It's raining now, here in Tiruvannamalai, & I'm finally at an internet cafe` again. I had to ask someone the day. I'd thought it was the 16th, but it's Thursday December 15th. She only new because of booking tickets. It's very easy to lose track here. We are 12 1/2 hours ahead of you in California. Last Thursday December 8th was Deepam, the height of the festival to Mt.Arunachala (incarnation of Shiva) by lighting a vat of ghee with a giant wick at the very top. In meditation I'd asked Johnny, Arunachala, Divine Mother & the Universe how I should celebrate since I'd decided against going with 1-2million people around the mountain at night. I popped over to my neighbors late morning to say good morning & to fill a couple of bottles of water with purified water. Unasked, Supraat told me I should go around Arunachala right then during the day, as there would be no traffic & less of a crowd. So I did!
When I reached the fork to go around the mountain, I was thinking that it would be wonderful to have a way of chanting peacefully to go within...as it was really loud from thousands of Indian families just chatting in Tamil & vendors at the side selling noise makers & "stuff". I had only taken a few steps & a group of Brahmins wearing white sarongs appeared behind me chanting. They seemed to be from in their 20's to 60's & one of them carried a little boy around 2. They continued past me & I ran to keep up. Then I decided it would be easier to stay close if I was in front. And so I ran & positioned myself in front of them. It was beautiful having the energy of their chanting to Arunachala & a myriad of forms of Shiva behind me, while having a lovely view of Arunachala. I took pictures of the mountain (yes I'll try to figure that out at some point too) & I turned to request taking a tiny video clip of them, to which I received a smile & nod. It felt like a bubble was created around us & that I was propelled around the mountain despite the heat & humidity. It was only in the 80's, but I was drenched from head to toe with the humidity...but smiling ear to ear! I held hakini mudra most of our way & sometimes just had my arms down with palms turned forward to further the feeling of being propelled forward. Children & families turned to smile. I was the only non-Indian I noticed in the sea of people.
About a little more than an hour after I'd joined them, I suddenly noticed they were gone. An elderly lady with white hair & an orange sari patted me on my shoulder saying, "Coffee break! Coffee break!" & pointed to the left of the road. My group of Brahmin men were sitting at a bench. I thanked her, "Nundrie!" & went over & sat with them. One of them offered me what looked like a fried doughnut. It was a potato thingy & then offered me coffee...which I never drink at home. But I accepted. We exchanged names & where we were from. They were from Vivekananda's ashram at the southern tip near the shore & said that men & women live there as brothers & sisters. I didn't feel called to tell them about Johnny or my journey, as our communication due to accents was difficult & I felt completely welcomed anyway & very much adopted.
We started off again. Only this time the invitation to walk with them or in front of them was official.
A little while later I saw a woman in a beautiful royal blue & emerald green sari lying on the road with her skirt spread out & coins on it...she had no hands. I ran over to add some coins from my pocket. Later I saw a yoga adept in padmasana mayurasana (lotus fish in a back bend on the ground) & he had coins in front of him. I didn't add mine, feeling that he has hands & feet to work. An hour & half or so later, as we were drawing close to the main temple which is over 2,000 years old, they invited me to lunch. We went up a street away from the temple & into a cafe` & up the stairs. They gestured to a sink & we all washed up. We sat at a couple of long benches & servers came with an enormous plate of white rice for each of us & a large banana leaf & water to wash it. I washed it with a little of my bottled water. We each put some rice our leaf & then someone with metal pots of dahl, vegetables & potatoes spooned portions onto our leaves. I'd intended to only do fruit with the heat & walking meditation, & so I ate sparingly. I tried to explain & they seemed to understand. When I get back to the states I'm definitely going to do a raw vegan cleanse for awhile...too much cooked food here.
After lunch, they continued up the street away from the road around the mountain. I asked them how to get back & they pointed the way through an outdoor vegetable market. I thanked them & continued along my way.
There was trash everywhere, with the throng...but it is amazing that within a week they have gathered & burned much of it.
I bought a sugar cane along the way & rinsed it with my water. It helped to create more water in my mouth.I gimped along a bit the some 5 or 6 mile left to go home, as I'd pulled my gastrocnemius muscle (right outer calf). But I alternated my So Hum Aum (I AM That Presence Within- God) with Aum Nama Shivaya Namaha (I bow to Shiva, God in creative action), as I walked evenly rolling each sandal clad foot.As I approached Ramana Ashram, I knew I had about 3 miles to go before reaching home. There was a group of teenage Indians standing together with congenital facial deformities that looked like melting wax. An American man stood with them & there banner. He explained that they were raising money to bring out a surgeon. So I pulled out a few rupees from my pocket. A beautiful teenage girl with 1/2 of her face sagging over her left eye, in a bright turquoise sari looked glum from stares from people not really seeing her. I smiled big & called out, "Vanakam!" She just lit up.Children & families began asking my name & where I was from & seemed delighted I'd joined the walk around. I was still the only non-Indian.
I saw a leper reclining on the ground with open sores & coins strewn in front of him. I reached into my pocket & handed him a 20 rupee note (40 cents) & he held it up smiling & shouting as though he won the lottery...very touching.
It is impossible to donate to everyone & thing & can really only be done when you have a few rupees in a pocket, never from a money belt.
Almost home, an elderly woman in a turquoise sari asked my name & where I was from. Then a group of young Indian men passed by us & made a sound that was like a whistle...even though I was dressed very very modestly. She yelled out, "Hey!" To which I turned to her "Nundrie!" (Thank you in Tamil).
Back home I arrived at 5:30pm a half an hour before they were to light the top of the mountain with an enormous wick in a vat of ghee. I rushed to shower & change to go to my neighbors. I'd just missed their watching the lighting on the news since you can't see it from our side. But they did create a lovely little fire puja of their own with a lingam created with golden powdered tumeric & rice in front of their door & little ghee candles. They had a little altar on top of their microwave & invited me to pray there also. And so of course I asked for Johnny's & Arunachala's blessing on my pilgrimage through India. Then Uma place her index finger in some red paste & placed it on my ajna center (third eye) & smudged some ash in a line over that. Then they said some things to each other in Tamil & she & Abi (their son) knelt down to touch Supraat's feet (Uma's husband). After all, this was a festival to celebrate Shiva the male creative force. It was very sweet.
The next morning, Friday December 9th I massaged my leg, worked on some acupressure points & self shiatsu & some stretchy yoga to lengthen my calf & hamstring. Then I did my morning japa & sit (meditation). Oh, I don't think I've mentioned how each day here before meditation I've had a positive affirmation practice with some blessed water I received from my father-in-laws long time friend who has been in Southern India 3 times to see a siddha. Some 4,000 herbs & plants were used by a siddha (saint with great powers) & compressed into a hard substance & then water was bathed over it. I've been anointing my 3rd eye while making positive affirmations for body, mind & soul. Ron gave it to me just before leaving & it really resonated as I've been doing something similar with a left over prescription pad of Johnny's. For those of you who don't know, my husband was a very gifted licensed naturopathic doctor (Johnny's here, urging me not to leave out licensed as he went to medical school!) & had prescriptive rights. So for over a year and a half after he died I would write positive affirmations on his prescription pad during full moons, solstices, equinoxes, birthdays, his transition day (death of his body) & other meaningful times. Then I would create a little fire puja in our garden...back when I had a home (lost it to the bank back in February).
I had a yummy Hippy Salad at The Dreaming Tree with sauteed tofu & sprouted home made bread. And later I had an Indian dinner at Shanti Niliyam. Otherwise it was a very lazy day.
I didn't sleep all night, kept looking at the clock. Then from 5am to noon I had bloating & diarrhea but no stomachache. I put some GSE (Grapefruit Seed Extract) & a packet of EmergenC into a bottle of water that I sipped on. I did reflexology on my feet & ears, worked on acupressure points St 34, LI 11& rubbed my belly clockwise to keep everything flowing & to reduce bloating, while gazing at Paramahansa Yogananda's picture & chanting So Hum Aum within my mind. I was suppose to go to an acupuncture treatment with Miro at 3pm for my left over pollution induced lung & sinus congestion. I gave him a call at 11pm to tell him I couldn't leave my apartment. He offered to come over at 3:30pm. It was over before he arrived, but I was very fatigued. He did a really thorough intake & then only used 3 needles on my right side: St 34, Sp 6 & SI 3. My lungs cleared, breathing improved & I felt a little movement on the left side of my abdomen. I rested, sipped water & napped the rest of the day. I'm definitely going to get at least one more session before I move on. It really helped & it was only 500 rupees ($10)! Later I visited my neighbors & told them my doctor told me I was allowed to have just a little white rice. So Uma prepared me a little bowl with a little salt in it.
Sunday December 10th I went to bhajans (call & response chanting) at Upaho's, behind Shanti Niliyam. Charles asked if I could pour some of my water into his bottle since he'd run out, & I poured in 1/2. Then I actually made it into town to do a shopping with 2 friends from bhajans, after we went to lunch. We ate at Ragaini's & had red rice with vegetables, samba (vegetable soup) & some coconut chutney. Devi spent quite a bit of time to get her internet on her phone working at an internet cafe`, so Charles & I walked back & bought some papayas & bananas along the way. I kept noticing dogs with perfect notches out of their right ears & finally asked a shop owner. My hope was confirmed that it meant they had been spayed or neutered! And they have an animal rescue clinic that rounds them up to do this, to do check ups, de-worm & they're fed regularly. It felt really good to hear all of this.
Charles showed me where Virginia & Dennis were staying near him, since I'd been trying to reach her for a week. We visited for a short while before I called Kumar to drive me home. Virginia told us that she & Dennis had hired a guide to take them to the top of Arunachala the next morning & were meeting him at the post office at 5:45am! She invited us. Charles declined. I told them I'd love to go but still was fatigued from having the runs the day before...but would think about it.
About 4:30am Monday December 12th, I had the inner guidance that I had to go! I drank a 1/2 of a liter left in a bottle. jumped into the shower, dressed, grabbed a couple of bananas, an orange, a scarf since I didn't have a hat, my last liter of drinking water, camera & money for our guide. Then I called Karuna to pick me up to take me to the post office. From there we walked to the Ramana Ashram & walked back to the steps leading up to Arunachala. It's 2 short flights of stairs before the path covered with stones of all shapes & sizes, many flat. Our guide, Ashok, put his sandals under a bush. Virginia put her sandals in her bag. Dennis kept his high top sneakers on & I kept my sandals on.
It's quite a ways along the stony path just to get to the first cave that Ramana meditated in. And even though it was cool & overcast, I need to rest a few times. I apologized & explained to our guide that I had been sick with diarrhea only about 44 hours before. One of the rest stops was a large lookout rock, where you can see the whole city.
Young men & women were ascending & descending the mountain here & there the entire time & we smiled touching our hearts.
The path continued climbing up & up & I needed to rest again. I ate my 2 little bananas & had a couple of gulps of water. Virginia & Ashok both had brought little sweet biscuits with them. And Dennis asked if he could have a little of my water since he didn't bring enough with him. He took a few big gulps. I think I ended up sharing about 1/2 my water. I only did micro sips up & back. Then I brought out the final prescription I had left of Johnny's, that I'd filled out before leaving my apartment. I explained the significance & asked Ashok if I could put it in the fire at the top & he told us he didn't see a problem but that I'd need to ask the people tending the fire. Virginia asked to see it. I handed it to her while explaining that I wrote my name as Maha Shakti Butterfly when I was feeling more powerful. Her eyes misted up as she read it, pressed it to her heart & handed it back smiling. I nodded & put it back into my bag.When we were just a few feet from the top, Ashok told us to put our shoes near a bush because the top of the mountain is a great temple. It was about 10:30 or 11am. He & some others helped us those last few feet because it was so slippery with the blackened ghee. It truly otherworldly up there. The entire way, until we got to the top we heard the horns from traffic below. It was silent up here & there was a thick mist all around the top. So all we saw was the blackened ghee & an enormous yellow vat with fire coming out of it. A few young Indian men stood around. They had been camping on the top of the mountain since the lighting on Deepam to attend to keeping the fire going. Ashok made my request for me & I was given a nod & then helped up to the vat. I brought my palms together above my head, Johnny's prescription between my hands & brought it down to my ajna center (3rd eye) & anahata (heart center) as I asked for blessings, protection & guidance. Then I read my prescription silently. I had written 3 wishes: 1) Vibrant Health in a youthful body 2) Releasing emotions & ego lovingly 3) Finding my soul purpose with Johnny & the Universe's help
Finally we reached the spot where the real ascent began. I slipped on the rock because of the wet grass between the rocks. So Ashok told me it would be more "convenient" for me to take my shoes off, meaning it would be easier & that my toes could grip better. Which was true. He told us that the cobras & vipers didn't come out until 6pm. But there was appeared to be a black worm that he pointed out to be a baby snake.
I believe over 1,500 feet of our 2,500 foot total climb up Arunachala was via this rather arduous climb, at least arduous on little water & still recouping. Virginia & Dennis were way up ahead & Ashok stayed with me each time I need to rest for a few breaths...at least my breathing was more clear. But I very much felt held by Johnny & Arunachala as I chanted inwardly So Hum Aum & Aum Namah Shivaya Namah Aum.
We caught up to them & Ashok pointed out to be careful of the blackened areas, as that was slippery ghee that had been spilled on it's way to the top to keep the fire lit. I did take pictures along the way...& will get them posted eventually :)
Tentatively I placed my prescription near the flame & a gust of wind took it out of my hands. The moment I let go of the need to place it in the fire, feeling that the element of wind carried it with my voice to Johnny & Arunachala, then someone caught it on the other side of the vat & handed it back to me. I rolled it & put it in. It was amazing & really felt Johnny & the mountain. The young Indian man near the vat smudged my 3rd eye with ash from the vat.
Then Dennis & Virginia took their turns. I took pictures of Virginia & Dennis took pictures of me. Still on the top, we were shown little marble sculptures of lingams that had been blessed. We each bought one for 300 rupees ($6) to support the artists & commemorate Deepam & Arunachala.
Ashok guided us down off the top & through some grass which cleaned our feet & to a small cave. He pointed to some rags to wipe our feet & then we entered the cave. There was just enough room for the 4 of us to sit down in front of a small altar in the wall with a stone Shiva lingam on it. He asked Virginia for the little lingam she'd bought. He began by explaining that thousands of years ago Shiva became tired of creating & turned into Arunachala Mountain & he attracted Parvati his wife. He pointed to the upward protruding part of the lingam saying that was representative of the penis, male creative energy & sitting inside of a yoni or vagina & also represented shakti or feminine principal of unending emptiness & potential. He went on to say that tantra was very important, that when making love a couple should always look into each others eyes, ask permission before touching & stay connected energetically. I told them that my husband's death was very tantrik...that we were very present. Virginia & Dennis has already heard the story & so I just simply explained about our last kiss & his hands as his body was shutting down preparing for death. Then we meditated for a few minutes & I borrowed Virginia's sweater.
Ashok led us down the steep climb, the same way we had come up. I took micro sips as I needed them. We took some pictures of some Rhesus monkeys on an area of rock that opened up. I needed to take several little breaks. Virginia & Dennis continued on without waiting, while Ashok stayed with me the whole time. I told him more about Johnny & the death of his body. And he began opening up & telling me his entire life story too.
The sun did come out at times & was very hot. I had to put my shoes back on when we finally made it to the stony path because the rocks were too hot for my feet. We began taking breaks when we found a shady spot. At one of those areas Ashok offered me one of his packets of dehydrated dahl. It was salty, just what I needed & had 20 grams of protein. And he offered me a couple of his cookies. I brought out my orange & he only accepted a couple of slices. I noticed he didn't have much water either. He said his was local water & that he was okay because he drank a lot of water before we started out. I took another micro sip of mine. A young Indian man came up the path & pointed to his mouth speaking to Ashok in Tamil. He wasn't carrying anything, no water at all! Ashok asked if he could have a little of my water. I measured a millimeter distance between my fingers & said a tiny bit! So Ashok explained my instructions as I offered my bottle which he hovered over his mouth, only taking a couple of drops.
We still had quite a ways to go. I did have my scarf for my head. I only got a slight sunburn beneath my clavicle (collar bone) & on my arms, despite my not having sunscreen. And I didn't get heatstroke & my feet were in great shape, just a tiny scrape on my right elbow. We met Virginia at the lookout rock. Dennis had gone home, still getting over a cold. Got back down the mountain around 2pm. Johnny & Arunachala definitely had my back...& the rest of me!
Here are some pictures coming down Aurnachala & I managed to have energy to do one arm balance photo shoot as well.
After we reached the bottom, Virginia bought me a young coconut that Laxshmi opened for me. And I bought another after that. We walked back to Ashok's art studio & Virginia commented that my smudge on my 3rd eye looked like an Aum now! I looked at my reflection in the shop window...it did...& I also looked like a wild woman! She took a picture of me...hope it turns out!
The next day Tuesday December 13th I was tired & just felt my quads & hams a little. Did a little stretchy yoga before my affirmations, japa & sit. And I got into town & had another yummy salad at The Dreaming Tree with Devi & Charles. I really only felt my legs going up & down the stairs...
I think I need to end here. I lost 2 hours of work here at the internet cafe` during a power outage & had to almost start over again! So I do apologize for the formatting & hope it all makes sense. It's 7:20pm & I need to figure out where to go for dinner & go home.