Worship

Temples, churches, monuments, and shrines…India is such a place of devotion and worship. From Hindus to Christians, Muslims to Jews; from avatars to deities, from fire to rain…there are so many different forms and variations of faith.

As we toured these historical places, we learned some of the traditional Hindu stories of Brahma, Vishnu, Shiva, and their consorts, Saraswati, Lakshmi, and Parvati. It was explained that these gods and goddesses are in fact an expression of the Supreme One, with both masculine and feminine aspects that together, represent oneness. Our guide said these gods and goddesses work as a team, like complementary energies. Some of the stories were also about mischief, play, and competition. Below is a cosmic dance-off between Shiva and Parvati. The story tells of Shiva (on the right) showing off by lifting one leg up in the air to one-up his wife. Her downcast gaze shows she is not impressed! Hmmm, some things haven’t changed between couples in thousands of years…

Here is “Krishna’s Butterball“, an amazing natural phenomenon! Even through tsunamis and earthquakes, this ball of rock has not budged. I was praying that the day I took the photo was NOT the day it chose to roll…

Spiritual tradition is evident in the ongoing practices of the people from elaborate temple rituals to simple offerings of marigolds. I heard morning prayers from mosques over loud speakers and singing of Catholic hymns in Tamil in beautiful churches. But what stood out for me was the practical everyday wisdom departed by our tour guide, Jishoy. He reminded us,

The absence of light is darkness. With a single ray of light, darkness is transformed.

This was simple yet profound and reminded me of the way to BE. Not living in the darkness of judgment, criticism, anger, or fear, but letting in some light…perhaps just the light of a simple smile. No clearer did I see this as in the tour group dynamic, where we were navigating new things together that weren’t always in our comfort zones or up to our western expectations. Instead of complaining and wishing for something else, all we could do at times was practice patience, muster a smile and let things be. Keep calm and smile on…

As I sit in the Mumbai airport waiting two more hours (on top of the three I’ve already waited) for a delayed flight to Goa, I can’t truly say that praying to Ganesh, the elephant-headed son of Shiva (“the remover of obstacles”) is going to make a difference. So I’ll just smile and wait, trusting I’ll get where I need to be in due course…

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Meeting, Greeting, and Eating

Three of my favourite things are happening daily here in India. Meeting new people – from my tour mates to the shopkeepers to the villagers to the wonderful hotel staff to the chefs who graciously give us cooking demos to our super knowledgeable tour guide…I have so many new friends! Including a young woman named Krishnavani from a poor village area who invited us in to her tiny mud roof home and proudly showed us around the two cramped but tidy small rooms she shared with her brothers and parents. The children here are not looking for money. They are asking for pens! I happily gave away all my markers and they were thrilled!

Everyday we are greeted with smiles. Of course, as tourists with white skin, we are the attraction…but the waving and picture taking and the inquisitive “where you from Ma’am?” from schoolchildren and others is so genuine. Compare this to our own society where eye contact is avoided in the street, where no one talks in the elevator, and where one keeps to oneself on the bus, ear buds plugged in. I am reminded daily that a simple greeting sends a huge wave of happiness.

And the eating…oh my what glorious meals! The food has been market fresh, beautifully prepared, displayed and portioned with care, and so varied as we move from town to town on this culinary tour. South Indian food is spicy but so flavourful and my new favourites are dosas, sambar (a lentil, okra, and tomato soup I love to eat at breakfast!), roasted cashews on the roadside, and South Indian coffee – a delectable brew of strong coffee and boiled milk served in a small stainless steel cup. Our chefs have personally come to meet us and share their recipes with pride!

So far this trip has been a sensory extravaganza with all 5 senses fully engaged. Living life with eyes wide open, ears perked, taste buds tingling, inhaling and exhaling, and reaching out instead of holding back, right here, right now. Yoga – “union” – each and every moment.

Next blog – temple tidbits!

Colourful India

Ahhh India…from the moment I stepped off the plane in Delhi it hit me. Not the smog or the chaos or the noise or the hoards of people (that’s a given anyway…); it was the colours. The vibrant hues of life, both glorious and messy at the same time. Once you get past the initial shock and awe and start to settle in to your surroundings, you can let go, open up your eyes and your heart, and fully embrace the experience. That is why I am here, not to shy away from life but to live it, as a guest in this faraway place. As I walked through the airport to find my driver, I spotted this amazing sculpture of Surya Namaskara – twelve beautiful bodies in each pose of a sun salutation.

It was the perfect “welcome to India” for me and a reminder how daily devotion, whether it is through yoga asana or meditation or prayer, is such a central part of life here.

Flew to Chennai and on the road – now life gets really colourful! Manoeuvring through the streets of life in India requires skill, focus, strategy, and a lot of horn honking. No matter what town or village, the scene is the same! Chaotic yet strangely orderly, it seems to work.

Eventually we made it to the ocean and Marina Beach in Chennai. This huge expanse of beach was filled with people celebrating a holiday just the day before. It was hard to imagine just how many people were here…

At the end of the beach used to be a slum. We were told that the government cleaned it up and built proper housing for the residents. More apartments were in the process of being erected and it filled me with such hope for those in such hard circumstances.

Literally right across from the ocean, these new residences could have easily been worth millions in a western city. Instead they were given to underprivileged people to improve their way of life. Many of these residents were fishermen and their families. Daily the men went out to fish and the women sold the fresh catch on the side of the road. What didn’t sell would be dried in the sun and preserved and sold later. A small makeshift shrine was in the process of being assembled by a few women; a shrine for prayers of protection, safe voyage, and prosperity…Don’t we all just want the same?

It’s hard not to be bothered by this in-your-face reality of hardship. But we are all born into different places in this world so we must do what we need to do and if able, help our fellow humans in whatever way we can. As I climbed aboard our air conditioned bus, I silently sent wishes and blessings for peace and ease to this neighbourhood. I trust it was received.

We drove on to our own new home for a couple of days beside the Bay of Bengal at a beautiful resort filled with palm trees and birds and fragrant smells. A very different colour of life…

Time to welcome another day of exploration. It’s still dark out but I can hear the fishing boats off in the distance as they embark on another hopeful journey. Today we discover Mahabalipuram! More to come…

Namaste…or as they say in Tamil, “Vanakkam” 🙏🙏🙏

Anne

CUL8R

Ever since I was a high school student, I have used acronyms as a mnemonic tool to help me study. I memorized all sorts of things from cell division to capital cities to math formulas using first letters. When it came time for exams, I just needed to remember the acronym. Most of the time it worked, but not always. Sometimes I forgot the acronym! To this day, I continue to use these tools to help me remember things, even when it comes to yoga (and remembering what to get at the grocery store). My favourites are:

BRFWA – breathe, relax, feel, watch, allow

STOP – slow down, tune in, observe, proceed

AAABS – the “yamas” (the don’ts of yoga ethics): Ahimsa (don’t harm), Asteya (don’t steal), Aparigraha (don’t be greedy), Brahmacharya (self-restraint), Satya (don’t lie)

SSSTI – the “niyamas” (the do’s of yoga ethics): Saucha (purity), Santosha (contentment), Svadhyaha (self-study), Tapas (self-discipline), Ishvara Pranidhana (surrender to God)

BKBK – broccoli, kale, bread, kleenex

And now I came across a new one to remind me of my Sankalpa (resolve or solemn vow; or as I like to refer to it, my “prime directive”):

LCKPC – love, care, kindness, patience, compassion

This comes from a full-moon online group meditation I recently participated in with the Global Care Room. We tapped in to the energy of our heart space then sent out good vibrations of love, care, kindness, patience and compassion to the planet (see https://www.heartmath.org/gci/introductory-heart-coherence-technique/ for technique). What I discovered was that this practice aligns well with all those things that I endeavor to model. And when I forget, and I react negatively or judge or withdraw, this acronym pops into my head to remind me to re-direct, re-balance, and re-align. It’s not always easy in the moment to switch from anger to love, or from impatience to patience. But part of the practice is simply RECOGNIZING when we are out of sync and then taking the steps to come back into alignment.

To be honest, all I really need to do is remember my name: DAYA ANANDI. My teacher, Yogrishi Vishvketu, gave me this spiritual name as a reminder – of who I am, what I can share, and what I sometimes need to work on. Kindness and bliss, kindness and bliss, kindness and bliss…my true nature. Perhaps that is the best and simplest mnemonic of all.

As I depart for my India trip today, I will be putting all these tools to good use, especially when facing the unfamiliar, the unknown, and the unexpected. Whether across the ocean or in your own backyard, from the simple to the extraordinary, may we all take the time to STOP and BRFWA!

Just a reminder that my classes are on hold until the end of February. First class back is Yin Yoga at DSDS on Thu. Feb. 28, 2019.

TTFN and CUL8R!

 

A New Year of Exploration

Welcome to 2019…a new year of discovery! I have a t-shirt that says, “Explore the world, Discover your self” and the phrase couldn’t be more true for me this year as I embark on another journey to India. I know I don’t have to go to the other side of the world for self-discovery as I’m unearthing things about myself every day right here in my own backyard. But there is something about a journey to a faraway land…perhaps a pilgrimage…that makes this seem like more of a big deal. Like I’m on the brink of learning something so profound, yet so simple.

Five years ago, I went to north India as a yoga student to study and live in an ashram. This time I am going to south India, partly as a tourist (guided through temples and villages and historical sites) and partly as a yoga practitioner and still a student (immersed in a retreat of self-study, practice, and holistic living). With an open mind and open heart, I look forward to visiting a place so different from my own home, yet somehow it feels like I’m going home…or I’m being called home. Strange how my heart feels such a tug to this country.

At the start of a new year, we all may feel like we are embarking on a new journey. An opportunity to let go of the year past and start this year with a clean slate. New hopes and dreams for the upcoming months and intentions for wellness; goals and milestones to achieve; and the shifting out of unsupportive patterns. So much to do it seems this month…However, we must remind ourselves that EVERY day offers this possibility. In fact, every time we end a yoga class in Savasana (corpse pose) or wake up each morning is a chance to start fresh. To shed a few layers, rejuvenate and restore, and then awaken again, re-born so to speak. We don’t have to wait until New Year’s Eve or a full moon or the end of a month. It can happen on a moment to moment basis, breath to breath.

Today’s mini-journey is to finish the laundry, pay my bills, and clean up the piles left after Christmas. In two weeks, the journey will be to get on the plane and fly across the world, expanding beyond my backyard to a magical place full of new experiences. Wherever I go, there I am…exploring and discovering. I will post the occasional updates on this blog while I’m away, but mostly I want to just BE in the moment.

Happy New Year to you all and may we all navigate this moment/day/month/year with mindfulness, acceptance, patience, and love!