Well, I'm here! We (Johnny & I) did it! And I have a lot of catching up to do to journal. So please forgive me that this 1st entry will be a snapshot of the last 5 days. I'll be hopefully figuring out how to post the pictures I've taken soon as well.
My husband's best friend, next to me, Lawrence drove me to the airport Sunday November 27th. I hadn't been on an airplane in a little over 20 years & had never been out of the country. Getting out of the car, I strapped on my backpack, gave my friend a hug & grabbed the bag with Johnny's ashes.
I'd left everything behind, even my cell phone as I was going to get another one in India to call home for just 1rupee (2 cents) per minute. My entire life sat in a 6x10 foot storage back in California. My son had our cats, very happily with him. Our home had been foreclosed on back on Valentine's Day of this year & I decided I needed to let go of my yoga studio (In the Mudra) since I couldn't find a partner or someone to take over. I was free. It was exciting, daring, scary & a bit crazy.
Inside the airport I made a friend (Lisa), who'd just finished her teacher training. She asked why I was going to India & so I told her my husband's story, our story, my story:
About 3 weeks before my soul mate husband, love of my lives, transitioned from cancer...his body died...I asked him where he wanted his ashes. He answered, "Put them in the garden, the ocean". Then he drew a long breath & continued, "and I want you to take them to (Mahavatar) Babaji's Cave or just somewhere in the Himalayan Mountains if you can't find his cave."
Lisa was very moved. Later she asked about the type of cancer Johnny had & so I told her that it was a rare connective tissue cancer (lipo sarcoma) & how our medical system prevented him from having surgery because it was a "pre-existing condition". How his naturopathic medicine helped reduce the pain (Johnny was a very gifted licensed Naturopathic Doctor.) But I told her that I'm always uplifted telling his death story:
The night before he died, my rose quartz mala broke & I knew he wouldn't be with me for much longer. That next night, the edema (water retention) wasn't just in his legs. It was now throughout his body, even in his face. We had had this unspoken agreement that we would not speak of death when it came. We wanted to remain in the present, out of fear, only in love. And you could have cut the love in the room like a knife. In bed he wanted to cuddle & he wanted to kiss me. Since his body was shutting down, his lips curled & his tongue fell back in his mouth. But he wanted to kiss me! So I gently place my tongue in his mouth & he gently swirled the tip of his tongue around mine. His hands were hard & his fingers curled in towards his palms...I kissed them. He apologized that his back was hurting him & turned away from me. I told him that I loved spooning with him & began kissing his shoulders. One of our cats, Briana, cuddled behind my knees. Finally he rolled toward me & said that his heart hurt & he was having a hard time breathing...all while reading my eyes & more concerned about what was going on inside me than in his own body. He asked me to call Hospice. On the phone she told me to sit him up. And so I rolled him to help him lean on me & got him to his meditation chair, which use to be my mom's meditation chair. She instructed me to put the oxygen machine on him, which didn't help & then to put oxycodone drops under his tongue. The door rang & I had to run to let the hospice nurse in...that was the hardest thing, leaving his side. When I came back in, I put a picture of our guru, Parmahansa Yogananda, on his lap. I put my left hand on his heart & held his left hand in my right, as I told him, "Baby I love you so much! Baby I love you so much! Divine Mother loves you! Guruji loves you!" I said this 3 times & then he exhaled his last, hands falling one on top of each other cupped upwards. He had his little mini Maha Samadhi (meditation while exiting the body during death) his last minute. The hospice worker took Johnny's vital signs & announced, "It's 11:57pm January 5th 2009." I'd had no idea of day or time. This was our guru's birthday & he took Johnny the last 3 minutes of his birthday party! I had begun to meditate after his death...to follow him just a little way. But the hospice worker began adjusting his head & mouth to "look better" for family & it brought me out of deep meditation & plummeted me into grief. I was able to meditate the next morning...
I also shared some of the communications I had with Johnny right after & in these past nearly 3 years now.
But let's come back to the airport. Lisa & I began doing some yoga stretches in the terminal & I showed her some Shiatsu techniques, while seated, to get the legs to relax. Then I worked on her palm that was swollen. I explained that I always seem to be "fixing" people I meet. She was delighted. She shared about her travels too & it was delightful having a new friend to chat with while we waited.
On the plane, both going to London & then on to Chennai the next morning, there was an empty seat between me & the passenger on the aisle. This enabled me to stretch diagonally to take little cat naps. I felt that this was a little gift from Johnny & thanked him & our guru, Divine Mother...
LA was beautiful flying out of LAX, all the lights. I arrived at the Heathrow airport in London on November 28th about 3:30pm their time. I stayed over in one of their sleeping cabins, which was quite comfortable but no windows. I flew out of Heathrow that next morning on November 29th & arrived at the Chennai airport November 30th at 1am. By the time I found the taxi driver who came for me, it was about 2am & we arrived in Tiruvannamali at 5:30am. It was still dark, but women & their daughters were making their way up the main road with milking cows & calves, who all seemed to be well fed & treated well.
He took me to my apartment where I rested for 4 hours, before Karuna came to pick me up by auto rickshaw to go buy toiletries & some muesli cereal, soy milk, cashews, papaya & bananas. Along the way I took in the magnificence of Arunachala Mountain, the green-ness everywhere, women in sparkly saris, sadhus in ocher robes, open air temples & grave yards. But I did notice piles of trash next to the road & asked how many people lived there, & was told 500,000. At their little market, I was pretty out of it with the jet lag & just starred at the shampoo & had a hard time making decisions. Then he drove me back to my apartment. On the way we talked about my friend Virginia who'd invited me & had just arrived 2 days prior. Moments later we ran into her on the road. What synchronicity! She invited me to come to join her & a friend later for dinner & to go to the ashram to meditate & hear chanting in Tamul, the local language. But I wasn't up to it after the 3 day journey & said "Maybe tomorrow". Karuna got me back & I showered & then laid down again until almost 8pm. Karuna had told me he'd meet me at a hotel about 300 yards from my apartment to bring me a mobile phone I paid him to get for me. At the restaurant I was asked, "Veg or Non-Veg"...to which I explained I was vegan. There was only one thing available to me on the menu, but it was delicious & flavorful without being too spicy, a yellow dhal with chapati. Karuna met me to give me my phone & very kindly sat while I ate & I told him briefly about Johnny's last request.
He offered me a ride back on his motorcycle & I accepted saying I've never been on a motorcycle. Which is true! It was a short ride but fun. I didn't mention that Johnny took me to a motorcycle photo shoot he wanted me to do years ago.
Back in my apartment, my bedroom was sparse with just a hard bed, sheets & pillows. The living room had a coffee table. The kitchen was just a long counter with a large sink & no refrigerator. I had my own bathroom, which I was thankful for...& thankful for it all actually. The bathroom had a western style toilet but had a hose attached to the tank & no toilet paper...was thankful I brought some & that Karuna got some at the store for me. The shower was in the same space as the toilet. And I even had an area behind the apartment with rattan furniture & a clothes line & a thatched roof enclosing it. My apartment was upstairs & had a spectacular view of Arunachala Mountain.
A neighbor had greeted me earlier that day & to make sure I knew how to lock the gate downstairs, & so I thought I'd introduce myself to the family since they had their front door open. They had been watching a Bollywood movie on a lap top, but turned if off & invited me in. Uma made some ginger tea for me & we must have chatted for nearly 2 hours! I told them Johnny's story & Uma's husband (don't remember his name at the moment) held my hand. A very sweet family. I mentioned that I was vegan & what that was. He said that they were vegetarian when they were & not when they weren't & just took things & life as it came. Uma confided that they ate meat when they "could afford it". They asked how I ate when I was at home & I told them I liked to do as much raw as possible. Her husband proudly showed me that they like to sprout & then put honey in it & then it doesn't take much to fill them. I agreed & said there's much more vitamins & nutrition it sprouted & raw & that more people can live on less food & less money. He even told me he wanted me to teach her yoga to "reduce" since she'd put on weight...& had never practiced yoga. (It seems that more Americans practice yoga than Indians.) I told them that meditation & pranayama help too & that I'd be happy to teach her. They've been so busy with their internet business, trading on the Indian stock market that she hasn't been available.
I excused myself, needing to call my family. Mom#2, my mother-in-law, answered & was thrilled & surprised that I called. She was so sweet & told me, "Everyone is going to love you in India! You're so beautiful & sweet & friendly!" My son didn't answer his phone, but I left a nice long newsy message.
The next day Thursday December 1st...I'd lost a whole day & kept thinking it was Wednesday, I slept in, meditated lying down & thanked Divine Mother, Guruji, Johnny...did a little stretchy yoga, a few Sun Salutes, savasana & showered. Then laid down for another nap! I was also getting rid of a cold that started the day I left LA, due to some very intense personal stress the week & a half before leaving.
Then I called a contact I was given by another friend. One who lived in town, Dominic, who was 1/2 Indian 1/2 Portuguese & owned an organic farm "Shanti Niliyam". He sent me an auto rickshaw to bring him over to take a tour & have lunch. It was lush & he had a real passion for wanting to inspire Indians to take up organic farming too. A friend of his that lives on the property, Ananda, asked me about my name when Dominic introduced me as "Butterfly":
My husband's body died nearly 3 years ago of cancer. Eight months after I went to Burning Man. Johnny & I had been their together 5 times. My first time there, we got married. And my last time there I took a little of his ashes in a box I painted with the heart chakra on top & the universe painted inside... I danced with his ashes there. And I took them to for the temple burn. I glued a picture of us on one of the walls, wrote to him on that wall & glued the box with his ashes. As I finished gluing the box, a tiny little butterfly landed on the box...& I was wearing butterfly wings at the time. My husband named me. They smiled broadly, that it was fitting.
Dominic invited me to have lunch & meet his new cook who would be preparing his 1st meal (an Italian one) on the grand opening of their cafe` on Sunday. After a traditional vegetarian Indian meal, Dominic's knee was locked up & hurting. He had had Polio as a child & was now 61. So I did some Shiatsu massage on him & showed him how to work on himself. He could really feel the energy running & circulation returning & said, "You could make a living with this here!" This was before I told him I was also a massage therapist & energy healer, as well as a yoga teacher.
Then he asked me if I knew what rennet was, having heard it is in cheese. And so I told them it's used to harden cheese & comes from the lining of the intestines of calves & cows. They were shocked. And I told them about the factory farming & feedlots in America to fatten cows with grain that should be fed to people. He told me that someone even came to a neighbor of his & talked him into cramming chickens in cages to "save space", until people started complaining about the cruelty.
He filled my water bottles with water from his reverse osmosis system that runs the water through 5 times & had Kumar his auto rickshaw driver friend drive me home.
Later Karuna took me into town in the evening to meet Virginia. We met at the ashram for the nightly 6:30pm call & response chanting in the native tongue, Tamul, after checking our shoes in. It was beautiful. The men sat on one side & sang & then the women sang back. Virgina told me they were songs that Sri Ramana Maharishi wrote to the mountain, which is believed to be an incarnation of Shiva. We just sat & listened, & I felt myself drifting off to sleep with the lullaby. Then she asked if I was hungry. I told her I was too tired for a meal but that a snack would be good. So she introduced me to the coconut lady, Lakshmi who has had that roadside business for 25 years! It was delicious & refreshing, but very different from the young Thai coconuts. We had some roasted peanuts folded into a bit of newspaper from another vendor. Then Karuna drove me home.
Friday morning December 2nd I had more energy from a great night's sleep after the chanting. So I did a little stronger Vinyasa flow after my morning sit (meditation) in front of the little altar I created with Johnny's urn, picture & picture of Parmahansa Yogananda & felt very connected.
I decided I had enough energy to walk the 3 kilometers (1.5 miles I think) into town. Virginia had invited me to hike part of the way up Arunachala, with her & her friend Dennis, to one of the caves that Sri Ramana Maharishi meditated in for 12 years & became so absorbed & one with the Divine that he didn't even notice rats chewing on him.
Even though I knew it would be a long hike, I wanted to see everything on foot. I believe the official driving pattern is driving on the right...at least if it's a freeway! Other than that it is a free for all with lots of honking & larger vehicles have the right away & pedestrians need to keep well to the side but still watch for motor scooters & motorcycles that will drive on the side to get around traffic.
It was hard sometimes seeing dogs sometimes without people, but for the most part they seemed well fed. Some of the women were dressed very elegantly in saris that sparkled. Others appear to have very little. Sadhus in orange robes tried to motion me over. I kept to my path. A couple of women were putting trash in small plastic bags & I folded my hands in Namaste`to them & touched my heart & then gestured to the Earth. There's a lovely custom of greeting each other & touching the heart.
There was a lovely open air goddess temple that felt very powerful.
I met Virginia just outside the temple grounds & we removed our shoes. Dennis watched our bags, while we went to the bathrooms which are just holes in the ground with a ceramic plate over it.
Peacocks roamed in front of the temple, as we made our way to the stairs leading to the stone path up the mountain. A very sweet group of young Indian men wanted to have their picture taken with Dennis & I. One of the boys had a T-Shirt that read something like: Watch out, I know karate, tae kwon doe, ju jitsu...& a lot of other dangerous WORDS. I read it dramatically out loud & we all laughed.
The view along the stoney path was beautiful & butterflies danced in front of me much of our way. That gave the opportunity for Dennis to ask how I got my name & I obliged. He thought it was a lovely story & confirmation. I did actually get a picture of one of the butterflies & hope to post it when I figure that out.
There were a few very talented artisans, stone carvers selling their statues of Ganesh, Shiva, snakes & Aum symbol.
Dennis asked me where I lived & I told him laughingly, "That's a good question!" Then I shared with Virginia & Dennis that I was needing to shed now...had my life down to a 6'x10' storage unit. Virginia very sweetly told me that she thought I'd be achieving enlightenment in this life time because I've had so much loss. I feel any life purpose arising out of this wonderful adventure Johnny has sent me on will also include my being "in the world" though...I have a son & 2 cats at home!
There was a rest point on a large rock that more than a dozen people could sit on & see the entire city. The largest temple in the center, that I haven't visited yet, is over 2,000 years old.
We hiked up the remaining way to the first cave. Dennis told us he just noticed a cut on his foot that was becoming inflamed & needed to return to put Neosporin on it & that his stomach was troubling him. So just Virginia & I went in. There was a picture of Sri Ramana, flowers, a little pot with red paste to put on the ajna center (3rd eye) & a few cushions. The cave was cool & comfortable after being out in the heat (only 80's but humid). There was also a deep peace & sweetness I felt there. We each took turns & knelt briefly in front of the altar & placed a dot of red paste on our 3rd eyes & then sat against the cool wall of the tiny cave. For a little while my meditation seemed to go quite deep into thoughtlessness, not quite breathless & a merging into the wall behind me. A little later I began crying...no apparent reason from any thought...but a lovely release.
Virginia & I were not up to going to the second cave & so we made our way down the mountain. I told her about challenges that had come up 1 1/2 weeks before my leaving for India...a close friend committing suicide...& cried as I told her about Sarah.
A little girl sat at the bottom of the steps asked me my name & asked me to take a picture of her. Then she asked me to take a picture of her with her sister & they eagerly looked at the picture on the camera. She asked to take my picture with her sister & instead I handed it to Virginia for her to take it & their baby sister ran over to join us. Afterwards she pointed to the bananas in my bag I'd bought from a woman near the cave. I picked one out & said, "Dring, Dring" holding it up to my ear, "I think it's for you." They giggled as I handed her the banana.
Walking into the courtyard behind the temple & ashram, there was a little family of Rhesus monkeys. A big one jumped onto my cloth bag biting it's way through & trying to grab it from me. I pulled it close & we starred each other down for a moment until it jumped down. Virginia said she was afraid of the monkeys. I took a few pictures of them & then we went into the bookstore to buy a zippered cloth bag. And I lamented that I couldn't buy anything because of my traveling for 6 months through India & having to travel light. (I had bought a couple of very light weight simple outfits, as then few things I brought were too warm.)
Virginia said she wanted to go check on Dennis, but pointed out the way to Manna Cafe` to me.
I was the only one at Manna Cafe`since it was only 4:30pm. I had some wonderful fresh pressed juice- apple, beet, carrot & a delicious dinner of chapatis, hummus & grated beets & carrots. It's been such a treat to discover that one can eat really healthy & well on so little! The bill was 135 rupees, which amounts to about $2.70.
Karuna called just before I was served & I told him that I was thinking about him, about paying my 2 weeks rent & needing a ride back after dinner. By the time I called him after dinner, he needed to pick up his daughters from school. While I waited, I bought another papaya, more bananas & I did buy a quartz crystal & rudraksha bead mala- as I'd left my malas at home & wanted to add one to my little altar on my bed.
For some reason I didn't sleep well & so I finally got up at 5:30am on Saturday December 3rd, took the mala I bought off of Johnny's wooden urn & did japa for an hour...rolling each of the 108 beads while sounding a silent mantra. Some mantras are out loud, but this one is silent & is the second oldest mantra...the very sound of the breath So Hum Aum (I AM that Presence within, God as spirit). This was a mantra I used with my beloved (Johnny) to change his perception of his pain & anxiety & put him back to sleep every 10-15 minutes for 4-5 hours at a stretch over a 6 week time period, during his last & final bought with cancer. This mantra has deep meaning for me...& yes my eyes are misty...but with love.
Then I did an even stronger Vinyasa flow sequence, showered & had another light breakfast of papaya with some muesli poured into the hollow where I removed the seeds, 2 small bananas, a few cashews & an orange.
I called Karuna to take me to the ashram for the Vedic chanting that Virginia invited me to & his brother Rogen came instead. I sat for a couple of minutes with Virginia & then felt compelled to circle around with others around the altar, while boys & young men chanted. It was very powerful & I held my hands in Hakini Mudra the whole time, calling to remember who I am. I did spontaneously cry at one point. A brahmin priest placed garlands around a little snake altar to shiva & a lingham, an egg shaped stone also representing Shiva & transformation.
After the ceremony, Dennis met us outside the temple. He had been on the men's side of the room. There is no feeling of "segregation" in this practice though. It seems to be merely a way of being more focused on the reason for being there.
Then Virginia showed us where Dennis was going to have his Aruvedic massage later, which was along our way to silent darshan (energy transmission) with Amma of the Sri Siva Sakthi Ammaiyar Ashramam. It lasted only 15 minutes, her slow walk & loving gaze.
There was a rooftop restaurant next door that was just amazing called "The Dreaming Tree". Couches & futtons with brightly colored pillows were grouped around tables. Hammock were along the sides, a mural of a tree & even a modern western bathroom with toilet paper & a sink along with a beautiful jungle mural. One of the owners, Anna is German & her husband is Indian. Much of the menu is organic, it's vegetarian with a few vegan options. We had brunch & I had a Himalayan Echinacea tea to boost my immune system, an almond milkshake & porridge with bananas, rasins, nuts, shredded coconut & almond milk...very tasty & hardy!
Well, I've been writing for hours now to catch up. I have an invitation back at Shanti Niliyam in 90 minutes to try out their new chef before "going live" tomorrow night.
I did notice a yoga studio a couple doors away that really intrigued me with their scope of asana, pranayama, mudras & meditation programs & jotted the number down...
Love & Namaste`,
P.S. I'll try to post pictures soon...when I figure it out :)