Today is the first day of spring here and is a day where they worship Saraswati. Saraswati is the Goddess of arts and literature and I believe Craig taught us that she is the goddess we pray to for inspiration. Our group spent the morning involved in an elaborate puja(Worship ceremony) for Saraswati at a local ashram. It long and was quite intense in a lot of ways and I was left feeling such equanimity and clarity that it made it all worth it.
Following the ritual we ate a fabulous lunch at the ashram cooked by the head honcho of said ashram- a dread locked, ash-smeared Baba with a very dynamic personality. Quite a scene, all in all. We walked back to our hotel and since we have a few moments of free tie before venturing back out, I am taking some time to catch up on the internet.
Yesterday, we went to some local museums and temples which was really interesting. One temple was a Shiva Temple and the other was a Hanuman Temple, complete with lots of monkeys milling about. We ate a great meal and went to a talk at Marc Dukowksy's place. He gave a great introductory talk on yoga and he even taught us a great pranayama technique. Some folks stayed for a sitar concert but I went home to go to bed. As interested as I was in the talk, I was really fighting sleep the whole time and so I opted out of the music.
It is always wild being in India because it is a place like no other place. It is confrontational, beautiful, disgusting, peaceful, chaotic and so on. I can watch everyone in the group- all of who are first time India go-ers run through the rainbow of reactions and responses typical to the experience of being in India. It is not an easy place to be. I think it is worthwhile, but that does not mean easy. And really, there is a balance to strike as a leader about how much activity and how much down time and how much alone time and how much processing time to provide. So far everyone seems to be having a pretty good time and working with the difficulties associated with being in a country like India. It is definitely a bonding experience!
This is my third trip here and I think each time I come I feel less apologetic about being a Westerner and less fascinated by India, in a way. I love it for so many reason here. And yet, I see how awesome it is to live where we live and to have the freedoms and resources we enjoy. So my gratitude is high right now and yet, the energy of the place is quite strong.
Varanasi is considered a holy city here. Among Shiva devotees, it is considered an auspicious place to die. They believe that if you die here you are liberated from the cycle of death and rebirth. Lot of cremations going on by the Ganges and so on. Really it is a magical kind of place. My morning practices ahve been particulary strong and inspiring so perhaps the legends are true...
Off to do a little shopping...