Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Share some change :)

We hear a voice calling us from the other side of the road and when we pause we see this old grandfather waving his hand. We cross the road and greeted him. Narmade har!!

He started searching for something in his pocket. We asked him what was he looking for? He replied by in return asking us if we had three rupees change. We checked our pockets and found a ten rupee note which we gave him. He returned us the note and kept checking all his pockets. In the meanwhile Swara dropped a fifty rupee note in his upper pocket not sure if it was to tag him or so that he can give that to us.  

He kept looking for about five minutes. Swara asked him to check his upper pocket that’s when the neighbor said that he can’t listen because of old age. Finally he nods saying he can’t find it. He wanted to give us some money because we were pilgrims.

We tell him to just bless us and he smiles and shares his blessings. In a local dialect he shared that he has also done the pilgrimage. When I showed him his picture on my phone he laughed out loudly and waived us goodbye. 

We remembered our grandfather who would give us not more then five rupees during Diwali. Jokingly I told Swara that even if he would have found the fifty rupee note he would have asked for forty eight rupees change:) 

Sunday, May 19, 2019

Nishkam Seva (Selfless Service)

As we were getting closer to Amarkanthak a bunch of us got an invitation for black tea. It was an unexpected yet a pleasant invitation as the man who was serving us tea had his shelter almost in the middle of a forest with hardly any people living around.

He asked us to follow the orange sign boards as we walk further into the forest. He showed us a sample sign board we were meant to follow. We got curious as we had seen these boards in some of the remotest places.

We had all these questions -Was it a group of people? Or the nearby villagers? Who puts up these little markers?

We asked him if he knew who made them. He said for eight months I serve all the pilgrims here with tea, food and shelter and the other four months when they are not walking due to rains I paint these boards, take some nails, select an area, cycle and put them up. He has been doing this for 12 years. What an invisible act of kindness!!! We bowed to him to share our gratitude and even shared how every time we would see the board part of us said thank you and part of us thought that whoever has done this must be crazy:) It was such a joyous moment for us to finally meet one of the faces of the one who has put so much effort just so that thousands of pilgrims who are walking do not loose their way. He has placed sign boards in the forests, hills, near river beds and few roads.

Like wise we spotted this earthen pot filled with water under a shady tree. The water must be quenching thirst of so many like us. When I looked around there were only farms which meant someone had put an effort to bring water from a distance. Yet there was no one whom we could thank in person. We just closed our eyes, shared our gratitude and walked with the seed thought of Nishkam Seva (Selfless Service.

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Muddy roads and wild flowers

I feel as we transit from a four lane highway to double lane to the mud road passing by from a village we see the connection between people also transitioning. The more efficient the road, lesser is the probability of connection.

After finishing our morning part of the walk, we were sitting outside a mud house to rest for sometime and were reflecting on a few things. We noticed a few women looking at us with inquisitive eyes. While children were busy eating oranges and dates that we shared with them the adults were still holding that inquiry from a distance.

One woman sat a few feet away and kept looking at us. I could feel a constant gaze which was making me a little uncomfortable. We took a pause in our conversation and thought about connecting with her. We shared some fruits and waited for her to ask us something. But instead she just kept looking at us. So, we continued our conversation. We again asked her if she needed anything and she nodded in silence, indicating she did not want anything.

I felt so conscious that I could not eat or continue the conversation. I started creating a mental wall as I felt there was intrusion into the so called “my space”. I asked Swara if this kind of behaviour was intruding or say not courteous. She gave me a very different perspective to this. She said it’s not intrusion it’s their way to connect to strangers walking by from their village. It’s their way to care by just sitting and sharing their presence. Despite of not wanting anything they are giving their time and attention capital.

My understanding to this perspective deepened when we were walking on a four lane highway taking us to a big city. From my past experience of the last four months I knew finding shelter in a bigger place was always difficult. We thought of approaching a few homes before the city began. We were asked a few questions about our whereabouts. Even in villages we come across these questions, but in a city we feel there is a certain sense of mistrust and so we continued to walk further.

As we were walking towards the city Swara on a lighter note asked a few teenagers who were walking by our side if we could stay at their place to which they very genuinely shared that we cannot as the elders in their family consume alcohol and it won’t be safe for us. Interestingly they suggested that we could go to the railway station and sleep on the platform. They thought that would be a rather safe place for us:)

That day we must have crossed over fifty people but we hardly made an eye contact. We were hardly noticed in the big town, which was contrary to a small village. Despite of so many people being around, I felt lost. I felt vulnerable as we were struggling to find the right place to spend the night. It took me back to my urban upbringing where I would have missed so many opportunities to connect.

Both of us checked in with each other how were we feeling and interestingly while part of me was feeling vulnerable, part of me was even surrendering to the higher design. I told Swara that the mother has kept a place for all the pilgrims. We need to keep walking till we reach where we are meant to reach. And I could sense that the trust in the higher design shifted something in me. I think that something is the sense of certainty, the knowing. But pilgrimage is all about emergence:)

As we kept walking we finally found that place via a gentleman who showed us the way to the nearby temple. He came with us just to make sure we end up at the right place meanwhile we spotted a Gurudwara. We asked if we could stay there and that was our night shelter. This place felt like an oasis in the middle of the city. We soaking in the peace and pious environment of the space. While we were sitting on this side of the gate that side felt a little scary despite of being part of it for years.

Few questions that I am holding for now is have I made a distinction between these two worlds? What do I change inside me to merge both the worlds together? How do I keep alive the oasis inside me to nourish my surroundings?

Thursday, April 4, 2019

Invitation of healing in disguise

Last week while we were walking one afternoon, I noticed a red car passing by and I felt that they might stop and talk to us. While I took a break under the shade of a tree Swara came to me and handed me a packet of biscuits and roasted chickpeas. She said two monks stopped by in a red car and gave it to her. She added, that they saw me and felt that I wasn’t okay so they went a few kilometres just to bring some food for us to eat. 

It’s interesting how we connect. Like there were many cars moving on the road but somehow I noticed the red car and connected to the people sitting inside. One of the monks said that we would be passing by his ashram in a few days and if we wish we can stop by.    

The monk spots us again after three days while we were having fruit break. We shared smiles, bananas and gratitude for their kind gesture on that sunny afternoon. He warmly invited us to stay for a day with him and his sister who had just finished her third parikrama. And for the first few minutes we kept convincing him of how we had to walk 25 km that day and we had just just begun the walk. Finally we set a deal of having tea together after which we would leave. He partially agreed to it and took our bags in his car just so that we could walk without the weight of bags for a few kilometres.

His ashram was next to Narmada river at Sahastradhara. Green, clean and silent. Lalita di welcomed us with her warmest smile and she exchanged her experiences from her recent parikrama over tea. And they now convince us with more love to stay with them to which we couldn’t deny. Our minds took time to accept the “change” in the plan and that’s what pilgrimages are about. One has to let go and surrender to emergence which is difficult at times. 

Interestingly when my body knew that today we were no more walking it went into a repair mode. I started running fever and had some body ache and I knew it was time to just rest. Rest of the day while partly observing the sensations I realised how amazing our bodies are. Till the time I was on the road my body was all set to walk. As soon as I had a space to rest, it started repairing itself just so that I continue my journey in a wholesome way. 

In the evening while sitting with our host family tears of gratitude flowed for their invitation, space and uninterrupted presence that gave our bodies and mind the time to rest and heal. 

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Learning to look beyond

I saw two roads ahead of me but I avoided taking the shorter one, I spotted a butcher shop there. In the evening when both of us sat for our prayers Swara gave me a 10 rupee coin. She said a butcher after bowing gave it to her.

I realised it was the same place I had avoided going for two reasons. First, I was a little uncomfortable looking at the flesh and the caged birds and second a part of me was guilty of being a non-vegetarian some years ago. Between these two I missed the opportunity to connect to his goodness. 

He might not be earning much yet he thought of serving us on our pilgrimage. He was a non-hindu and this pilgrimage is mostly done by Hindus and yet he steeped into his generosity and went beyond the lines of religion. His act of serving helped me reflect on the judgement that I was holding and gave me that 'jai shree krishna' window. 

After placing the coin near the lamp, unknowingly, both of us silently prayed for him to someday move to the right kind of livelihood. During Vipassana course the teacher talks about Samyak Ajivika (Right Livelihood), where he says that any act that we perform should not harm any being directly or indirectly. I was even reminded of a conversation with Arun dada, where he said "rotli nani hase to chalse, kadi na hovi joiye" (let your bread be small but let it not be black).


Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Where 1 + 1 > 2

At some point I had thought to walk by myself. Not sure if it was out of arrogance or with the thought of being self sufficient. It was much later that I realised that the “ease” with which I could walk, sleep or simply be was because someone was looking out for me unconditionally. In the initial weeks of our pilgrimage I could feel a hand coming to me every mid-night just to check if I was safe after a tiresome day of walking.

There is a joke that my sister shares. She says. "for you taking up this parikrama is like love marriage whereas for me it is an arranged one". For me it was the love for the river and it's sacredness whereas for her it was her unconditional love for me. She said yes to purely support my calling and discover her love while being a part of it. When I asked her what made you say a 'yes' to something like this which wasn’t on your bucket list ever and especially when it wasn’t just about walking for a day or two. It was a long term commitment for which I personally took almost 3 years to prepare. With a smile she says, "I have tried taking a few initiatives where mostly I have failed to get support. I understood that if we put our ego aside what matters at the end is saying a yes to anything that is good. It doesn’t matter who is leading it. All of us can be co-creators for the greater good." 

In my 30 years this is the first time when we are doing almost everything together be it washing clothes, preparing food, praying, attending nature’s call, and most importantly walking together for almost 9 hours a day. She says the joy is in doing “ordinary” things “together” which makes the whole experience “extraordinary”

Many a times I overlooked the strength of two. I would tell her why do you need two people if the same task can be done by one person. She gave me the analogy of the ant colony where for doing one task there will be number of ants. The system is if one fails the second will move forward and if the second fails the third will take over. Here the efficiency might be less but there is high resilience. 

When I see someone so selfless in front of me it helps me see the selfish corners in me. Apart from
having someone to listen, to share, to give a fresh perspective, to share jokes and laugh aloud, to massage my feet when in pain, to find strength in the last leg of our day...she holds my edges in a gentle way giving one more chance to change which definitely requires lot of strength and love. 

I could have never soaked in the beauty of this pilgrimage if I was by myself. To briefly share about her sense of being/ philosophy/ practice I am reminded of the African proverb which says- “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”

Deep deep gratitude to have her as my co-pilgrim for life

Sunday, March 10, 2019

Stitching my ego

I could see my toe from the small hole in my shoe which was getting bigger and bigger day by day. I kept delaying the repair and the day came when I had no option but to do something about it. 

We asked a few people if there was a cobbler in the village but there wasn’t any. I thought of mending it myself but I wasn’t sure if I could manage. The person whom I asked looked at my shoe and said let me try. I asked him if he has done it before to which he said, not really. I row boat but this would be an opportunity for me to serve you. 

I was observing him and the very first thing that struck me was the love with which he was doing it. A part of me was feeling embarrassed as I knew how dirty my shoe was and he was holding it as if they were a bunch of flowers. While he was doing it I could sense some discomfort in me. The fear that I was holding all this while of not knowing versus the effort this man was putting in something that he hasn’t done before in an effortless way. It’s amazing how in a village everyone knows everything. And how my “education” or my urban upbringing was inhibiting in doing something new. . 

As I kept observing my mind I arrived at a thought that shook me. My mind made a discrimination and said that this is not my job. It is a lower job. I realised the root of this thought was coming from the social conditioning that I have grown in. I couldn’t believe my own thoughts and a part of me was feeling ashamed. The resistance of not doing it myself was not only fear of doing a new job but also this deep conditioning. I wanted to get up and give him water to clean his hands but I couldn’t go beyond a courteous thank you. 

I just kept sitting with these discomforting thoughts that evening. The neatness of each stitch reminded me of the lost opportunity to share my gratitude. After that day, every time I look at that patch on my shoe it reminds me to practice humility. 


Thursday, March 7, 2019

Grace

After walking a 200 km stretch crossing some remote tribal villages and forest trails we reached Amarkantak on March 4th on the auspicious day of Mahashivratri. Amarkantak is the mouth of the river from where it starts flowing towards the sea. It flows west covering many thousand kilometers serving infinite beings with her love. 

This place marks half of our pilgrimage.While sitting at the Gurudwara in Amarkanthak the next day tears kept flowing thinking about the past three months of our journey. It is pure grace because of which we could walk a thousand kilometres and it would be too selfish to say that “I” or “we” walked so far. It feels beyond my capacity. And the tears were of gratitude for the unknown yet known force that has led us here.

When I think of the web of grace that is constantly flowing by our side with my limited mind I know I am not being fair to the hard work of infinite beings including our lineages and nature which is constantly blessing us with abundance. The tears were even for the limitations that the mind was creating to see beyond self and creating ownership for something which was beyond the “I”. 

The prayer for the rest of our journey is to look beyond the “I”, be humble and grateful at each step in the lap Mother Earth, Mother Nature and Mother Reva and embrace the nature of a mother being always gentle, forgiving, giving, content and compassionate:)

Saturday, February 23, 2019

When I Walk

When I walk I see a line of ants crossing the path.

When I walk I wonder about the symmetry that that butterflies carry.
When I walk I see the wild flowers sprouting from the rocks smiling wide at me.
When I walk I see the wild lizard camouflaging between the dry leaves.
When I walk I breath in the smell of the wet soil and the leaves.
When I walk I relish the wild berries fallen on the ground.
When I walk I connect to the tree by touching the bark.
Sometimes I pause to count the number of rings on the trunk.

When I walk I hear the songs of the winds.
Sometimes when I pause, the stillness in the silence helps me to connect and listen to my own breath.

When I walk I listen to the sound of the splash made by the tiny fish.
Sometimes when I pause I see the ripples in the water created by the wind.

When I walk I know if Sun God is gentler then yesterday to me.
When I pause in the evening I see it waving good bye to me.

When I walk I am able to see, hear, touch, smell the natural world that’s enabling me to wonder, be, connect and slow down.

@ Dhuadhar: from here the forest and ghats starts. I hear Narmadaji flowing some 30 feet down.


જયારે હું ચાલુ છું .........

જયારે હું ચાલુ છું , હું જોઉં છું કે કીડીઓ એક હરોળ માં કેવી મારા પથ માંથી પસાર થાય છે 
જયારે હું ચાલુ છું , ત્યારે મને પતંગિયા ની સપ્રમાણતા વિષ્મય પમાડે છે 
જયારે હું ચાલુ છું , હું જોઉં છું કે વનફૂલો પથ્થરો વચ્ચે થી કેવા મને સ્મિત આપી રહ્યા છે 
જયારે હું ચાલુ છું , હું જોઉં છું કે કાચિંડો કેવો પ્રકૃતિ સાથે એકરૂપ થઇ જાય છે 
જયારે હું ચાલુ છું , ત્યારે હું ભીની માટી અને પાંદળાઓ ની સુગંધને મારા માં ભરી લઉ છું 
જયારે હું ચાલુ છું , ભૂમિ પર પડેલા ફળો મને એક બાલ- સહજ આનંદ આપવી જાય છે 
જયારે હું ચાલુ છું , વૃક્ષો ના થડનો સ્પર્શ મને તેમની સાથે જોડે છે , કોઈ વાર હું ત્યાંજ રોકાઈ ને તેના વલયો ગણવા લાગુ છું 
જયારે હું ચાલુ છું , પવન ના ગીતો સાંભળું છું , અને કોઈ વાર હું આ નીરવ શાંતિ માં મારા જ શ્વાશ ને સાંભળતી હોઉં છું 
જયારે હું ચાલુ છું , ત્યારે આ ભાનુ કાલ કરતા કેવો સૌમ્ય લાગે છે અને સંધ્યાં જાણે મને અલવિદા કરતી હોય તેવું લાગે છે 
જયારે હું ચાલુ છું , ત્યારે આ પુરી સચરાચર સૃષ્ટિ ને મારામાં અનુભવી રહી છું અને જાણે એ તેની સોડ માં લઈને મને શાંત અને તેનામાં એકરૂપ કરી દે છે 

Translation by હિરેન ધૂળા


Monday, February 18, 2019

Rowing My Boat

While rowing my boat what will keep me flowing and floating while being anchored in equanimity, love and compassion.


Friday, February 15, 2019

Kindness Towards The Dead

While walking we see many dead animals and birds lying on road mostly due to accidents. From the day we started walking we would move them on the side and share prayers.

Yesterday someone saw us moving a dog that was lying dead on a high way. He asked us why do we do that. We did not have an answer then. One of the logic was to remove an obstacle for those who are driving. In retrospect we realised that the first time both of us did this act was during our 30 days inturnship in 2014 when we were walking with a friend.

A bunch of us were walking next to a water canal when he saw a dead dog. He said, let’s put a plastic bag on our hand and move him aside. We did it and shared our prayers. He added every being has right to be treated respectfully even if dead. We think the seed was planted then. Since then it has become an involuntary act. We still don’t know why do we do but it feels satisfactory.


Share some change :)

We hear a voice calling us from the other side of the road and when we pause we see this old grandfather waving his hand. We cross the r...