Destination: World Wonder; A Woman Traveling Alone in India
Several years ago, as a woman traveling solo in India, I found myself a bit remiss to alone for Thanksgiving, the favorite holy-day of my upbringing, usually being surrounded by my favorite autumn food, the bounty of the harvest and the gathering of friends and family in the spirit of gratitude and giving and a whole host of other family memories that, let’s just say, added depth to those feelings.
This year was different. I had been on a soul searching pilgrimage trekking through post earthquake Nepal, a life changing visit to Varanasi to commune with the Mother Ganga river at the holy Ghats and cremation sites where I released the last of my late five year old daughter’s ashes. I had finished my India tour off with a stay at Shantigiri, an ashram located in Kerala, where I stayed at the Ayurvedic institute. Although the greatest insight gleaned from this remarkable journey was there is no place like “OM”, and the true home IS within, with the Beloved, I still felt the all too familiar twinges and pangs of homesickness creeping in.
Before I left Nepal, when a worldly and wise Nepali friend heard about my trip to India, he recommended I make my way to Varanasi during Dewali. He suggested it would be ideal if there was any way I could visit the Taj during a full moon. In any case, the thought of a visit to the Taj Mahal had been a lifelong dream of mine since childhood and still seemed to be a mere pipe dream.
Low and behold, I ended up on Thanksgiving eve, dressed in my gifted white Kerala sari going to gaze at the Taj Mahal under the light of the full moon! She was remarkable, more a living breathing being than a mere temple or building. I call her by the feminine because she was the epitome of the divine in form and pulsing in a soft pink quartz hue under the moonlight. What a mystery and a miracle, her conception and construction! Of course She IS one of the seven wonders!!l
I barely slept in my excitement and woke up on Thanksgiving morning, alone in my hotel room, to perfect morning tea. I sipped my brew and settled into my morning spiritual practice. Tears of joy welled in my eyes and streamed down my face while I experienced an infusion of peace and bliss that I can only describe as pure love and Consciousness. Although I had read the words of sacred scripture many times before it was as if I was ingesting, integrating, living and becoming the truth of them for the first time. My soul truly fed as if satiated by the most sublime feast one could ever imbibe in. After floating into the actual dining room of the hotel, I savored the most fantastic traditional Indian spread of curries & dals, dosas, & chutneys I had ever wrapped my lips around. I was in bliss and could barely contain myself. And it just kept getting better.
The weather was perfect, I went into the garden, peeled off my shoes, stepped onto a perfect lawn of grass in a courtyard surrounded by tailored shaped hedges and rose bushes. I plugged in my headphones, tuned into and became absorbed in my music and started to dance. I whirled and twirled until tears streamed down my face in complete and utter bliss. I was pulled from my reverie when a lovely woman was standing there gazing at me. “What are you doing? This is so beautiful. You are so beautiful. What is this practice?”
“I am dancing. I am dancing with the Beloved. My practice is Surat Shabda Yoga, the sacred teachings of Light & Sound. This is an extension of my practice. I am practicing the presence of the Beloved.” Her name was Saran.
I would frequently choose my accommodations based on my accessibility to dancing, on the earth, especially barefoot on the grass and preferably in a garden, and today’s location was an added bonus I had not anticipated.
A lovely girl from the front desk came to my hotel room and dressed me in my custom made royal blue and gold threaded Varanasi silk sari for my Thanksgiving visit to the Taj Mahal. We talked about the various temples and many spiritual paths originating from Agra including Radha Soami. My driver came for me and as we were cruising along a beaten path, to wait in some very long lines of tourists, we were waived down by a coachman with a brightly painted horse drawn carriage who would deliver me to the closest gates of the Taj, for the “very best price”. I was delirious in happiness with the sound of the ringing bells and the clopping hooves as we breezed past throngs of people.
Many locals and tourists from all over the huge continent of Mother India alike were taken by my attire and wondering “Who on earth is this woman? Where are you from? Where is your husband? Where is your family? Why are you alone? What are you doing here by yourself?” It was not the first time while traveling alone in SE Asia this had come up. I have to admit, quite honestly, I had been asking myself these very questions. In my ego’s nostalgic fits and attempt to be able to place it’s finger on it’s identity, my own which was being stripped clean, as my luggage had been when it was stolen, along with most of my clothing. My main suitcase had been ripped off from a train in Italy a couple of months before. The main reason I had custom traditional clothing hand sewn for myself was for the ceremonies I was performing while in India while some young gypsy in Italy was rocking my favorite silk frocks, smart wool and designer yoga clothes, not to mention my bindis.
Intrigued people came up to me, young and old, with their cameras for ‘selfies’, family group shots and photo ops. It was as if I was a celebrity and at this point, my self-consciousness flew out the window because I was having too much fun at this grand reception of sorts. As we strolled past the great fountains of the front courtyards, my guide told me they had not been turned on in awhile nor did he know why they were not working. As if the events of this glorious day were not enough, when I walked up close to see the fountains, they sprung on spraying streaming arcs of water! I shrieked in awe and delight, dripping in bliss!
My life is a miracle. Every time my mind fools itself into some false belief of not being or having enough, some concept of separateness or just when I “think” of some limited condition, an inner sense of knowing stops these thoughts, capturing my attention. Soul swoops in, dancing with the Beloved, lifting and lofting my spirit up once again, spiraling in tune with the inner celestial sound. I have once again been given yet another glimpse of heaven while still kissing the earth, thanking my lucky stars for this great gift of life.