Sunday, December 1, 2013

Giving Thanks in India

Have I mentioned there are goats everywhere?

Yoga this morning, windows open to the sounds of thunder, crows, and a barking dog or two. The yoga center smelled of lemongrass, and when we walked in, I saw a little white cat sneak in from the street.

During class, my body leaned into the positions, happy to be practicing. I watched my monkey mind making lists, planning, scheming--while my sky mind relaxed and remained steady above all the chatter.

During final relaxation, my body started to buzz. Suddenly, with ease, I slipped outside myself and observed me from above. There I was, lying on the mat. There I was, hovering near the ceiling. I wasn't separated into two parts but had expanded into a vast version of me. Perhaps the experience I had during surgery--where I became aware of my body and spirit conversing--has strengthened my out-of-body-experience mojo. Or maybe it's just the magic of India.

On our walk home, we stopped at a cart where a vendor sells delicious pekoras. He wrapped the deep-fried potato, onion and herb balls in newspaper. Fifty rupees (about 80 cents) bought us a heap. We ate them on the warm and drizzly walk along the beach. We passed a bunch of guys playing cricket, cows hanging out, and motorcycles dodging dogs and kids and goats.

As is Karen and Widi's Sunday ritual, we gave the remaining pekoras to the guard at the front gate, who accepted them with a smile.


It was sweet to be back "home" in Chennai after a few days of travel. Over Thanksgiving, we went with Karen and Widi to Pondicherry, a couple hours south, for an amazing time at Dune Eco Resort and Spa.

This place is right on the Indian Ocean's Bay of Bengal. Our room was $111 a night (love those lucky ones!). It was a remarkable buy. Each "room" is really a cottage with a unique design. Ours was open air, with a palapa roof and outside wall for privacy. Surrounded by palm trees and lush vegetation, it was like luxurious camping in the middle of the rain forest. At night we were serenaded by crashing waves and insects and tropical birds.

Our room
Included in the price was a fantastic breakfast buffet. At the griddle they'll make you a dosa or omelette. They use eggs from the chickens that live on the premises. There are also cows; milk products (fabulous yogurt and milky drinks) are freshly made. Cow milking is one of the available afternoon activities!

There's an open-air yoga center, where we did yoga and an hour-long meditation. There's also an infinity pool with comfy lounge area, including day-beds tucked away under the trees close to the beach., which stretches for what looks like miles in both directions. The warm water was a joy to swim in.

With Karen in the Bay of Bengal

Hammock alternative

One of the best parts of the adventure was meeting Scott, his wife Tawan, and their as-adorable-as-they-come daughter Oceana, who's almost two. Before Dave and I came to India, Scott and I connected on Facebook. He's Karen and Widi's colleague, and through them he knew about my brain tumor. He, too, had a brain tumor and had to undergo not one craniotomy (like I did) but two.

When we finally met in person, I felt a special connection to him. He's a warm, gentle soul--and he's lived a fascinating life, having traveled and lived all over Asia. We all spent Thanksgiving together with dinner at the Dune open-air restaurant. I felt a poignancy wash over me as I reflected on the fragile, yet also resilient, beauty that is this life.

Scott, Oceana and Tawan

Outside of the resort, we explored other parts of Pondicherry. It's a picturesque, French-influenced beach town. Nearby is a unique community called Auroville, which is essentially a commune. The focus is on the arts and free-spirited education--as well as non-religious "concentration" (aka, meditation). They've built a striking three-story dome named Matrimandir--designed by a French architect--for group meditation. You can't just show up and walk in, however. We had to get passes in advance to be assigned an appointed day and time.

Not Logan's Run

First, our group of about fifty, was shown a film about the creation of Auroville and its visionary, a woman called The Mother. Then we were taken by various vehicles to the Matrimandir grounds. More waiting and orientation ensued. Finally we were led to the building. After removing our shoes and donning white socks, we walked up spiral ramps inside the impressively vast and quiet dome. Watching the people in front of me in flowing clothes move through this sci-fi-ish building brought to mind the dystopic film Logan's Run. With an eerie shudder, I briefly wondered if we'd been suckered into some kind of ritual group sacrifice.

But no, I lived to meditate on the dome's top floor before a shimmering crystal. I experienced a sense of floating. And I heard an inner voice remind me that this moment is perfect. Peace is where it's at. There's no need to try to wrangle things into being (are you listening monkey mind?).

So on the heels of these last few adventurous days, we are packing today for the next leg of our journey: Sri Lanka. Everyone we've met in India lights up when we mention Sri Lanka. They all love it--and so we are prepared to as well.


MaddieZ LBD said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
MaddieZ LBD said...

Hi Kate,
I really enjoy reading your travel posts. Keep having fun!