Thursday, March 31, 2011

Elephants at work, Amber Fort

Views from atop the fortress wall

You can really see that this is an arid climate. The monsoons will come in two months.

Remarkable hike up one of the fortress walls

I have been eyeballing all of the fortress walls in the area, (and there are a lot of them), so I decided to try hiking up one across from the Amber Fort. Straight up is the way, no guard rails, and no safety net. Going up is always easier than coming down for me. A little bit of terror from heights set in: a memory from a hike in Peru. Was it worth it--absolutely!! Incredible views. I was thinking about the construction crew--Oh My!!

Blessings from a goat

While visiting the Kali Temple at Amber Fort, the people in charge of the devotion counter decided to give me and the person I was with a flower necklace. I don't understand all of the significance yet, but this is a blessing to us. As I was walking down the stairs at the fort, I zeroed in on this goat. She reminded me of a Nike colored Persephone. While I was photographing her, she came over to eat my flower necklace. I was told that this was another blessing.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Another day of observing and learning

The obvious and interesting part of traveling is that every minute is new and unique. Just figuring out how to buy bananas, how much to pay, and how to bargain. Taking the bus or bargaining with a rickshaw driver is all new and challenging. Made it to my first day of yoga at 6:30. The city is cool and "quiet" at this time. Ashram by 11:00. Hiked up a steep hill that is across from the Ashram. There is a very small shrine and spectacular view (photos.) It felt great to climb and do something physical. On the other side of the hill, I had a flashback of South Africa--quiet with only the sound of birds. Bumped into a woman herding her goats and collecting sticks on my way down. We were both surprised, but she was friendly. Scoping out my other places to hike. Back to the ashram for more spiritual intensity. There is a spiritual family tree, so learning about this and all the other aspects of hinduism. Gurudev is a humble saint. Experiencing one in the flesh is quite humbling and interesting: hearing all of the stories and people's personal experiences is fascinating. Headed out to the Ganesha Temple afterwards which is up a serious bunch of stairs. India won the semifinals in cricket, so the town went crazy with fireworks.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Me in traditional dress

I was requested to wear a sari, so with some resistance, I did it. Notice the boots: that is still part of me. In the ashram we go without shoes and socks, so I am not violating spiritual or dress codes. Surprisingly, they are comfortable. You see the women riding side saddle on the motorcycles. In this city, I rarely see a woman not in a sari or covered up--but their midline shows in a sari--figure that out. I had to have help getting it tied, since that isn't one of my specialties. The adventure continues to unfold.

Gurudev and the ashram life

How to start describing Gurudev and the Pahari Baba Ashram. He is the most remarkable person that I have met to date. He is incredibly humble, off the charts caring, well educated (he had been pursuing a PhD when he turned directly to his spiritual path), attends to every question or request with thoughtfulness and wisdom. Every type of person comes in devotion. One of the interesting parts for me is meeting and observing native people coming to "worship." The practice is to bring flowers or food. They don't pass around a money bowl. He doesn't drive a Rolls Royce, wear expensive robes, have elaborate decorations, or have anything the least bit over the top. He wears an orange gown that looks like something you would wear in the hospital and sandals. The ashram is kept very tidy by attendants who love him dearly. He treats everyone with respect. One of the practices is to give each person attending a bowl of something to eat: fruit with a sweet, or something tasty. He often gives the children candy. And he is regularly on the phone answering questions (a dial phone) or answering the questions from the people coming to him. Most everyone comes well dressed with respect and the greeting is to bow down to the ground, (coming and going.) He never receives this with any sort of arrogance or control. He is available from 11:00 until 9:00 pm. This is all at the surface physical level.

I had an experience that one of the dead gurus who was his predecessors, Pahari Baba, visited me in my room. He was levitating above the ground, but he didn't say anything. Of course, I was thinking about this and I hadn't said anything to GuruDev. I had gotten to the ashram before everyone else, since I often spent lunch wandering around. I was invited in to wait and while I was sitting on the other side of the ashram--thinking, he sent one of his attendants over to tell me that it was okay if I wanted to sit in front of Pahari Baba's shrine area. I was very surprised by his psychic sensitivity. When you are in the presence of someone that spiritually evolved, I would never even think he would even notice me. It was a very touching moment for me. I have witnessed other moments like this as well.

Monday, March 28, 2011

New hotel location

New hotel. Crazy what quality you can find for $25.00 a night: breakfast, Wifi, air conditioning, clean sheets, balcony, doorman, electricity, and running water. What else does a person need?

Moved closer to the Ashram (only 20 minute walk instead of an hour and twenty), so I can go back to the hotel in between meditation. Meditation times: 11-1 and 5-9. Met someone at the ashram who teaches yoga at the local hotels, so I plan to meet with him at 6 am to do and learn yoga for an hour each morning. The teacher is a disciple of Gurudev and learned yoga from him. Continuing to be amazed by this experience and the experiences within.

There are plans for me to see the horse world in Jaipur--soon. They have the horses with the curved ear tips. Polo is popular. I left my riding clothes at the Grandview Bed & Breakfast in South Africa where I will be staying, (my new family in South Africa), before heading back to San Diego.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Narayana and Guru Dev: Pahari Baba Ashram

The unexpected is still continuing to unfold. I am so surprised by the effects of the meditation and the ashram that I am looking into extending my time here. I am having the privilege of experiencing the remarkable effects of meditation and shakti. It is really taking me by surprise, since I am such a skeptic. Before coming to India, I asked for some sort of sign for my ego that would help me buy into all of this. I have had several things happen--without drinking koolaid. I will get a sense of the schedule in the next week.

Having fun with capturing the surroundings

Women celebrating a day of fertility. View of staircase up the mountainside. I am planning on tackling these stairs soon. And yet another temple--possibly even older than the actual fort.

Gardens at Amber Fort

The floating garden was to grow saffron. They had worked on an underground cooling system, since saffron didn't ideally grow in that climate. Not pictured, there was a garden design that was a series of shallow pools on the second floor with a sitting area in the middle, (no water currently.)

Inside Amber Fort

Inside the fort: giving you an idea of the interior glamour. The inside is a series of hallways that open into beautiful gardens, "patios," and miscellaneous rooms--even flush toilets of sorts. A lot symbolism and attention to detail are included in the architecture.

Amber Fort

Amber Fort is up the road from the Ashram. Another amazing part of history. Baby elephant and cobra in a basket are an attraction along the side of the road on the way up.

Obviously I am fascinated by all of this.

Observatory in Jaipur

The photos don't do justice to the scale. These are up to three and four story structures. I had to ask the question of how much have we really advanced?

Amazing Observatory in Jaipur

Absolutely mind boggling observatory built several hundred years ago. The only one of its kind in the world. When first entering, you think you are looking at an outdoor installation in a modern art museum. Upon closer examination, you discover that they are tools--and quite accurate ones. I felt like I was an adult kid entering a very cool sandbox.