Ode to India

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Oh India, mirror of mirrors!
I walk more easily now in your crooked streets and craggy sidewalks.

You are my teacher.

You beg me to let go, to watch my step, to soften my judgment.

I walk as if in wonderland, enthralled by your jeweled colors, billowing saris, bobbing turbins. I am a child in a candy shop and you gently show me my greedy nature.

I want….
…to take a photo.
…to take the jewels home.
…to capture the flavors, smells, scents and sounds.
…to take, to have, to hold and to keep.

But there is no taking, keeping, holding or “mine.”

There is only flow.
Letting go.
Relaxing into what is.

Oh India, your dust lines my lungs, your dirt a second skin on my body.

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My heart aches seeing your brilliance….
…the Taj Mahal
…the snow dusted Himalayas
…your fantastic festival Holi painting people purple and pink
…your plethora of temples honoring the gods….Ganesh, Shiva, Krishna, Kali….

My heart aches seeing your pain…
…the bride burnings
…the man with a deformed arm reaching for rupees into my rickshaw
…the shanty towns butted up against millionaire apartments
…the heaped garbage…

How do you manage?
How do you keep it together?
How does it work?

My heart starts to get the joke. It all works out in the end.

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The electricity works.
             For a while.
The hotel room is mostly clean.
The horns ARE the traffic system.
             You must be the flow. No room for doubt.
Squatting and having no toilet paper IS an option.

I’ve come here to practice.
To open my heart.
To be present.

I practice breathing.
I tell myself, “Let go, let go.”

I remind myself the driver wants to live.
I remind myself they’ve done puja for good luck.
I remind myself I am not in control.

Is this why your people pray so much?
Light incense, roll sandalwood beads between brown fingers?

There are so many paths to God in your vast land, from the Himalayas to the beachy shores. Why are some lives so filled with so much struggle while others flash and sprint around in Lamborghinis?

“Only one rupee, only one rupee,” she says, hand moves towards mouth. The baby needs feeding.

Black hair is matted, her feet dry and crusty.

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Another woman’s craggy face reflects the 100 years it has turned up towards the sun. Brown, with rivulets running through the valleys of her cheeks, she radiates warmth from inside her stooped and bent body that has traversed the Himalayas to find safety in India, away from her homeland, Tibet. She has no teeth. She gently suggests we give her some rupees.

We take her photo.

We take.
We give.
India gives.
India takes.

Give. And
Take.

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I return home changed.
I return home with more cracks in my heart.
To let the light in.
To let the light out.

I am more resilient.
I am more tender.
I trust in the flow.
More.
Than before.

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If you feel "called" to India, check out two trips I'm offering with Mela Joy, Founder of Touch of Spirit Tours. Two spots left for the Fall 2018 trip and we'll have a new one for Southern India in early 2019. for more information and itinerary see Touch of Spirit Tours


To Flow, You Have to Let Go!

This tiny little phrase sounds so cute and trite.  “To flow you have to let go.” You might say “Duh!” I know I’ve thought that.

And yet that has been the lesson of my summer, starting in Glacier National Park when I first had to let go of the fact that I’d be continuing my 4 ½ month trip in Van Go around the States, visiting the national parks.

Yeah, that got nixed. In a heart beat.

Back spasms. Emergency Room. Valium and Hydrocodone. A three day stay with new friends in Whitefish MT all helped me “get it” that I was NOT going on the epic journey in the 1982 VW Camper Van.

No sir!

As I turned to head home, I still clung to the idea that I could at least do a partial trip. I’d get body work. I’d “get better” to see at least the Western National Parks.

Then the hamstring insertion point pinching materialized and I could barely walk around our park without throbbing pain in my ass.

Hmmmmm. Pain in my ass. I had to wonder. Was I being my own pain in my ass.

So I turned to my art studio. Started playing with color. Mixing new colors. Making new shapes. Cutting up potatoes and dipping slices in paint and making marks on the canvas.

FUN. I was having fun despite the discomfort in my body.

OK. I’d stay home. For a while. Still compromising with life, until it dawned on me that I wasn’t going to be going ANYWHERE. At least driving in a Van, with a stick shift.

More painting. More color mixing. More blasting the tunes and dancing around in my studio and creating paintings.

More Fun. I was having fun. I let go. Of my agenda. Of feeling bad about myself for not going on this “epic” (at least in MY mind) trip. Ok, perhaps I could just accept the new path. That I’d been giving the gift of time to paint.

The lesson, however, did not stop there. It continues each time I start a new painting. I notice I enjoy the art process MORE when I let go and get out of my own way and just DO what’s fun. DO what I love to do.

So, my friends, I close out summer feeling grateful that “my” plans didn’t work out and that some higher order got me into my studio and I was able to see that despite myself, this was a great plan the Universe gave me!

My trip turned from the Van Go trip into the Van Gogh Trip!!


India Lesson #4: Keep Letting go

Getting to the Ayurvedic Ashram!

After 8 hours of travel, I arrive at the Mangalore airport, hoping there will be a driver waiting for me to take me to the Ayurvedic Ashram. This hope rests on one email exchange in which I sent my itinerary to Dr. Sastry and he wrote back with a cryptic message:

“I’ll send a driver to pick you up.”

I had put down no deposit, there had been no confirmation letter, no agreement signed. Nothing to soothe the anxious Western mind. I was trusting something deeper. Some intuition that THIS was the place, as well as the fact that my teacher had been here before.

As I de-boarded the plane in the sticky hot air, I smelled a hint of fish.  I walked towards the small baggage claim area, my head turning this way and that to see if there was a sign with my name on it. 

Not yet.

I found my black bag, rolled it towards the only exit door, again looked this way and that as I stepped outside, and there It was - the sign:

“Duane Sherman.”

That’s me, Duane!

I nodded to the driver – a young, thin man with a kind smile. He took my bag and guided me towards his white sedan. 

My attempts at conversational banter quickly settled into a comfortable silence, for his English was minimal and my Kanada, non-existent. In truth, I didn’t want to talk after all of the travel. I sat in the front seat on the left side as we drove the windy roads through the lush, tropical national park full of massive palm trees and other tropical fauna.

The roads were as curvy as a tantric Indian sculpture, and with each bend in the curve came a honk from either my driver or someone coming our way. The driver slid by cars in front of us by a hair’s breadth. I had to practice actively relaxing.

Fifteen years he’s been driving and no accidents. Or perhaps he didn’t understand my question about how long he’d been a driver.

We arrived 2 ½ hours later in Hariharipura at the ashram – my stomach queasy and my brain a bit frazzled. Upon arrival, he carried my bag up to my room with a bed, fan and bathroom. Outside the room were other PanchaKarma guests. We all said a hello, and they let me know dinner was being served.


They suggested I wash up and come down when I was ready. I sat next to Melissa that night and she filled me in on what was what. In the morning I’d get a first treatment – probably around 6 or 7 am. It would most likely be abhyanga massage. She helped me with what to do at meal times – that we all set the table, wash our dishes. That we should bring down our big steel jug to fill with the herbal water used for our cleansing.

The guests are the informal information center, because there is no check in, no formal greeting, no “check list.”

I discovered Dr. Ashwin would be out the following day for his new baby’s naming ceremony. So I would meet with him the following day.

I felt like I’d been swept into a current that was going to guide me down the river with no effort if I could simply let go and relax. One of my biggest concerns had been allayed, and that was getting here.

From then on, I planned to swim with the current and go with the flow.