Thanks for Visiting

Welcome to Mark's Mystical Musings. In this blog I will share my reflections upon my moments of living. I am coming from a new thought perspective that celebrates our personal and unique magnificence and beautiful journey. I follow that our moments are guideposts and opportunities to learn and evolve. Everything has information and meaning. I invite you to reflect upon my musings.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Feathered Pipe Ranch Helena, Montana... June 30, 2012

Something very special is about to happen…

Music is a powerful medium that impacts all of the energy bodies. Its vibrations and rhythms directly influence the physical down to the cellular level. Conscious application of pitch/frequency can intentionally affect a specific chakra or even an organ, bringing them back to resonance and health. Utilizing sound tools or even the voice can alter the brain waves to influence the state of peace, awareness, and activity. In other words, music is much more than just something to sing or dance to, though both are delightful and powerful elements to regularly drink in.

I am versed in creating music with intention to alter the vibration of an experience. At Feathered Pipe Ranch in Helena, Montana, starting on June 30, a unique pairing of yoga and music will invite participants to immerse themselves in a brand new world, a spontaneous cellular dance of intentional movement, release, and expansion. You are in for something that has not occurred in this form before. Applying music and song to specifically amplify yoga postures will undoubtedly lead to new vistas, deeper levels of clarity and, likely, profound releases of energetic debris held within body tissues. And this will occur in a beautiful setting aligned in all ways to support a safe journey for each precious individual committed to a full life.

This will be a spontaneous, improvisational journey that will ride the expert and inspired skills of Master Yoga practioner, Baxter Bell, MD…a delightful dance of balance, surrender, and rediscovery. We both follow guidance and trust to accept and act upon what the moment has to offer. Your energies, as a participant, will have a powerful influence on the collective vibration. From that creative chi we will draw inspiration to provide the forms necessary for us to flow in the most fertile channels to open us all to the greater truth of our being.

It is a bit of a folly to describe something that has yet to be experienced. But the guidance is playing with words to stir your cells into anticipation of something you are being called to join…an adventure. At my disposal, I have a bag full of intentional songs, chants, mantras, proclamations, rhythms, dances, movements, activities, sounds, and play. With guitar, voice, rattles, drums, bells, bowls, electronic sounds, synthesizer, we will partake in a sound wash fit only for our ears, hearts, and souls during this dynamic seven day chataqua. We will sing and sound and chant and move and explore the voice and its power to deliver us into the places where we belong. Grounded in regular yoga sessions we will breathe in and out…yoga and music, music and yoga…intertwined, interwoven, yet fully independent of one another.

You are the common element here…the true purpose of this long intended pairing of diverse paths. It is no accident that Baxter and I have been brought to these grounds to co create. We each have a history of showing up to the call without hesitation.  I believe you do too…Come and allow yourself to fully participate in a multi-dimensional expansion of you. Your vibration will rise and you will leave behind, on the Feathered Pipe earth, all that no longer serves you on any level. Have you wondered about these times? Have you wondered what it will take to clear, once and for all, those annoying and disempowering patterns that keep pulling you back? It’s all vibration…and vibration can be channeled into manifesting glory. And we all are born to manifest the glory. Let’s do it together…

Join us and get centered, get balanced, get inspired, get relaxed, get clear, get light, get going…get on with it. There has never been a better time to be on this earth. We have all incarnated to remember who we are. We are going to have a joy-filled, grand adventure remembering that at Feathered Pipe Ranch from June 30 to July 6, 2012. This is your invitation…this is your call…

Endless blessings…mark stanton welch


Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Return to Feathered Pipe

(moments of reflection as I prepare to return on June 30, 2012 for a Feathered Pipe event, The Music of Yoga, The Yoga of Music, with Baxter Bell, MD)

I had been to Montana once before, ten days in Missoula, performing a concert for a previous Unity minister from my home church in San Luis Obispo, California. I loved the vibration there. I felt expansive in the Big Sky country…yes, the sky does seem larger up there, bluer too. I got to experience my first sweat lodge out in the mountains by a creek with two other neophytes…powerful and opening. I learned quickly that the fresh cool air was close to the ground. I spent increasing amounts of time hugging the Earth. I can still smell it on that Fall day, with leaves of a host of deciduous trees bursting in flames of lower chakra colors, puffy white cumulous clouds moving like a herd of buffalo across the wide open plains of the sky. It was a stunning experience. I even wrote a song, No Matter What (I’ll Be OK), on my journey there. I’m in Montana every time I sing it.
Now move way down the road of time and experience and here I am arriving, in the early 2000’s, at a place previously unknown to me, the Feathered Pipe Ranch, to participate in a 5 day workshop with my longtime associate, Hay House Author, Sonia Choquette. Also there was our friend and shaman, Deborah Grace. As I wound up the road in the car I could feel the place from a good distance away. This was sacred land, high vibration, steeped in mountainous beauty, awash with that same big, blue expanse of sky, and clothed in a sea of green leafed trees of all shapes and sizes. Yes, it was familiar, but there was a deeper sense of knowing that poured forth from that plot of magnificence in the north. There was a growing sense of coming home.

Feathered Pipe is an invitation to grow inwardly and express outwardly. The grounds call for more from anyone there. They pull the old out of you, almost forcing you to remember that you are far beyond what you thought you were. And this happens regardless of the event you are attending, like a bonus for showing up. I like that…a celebration for simply being alive and choosing to follow an impulse to say “yes” to an invitation.

The lodge overlooks the lake like a mother hen, keeping watch on all the trees and wildlife, tending the garden of plenty. A sweeping descending grassy expanse moves from the lodge down to the lake. It is the perfect siesta spot, the ideal observation point for endless Polaroid moments, the amphitheater for the stunning show of the heavenly night sky. There are teepees peppering the vista. A rope swing, filled with playful memories is to the far left at the edge of the sizable pond/lake. The waters just below the swing are the keeper of a pair of glasses of mine, deposited when in a playful frolic with the group, I threw myself onto the rope swing to go the highest…only to quickly lose my grip and slide ungracefully into the cold waiting waters…much to the shock of the class. “We killed the teacher!”, I heard through the mighty splash. Good times build memories that nurture and elevate.

The accommodations are that just right blend of rustic and comfortable and cozy. The room was warm and the bed was Goldilock’s right. Well earned sleep after the movement and growth of the day’s activities. The group’s personal needs were well cared for. Everyone always arrived at the morning’s events with sparkle and anticipation, a tribute to Feathered Pipe’s ability to nurture. Which brings me to the inner lodge where the bulk of classes and activities took place. I love it when the room ambiance and functionality changes based on the need. There was something about having a deep experience and then rearranging the furniture to create a place to break bread and deepen the connection. Helping and supporting built a tight community quickly.

The wood and western flavor of the room back then really supported the inner work. A Native American flavor also invited us to reclaim our inner heritage and immerse in the collective tribe we had created. The music I created felt especially powerful in that room. It resonated through the wood and easily found hearts open to expanding. When, at night, we stoked the fireplace, we effortlessly slid into another dimension of time and space and tapped our roots and crossed self imposed boundaries of old to reclaim a wild part of ourselves. Then when it all wound down, we often just hung out and sang together, unwilling to let the peak experiences slip away too soon.
And there was a sauna and a sweat lodge and a whole bunch of yurts on the hillside, amidst a panorama of dancing Tibetan prayer flags. The land was diverse and spoke many languages to the inner places of the participants. With ample room to wander it was easy and rewarding to slip off during the breaks to massage and heal the old energies that were releasing. And, I just found out there is a cave that we never visited, a step into the ancient heritage of the Pipe…and we get to go there for a deepening experience this time!

Though I have only been there once I still recall it with vivid visceral memory. It is impactful and nourishing. Feathered Pipe supports the unique and personal frequency of the participant. It demands that we show up to ourselves, willing or not. It is, honestly, the perfect place to return home.

The event I am helping to facilitate is called, The Music of Yoga, The Yoga of Music. It is a pairing of two disciplines coming from the same source, but with very different expressions. I will bring and apply my experience with sound and voice and song and chant and mantra and movement to support the openings and releases and alignments brought forth by the daily Yoga. Baxter Bell, MD, and I will facilitate separate sessions and then combine, often spontaneously, to create the perfect experience for the expanding vibration of all those involved. I am so excited to see what Spirit will bring, what gifts will spring forth from the oscillating frequencies of the collective moment.

If you are hearing the call of these rapidly changing times to return to the magnificence of your True Self, this experience has your name on it. Combining a clear and deep connection with the physical with the very fabric of existence, sound, is guaranteed to build new worlds and open channels to take us where we belong. Answer the call and explore the depths of your inner world in a cutting edge way, leading you quickly to a wide open experience of life that will simply not diminish. It is time.  

Visit or call 406.442.8196 for more information and to register.
Wani Wachialo Wani Wachialo Wakan katanka Wakan Katanka  (unite Heaven and Earth in the I that is me)
Endless Blessings,
Mark Stanton Welch

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Udaipur and the Palace

I really appreciate the flow of this trip. Everything seemed to show itself at just the right time and place. Devi Garh had provided us the perfect digs to recover from Varanasi. So, even though most of us were beginning to feel the call of home, we were ready for some new adventures when we boarded the bus for the one hour ride through the countryside to Udaipur and the waiting Leela Palace.

The countryside is hilly, sizable hillocks that could be classified as mountains in some locales. The land is rocky with a variety of vegetation. It is agricultural as well, so we wound through the fields of green growing ?, lush with the spatterings of robes on a stick (scarecrows) dancing in the breeze. The two lane road was fairly void of traffic and people, so a rural experience was delightful, reminding me of what I think Greece will be like when some day I visit her. Even saw a few herds of goats, being shepherded by two women in bright robes along the road. Interestingly, there are no billboards on the biway, rather, entire houses are painted as an advertisement, like Vodophone, and India Oil, and Coca Cola. Curious....and stucco walls are actually partitioned off to include local advertisements, reminding me of the outfield wall of the semi-pro baseball stadium in San Luis Obispo, or in countless other American towns...can you say homesick?

It was the first place, since high up in Ananda, where we saw consistent blue sky, void of smoke and pollution. The spattering of whispy clouds gave no clue that the monsoons are starting to enter the consciousness of the locals. It was a lovely ride. I made a game out of watching the trucks that passed on the right. In India, the trucks that carry stuff are all gaily painted and decorated with spiritual paraphanalia. Every front is different...some have the eyes of Shiva on them...some the backwards swatiskas (a traditional ancient symbol in these parts)...some even sport ribbons on the mirrors...most have an altar of some sort on the dashboard. Remember how I reported that spirituality was a way of life here...the truckers definitely had that going...and with the way they drove here, I can understand calling in some heavier, mightier support... down the twisting mountain road we traced our steps back to the road from the airport, this time turning right and heading for Udaipur.

As we touched the outskirts of the city we caught our first glimpse of the marble industry's presence...a large, visible showground of the stone of many colors. Turning onto the street of the marble quarry, we entered a lengthy display of business after business peddling marble. They were of all sizes and shapes, the stores that is. Right next to an acre-sized business, there was the mom and pop marble store, offering all of 5 pieces. It was amazing as there must have been a hundred different ones over a five mile stretch. Thinking back to the Devi Gahr palace that was all marble, I can bet they got a good price when they built the thing. The marble business slowly gave way to the smaller shops that supported the lives of the people and then we were into the city of Udaipur. The now familiar din of moving vehicles and horns demanding passage now flooded our rural reverie. Winding through the city scene of shops, storekeepers, patrons, beggars, dogs, cows, motorcycles, cars, sadhus, we made our way to a lake, fairly large and picturesque. The bus dropped us off at a small walkway that descended down to a canopied dock. Our guide informed us that a boat would be there momentarily. I must say it felt so good to be around the water. Looking out over the sizable scene revealed some large buildings rising right out of Lake Pichola, as it was named. The whole panorama was  framed by the beautiful Aravoli Mountains in the distance. There was a smooth, peaceful vibration about the whole picture before us. Looking out over the water we could see the water taxi approaching, with the uniformed driver and attendant readying the boat for docking.

The people of India are a beautiful people, attractive faces, dark skin and hair, and a, generally joyful, honoring demeanor. Sure these men worked at the hotel, but i have been at some pretty nice places where the help did not give much attention to the guests. Here there was an overflow of nice...and sometimes, its nice to be niced up, if you know what I mean, especially after the flow of all we have been through. The dashing burgundy uniforms, the white turbans, and the finely manicured facial hair gave the smiles and slight nod of the head an accentuated pleasantry. Off we went across the water, towards the Leela, which had yet to reveal itself. Passing three different sizable hotels of varying grandeur, we turned toward another glistening structure looming out of the water before oh my!

Now, I have been in some mighty fine hotels in my time, and I have even stayed in the Motel 6 in Needles, California...let's just say I have had a wide variety of experience. The Leela opened just last year. It is a part of a chain of  luxury hotels throughout India. They have done their homework. From the dock upon which we landed, it was obvious this was a place to behold and experience. Wide eyed and mouth agape, I crossed through the metal detector into an open area when the harmonium and tabla duo kicked in their song of greeting. Thus far we had grown accustomed to each hotel's personal touch greeting, from a line of servants giving malas, to rose petals from above, to fanfare, to a chant with beads and a kiss on the cheek...all unique, and all letting us know that we were welcome and that they were glad we had chosen the place...bit different than most other places I have stayed in, including that Motel 6.

It was a stroke of gemius to give us this kind of a place in which to spend the last three days of our India sojourn. It was the perfect place from which to sit in the beautiful room or on the balcony overlooking the lake or in any of the on site special nooks inside and outside, and reflect on all that had come and gone since landing in India on December 20th. The best for last...

Our wing had a man assigned to it to make sure our every need was met. Ashish was his name, and with a small crew he did just that. Everytime I opened the door, no matter the hour, he appeared with a smile and a desire to do something for me. He would even stroll with me to the elevator to make sure the button was I am a do it myself guy...but, you know, sometimes it is great to be doted upon, even if it is for a good recommendation at the end.

Aaah...relax and enjoy...great bathroom, shower and sunken tub....comfy beds, except they have those sheet comfortor combos that do not really accomodate the person like me who gets too hot and only needs a sheet...bitch and moan...assortment of chocolates and a supply of bottled Himalayan on in the background, internet, dinner in an hour...lay back and let go...when suddenly I hear a loud voice from outside the open balcony window, speaking in is the Islamic Call to Prayer, happens five times a day and goes for about 5 minutes each time. Cool, but why is he on a PA system at distortion volume? Later we find out that there is some struggle with the volume amongst the Hindu population...said it was a special privilege because they were a minority...despite all that it was beautiful...another act of devotion to an ongoing way of life.

After dinner we witness a solo dancer with a small combo of harmonium, tabla, and sitar performing in a beautiful open aired black and white, geometrically adorned stage area. The music was classic and the dance was's all in the hips and the eyes. Half way through, most of the party leaves, but Debra and I stay. I am recording the music and half thinking the dancer keeps looking at me...a brief fantasy and then the woman finishes her dance...she motions in my direction...but it is for Debra...she had acknowledged her and now was being invited to share the last dance. The music kicks in and there they go...Debra does a great job keeping up...hips going in all directions...the music pulses...and the diminutive crowd of four go wild...sweet moment of culture and inclusion...

I check out the stage the following morning and it has become a fountain, water flowing from the center pulsing circles out to bubble over the sides...nice design...pigeons drink and dance to faint strains of last night's music...I grab my recorder and record the ambiance...7 minutes will make a great background for something later on...lovely, and meditative too!

It's on to the boat and to the waiting bus for a ride to the city palace...for the shopping bug has swept through the group...last minute presents for self and others. We hop off the bus early because some in the party remember the back way into the palace shopping area...or so they thought. Narrow street, single file, near misses, frustration, words exchanged, turn around, walk back to where the bus let us off, ask directions, find that the bus was headed there...sigh...walk...walk...up the long hill to the palace going in, just, rugs, clothing...nothing, yet...out the palace gate into the city streets...instant change of energy and shops....there's a place where we got that statue...down some stairs....that's not it...hey...back here....turn around and head down the stairs around the curve into an doorway that leads to a doorway that opens to a courtyard with statuary that leads to another door...yeah, this is it...wall to wall scarves and shawls...cashmire, pashmira, silk, cheap...take your men helping...try this...this...good quality...this...better quality...the piles grow...opened stashes of scarves litter the much...what's the rule, again?...start with 60% and work back up...but we all are buying...better deal...rupies or dollars? does this look?....not my color but it will work with______...40 minutes, 6 scarves: 3 pashmira, 3 cashmire $200 US each...pashmira feels pretty good....done...get me out of here...onto the street...people and pushing and begging and beeping and smoking and noise...sigh....thoughts return to Leela and the room....walk back...2 miles to the boat...past the camel rides and the pairs of men parked on the motorcycles and the sugar cane crushing vendors and the samosa carts and the cows and the mothers with babies...with that soft voice and the sad eyes and the hand out...street still after the other.

Somewhere back while overnighting in Delhi we were scheduled to go out for an Indian food cooking class...we were wiped out and thus, cancelled...well, here in Udaipur, we get another chance and we set off for that adventure in the late afternoon, arriving at a home an hour later. This home was a part of a compound that housed 25 people, mostly employees of the family that was presenting the class and the meal. The man, his wife, and their son are all world class cooks. He, having been the right hand man to the king, is a treasure trove of stories about life in that lane. She, a quiet woman, does most of the cooking demonstration. Of course, she teaches us to make and tasty. A beautiful blend of spice and flavor that makes maximum use of the taste buds. And then, white when we said that, you know what we meant, breast meat, not the thighs, back and legs...problem in translation...she takes it to mean WHITE out comes this exotic sauce that guessed it, white...put into a pressure cooker with a bunch of bony chicken parts...ha! ended up tasting very good at the meal a little later. After the demonstration, we retired to the main feast room where 12 dishes were laid out, having been prepped and prepared since earlier that morning. Truth is, the food was magnificent, made with love and knowledge and hand picked ingredients. All the dishes tasted unique and blended well together. And some were outrageously good...some stuffed eggplant and another chicken dish....mmmm...delightful evening for all. What a treat. I still won't be eating Indian food for awhile, but when I do, I will think of this family and the love that infused those dreamy dishes...

Now for some reason I am reminded of our first guide in Udaipur, good looking man with a manageble accent. All the guides wear casual jackets, just a size too small, colorful shirts with a scarf. Their hair is usually reflective of some George Michael video...hinting towards mullet. The style is everywhere on the men of means...amusing...the minute he got on the bus he started talking about the people he had been a guide for...and it moved to a talk about a famous wedding and then onto his wedding. He had been betrothed by family decision to wed a young woman he had never met. They were allowed chaparoned visits of limited time to get to know one another. Both shy, their time together was pretty quiet...but the wedding came as planned. Everyone that knows the families are invited....the guest list can easily range in the hundreds and even, the thousands. These are lavish 4 day affairs where all participate. It is, as he said, one big Bollywood video. Now there is an image....what is curious though, is that we found out later via the internet that there is a crises in India where a growing number of the female babies are being aborted because of the concern over the eventual cost of the dowry and the wedding can imagine a 4 day food orgy for a thousand would require a bundle of cash...Las Vegas can be a very attractive the way, 16 years later, the couple is  still together.

On our last day in India, we decided one more trip to town to visit the Shiva temple and buy some last minute trinkets was in order. And one in the party was looking for some of the hand painted deity prints popular during the 1930's. He had had some luck the day before, but his appetite was still there for more. 7 of us went, and this time instead of the boat ride, we snuck out the back gate and caught several of the putt-putts, the quasi motorized rickshaws, to take us down the winding back streets to the shops....50 rupees each...such a deal. wheeeee....wheeeee...wheeee....all the way to the city square. The temple was there with its towering white structure adorned with intricate carvings of Hanuman and Shiva and others...eventually we would partake, but for now, let's get shopping. Some deity stickers look great on the suitcase or as gifts to 20 year old daughters...check...a colorful cloth will be great for setting singing bowls on during workshops ...check...that prayer wheel would be useful as a tool for workshop participants...but, geez, so many to choose gfrom....look at this silver one with the inlay...high quality, says the vendor...high quality made from yak bone...very powerful...thousand rupees...six hundred...nine hundred...six fifty...750...7...sold...high quality...I get this...

We find our way to a shop down a street because it was supposed to have the prints...and boy, does it. So, for the next hour plus, we watch a delightful, knowledgeable shopkeeper bring out the treasures. And where only one of the party was interested before, suddenly the parade of painted product stirs the interest of others...they are beautiful, but I find that I am not, I wander and look at the jaguar hide chair with the paw arms on it...the intricate ivory carvings of familiar Hindu Deities...the Bollywood antique movie posters...the endless sea of statuary...the many things that look great in the store but will be, "what was I thinking?!", when one gets I take pictures and eventually find my way outside to watch the river of people flow by. Foreigners and locals all with a place to go...brought together in this moment for this rendevous in time...for what purpose? we all showed up and now are free to go about our lives, one less requirement. A cow saunters through, narrowly missed by an aggressive youth on the motorcycle...beep, beep...the cow pays no attention... A man on a flat board moves by, legs cut off at the hip, now with flat boards on his hands to act as accelerators and brakes as he navigates the moguled street...the remarkable dance of humanity in its, oh, so many, click, click goes the Canon...memories burned into the Sdisk...into the brain...stories of a life opened up...surely not in Kansas more reminder of a choice made long ago...I think I will incarnate in California...I am moved by this technicolor exposure to life unknown before...many are so moved that they drop everything and come back to live...that is not me..the Pacific Ocean at the end of the day waiting with open arms to cradle the sun to that is the life I resonate with...thank you, India...strains of Alanis Morrisette slip out of some container in my grey matter...

A trip up the steep stairs past the hopeful glances of the photo-op minded Holy Men Sadhus and into the intricately adorned display of devotion and delight...a sense feast for the eyes. Devotees in stocking and bare feet in various degrees of homage and prostration give a soundtrack to the scene. I am moved by people showing self consciousness...letting their version of spirit speak and display spontaneously. My mind drifts, as I circle the temple, to my own practice, my stuttering connections to the inner and outer God, sometimes sandwiched between my current stack of projects...note to self, integrate, grasshopper, there must be room for spirit...

The putt-putt beckons as my last look at these littered streets that have expanded my being now fade into the din of dust and is time to go home and see how India will color my moments in the familiar. I smile and strains of the Buddhist hymn at Bhoudhanath swell...Om Mane Padme Hum...and the credits of gratitude begin to roll. Fare thee well...

Saturday, January 7, 2012

The Body Adjusts and Refuge in Devi Ghar

The body is so resilient and adaptable. When the immune system is tended and nurtured then most challenges will be dealt with in the manner of the design. But travel creates stress...and stress taxes the immune system. That's when stuff can happen. The stress of travel comes in the form of changes in routine, changes in time zones and sleep patterns, changes in eating, exposure to new people and regional energies, excess expenditures of energy, experiencing new energies, emotional issues from schedules to stimulation by the sights and sounds of the area visited...on and on it goes.

I rarely get any sickness, and when I do, I look to how I have not taken care of my basic nurturing needs. I have had some temporary challenges on this long Indian adventure. The first was learning how to use the water. Bottled water is what travelers use. I did brush my teeth with tap water in the hotel on the first day before I was reminded. But it was the spicy Indian food that took its toll first. The digestive system is very sensitive. Now, I like spice and flavor...but everything had something in it that was not my normal diet. Needless to say the rumblings came quickly. But it was just a day's worth and nothing that compromised me. I have to say that the places where we stayed all had good food with options... and I trusted their kitchens and staff.

I was adjusting well until we came to Varanasi. This, like so many Indian cities, is a smokey city. But the smoke here has the added element of the crematoriums. When we first took to the streets on New Year's Eve there were millions of people afoot. The dust was visible and palpable. Within the first hour I noticed some throat irritation. I brought along emergencyC and a really good multivitamin so my system was maintaining. But when you throw in the emotional and spiritual elements of Varanasi, the system has trouble keeping up. It was mild at first and really did not kick in until we left and arrived in Delhi for an overnight before our two days at Devi Ghar.

I was fine through dinner and even when we danced the Zorba the Greek thing down the halls of the Imperial, all was just fine. But when I got back to the room I noticed an intensification of post nasal drip. Within an hour it had reached the lower throat and the throat chakra with a strong burn. An hour later it was effecting the lungs. Now I have had what I call cleanses before, but this moved so fast. It kind of told me that there was an energetic cleansing of deeper levels occuring. Needless to say, it was intense. Visions of spending the rest of my trip in bed appeared...stop it! Antibiotics to the rescue. The seasoned traveler carries whet is needed to meet the unexpected...and some potent antibiotics are a necessity. Except that I do not use them or even think of them, so I had none...enter room mate..and a 10 tab dose of CPro...of course, I will take them. Plop, plop, fizz fizz...

By morning I had turned the corner and, though I had a meaty cough, the sore throat was gone and things were softening...aaaah...But from that point on, someone in the group, at some time, had something. Let's just say that the challenges/stressors were catching up.

Onto the Lake Region of Udaipur to a secluded old palace on a hill overlooking a small support village. This place was just what was needed for us all. The lake region provided some energetic elements that were appreciated right away. There was water and there were mountains. These combined to create a topography pleasing to the eye and an energy that was soothing and revitalizing. It was the perfect prescription for intensity of Varanasi. And we all took advantage of the care offered in the marbled rooms with views that cleansed any left over vibrations. Arrival day was just acclimating and moving in...creating personal space. Drinks and dinner and reflection on the trip thus far brought us back to a good mood that accompanied us to sleep. The following day was the lost day when each is left to their own process of reflection and rest and task. It helped so much...I wandered the grounds and took a bunch of pictures as this place had so many angles and doors and walls and views and fountains and shadows and stairs...still life heaven. Later that day we had a ball shooting a spontaneous video of Americans at play. Look for it online down the road. There really wasn't even much interest going into the village. We just wanted to play like royalty and spend time behind the walls recuperating and gathering energy. It was easy to simply find a seat with a view and watch the rural world go by...

And, by the way, there was a noticeable absence of motorcycles and horns and hustle and annoyance. That is one of the things that made this place so peaceful and nurturing. The body's adaptability makes it hard to know the impact of something until it is gone. The motorcycles and horns and near misses were beyond annoying...and now, they were gone. Praise Allah!

This is a short entry. I am a day or so behind in my entries. We are actually on our last morning in India. I fly out tonight and will set foot in Newark 15 hours later. Then a short 6 hours to Los Angeles and my waiting car and I am back in what may be termed my "real world". I am interested to see how I shall be when I get behind the wheel. I have not used a cell phone in 20 days...more on this later.

I shall include pictures when I get home and can go through the thousands. I shall make one more entry regarding India itself when I talk about 3 days In Udaipur...probably be written during the flight home. Then I shall add a final entry about the re-entry into my home life in Cambria, California.

Let's just say that when we left the nurturing high walls of Devi Ghar, many of us had reached the realization that it was time to go home...but what we experienced as the bus pulled us up to the dock to go the the Leela Palace was completely unexpected.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Varanasi, the Oldest City

From the mountains to the plains where the Ganga G meanders through timeless switchbacks precipitated by the gravity and flow of waters swollen from the monsoons and melting ice packs in the Himalayas, we descend. Hoping to catch sight, on this clearer day, of the jagged peaks that touch the feet of Vishnu, we board the plane for Varanasi on this New Year’s Eve Day. I reflect on how, so many times on this very day, I would be leading the 4 AM Peace Ceremony at the Unity Church in San Luis Obispo, California. Singing songs about the unification of peoples and the tending of the inner garden to create an open-hearted footprint of love wherever we go, these ceremonies reminded us for a period of time that we could be different in this world. Well, here I am on the eve of 2012, actually in the arms of the world in a way I had never even anticipated. Through the annoyance of serious security and a slow moving process in the airports, I intend to keep my inner place of peace. Pushing the river, even for Americans, is a fruitless process.
The plane takes off and I am ready with camera for the parade of the peaks. It soon becomes obvious, however, that we are not paralleling them back to Delhi, but, rather, heading in the opposite direction toward the oldest city in the world, Varanasi....damn, it is hard to corral my disappointment. But, being the peacemaker today, I breathe into the moment and remember, “Peace will fill the world when we finally understand, that only from within can it be spread throughout the land, every single person living peace in what we do, only then will our dream come true...”. For now, I retain my gentle flow...and the spires fade into the distance.
Now, Varanasi is a fabled city, oozing with history and mystery and intrigue. To say it is an old city does not honor its lineage. Surely, in 13,000 years things have been rebuilt. But, I will say that there are some that look the part and, if these walls could speak, there would be a storytelling that would transcend generations without any repetition. We landed at the newly built silver hued airport and went through a meticulous security and customs process again. After so many of these, there is no longer any trepidation, just acceptance that it will take time. The Mystic India rep walked us to the waiting bus for the 45 minute ride into the waiting one-of-a-kind experience that was looming in the diminishing light.
A fine hotel afforded us the safety and separation from the 2.5 million people who were sure to be out on this day of ringing in the new. After a quick refresh, we were introduced to our guide, Dr. Shailesh Tripathi, a smokey voiced Brahman priest who was well educated in anthropology and history and the mystic arts. He proved to be entertaining, knowledgeable, colorful, and connected...he knew everyone on the streets and got things done by a quick call. We were in good hands. He had stories and knew how to use them...and he had a laugh that was just like The Count in Sesame Street, only deeper and washed with a hundred thousand cigarettes...Tom Waits-like, if you know what I mean.
We hopped in two cars and headed down the street, increasingly awash with the flood of revelers. Now i have never seen the locusts when they swarm...but there was something about this ever-flowing sea of humanity that was mind-numbing, incessant overwhelming, just too much... The descending darkness added to the mystery and the growing level of adventure. Down the streets we move, the deep throated voice of Shailesh greeting the locals, a hushed conversation off to the arrangement and then a one minute dissertation on the building to the left...through the increasingly animated streets we passed building after building and beggar after beggar and vendor after vendor and tourist after tourist and sadhu after sadhu....moving at a pace set by the oscillating congestion of the animated mass...toward the river...
Varanasi is a city that serves a purpose beyond trade and history. It is where people come to die. Knowing their days are numbered they come here to surrender to the holiest dance....cremation and the eventual reunion with the Ganga...and to this end the city channels its energies...the obvious and the elephant in the drips with the frequencies of pathways done, stories laid down, memories traded for blissful knowings,  last dances for an infinite stream of souls who took one more ride on the wheel...hopefully their last.
The streets are a Virgo’s paradise...visceral, earthy, physical, in the lived in the mud, life you can eat and hear and penetrate...all of the body processes on is the panorama of humanity, peering out from dark side streets, looking down for one last glance of the flesh from the houses that hold the one in Hospice care..eager for the journey but still clinging to the slipping fingers of life...smoke fills the is the campfires set up in the streets, it is the warming flames of a shopkeeper’s food, it is the remnants of lives in the body dense, giving up the ghost and riding through the streets and mingling with the senses of family and last time before the dimensional shift
Tonight, we do not seek death, but rather, life...a Buddhist ceremony at the aati that is widely more extravagant than what we saw in Rishikesh. Dr. Shailesh ushers us to awaiting balcony overlooking the entire festivies. Throngs on the platforms with altars facing the chakra colored light canopies stretch down the intersection point of land and increasing number of boats on the Ganges facing the ceremony, each holding the maximum number of devotees and revelers...a combo of voice, harmonium, and tabla work the vibration of the crowd. Seven young men, priest apprentices take the platforms in final preparation. In the river you can see the bathers already washing away the past and cleansing themselves for whatever life may bring...trusting in a practice that gives, at best, mixed results (if seen through the “civilized” eye)...a practice that is an outward exclamation of devotion and belief.
Now, I have seen devotees, religious individuals who believe wholeheartedly in their version of life’s earthly dance...who intercept anyone willing to listen to why their version of The Path is the most desirable...I have seen some level of commitment to the spiritual life...I am a hodge podge collection of the best of what I have heard and felt and resonated with...a new age guy who really does intend to practice what he preaches and move through moments with a heart that loves and eyes that witness magnificence...but in my best moments I have not touched the level of undying dedication to the beliefs and practices of what I have witnessed here. The religious/spiritual are not practices, they are the life of the people familiar and routine and breaking bread and breathing...intricately woven into the culture and lives of those who incarnated here. And because of this immersion, they participate fully and without hesitation in the process...there is no checkin one another out, there is no self judgment, this is simply what they must do...and I am humbled by what I see...easily reflecting on my sputtering practices that so easily give way to something with greater promise...people here do not look for the easy way out...they walk through the mud of life and do what they must do to survive and reach an inner and outer place that rewards such devotion...and my Virgo self loves this...
The ceremony and pageantry swirls on as the monks perform their rituals for the people via movement, mudra, incense, fire, chant, rhythm and music. Seven monks in a choreography that is both well rehearsed and spontaneous feeding the spirits, hearts and minds of the pilgrims for over an hour. From the balcony we watch, swaying rhythmically to the ceremony we feel but do not completely understand. In a flash it is over. We descend onto the ghat and begin to walk among the revelers who are most definitely in the spirit. Just down the walk we come upon a holy man in a cage like altar, selling prayers and string blessings. We each purchase one from him and as we are leaving a man from the local news comes up for an interview with the Americans...Sonia obliges, and as I wander back, he asks for another...oh why not...bright light, makeshift mic and a videocam from at least 20 U.S. years ago and I am asked about our presence here...what I thought of the experience...and other such late night news in the streets of Varanasi
The walk back to the waiting cars is intensified by the hundreds who had been at the aarti. Half carried by the throng, we wind our way through narrow passageways to the main street, hounded constantly by three vendors, one a 9 year old boy who is so smooth. They learn early here the fine art of selling. They look and listen for openings...answer just one question and they scoot in for takes about 3 minutes of no before they even start to loose interest. The dance is part of the territory, The whole thing reminds me of the county fair back home...Saturday night just after the rodeo finished and the throngs were released to the walkways and the beer garden...festivities of a new year...hinting of an early morning transformation that each step brought us closer to...
In bed by nine for the 5:30 AM rising, I am awoken at midnight to the sound of explosions. Startled, I stumble to the window to see the sky lit up by bursts of light and sound...we are in an area that has seen conflict over the years, and with the visible presence of soldiers I easily move first in that direction...but then the realization that it was new year’s eve sinks I watch the familiar festivities...for over an hour it continues...2.5 million bottle rockets, sparklers, m80s, snakes, twirlers...that’s how I remember it...back to bed, I leave the shades open to let the bursts of light lull me back to sleep...2012...yes it is finally here...thoughts return to Mt Shasta, California in 1987 when I heard the call for the ushering in of the great 25 year cycle that started with the Harmonic Convergence...we are there...explosions...the great doorway is about to open wide...the distant thud and whoof of celebration fades into my growing delta state...the great cleansing is upon us...
On the bus after coffee and toast, moving through a light rain toward the Ganges through deserted pre dawn streets. It is sharp contrast to the hoopla and the human mass last night. We are back at the site of the aarti celebration last night and, already, many are lined up and in process of moving to the bathing areas to immerse the year in the river and let her purifying waters reactivate the desired possibilities in their lives...a clean slate, like the etchasketch shaking, or the drawing pad where you lift up the top piece to erase the drawing...everyone needs a new beginning but here it is a way of life. The men undress to their underwear and immerse themselves in the swirling january water. Women go in fully clothed and then change when they come out. At regular intervals along the waterfront, priests offer blessings...karmic cleanses filled with mantras and blessings and chants and mudras and intentions and questions and color...we are pulled into one man’s process...he speaks over our heads and has us repeat mantras hard to understand...something about Ganga and karma..we parrot and feel a light energy...he asks us to write names of families in the book he will bless for a month...I feel done and attempt to get up...he pulls me back with words about karma...he starts to tell what his service is worth...he makes comments about the power of karma...and what it is worth to give him such and such...the beautiful ceremony gets is exchanged and the spell is broken
Shailesh gathers us and takes us to the river to a boat with a small oarsman who proves that appearances are deceiving. On back of the boat, sitting on the roof of a storage area are a sitar player and a tabla player, poised to orchestrate our foggy and rainy  sojourn. They, although smiling, did not look happy for their instruments, already moist. Still, they begin, and the music adds a cinematic ambiance to the scene unfolding before us. The murky pre dawn Ganga G is evocative, a stirring scene for all the senses. Acrid smoke of burnings of the night rides the currents in the can taste the memories of those just released from the physical realm. Boats filled with people from many cultures appear out of the foggy shroud...the eye is pulled and the camera lens follows...splashes of color in the backdrop of goodbye and fare thee well. Vignettes pepper the shoreline...we, as passersby, have no way of grasping the relevance to the players before us...but we feel it...and the music and cries and laughter milk our hearts to open to rich and varied, unending flow of life in this earthly domain. Everything is personal is the intersection of oneness and cannot witness this and not be moved up and over and beyond your own walls of comfort...this is into the valley of death, reaching into the belly of the beast, ripping out your own misperceptions and fears to cast them adrift upon the incessant haunting pleadings of the water...release and be free...release and be free, little of pilgrims, tourists, monks, vendors bump into one another...the mighty little men maneuver their craft with the skill of too many rides on the river...we are just feet away from a boatload of Burmese...they have the hats...and none of us can avoid eye contact and its momentary mind meld that integrates and unites us in this precious experience. Humbling is not a word that is a shared connection that brings us back to square one...we are human and share that bond more than we have ever allowed...
Dr Shailesh takes the cue and begins chanting his mantra...a whirling dervish of sound riding the frequency of purpose delivered in that bluesy un-cola man voice...we are swept into this moment...a man who has been silent joins in as they harmonize the melodies unfamiliar to the western ear...hitting all those in between the scale notes that break down resistance and topple inner patterns to leave us open and willing...a young woman has been silent this whole time riding just behind the musicians...her purple dress now colors the moment as she moves in position with a basket of smaller offering baskets....each is lit and passed around to the eight of us...we take the ritual seriously and cover the basket with our own shortcomings and mistakes and energies ready to go. It is time for the testament, the movement of will, the act that shows the etheric energies around us that we are serious in our choosing to place ourselves here at this time. We each move forth as the chant continues and intensifies...repeat after me...words as sound spoken...God knows their meaning...we are in full trust mode and surrender to the unrepeatable call of now and one by one release the flaming baskets into the Ganga G. These boats of all the shit we held precious just float away into the darkness, into the past, sinking without pomp into the energetic soup of yesterday.
With the last miniboat launched the music stops and the silence drops around us like that uh-oh feeling. We are each left with ourself, in a moment pregnant with possibility, like the still point between the inhale and the exhalation of breath, this moment gives birth to the future...each is asked to is a most fertile time to seed the down the road...the sound of the oars in the water is all we can hear.
Until it arises out of the mist...that unmistakable chant of Krishna Das singing his breakthrough favorite, Om Nama increases in volume as if laid upon our senses by the very Gods themselves...but no, the sound begins to focus from a man in a boat with his child heading towards us. In the front of the seating area he has a black shrouded old CRT monitor showing a video of life along the river in Varanasi...with the Krisha Das can you not buy a copy...resourceful, comical, just the kind of non-sequitor this place brings to the altar of awareness
There are over 50 ghats, or ceremony areas, along the Ganga waterfront in this section of Varanasi. Between them are two crematoriums that have been in constant action for a very long time. Now my mother was cremated 3 years ago and the result was brought to my brother and I in a bag and a box. Here it is a public process that is as old as life itself in this region. I will not dishonor it by attempting to explain it but I will pass on impressions. Basically, in this expanse by the shore, the body is brought and placed on the wood, already having been dressed and addressed with prayer. More wood is placed on top of the body and the burning begins.  It takes a sizable amount of wood to help reach the temperature need to disintegrate the body. multiple fires burn. Next to them are the raking of the ashes, a ritual done every morning to gather those of the previous burnings. Ashes are typically taken and released into the Ganges. It is such a common experience here that there is no energy about it. The religious practices allow the people to have comfort and trust in the flow. There is a well organized industry here along the water that supports this...I feel it and resonate with it as it diminishes the mystery and prevents the confusion and manipulation that surrounds the death industry in the is flowing and natural here.
We head back toward our disembarking point at the scene of the second crematorium. On the way simply drink in the experience. The musicians have all but given up accompanying the rain...but I am afforded a chance to noodle with the sitar. It is a seductive instrument, but three minutes do not allow mastery...thankfully the player takes it and puts into its case...out of the rain’s touch. As the morning’s light lifts the veil we begin to make out all that is around this area of the river, all the buildings, the many people who live along the shore, the riverbank on the other is a place of mysterious beauty and relevant tradition. 
And now the man who chanted along with Shailesh stands and begins to talk about raj yoga....and invites us to participate in a series of moves that will assure long life, clear high blood pressure...on and on he do them and do feel rejuvenated...but we are wet and cold and any movement is a blessing. At the end he shows us his pamphlet and offers purchase...with all respect, and I do buy echos of the traveling salesman of the old west...though I do not believe he was a fakir of any kind...I am bringing back the exercises and will incorporate them into workshops once I practice them enough.
As we approach the shore Dr Shailesh invites us to participate in a final ceremony. The local bathers immerse their whole bodies in the river to insure the release and cleanse. Westerners carry the germ and bacteria programming that seeds doubt and usually robs them of a holy experience. Perhaps, because so many westerners visit, a new lore has risen. If one takes the water of the Ganga in the right hand, and while the priest speaks the mantra, pours it onto the top of the head...the same release from the karmic wheel takes place...and so it is...released from karma...with no past or things to deal with...what to do?
Off the boat, back on shore, look out for that pile of....into the narrow passageway we the top of the stairs we are at the crematorium..who wants to go in?...hesitation...I do!...4 others as well. Down the steps to the fires and ash and tenders...given to a man who parrots an explanation in English of the entire process...our eyes search for evidence...just below the fire burns...see the head...see the head...the men shout if they think that westerners are addicted to drama and the evening news syndrome...there it is, one of the party exclaims...again it is a humbling process that is naturally presented in an understandable flow...not offensive at all...
Up through the narrow corridor through the intensifying rain...rivulets streaming down from the canvas overhangs...dirty water...why did i wear this LL Bean white cotton shirt? and damn...what’s this?...the beautiful red mala necklace given at the arrival at the hotel is bleeding all over the inside of that very same shirt...sigh...I look like the walking dead......sigh...into a shop the Dr leads us...friend of his...cup of Chai tea...he puts in the secret blend made in his mothers kitchen...yummm...can you say warm sugar with cinnamon....still a welcome warmth...delightful...we are headed for the sacred buddhist temple of gold...but this is an area that is contested by Muslim as has been classified a high security area...that means soldiers with means leave everything behind except for your will be searched...and these guys are not in single file we walk through the growing mass of by one the soldiers explore our on one side women on the is invasive, yes, but understandable...I look and one of the women is having her breasts checked for contraband...I'm just sayin...
We are afforded  a brief glimpse of this golden temple...not allowed entrance...20 feet away the Muslim mosque spire competes for the is an intense experience...completely devoted people to their form of expression...all rubbing shoulders in a confined space...we are done now...
Up and out and back to the main street we take our newly opened, karma free, rain soaked selves toward the waiting vehicle. There is a feeling about it is is precious...I have just been through something that has knocked down old boundaries...made me larger in life...allowed me to be more connected to a frequency of the flow I did not know existed...I am vibrating at a new frequency and I like what I am feeling...I cough, and only now begin to feel the deep cutting pain of post nasal drip gone old pattern sounds the alarm...the new me goes, the land between these places I enter the car to go back to hotel...breakfast and a shower and laundry...please, and by the way, I am now karma free...

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Kathmandu, Nepal...Day Two

Kathmandu, Day Two
One learns quickly when taking to the streets what is necessary to smooth the journey and take conscious care of personal needs. Sure it is nice to be with a group and guide and retreat to the bus when all is said, seen, and done. But the incessant energetic demands of being in an unfamiliar situation moving through and with a sea of individuals with economic agendas are constant. I have noticed that what was startling the first day on the streets, what demanded my attention, has faded into a growing level of “seen that”. The inner need to find and maintain a center of balance manufactures quick adaptation to the environment. One’s sphere of sensitivity diminishes. Motorcycles, once so confrontive and annoying, are now tolerable. A pattern begins to unfold: they honk more to let passersby know they are behind them rather than an invasive, get out my way!
This is, in a sense, the major goal of the traveler: move through the reactionary misinterpretation phase to embrace local customs and ways of the region and town. There is a fine line between the ugly american and the one world citizen...coming from the U.S. I am certainly used to taking care of my needs and getting what I want when I want it. On a narrow street with hundreds living, selling, and buying, one develops patience and a flow, or one does not survive these journeys out from the hotel compound. Why travel, if there is not a willingness to learn and flow? There is a way to respectfully say no to the panhandler with word, tone, intention, body language, and pacing. Hone these and the journey becomes amusing.
We took the bus with our guide to one of the holiest stupas in greater Kathmandu in the morning. It was the beginning of a 5 day Buddhist celebration and we had come to the centerpoint: Boudhanath, the lord of wisdom, one of the primary places of pilgrimage for the practicing Buddhist. Typical stupas are a center spire, filled with sacred religious relics, so the word on the street is. Colorful Prayer flags flow out like spokes of the wheel from the top of the spire. Around the whitewashed spire, or part of it, are circular paths, where pilgrims circumnavigate a clockwise rotation at least three times. 
Today marked the first day of the pilgrimage. When we arrived there were hundreds already seated up on one of the stupas’ 3 circular levels. Monks were chanting over the PA system to the many in saffron and burgundy colored robes. Plain clothed pilgrims walked clockwise around the stupa, either parroting the chant, reciting or singing Om Mane Padme Hum. It was an inviting scene. The brilliant white stupa was colored with pink paint representations of the lotus flower along its crown. It was a feast for eyes and ears and heart. We ascended the staircase to the right of the small temple and entered the procession. One had to walk the edge of the stupa around all of the people sitting.It was about an 8 foot drop to the shop level. A bit of a challenge, but, truthfully, the more we surrendered the less we focused on anything but releasing old frequencies. The ceremony cycled through a cd playing the official “Om Mane Padme Hum” chant, the monks reciting sacred mantras and verse by heart, and the classic Tibetan monk multi toned low chant with the clanking cymbals and trumpet horns. Three cycles...tears...pageantry...witnessing something very sacred and deeply meaningful to so many. We exited to shop in the many, many stores encircling the base of the powerful sacred edifice.
It was here that what was first a significant tragedy played out...I have been traveling with a Disney stuffed Tigger this whole trip and he has been a playful and constant companion, showing up in all the places we do and demanding his picture be taken. In fact, the Where in the World is Tigger? blog will launch in a day or so. Now, Tigger, being orange and white and a tiger, has been increasingly late in getting back from some of the Buddhist experiences we have had. And, after we had shopped, visiting so many stores and exchanging rupees, we headed for the bus. I asked the keeper of the Tigger for that day to let me get a shot of him on the drive through the streets to our next destination, some ancient temples in a town out in the countryside. To my shock, she indicated Tigger , along with the special sacred incense, were missing. We were already down the hill, and because the traffic in Kathmandu is so intense and hazardous we could not turn around. The gravity of the loss fell over us in a collective gasp....
He has been such a trooper, showing up with enthusiasm and confidence and delight and, when we were tired, his bouncy, bouncy, bouncy, aways gave us a second wind. But, Tigger is gone...for good. The realization soon became obvious...Tigger has come home, and whether he has found his way into the hip pocket of a monk, or into the delighted hands of a Tibetan child, or is sitting unnoticed, for now, in some shop of rugs, sacred cloth, malas, jewelry, or whatever...he is exactly where he belongs. It is plain to see that Tigger has a higher destiny. We have been honored to have walked this journey with him.
But we think there is something bigger happening here. Tigger simply loves to travel and take his very special brand of fun, fun, fun, fun, fun to all he meets. So, I am sending out a call. If you happen to spot Tigger along the highways and byways and towns and countries of this incredible world, please take a picture of him and post in on the blog, Where in the World is Tigger?. My heart, and my inner little boy would deeply appreciate it...Tigger, fare thee well...and yes, you are...the Only One!
Stopped for pizza at Fire and Ice on the way to Bhaktapar. The thin crust pizza was a welcome change to 13 days of Indian food...delicious though it is...too much of a good thing needs a break...the mood of the pizza feast was somewhat subdued...I would drift in and out of my travels with him...when the letters TGR showed up in pizza crust on my plate we knew it was time to go. We hoisted one for T-I-double G-rrr and hopped the bus...half expecting/hoping him to appear from out of a bag or under a seat...but, no, he was on the road to find out...
Now, Bhakatapur is a very ancient Nepalese Hindi/Buddhist city filled with magnificent temples and squares and shops. The tallest temple in Nepal was there...kinda like hiking from the field to the the last row in Texas Stadium...late afternoon delightful shadows pulled the eyes and heart and seduced the camera into multiple shots...all the while the guide told us details that disappeared with the next scene...they are in there somewhere, the collective experience that will appear holographically down the trail. Mysterious side streets serpentine from the center square...two young boys play a spirited game of badmitten on the raised platform across from the temple to puncture the senses of everyone... they buzz by for no reason whatsoever...annoyance and maybe, tolerance...stop it!!!
Along the way I stop and pick out some brightly colored cloth to use in my sound work. The singing bowl store with the planet tuned bowls is closed...darn...something for everyone...a newspaper toting man sends a shrill announcement over and over as he walks through the streets...throaty voice altered until it could carry a long long way...disturbing patrons to buy just to quite him...
We have started to fade...just too much...our senses had been fabricating walls all day, and it looks like they had set the last stone and sealed the The drive back afforded us with some rare clear views of the Himalayas towering over the closest range of smaller mountains surrounding the Kathmandu valley. Breathtaking...glistening white jagged peaks piercing the sky in an endless reach toward the All That is. It is hard to look away once one has seen them...the yearning to drink them in, to trace their stand at their apex and kiss the feel what it is like to look down upon life’s meanderings...the top of the world...right before our eyes..soul stirring and the hands reach out like an infant who wants to possess their out the telephoto lens...quick ...we are descending into the city...the peaks shrink...traffic jam...hundreds of cars jammed to get rationed gasoline...thank you, God...look around...aaaaah...there they, click...the clouds dance off the highest peak like smoke in the wind...Oh...My...God...
Hotel...exhausted...tired of the in house restaurant and not willing to enter the outside vibration again...we settle for the pub...a round of Everest appropriate...the fire burns... spicy chicken wings call...we sit in the quasi circle of eight...hoisting our 22 oz beers to this magnificent life altering experience we seized by the heart today...clink, and as  the chicken satays join the festivities, we look into the dancing orange flames and remember...through our own being we remember and wish him well...listen...listen...yes, I hear it too...that song
The most wonderful thing about Tiggers
Is Tiggers are wonderful things
Their tops are made of the rubber
Their bottoms are made of the springs
They bouncy, bouncy, bouncy, bouncy
Fun, fun, fun, fun, fun
But the most wonderful thing about Tiggers is
Iiiiiiiiiim the Only One
Varanasi, the oldest city in the world, the city of cremation begins to infiltrate our vibration...the letting go is upon us. The New year is grabbing us by the throat, and shaking our past like a poodle with a stuffed animal...we are falling apart...piece by piece...and our precious inner child self is saying, “hhhoooo hhhooooo”. ...and me, I’m crying as I write this...thanks Tigger for your beautiful blessing...

Thursday, December 29, 2011


Some places are the crossroads of the world, centerpoints of the wheel, fed in all directions by activity of an infinite variety that incessantly assaults the senses and energy field, until one adapts. Kathmandu is such a place. Nestled in a valley some 2200 meters up, this tourist fed city is beyond demands attention. It would be easy to get swept into its no name streets and never be heard from again. And yet it is one of the friendliest places on earth. Everyone here is here to serve. Ask for it and it is there in spades within the hour...

But I am ahead of myself. We arrived at the Dwarika Hotel in southeast Kathmandu and were all pretty tired from the travel most chose to wander around the delightful inner compound of this remarkable, hundreds of years old, hotel. Red brick and dark wood, pad locks on the door, cobbled floors with throw rugs, nooks everywhere, gardens of exquisite orange blossomed flowers that blend so pleasingly with the walls and windows and structure of the 5 floored historical landmark. An inner garden with shops and a stunning pool with mosaic thanka designs embedded in its rich blue colored floor. Does one really swim in this? or just experience it? Altars , four of five of them, spring up around the yard...a square shaped, hollowed out enclosure with the inner relics representing male and female and the constant fertilization of life. Mystical, spiritual, sensual...

Dinner at the Nepalese restaurant in the compound affords us our first taste of the local quisine. A definite cousin to Indian and Tibetan food with some decided twists, Nepalese food, like most places, is defined by the topography, fauna, and flora of the region. So far I have sampled wild nettle broth (a thick, darn green mixture that would be similar to eating hay off the ground in the barnyard...the buckwheat bread with the strong garlic, olive oil, and basil made it palatable...still only finished half), yak cheese (bam! strikes the nose first and the body begs to not pursue this path...but pressing onward it lays on the tongue and slowly gives a parmesan like experience...did it...check)...

Post breakfast the next morning, we are met at 9:30 AM for our first excursion into the city. Into the Toyota bus and then yeeeehaaaa...swept into the city flow to the left...(I live at the Pacific Ocean in California and I enjoy watching how water moves in tiny streams created by runoff or from the waves. From the edge you can see a tiny bit of the sand bank collapse and then get quickly swept into the current to blend magically into the water's flow...this is what it felt like). There are so many cars and motorcycles on these narrow two lane streets...driving is more than an adventure, it is Le Mans in slow motion, bumpercars at the fair without the bumps, a video game, motorcross, the X games...let's just say I am glad I am not driving

Free to see the city drift by I see Old Delhi with shops in every possible nook...little 8-10's of product that will certainly serve the needs of someone, somewhere. Most are there to serve tourists so there is cloth and statuary and malas, and gems and jewels and beads and film, and snickers and lays chips and necklaces and bracelets, and thankas and daggers and velvet paintings of the Himalayan peaks, and shawls and scarves and rings and holy relics get the picture...

Multiple storied buildings with shops below and quarters above, the sea of people survive and thrive in the bequeathement of the now, embracing what life gives them and using it to create the next experience. For the most part they wait, are not pushy...until one gets to the many squares. The city is sections, based upon culture...neighborhoods of common influence, exuding a similar but flavored scene. It is rich and colorful...and overwhelming. Turn the corner and see unthinkable squalor and filth and garbage...and people living in groomed quarters right in the middle of it. Children playing in the stream that flows through town...banks of trash sorted here and random there paint the ground that leads to the streets. The deeper into town we go the more the sidewalk vendors appear...on both sides of the bridge on the sidewalk..fruit and peanuts and trinkets and shiny baubles...and squatting people...and the chainsaw buzz of the flood of motorcycles...tiny buses crammed with humanity who have never experienced the luxury of a personal boundary

We are out of a bus, parked in front of the oldest junior high level school in Kathmandu. Uniformed children playing while armed soldiers watchfully stroll the grounds and tend the entrances. We move into the stream of life...look out...the pile of feces is forewarned...having already been violated by some must watch one's feet as well as pockets and the sights. On goes my audio recorder to catch our walk into the waiting arms of the city...heads swinging to catch this and to see that...color and movement and glistening brass and gold leafed statues

There are stupas throughout the city, spiritual/religious spires and linghams rising above the streets. They are focal points, landmarks, spotted with long serving altars where the locals pray and give homage and offering with bright orange and yellow vermillion. The schtupas often accompany temples and formal worship spots. Circling out from each like the spokes of the wheel are the streets, each an invitation to adventure or the blues...

Our guide leads us through a doorway...many are short, causing one to stoop to enter...the foot is also raised (word is that evil ones have no knees so they cannot stoop or lift their leg to cross over)..there is this sound that is noticed, a cooing rumble...into this inner mystical courtyard shrine there are hundreds of pigeons...on the ground, on the roofs, on the altars, everywhere...they move as one...walk through them and they part and then flow back together...a man moves through them and claps hands and they take to the air...a flurry of wings and wind is felt...magic..a never before experienced kiss from the winged ones...I am in bliss...the camera clicks rapidly like a fashion with me...yes, hold that pose...everywhere they fly...called now to the food being laid out by the old woman in red...a beehive of pushing and shoving to get the grain. A mother and her little girl now move through the carpet of pigeons and twirl in laughter as the pigeons react. They fly and adjust, all around, never striking any passersby. I am mesmerized by the experience. This one goes in the special memory bank...

Onward to the oldest Temple Square in the awe inspiring visual of perfect architectural designs of 600 years ago...placed in the best feng shui manner to elicit a constant energetic reminder of the power of the these squares there are no beggars or one is free to experience...We are led to a special temple where a young girl is kept...she is a human representation of the Divine..a goddess kept in this location until she reaches puberty and her first blood. Every need met, this child is selected via a long process of aligning to the 22 qualities and then having the same horoscope as the previous king...she is revered by the people and celebrated. Periodically through the day she comes to the window to let the people see her for one minute... throngs show up...amazing...the whole thing feels very strange to me...but custom is custom and must be viewed through the hearts and minds of the people it serves.

Off to a shopping focus...each of the group wants something in particular...I want singing i am led to a shop down a street to the left to the right and then into a courtyard behind a street to a tiny cubicle with wall to wall bowls...and left to rendezvous back at the square in an hour. The shopkeeper is a delightful man who knows his stuff. For 40 minutes he plays the bowls...I listen and, I do not feel that one...yes...set that one over there...the pile grows...time is pushing...I experience the bowls...he digs for one over there on that shelf, his small body stretching to get to the one high up...he now knows what my sound palette is..and he brings them but I must narrow them is down to three bowls and two much? American or Rupees he asks? $350 American...barter...expect 20 percent reduction...I know what these are worth, and even now this is a good price...because they are hand hammered and special chosen to the frequencies I am aligned with...but i listen one more, these are too close to one another...again I listen...this one...yes, this one...aaaah...and that tingsha...yes...$145...I will give you $120...the dance begins...$130...$120...$125 he counters...$120 I $125 he crosses arms...tick tock...the square beckons...sold I say...smiles and hand shakes. Turn around and access the money belt and six $20 bills are passed. Farewells and directions back to the square

I am one who knows directions and it usually only takes one trip to know my way, by landmarks or signs or feel. But these streets are a winding quagmire of confusion...on first sight. He said left then right then left...OK was that quick left or the second street...did we come this way?  that feeling starts in the pit of the stomach and then sweeps over the mind...a curtain of growing fear...visceral...I do not have a not not know the name of the square...everything starts to look suspect/menacing...even the children..stop it...go back to the store...I find my way back and at the door tell him I am lost...he smiles, starts to tell me again...I give him the look...he smiles and says i will show you. He shuts off the light and walks out, and with store door wide open he walks me back to the square, choosing to walk me by the bigger store he owns on the way...I get his card and then turn into the square where I see the rest of the party...adventure...check

Lastly, after lunch, we go to a major stupa overlooking the whole of the city. It is a magnificent swirl of sight, color, sound, prayer flags, prayer wheels, monkees, tourists, locals, priests, monks, statuary...all on the top of the hill. It is amazing...around the center circular stupa are a ring of prayer wheels. People walk around the circle whirling each wheel to send out their prayers...I want to do that...around I go, hand touching the shiny place on each that has been touched and spun millions of times...I feel the vibration as I reach completion, to be greeted by two monkeys who stare at me with satisfaction...

What a day it has been...and one more full day tomorrow...out of the city to different experiences...I am full... I take my bowl to the room and sound fills the walls of this is a good day...Kathmandu, I'll soon be seeing you, with your strange, bewildering eyes...