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Training For Enlightenment

by Jill Sockman

Every time I leave the guest house here in Dharamsala, it’s a climb up 166 stairs. If I go to a yoga class down the hill, that’s another 103. Most restaurants offer rooftop seating, so that’s another 30+ stairs each meal out. I suppose we go out a minimum of three times per day, so that’s a bare minimum of 500 stairs up and 500 stairs down each day. It’s no wonder then that you don’t see loads of husky Tibetans roaming the streets. At altitude, I feel like I’m in training for some enlightenment event: step by step, no end in sight, one foot in front of the other. Just. Keep. Going.

Trudging up the steps you can always smell the garbage that is strewn along from top to bottom mixed with the sweet, ever-present scent of incense. There are always dirty, friendly stray dogs along the way; yesterday there was a huge bull munching some garbage, waiting for us at the very top; this morning there were several goats a-roaming and a mongoose a-slinking. And always hawks circling overhead, content in their lot to ride the thermals, gliding round and round. About halfway up the hill on the other side from our guesthouse is a school for Tibetan children. If we time our outings just right, we get to see these adorable, smiling kids arriving or leaving, singing morning songs or shouting at noon recess. Even here, the home of the Dalai Lama, it is never quiet. The only peace you might find is on the inside, and that task is not any easier even here in the sacred Himalayan foothills. It is perhaps even more difficult as India has a way of breaking you down, cracking you open, revealing to you both the light and the darkness that live inside.

We are just past the halfway mark of the trip, and finally our feet are beneath us– ish. India is India: crazy, noisy, chaotic, beautiful, unmanageable, incomprehensible. It is nearly impossible to plan anything, and for certain when you do, something or everything will change. Most everyone has had at least a moment of stomach upset and most of us are dragging with a ubiquitous congestion and cough that most travellers here carry. But, relatively speaking, everyone is healthy. We’ve starred in countless family photos, been asked “What is your country?!?!?!” more times than we can count, have eaten amazing curries for $1 each, jumped into impromptu street kirtans, washed our feet in the Ganges, travelled all seven of us with five tickets on the night train, and made new friends all along the way.

We will be here a couple more days and then another crazy travel night back to Delhi and on to Agra. The adventure continues. Step by step, the journey unfolding.


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The Possibilities

by Anisha Desai Fraser

Over Memorial Day, my husband was taking me on a surprise adventure. The weekend started out pretty trying, with a six-hour drive filled with hail, strong winds and thunderstorms. The B&B was not as luxurious as he wanted, we felt isolated, and we thought it was going to pour rain all weekend. I immediately went to disappointment and sadness with this idea that “the weekend is ruined,” and my husband went into his own negativity, which was more of the same. We were set on leaving the next day to return home because it turned into something we were going to have to “get through.” The next day the sun came out, and we realized we were minutes away from this great mountain town with lots of outdoor adventures, and we ended up having one of the most perfect weekends filled with horseback riding, tubing and wine tours!

Lesson learned AGAIN: When I start judging without seeing the whole picture, I’m not open to all the possibilities that are really there, and that closing down jennifer aniston pokies can start attracting more of that negative energy. It begins with our thoughts and what we start believing is going to happen. As we were able to shift our attitude on the inside to even the possibility of something fun, the weekend took a turn, and we started attracting more and more romance and fun.

I know you’re probably wondering “what does this have to do with yoga?” Well, have you ever thought to yourself on the mat, “I can’t do this, I’ll never be able to, I’m just not like everyone else.?” I know I have. So what if you could take a step back on the inside in that moment on your mat and open to the possibility of you as a whole and what’s really there? What is another conversation you could have with yourself? It’s never about the pose, but what gets stirred while we’re in the pose. Sometimes we only see a situation in one way, and often it’s negative. It starts with our thoughts, and our thoughts create our reality.

From My Heart,

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Don’t Worry. I Got This.

by Suzanne Weiner

“Don’t worry, I got this.” Probably the best line in the middle of a story ever. On our recent retreat to the North Carolina mountains, lots of time was spent in storytelling. Yogi’s seem to excel at the art of the story, and this group in particular could be found laughing hysterically at all hours of the day and well into the night as we told each other the funny stories that have made us the people we are today.

The weekend started for many of us with a delicious lunch at Salsa in Asheville followed by a short drive up some very steep hills. We arrived at the naturally breezy and very simple Prama Institute. After unpacking, we settled down to plan the evening and have some tea. The weekend then proceeded to take on somewhat of a dreamy, nidra like quality. We had yoga, delicious food cooked by the very efficient Kyle, and lots of time to relax and unwind. The lodgings were simple but sufficient and made us feel like we were at the best summer camp for grown-ups. I think the two favorite desserts were the strawberry shortcake and the grilled peaches. To try to describe them using words would not do them justice, so I will simply use one letter … mmmmmmmmmmmmmmm.

So what about the yoga, you say? Well, Julee and Carrington led us through practices that were also yummy beyond my ability to put into words. A wonderful flow and stretch to get us grounded, a yoga nidra, a morning hip opening and chair yoga ( which REALLY kicked our butts – fear the chair dude, fear the chair!), a shoulder opening practice, and to round out the weekend, a chakra practice focusing on opening and channeling the energetic body…sigh…this was all a slice of heaven! The yoga was our anchor and helped to facilitate the unwinding of the chatter of the mind and find the absolute joy in being fully present and grateful in our beautiful surroundings. We all left the practice room the second evening, and after dinner simply sat and watched the fireflies in the garden. Does life get any better than that?

It is hard to believe we were there and together for less than three days. Maybe a two-day yoga retreat is really like a week-long vacation? Of course, the weekend was not without its hysterically absurd moments, and I think that is what made it all come together in the end. We knew we would have good yoga and good food, but the interactions with each other and the comfortable companionship we shared so quickly was the bonus. Some highlights include: Sophie “pushing” a car up the mountain – with two or three fingers no less; Carrington experiencing some water snake action ( Kyle told us it was a poisonous snake and we all shrieked in appropriate horror. I have since researched that there is only one poisonous water snake in North America – the Cottonmouth Water Moccasin – and I am not sure this was one of those, BUT Kyle was a good cook so he probably knows best); when our Asheville day trippers brought us back chocolate; and one member of the group’s insistence that every person we encountered was up to no good and trying to kidnap us. (You can NEVER be too careful!)

If you were not lucky enough to retreat to the mountains, rest assured, another trip will be forthcoming this Autumn, October 14-16.

See you there!