It’s like a magician’s maze, just when you think you’ve found the true way out, another ugly path opens up. And you’re back to where you started – no where!
But a mountain brings back sanity to your life.
It’s like meditation, when you’re on top of one – breathe in the fresh life-air, and breathe out the stifled – bad air.
There’s something about mountains that sticks with me. If it’s not the sheer size, it’s the resilience that oozes out of its pores.
A mountain, when you climb one, whispers to you like a living-breathing being.
In its own mysterious manner, it narrates that age-old story of bravery, of always holding one’s head high, even when the cobwebs of life-circumstance try to pull you down.
A mountain to me is coolest example of eternal timelessness.
Just when you think that you’re just climbing one physically, the internal struggle-climb takes you towards a higher state of mind – where the constant wheel of thoughts takes rest, and the creative life-force pervades.
Climb one, and sit in silence.
Shout at it if you want to!
Listen in deep meditative silence to what it echoes back.
It’ll gently whisper the secret mystery of what life is made of – fortitude , resilience & unperturbed individuality under all conditions!
A lot remains to be said. Yet, there’s no time! No time at all to tend to the tender heart. We create a life cycle around what doesn’t matter, what won’t last long, what won’t enrich the heart.
Layer on layer, and the heart becomes a hardened cocoon.
Life becomes a living lie ! We lie every waking second of every single minute… lie on what it means to feel happy.. what it means to feel whole with ourselves and, and with existence.. not-so-innocent lies on the perfect wives and the perfect families…
The fragile heart, the ever so bold heart that smiles inwardly, is the first casualty of the concooned existence.
But it knows the truth, that it sometimes gently whispers into your ears, slowly and cautiously. And it’s blunt and casual in its judgement – you’re not happy, you’re not whole, your being is but a sad vibration of accumulated lies – from parents, loved ones, and the society.
But you go on, holding on to those lies that you now believe to be your reality.
One fine day, when the clouds are sombre, and the mood is melancholic, the quiet heart plays a note of love, of memory, of stillness, of the age gone by, when you were free. And you REMEMBER!
The remembrance strikes a hammer into the hardened cocoon, and creates a small crevice… Small enough to let fresh air in..
The innocent heart catches a beat of respite again & plays that LOVE SONG again, the one we forgot while “growing up”. The delight is same, the excitement is same.
Wrinkles on the face may hide the delight. The light in the eyes shows so.
So, whenever that moment catches on to you, it’s your “calling”. In that moment, run away from anything that binds you from that ancient call. Run away from everything that bound you in the name of duty or convention or even love.
For there’s no age to be perfectly free, and happily joyous!
No age to release the soul-butterfly out of its caged cocoon!
A whirling dervish… Ecstatic music… A state of no dimension !
I never thought I’ll ever witness a whirling Dervish for real. Let alone, whirl myself!
Least of all, didn’t expect it to happen in Osho’s meditation center.
But wonderful things happen, especially, when you least expect them!
On the last day of a 4-day camp at Osho Nisarga center, the instructor, Pragya Ma, introduced us to the techniques of “No Dimension” meditation.
“Using the breath and a series of coordinated body movements followed by whirling, your energy becomes centered in the hara, the “life energy” center below the navel. From there you can watch the mind and experience awareness and wholeness – the body moving in all directions, the center unmoving.” – osho.com
Not only could I whirl without feeling dizzy, I felt a new connection with the universal energy; a connection which was always there in the first place!
It felt like a “spring of awareness” has blossomed in my heart, pushing away the dark wintry clouds of “chain of thoughts”.
Tears of gratitude flowed from my eyes, realising, for the first time, that the only hinderance between me and the universal energy is the entity “me”. Once “me” leaves the place, only God resides, even if, momentarily. 🙂
Located in foothills of The Himalayan range, Himachal Pradesh, Osho Nisarga is a lush green meditation commune. Vibrant flowers, gentle murmur of the river water, and the enchanting view of Dhauladhar mountain range, Osho Nisarga’s vibes surely takes the meditation experience to another dimension!
“The whole existence is a temple. The trees are continuously in worship, The clouds are in prayer, and The mountains are in meditation… ”
Vipassana is an ancient meditation, re-discovered, & preached by Gautama, the Buddha in 2550 B.C.E. A connoisseur of peace, Buddha transcended the realm of mind, and attained “nirvana” or “enlightenment”.
“Vipassana is the essence of all meditations” – Osho.
A curious agnostic, I believe something when I see it from my eyes, feel it in the depths of my soul, figure it out through rational mind. So, I took Vipassana course as a scientific experiment on myself, a challenge to conquer, a test of my extremes.
That’s when I landed in Jaipur!
Dhamma Thali Vipassana Meditation Center Jaipur, Rajasthan, India
Located at a distance of 15 Kms from Jaipur airport, the Dhamma Thali Vipassana Meditation Center is easy to reach from station and airport. A 10-day residential course, a group of dedicated volunteers, veg wholesome meals, the simplicity of 10 days routine is a window to simplicity of the technique.
What is Vipassana? Is it for me?
The word “Vipassana” means to “see things as they are, not as they appear to be” or “to see clearly” in Pali language. I’ve been lucky enough to attend the course thrice. A lot of people ask me if it is for them. Well, put simply, there’re three things that you need to consider if you want to go ahead.
An open-scientific mind that is ready to explore a new idea:
My rational mind never agrees with traditions or conventions.. The technique doesn’t require you to do so… The high-point of Vipassana? Equanimous observation of reality, as it is. No visualization or verbalization. No chants, no mantra, and no dress code…No mention of God, soul, or religion… An open mind is all you need.
Fear not, no one is going to “convert” you ! It ain’t a religion! 🙂
Intense curiosity & a sense of respect for meditation and spirituality:
A curiosity for spirituality, life, & mind is how I landed there. So, can you! Don’t go if you want to convert it into another social media debate between your beliefs & Buddhism. It isn’t about Buddhism. It is a technique that came back to India through Mr. S.N. Goenka in 1969, after it vanished from India, few centuries after its re-discovery by Gautama, the Buddha.
The toughest, yet, most challenging part is adherence to “The Code of Discipline”. A 10-day routine, noble silence, abstinence from liquor, sexual conduct, purely vegetarian meals, starting the day with a wake up bell at 4:15 AM, can get a little intimidating. But the code of discipline is important. It is a part of the whole process…
The technique of Vipassana:
Noble Silence: 10 days “moun”: Silence of speech, mind, and body.
A technical summary: Technically, Vipassana is simple. Observe the breath (Anapana)… Become aware of wandering thoughts… Focus back on breath… Slowly, the focus is shifted onto body parts…Equanimous observation of sensations that erupt in each body part…
The technique becomes challenging when one has to do it more than 10 hours a day, for 10 days, with a light stomach, and a smile on the face. 🙂
The physical discomfort due to posture or continuous sitting is where the path of Vipassana begins! So, if you go, persist till the end, and give it your best shot.
To me personally, a course in Vipassana is a soulful inner journey:
The first three days are tricky… As thoughts engulf the consciousness… By the fourth day, the burden we call “thoughts”, begin to shed their weight… Mind is conditioned to be reactive… A student of Vipassana slowly learns to observe, rather than react to action happening outside and inside. It is almost like the law of Physics: every action has an equal and opposite reaction… No reaction breaks the cycle of thoughts!
Vipassana is just a blissful journey towards attaining “Bodhi”, or “awakening”.
If I may say so, Vipassana to me is a “fresh awakening”, a “rebirth”, a “renaissance of mind”!!!
A click to remember on the last day of Vipassana course!
I can’t help it. The word “Mobor” reminds me of a brilliant scene from the super – addictive “The Game of Thrones”: “Hodor, Hodor, Hodor”. An irrelevant trivia I know! 😛
The day we finally left Palolem, only to return back in 2 days:
It was our fifth day at Palolem beach, South Goa. The idea of the Goan adventure was to explore all the places in 11 days long vacation. But we grew too comfortable & totally cheated on our itinerary.
The idea to explore was lying in deep slumber…Like the beach itself…
There’s something about the stillness of the beach which captivates human mind. A sense of stillness of thoughts… A sense of calmness… A sense of awe for the grandeur of mother nature… This feeling takes over the senses, and the compulsive need to see it all on a trip loses its significance…
But we did it! Next leg of the journey towards the North Goa:
Sense prevailed. We finally came out of the reverie, hired a car for the next day (Rs. 1200). And embarked on the north Goa adventure. On-route, we took a de-tour towards a high-end, not-so-crowded beach, the Mobor, Cavelossim beach. I’m glad we did it!
Mobor, Cavelossim is a high-end beach, offers private beaches & adventure sports:
Mobor, Cavelossim, a 30 Km long Southern Goa beach strip, is a high-end beach, shared between luxurious hotels and resorts, Leela Palace Hotel and Holiday Inn Resort. For someone who’s on a luxurious trip, Mobor beach is the place to book. Do it now!
The clear waters, soft golden sand, and silence brings a sense of calm, complemented with a sense of high for the adventure sports: water skiing, windsurfing, sailing, parasailing, jet skiing, boating, and so on.
A tryst with swimming at Mobor!
I live in Punjab, North India – a region far away from oceans and shores. One can imagine the sense of pride I felt when I thought I could swim against the waves, just like any other local Goan or a foreigner.
Only, I couldn’t do it! The ocean fiercely intimidates. It is untameable. It is wild. So, it arouses curiosity. It dares you, with a wicked smirk on its face. The ocean knows it – deep down, you’re a coward. Especially, when you come face to face with your biggest fear: drowning.
If Palolem is gentle beach, owing to its crescent shape and unique location, Mobor is a monster. The waves are huge during the high tide ! But my natural curiosity pushed me to risk a plunge into the waves.
Luckily, a local restaurant owner and an experienced local swimmer saw my dilemma, and offered help. He, along with a drunk-merry Russian couple, showed me how to swim against the waves.
Slowly, he taught the technique of jumping into the crest of the wave, and then ride on the wave’s momentum. It was awesome! I felt invincible! And the very next wave caught me off-guard. Due to bad timing, it hit me hard & I was left dumbfounded, gasping for air on the white sandy shore. 😛
The high point of the beach is less crowd. In India, it means less garbage too! As mojor part of the beach is shared by the luxurious hotels, the beach is not crowded by casual tourists. A memorable day of Goa trip, The untameable Mobor, Cavelossim, is a tale to remember!
It was a usual day in the library. For the first time in life, I finally knew what I yearned for: knowledge & a place where there’s plenty of it: university’s library.
A.C. Joshi Library, located in the Panjab university, is not for the casual students. It is a “respite for soul” place for the curious ones. The ones who want to know it all. The ones with insatiable hunger for more!
Though I was a post-graduate student at that time, the name “Khalil Gibran” (or Kahlil Gibran) didn’t ring any bells. But the word “Lebanese” poet aroused some curiosity, and that’s how I opened the first page.
And then I couldn’t put it down for a moment – read it while eating, in the class, in the hostel common room, almost everywhere. There it was, one of the most enchantingly romantic works one could read, “The Broken Wings: Khalil Gibran“.
A take on spiritual love, with its purity intact, The Broken Wings is like an intense lyric, the depths of which are unfathomable to a mortal being. Here’s an excerpt from the text:
“Every young man remembers his first love and tries to recapture that strange hour, the memory of which changes his deepest feeling and makes him so happy in spite of all the bitterness of its mystery…
Today, after many years have passed, I’ve nothing left out of that beautiful dream except painful memories flapping like invisible wings around me, filling the depths of my heart with sorrow, and bringing tears to my eyes; and my beloved, beautiful Selma, is dead and nothing is left to commemorate her except my broken heart and tomb surrounded by cypress trees. That tomb and this heart are all that is left to bear witness of Selma.
The silence that guards the tomb does not reveal God’s secret in the obscurity of the coffin, and the rustling of the branches whose roots suck the body’s elements do not tell the mysteries of the grave, by the agonized sighs of my heart announce to the living the drama which love, beauty, and death have performed. “
The tragedy of love is beautifully captured in the masterpiece. But love’s not the only facet of Gibran’s work. Another classic, “The Prophet“, discusses practical answers to spiritual & philosophical aspects of daily life. Matters of marriage, death, talking, children, giving, etc. are touched upon with soft-soothing words, showing his creative genius in the poetic form.
Here’s an excerpt from “On Talking” by Khalil Gibran:
“You talk when you cease to be at peace with your thoughts;
And when you can no longer dwell in the solitude of your heart you live in your lips,
And sound is a diversion and a pastime.
And in much of your talking, thinking is half murdered.
For thought is a bird of space, that in a cage of words may indeed unfold its wings but cannot fly…
There are those among you who seek the talkative through fear of being alone.
The silence of aloneness reveals to their eyes their naked selves and they would escape… “
I love meditation. An intensely curious agnostic, I want to know it all, learn it all, imbibe the facts. At some point, even meditation became an intellectual activity.
Take a deep breath, be in harmony with nature, let go and what not…
But the real “let go” happened the moment I wasn’t trying to “let go” anymore. I was too astonished, too stunned, too happy to “try” something.
For the first time, “I” was just not there anymore ! Or maybe, “I” finally lost its significance.
That “I” we cling on to, became too small a reality in front of such a vast endless ocean. I became a negligible entity staring at the grand canvass, the creator painted with a master stroke.
It all started on that laid-back, lazy, hot Palolem beach.
Located in the Southern part of Goa, within 2.5 kms of market town of Chaudi, Canacona, the Palolem Beach was my first glimpse to a “hippy-style lifestyle” (concerns of budget-traveling). 🙂
Though we started the trip by staying in a “safe” hotel behind the beach, the decision to shift to Palolem beach’s cottages was inevitable – for the compulsive need to stare at the waves was simply irresistible!
On this 10 days long vacation, we literally backpacked, & stayed at Rs 800/ night or less in the beach huts / cottages ( A freelance writer can only afford budget traveling in India 😉 ).
The cool & misty mornings!
The usual day at Palolem beach started at 8 AM. Tea, breakfast (usually the delicious omelette & big tea mugs at Hi-Tide Coco Huts ), staring at the incessant flow of waves, preceded by a dip in the warm currents of the Indian ocean.
A typical beach hut
View from the cottage
Now, I love swimming, yet, the vastness & mysticism of ocean intimidated me. I just couldn’t go too far from the shore.
There’s this funny incident that happened one afternoon. One day while swimming, I slowly drifted towards a couple, who to my horror were making love right inside the ocean. 😛 ( Not a common sight for an average “decent” Indian). The moment I realized, I chuckled and tried to swim away, only to be sent back towards them by the flow of the current. 😛
The hot, & lazy afternoons!
The lazy, hot, bright afternoon called for a nap on the beach, followed by a refreshing drink.
Foodies that we Punjabis are, the later part of afternoon was spent in “hunting” for a new restaurant to eat, out of 80-100 odd restaurants located on the beach.
I don’t know what vegetarians or the so-called morally prickly vegans eat in Goa, but for me, it was a happy platter of fried fish, fish curry, coconut fish, omelette, prawns, and everything a hardcore spiritual non-vegetarian can gulp in one go.
Evening view at Palolem, like a canvass painted by the creator!
A casual stroll, a walk on the beach is how the day slowly receded into the evening. We literally waited each evening, with a camera in our hands, to capture, again & again, the glory of God in the name of his most beautiful painting – a sunset!
Orange tinge blended into a purplish blue, set against a grayish-blue sky, Goa changed the meaning of a sunset forever in my mind. The staring continued till the orange canvass changed into a star-lit sky. 😃
It is after 7PM that the phenomena called Palolem finally comes to life. Dimly lit restaurants, fragrances in the air that allure the appetite, peppy music in the background, the place takes a U-turn as the evening advances into the night.
I still can’t forget the happy faces of laid-back tourists, playing guitar without a care in the world, wearing that super sexy cowboy hat the likes of me only see in Hollywood movies!!! 😛
Now, I can’t speak for everyone else, but for me, Goa took all the tiredness away. Symbolically speaking, the trip took away the constant need to be excited or tensed ( a reality of consumerist society).
The Palolem sang an age old lyric to me – praising nature & its elements, giving a glimpse of harmony which is present in everything except a human mind, singing a melody that only an initiated few can hear. 🙂
Traveling is like a box full of chocolates, you never know what you are going to get! 🙂 An adventurer by heart, it was a tough call for me to leave my first job in 2012 and explore the unfriendly North East terrain. I never knew what I was going to get too! 🙂
Sikkim is where the 15 days long trip started. But that’s a story for another time. Right now, I’m going to take you on a ride to Meghalaya, a must-visit paradise in India.
Popularly known as the “Scotland of the East”, Shillong, the capital city, looked like any other hill station – hilly terrain, overcrowded, and chaotic. By the time I reached my hotel, I was exhausted by the journey in this unforgiving mountainous terrain. But my perception was about to be changed.
The Police Bazaar, a ride down the memory lane for my dad!
The essential vibe of this city can be captured at the Police Bazaar/ Square. That’s where we started. It was here that I began to see the city through the glasses my dad wore 40 years back. As a fresh graduate from a medical school, my dad stayed in the unexplored North Eastern region as a volunteer in a UNO mission in 1972 (anti-malaria program).
It was pure delight, sauntering along with him on the streets where he wandered once , when he was of my age. It was indeed a pleasant surprise to watch a “nostalgic smile” on his face, a sudden shift from his usual stoic “Mona Lisaic expressions” – a term I coined for a set of geniuses like him who rarely smile, and if they do, it feels like a favor for the lesser beings like me ! 🙂 A decent chap that he is, I was astonished to see the clarity with which he remembered the bars and restaurants he frequented in the Police Bazaar.
Found women of substance: At my first attempt in street photography!
Oh yes! That’s what I’ll will always remember from the trip – the women of Shillong. Proud demeanour, looking straight ahead, clad in traditional Jainsem ( a traditional Khasi attire), these betel chewers are one-of-a-kind women.
I remember how dad always narrates stories of women in the North East, a region which follows matriarchal family structure, a stark distinction from the North Indian patriarchal traditions where I grew up. It is safe to say that a woman play a dominant role in the families and are many a times is the bread earner of the family.
From a higher perspective : Mesmerizing view from the Shillong Peak, U Lum Shyllong
The next place in the itinerary was the Shillong Peak. Called “U lum Shyllong”in the colloquial language, the peak offers a bird’s-eye view of the picturesque valley. At a distance of 10 kms from the main city, this is the very spot where I fell in love with the city. They’ve installed big telescopes here to view the valley through different angles.
Mawsynram – Cheerapunjee, India: the wettest place on the planet
I’m a lazy person who wakes at 11 AM. Yet, when I travel I’m wide awake at 6AM, without an alarm. 🙂 Next day, starting at 7:30 AM sharp, we hit the road for a location that’s well-known around the world – Cheerapunjee, the wettest place on the planet.
One thing I noticed about the region is the terrain makes traveling a bit tough, not that at 29 years of age I should complain. 🙂 Moving on, it took a few kilometers for me to forget about the traveling woes. I must say, the 53 kilometers road from Shillong to Cheerapunjee was a sight to remember. The breathtaking scenery slowly transported me far away from the hubbub of the city.
It slowly started sinking in, the reason why Shillong is rightly called the “Scotland of the East”. 🙂
Noh ka ikai falls, located in the village Laitkynsew, Cherrapunjee has a number of high waterfalls, & is the final destination in the area. The breathtaking scenery and the tranquil people move you into complete surrender. It gives me pure joy to witness both the timeless beauty of the mountains and the quietly working folks I saw and interacted with.
A surprise in the itinerary – the village of Mawlynnong, Asia’s cleanest village!
Though not planned in the itinerary, the village of Mawlynnong, declared as Asia’s cleanest village, came as a wonderful surprise on the next day. A good, tiring, if I may add 84 kms drive from the capital city, the village is simply gorgeous.
Located in the East Khasi hills district, the green & clean hamlet is popular for its cleanliness. And rightly so! Hats off to the one-of-its-kind community based ecotourism endeavor of the local people.
Sadly, due to the ongoing construction, we were not able to stay in the 80-feet high “machan”, the biggest tourist attraction in the village, but we did manage to click a number of priceless pictures of the village.
The living root bridge: An example of man’s harmony with nature:
On the way out, we were told to visit another tourist destination, the“living root bridge”, located in the Riwai village, Meghalaya. One can witness the splendour and magnanimity of nature in full display – the entwined roots of two large ficus tress entwined to create one-of-its-kind living root bridge, right above the pristine river.
The bridge is a tourist’s hotspot, and is a perfect example of man’s harmony with nature. For it is gentle care of the locals that the bridge was able to flourish in the natural surroundings. Well, that marked the last spot we saw in Meghalaya.
There’s so much more to share, many more breathtaking pictures to share, if only I could. From someone who knew nothing about the far North East region, its beauty, its unchartered paths, I became someone who fell in love with the region. 🙂
It is my sincere hope, that more and more people will visit this region, and create opportunities for the locals, as the scope for tourism is mammoth here.