River of Life

Feb 21 & 22 & 23
Internet connections have been hard to come by these last several days. When I do encounter one that enables me to post there will be a barrage of recent blog entries. I feel so far away from home. And just want to share the incredible experiences I am having with everyone in my life.
We are now in Varanasi, staying in The Palace on the Ganges hotel. This is the oldest constantly inhabited city in the world. It is super charged with tangible energy that literally pulsates in your body. The Ganges is considered by many to be the holiest place in the world. Its an honor to be here.
Today started with watching the sun rise over the river. Walking the ghats (steps that go the water’s edge) is like walking through an ancient scene of morning spiritual rituals, laundry, bathing, and river life. A herd of buffalo walking in the water catch our attention so we just sit on the steps and take it all in. Out day meanders along the bank, into a silk emporium- which is a shop in someone’s home. We remove our shoes and step into a cushioned room filled to the ceiling with amazing fabrics and garments. We have chai with Vijay who’s family has lived in the house for hundreds of years selling silks on the Ganges. We stay there for over an hour playing in the vibrant fabrics and shopping in warm hospitable company.
We meander again to the Main Ghat and sit again inhaling this culture of congested bustle and ancient ritual. It’s so colorful and fragrant and it flows and flows like the River.
Our day takes bends and turns and we find ourselves in the maze of tiny lanes off the river. We hook up with Rikhu a local friend of one of the guides from Redback. He takes us ti his family house. Again we remove shoes and walk through the cow stables that are at the threshold of the house. We meet his brother who is a 6th generation Varanasi perfumer and masala spice crafter. Another chai infused incredibly sensory shopping experience ensues. Again we play. This time in the exotic scents of Sandalwood, Agar, Amrit Tara (Nectar Flow), Indian Green Grass, Lotus Flower, Jasmines, Frankincense, and more. We have more chai made with the house milk and the special blend of Masala. Chai will never be the same again! We make purchases then Rikhu takes us to the Golden Temple. He ‘hires’ a Brahmin to guide us through the temple. Because of bombings several years ago, the place is heavily protected. It is a crazy process of giving passports to armed police to get into this sacred place. We make the cut! The next half hour is a blur of holy chaos… bells, fires, monkeys, dogs, chanting, offerings, blessings, garlands, holy water. I feel like a pinball bouncing around and being all chai high in Vaanasi– it’s really so fun. I am so glad to share the experience with Michele. We just look at each other like ‘OMG how did we get here??!!’. Apparently this isnt even the highlight. The whole day is geared to Arati- the sunset ritual at Main Ghat. Arati happens every dusk and has been happening every dusk for over 3000 years. And I mean every evening- never cancelled for anything. Amazing! My night concludes on the roof of the hotel watching the moon glow light up the white hulls of old wooden boats tied to the banks of the Ganges River. I think of my uncles and how they would be fascinated by this waterfront culture. And then I think of Burke and how he would be fascinated to see this spiritual epicenter. Everyone needs to come to Varanasi at least once in a lifetime. I know this is the first of many trips here for me. Sad to leave and happy to be one day closer to home. Paradox in everything …
– YogiPod posting from India using iPhone


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