ceremony. Absolutely gorgeous attire.

Now this is what a call going all out with the whole shabang! White horses and a sparkling carriage. No pumpkin though. The final touch to a bright marriage

A few months before my departure, I began attracting a lot of Indian related energies around me, from massage clients, music, food, Hare Krishna, to the final sign that India was definitely ripe and ready to receive me to its holy land: when I noticed tons of billboards around Toronto for travel to India. How much louder could the signs be eh?
When I arrived, I wasn’t surprised by what presented in front of me. I was given a head’s up about what to potentially expect so it was rather exciting and like with all my adventures, I just went with the flow and let India guide me rather than vise versa (foreign territory for me physically), but familiar in the sense that I was traveling and I knew a lot about Indian culture thanks to friends, Toronto population, working in Indian restaurants, and participating in Hare Krishna events.
I was greeted at the airport by my couchsurfing host. http://www.couchsurfing.com is a website that lets people experience cultural exchange wherever they go, whether it be just to meet up for a meal, have a local show you around, stay for free in their home, and this way a cultural exchange can occur. In the 5 yrs of my travels, I’ve only had positive experiences. The references, profiles and my intuition make it an easier smoother journey and experience each time.
As I entered the home of my first host I was welcomed by his family but something unexpected and disturbing shocked me. My host had two 6 year old “servant” boys who jumped with terror when they saw me. I approached them to introduce myself as a polite guest of course but that only encouraged more fear. I soon found out that they had just left their village 3 weeks before my arrival, and I was the very first white person they’ve ever seen in their life. It was totally understandable why they treated me like an alien and after a few days they became less threatened and rather fond of me.
The boys’ parents were sick and couldn’t support them, so my host took them in to help support them, through work (cooking and cleaning) and monetary compensation was sent to their family. They were fed, clothed and sheltered, but still as they were “servants” they were to eat on the floor, and sit lower than the family. The cast system was still new to me at the time. At least the little boys were treated almost as family, rather than slaves and completely foreign.
The catalyst to my arrival in Dec 2009 rather than Jan 2010 was my friend’s wedding. Wow! was that ever an experience.
I was used to Indian traditions and culture from the age of 10 when I would frequently go over to my neighbours who would treat me as their daughter and invite me to all their home festivities. I was used to being the only white person and it was awesome and I absolutely loved it.
I adored the spicy samosas, daal, roti with butter, the sweets were my favourite (gulab jamam, kulfi, carrot halva, jelebee, etc.) and wearing the traditional Clothing. My neighbours were from the province of Punjab which is a little different than where I ended up for the wedding, Gujrat.
Talk about an experience. If you ever get the chance to attend a traditional Indian wedding, no matter where it takes place, do your best to make it happen! It’s really something special to experience.
THe whole process is fascinating, from the preparations before to the actual wedding, (the henna for the ladies was my fav, see the pics) and what leads afterwards.
The family is originally from Toronto, where I know them from, but it is not only cheaper to have a wedding in India but the amount of family they have, it just makes it so much easier and in a way “better” (maybe) to have it in India. Although the bride and groom only knew maybe 50 of the 1000 people there personally.
This is wear my initial exposure to what India was all about for me really simmered and revealed itself. Colours, spices, religion and Family.
Over 1000 people attended the wedding, again I was the only white person there and of course I loved it! Let me tell you! The traditional women’s dress called a “saree” looks just radiantly stunning on white women. It’s really something else. Actually, caucasians in general look amazing in it. I’ve seen some Spanish women with the long black hair, tanned skin and big almond green eyes and they look like they’re from Kashmir, as did I at this time. (I felt like I was in a Bollywood movie).
I danced, and I danced the way I know how (freestyle) so imagine a white woman in a saree dancing freestyle to Indian tunes… a recipe for laughter and fun beyond the traditional wedding.
The white horse, and sparkly carriage, the abundance of henna on all of the women, food, music, people and the lengthy ceremony. It reminded me a little of a Jewish wedding actually. What with the woman circling the man, glass being broken, and the “holy man” facilitating the ceremony through prayers and activations of the Gods to protect and join the two in matrimony. And remember there are 100’s if not 1000’s of Gods in the Indian tradition so you can imagine how lengthy this was. But fascinating and quite an honour for me to be present there.
I noticed it didn’t really matter how rich or poor someone was materialistically, when a woman even in the slums of India wears a saree, she looks like a Goddess, a queen, rich and powerful! The colours really excentuate and bring out the colours of vibrancy within. So the sarees of the women at this wedding, most middle class, were the most magnificent creations of sarees I’d ever seen. Like with most weddings, people go all out with their attire.
Most of the questions people would ask me at the wedding, especially the women, were “how’s the food? Do you like the food? What’s your favourite food here tonight? Do you like Indian food? How are you enjoying the food?”
Oh wow, Indian food, my favourite actually to this day, as per the flavours! It wasn’t the best Indian food I had that’s forsure, and for 1000 people I’m not surprised. The best food was with my couchsurfers from all over India during those 5months, but more on this later. There are 27 provinces in India and each has their own specialties and traditional ways of cooking. I was exposed to Gujrati food.
So that was how I started my journey. Gradually, I enriched myself with all of her glory and sacredness, for the land of India is truly like no other and definitely a place of growth and expansion took place in so many ways.