Travel Stories

Yoga Point Ashram

November 9, 2011

            I take the bus from Mumbai to Nasik, an amazing ride, up there with the bus journeys from Chang Mai to Vieng Veng with Loren and from Rishikesh to Dharamsalah with Sam, although this one is much shorter, and in daylight, so the interactions with the passengers are far more engaged, playing with gorgeous kids, stopping for a roadside meal where I just plunk myself down at a table with three other men from the bus, eat what they eat, pay more than my fair share, and arrive in Nasik, where I find the ashram’s headquarters, find a hotel, spend literally hours trying to get my internet and phone connections set up before I head out to the ashram, order food from a menu I can’t decode which ends up being a great garlic naan and some weird rice with fruit and maraschino cherries that I don’t eat.

            I try to remember that to write well about this voyage requires me to take much smaller bites, setting up the big picture, but then putting in much more detailed vignettes.  Like a Bruegel painting.   What was that little interaction, for example, that I watched where a man came over to our table at the roadside restaurant and took out a plastic bag with small chunks of very fatty meat and emptied them onto a dirty checkered rag another man spread out on the table then folded up and put away in his pocket with no cash changing hands?  Or what of the woman leaning her baby over to pet the cow eating garbage?  And of the man who helped me for hours upon hours at the internet café trying to get my iPhone connected without success, unwilling to accept even a bottle of soda in gratitude because he was fasting in honor of his mother, trying to tell me about his father and grandfather, their squabbles, and it’s impact on him.  On our rendezvous the next day, he continues to aid me, buying me tea and breakfast, refusing any compensation.  Or what about the cockroach on the dinner table, or the one in the shower drain? 
          And then the first taste of the ashram, the 20 and 30 something women from Canada and England with yoga bodies and enthusiastic gleams in their eyes.  A sense the ashram calls for me to immerse myself and be isolated in ways I am resisting and fearful of, as manifest in part by the immense amount of time and effort I devote to trying to get internet connectivity, as if in service to those who love and depend on me, but really more so I can stay in touch.  Fighting surrender.  Resisting the deepest urgings of the spirits to fully let go.

And then these florid dreams …  Barbara Zeller with a fully-grown pet lion she walks in Riverside Park.  My climbing on a windowsill high above her street, secure in the knowledge I can get back in but for my fear and awareness of the quite real risk.  Having a detailed unresolved conversation with Nina.  Moreson telling me his infirmed mother wants to see me, and as I arrive she feels released to die.

And here I am, being urged by the guides to let go.  I have come so far.  I am so amazed to be this comfortable in this setting.  And I am also fighting to hold on to what I know and think I know, even here, in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by literally millions of total strangers, where I am both surrendering and holding on.  I am the lion, the man on the ledge, the living and the dying.  There is a gathering in one of the dreams.  I call out Alan’s name.  The crowd murmurs responsively, “Presente!”  And then I remember how much Joy loves me.  And why she loves me.  And what she sees in me.  And I am humbled, and grounded, and lifted, and grateful for this gift, far beyond any words.  And that little slip in the shower, where if I had gone down all of this would have been for naught.  I am so grateful for that outcome, so immensely grateful for what didn’t happen as well as what did, this I is that is being breathed, lived, and even loved, unable to delay my departure to yoga camp any longer. 

The dead squirrel picked at and eaten by crows and the crow who eats it are one. 

Nov 9, 2011 – at the ashram

            Assigned to a bunk with 2 guys both of whom snore VERY loudly.  There’s water running somewhere nearby so incessantly it sounds like rain.  Dogs are barking in the night.  And after all of 2 meals here I’m already sick of lentils and potatoes.  Otherwise it’s fine, kind of underwhelming actually, but maybe that’s another of those if you’ve eaten your rice wash your bowl lessons, that the yoga experience is not meant to be ecstatic or high, just ordinarily good.  Although if that’s the case I’m really not that excited about it, preferring to be on a path to a rising crescendo of glory and delight, or what I think Joy considers to be an ever increasing capacity for feeling naturally high.  Then again, maybe this is not a place designed for present centered glory and experiential ecstasy, but rather a camp where one can build the mental and physical muscle and habits that serve to produce a firmer foundation for those wanting to develop an ever-increasing capacity for experiencing happiness.  Who knows?  There’s an armed guard with a shotgun at the gate, specially made foot and a half high metal barriers across all doorways to keep the snakes out, students from Indonesia, Malaysia, Italy, South Africa, Korea, Canada, England, Peru, Spain, France, Corsica, Japan, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Bulgaria, Ireland, British Columbia, New Zealand, some small island off the coast of Borneo, and this fellow from Austria who really gives snoring a completely new meaning, beyond even what listening to music with my earphones on can drown out.  And if the guides have sent me this fellow, the exercise in acceptance and tolerance is going to be intense.  Alternatively, before the rest of the cohort arrives, I guess I could ask to change my bunk, or find a pair of earplugs. 

Nov 10, 2011 - chillin … surrendering … trying to greet the training with a slate wiped clean; aware I can take away as much of the water in the river as my container can hold, aware of the parable of the chariot carrying the master, the driver (intellect), the reins (senses) and the horses - the soul, the intellect, the mind, the senses.  Coming back again and again with gratitude to the transformation of my friendship with Steven, how he saw that we had to separate psychically in order to escape the expectations and constrains our co-dependent friendship imposed on each of our abilities to emerge into who we most wished to be – he the successful intellectual psychologist with passionate clinical and academic interests living a life of acceptably comfortable materiality and pleasure, and me a spiritual seeker, yogi adventurer, walking his unique heretofore unknown path, how we were entwined in a way that held us back, and how we needed to shed some old constraining skin in order to more fully and easily be able to enter our expanding forms.  I appreciate his courage and commitment to himself and to our friendship.  I appreciate my courage and commitment to myself and to our friendship.  I think the truest yogi practices his yoga alone, although teaching is a great deepener.

November 11, 2011

11/11/11 –

i am greeted in the dark morning hours of my 71st birthday
by a dream of immense complexity, deceit, pathology, murder, and fallen idols
by a moth inside the mosquito netting under which i sleep
a lizard as still as paint inside the bathroom
a squeaky door hinge, and
a viper curled up peacefully on the floor of the empty plastic five gallon water bottle
in which it will be transported to friendly fields
far from the home and friends it has known
on the south facing hillside of the ashram in nasik
to live anew
as i have been transported
here on my birthday
to displace this snake

        classes begin – s l o w l y – i appreciate the pace and the repeated confrontations with my impatience, expectations, and judgments, as the sun moves with its peers in one of innumerable galaxies circling innumerable other galaxies, circling unimaginable infinity, consuming inconceivable amounts of energy second by second.  The yogis imagine the ultimate “controller” of the universe in energetic form to be paramatman – the “controller” of our unique beings in bodily form which is the atman, the soul, what we call the I beyond the I … written as if by someone in a fucking ashram in India, Bruce. You’d almost think that when the student is ready the teacher might appear.  And not just incidentally by the way … Joy’s love for me and my love for her is here - benevolent, blissful, inspirational, and divine … wh makes this brahmacharya stuff fatal …

the food I helped prepare (and ate) sitting on the floor of the kitchen, uncooked carrots, cucumbers, tomatoes, mixed together by mirabai with her hands … aha … another Indian image down … The single most frequent question I get is why am I smiling and what is my secret.

November 14, 2011 – I think

            Life at the ashram unfolds mostly according to tradition and to Ghandarji and Kate’s plan and design.  Up at 5, chanting by 5:45, yoga asanas 6 to 8, karma yoga (service yoga) from 8 to 9, breakfast, lectures and yoga nidra till noon.  Lunch.  Early afternoon break.  Afternoon lectures.  Afternoon asana practice from 4 to 6p.  Chanting.  Dinner.  Evening activity or lecture 8:30 to 10.  Lights out … and I mean quite literally that the main switch to the whole joint is usually thrown to “Off” by 11 PM. Some of the lectures are interesting.  The one on Ayurveda, however, drove me to a quick exit.  The people who staff the ashram are genuine and sweet.  It will be hard to surrender the lovely structure that is provided me here, although I also don’t think I could live here full time.  (Although about 3 to six months seems quite doable?)  And I really miss my contact w Joy and my kids and grandkids, odd as that is actually given the nature of my contacts with htem in fact.  And most of all what I really need at home is a personal early morning yoga practice in my life when I am not here.  (I cannot quite believe I kept doing power yoga, which is so not “yoga,” although it is great exercise, and we are guided to not be critical of other yoga styles.)   I’m glad to have email, which is sufficient contact w the world for now.

November 17, 2011

            I am having a really good time.  The ashram is just spectacularly conceived and run, and it is easy to see why it has grown as a physical facility and institution since its inception just a few decades ago.  And it is clean, and safe (if you don’t count the snakes), and quiet.  And the food is wholesome and good.  And the commitment to providing an overall yoga lifestyle context is comprehensive, reasoned, and impressive.  As an example of that, on our first day off at the end of week one, the kitchen sent staff and food to town with those who chose to go in so that there would be lunch available and people would not have to break with that aspect of the imposed yoga routine, and although I didn’t eat the lunch the ashram sent, I also didn’t eat pizza, drink coffee, or in any way breach the food regiment, which I am so enjoying.  In fact, I am so engaged, learning so much, and having such fun being the sprightly grandfather, that I am considering doing the advanced course in January instead of Myanmar, which fits so well with my schedule, although I’m not making any such decision b4 I actually separate from here first.  Still, I am that engaged, and there is something about how I perceive myself and how I am perceived in this context that is part of the joy I am experiencing here.  Plus, of course, I don’t have to do anything except practice yoga, listen to lectures, hang out with nice and somewhat like-interested people, and occasionally do my modest laundry.  I’d say I was definitely on retreat.    

            What is most challenging is to stay in the present moment, to not be too much of a hypochondriac, and to rise above what a pain in the ass one of my roomies can be with his snoring, his attitudes, and his general obstreperousness.  Although if that’s the worst thing I’ll have to report I’ll feel blessed.

            As for my day in town, I shopped for soft sheets, had my sandals repaired, bought a spare pair, reconnected with Pramod who I really like, talked on the phone w Joy, and just basically enjoyed tripping around Nasik.  I already realize how hard in will be to ultimately leave the ashram, which wraps me up like a warm blanket or cocoon.

November 18, 2011

            Had our first asana exam.  Very interesting.  Half a dozen senior Indian yogis not directly connected to the ashram came in to judge and grade us.  It was a good learning experience.  I also heard a great lecture on meditation, dharma, dhyana, and Samadhi, and while I found it very interesting in terms of mind control and merger with the divine, I also found it lacking in any solid consideration of the heart as a sensate organ or of the role of emotion, particularly love and open heartedness, in pursuit of merger with, experience of, and the search for the divine.

November 19, 2011 – Anniversary of Miles death. 

            Ten days at the ashram and still having a great time.  The unique comprehensiveness of the program pleases me, though the lectures so far have been less than stimulating and illuminating, although if you take them as presenting the most basic materials, assuming they are being presented to neophyte students as teachers in training, it’s akin to their teaching the asanas at the most elementary level also.  Meanwhile, the food has been consistently good, clean, and fresh, more than 100 chapattis made hot one at a time and served fresh.  Sometimes I help.  Working in the kitchen is perhaps my single most favorite thing to do here.  Especially being allowed to ring the bell announcing meals which is a total throw back to the bell I occasionally rang at camp at age 8.  The dedication of the entire program to the presentation of a comprehensive yoga lifestyle is exemplary.  I explore the idea of returning for advanced teacher training in January (by merely substituting it for my anticipated time in Myanmar) but for now I have decided I won’t make any such decision until I’m in Varanasi.  My back also hurts today, perhaps because I slept on the floor of the study hall to get away from the snoring, or because I pushed myself too hard at the first test monitored and graded by independent Indian examiners.  I’m also observing a day of silence today, which is such a relief … and quite easy for me … whereas not writing or not being on the Internet for 24 hours is far more challenging.   It also doesn’t surprise me that I don’t find that much to write about; the routine is repetitive, I’m on retreat, and my mind is calm, okay relatively calm.  I am also 71 years old and there has been a major shift in my perspective on what my needs are and how I want to conduct myself, especially in relationship to who I think I am and how I want to be.  This even extends to questions as fundamental as the medicines I take daily and what kind of cardiac conditioning is appropriate to my current situation.  Is less always more, I ask?  Will slowing down my rate of breath extend my years? Plus, of course, I am deep in the bowels of this yoga brain washing experience … and profoundly aware I will not be able to sustain this depth of involvement in the kind of daily yogic living I experience here when I am out of the ashram.  Even the question of my own pranayama and asana practice, holding aside issues of diet and chanting, will surely be far more challenging to get to when I am not at camp.

The ironic fact that I am so enjoying this camp experience is, of course, not lost on me, any more than the pressing awareness of my vitality and mortality is lost on me.  I also feel immensely graced by having Joy in my life, even at a distance, by knowing her love and our love, and by the recent newsy emails I received from Sam and Maia who sounded so good and which filled me with such great happiness.  Now if only the snorer would cease.  It was so bad last night I moved my form into the yoga hall and slept on the floor.

November 19, 2011 – news from another hemisphere

            Joy got a gig singing at the Eastham Turnip festival and asked me to write a song for her, which I did, about turnips of course, and she then set it to music.  She sang it to me during our phone call tonight and it was fantastic.  I mean really fantastic.  Not quite making a boy together, or building a house, but writing a song together and having it emerge as such a joyfully pleasant work of art has brought me immense happiness; truly very nice. 

November 20, 2011

I awaken from a dream about two hospitals, one very well endowed, the other far poorer, but with a community of activists - both the intelligentsia and the homeless - who support it, before it burns to the ground.  The contrast and the parallels in the docs, the boards, the union and non-union workers - where they intersect and where they don’t - self interest and collective interest portrayed by an amazing cast of dedicated people in each institution … doctors with their own children with medical problems, struggling with diagnoses, and medication issues.  I could sell this plot if I wrote it as drama, with humor, pathos, and the socio-political relevance inherent in it, but suffice to say it is not my path, any more than writing law drama scripts is.

November 24, 2011 - Thanksgiving

I go into Nasik on my day off and meet Pramood, who has already called me asking where I am and if I am coming into town.  I go to his apartment, actually the apartment of his landlord in the building where he rents a cot in a hallway with seven other cot renters, and gets the cot, lunch, and dinner for 40$ a month.  The landlord lady is very gracious with me, offers tea and cookies, invites me back for lunch or dinner, seems very happy to have me as a guest, is immensely gracious, curious and genuine.  Her father’s grandfather owned the building.  The economy of capital and inheritance is as obvious in India as elsewhere. 

A cup of coffee from a vendor costs 10 cents in India and 3$ in America.  That makes Pramood’s room and board in US terms the equivalent of 1200$ a month.  The biggest difference is that a plane ticket or a car costs about the same in either country and therefore one’s personal savings potential and option availability are much more limited in India, and far higher in the US.   Pramood and I wander around the old city and the river.  We visit the oldest temple in town.  Pramood refuses to let me buy him anything, even tea.  I describe him as generous.  He asks me to explain what I mean.  He doesn’t perceive his behavior as generous … I can barely get him to say kind … it is just what a person “should” do.  Someday it will come around good to him.  He complains about his father again, speaks of his alliance with his grandmother.  We have a long philosophical chat about god, the universe, evolution, accident, and plan.  I do most of the talking, but he is there, attentive, engaged, trying to figure out how he can get ahead and succeed in the world, and have enough money to support a family.  “Making the right choice comes first,” he says, “then follows the karma.”

As for ashram food, I feel like the dog in the joke about the dog’s diary, each day the dog writes, “oh this is great, yes, kibble, my favorite food, oh now we’re going out, oh I love going out,” each day’s entry the same.   The morning is always some sort of grain, most often rice or rice and potatoes, herbal tea, and a selection of fresh fruit.  Lunch is the main meal of the day: soup, often beans or a dish with peanuts or coconut, rice, steamed veggies, chapattis.  There is no coffee, caffeine, alcohol, chocolate, late night eating, between mean snacks. I don’t think I’ve lost an ounce of weigh … but I feel different … lighter, my energy different.  The food is prepared on the floor, washed with bottled water, and then diced, and mixed by human hands.  Cucumbers are peeled and grated with carrots or beets and served uncooked, plates are all metal and washed w soap and cold water.  The only utensil available is a spoon or your fingers.  So far so good.

I miss Maia and Sam.  I look forward to seeing them.  I don’t particularly like not having Sam more in my daily ambit.  I miss the pleasure of seeing and being with Mikaela and Theo.  I really feel the absence of being with Joy, my companion, partner, best friend, and fellow spiritual traveler.  I appreciate how she loves me, how responsive, genuinely supportive, and expressive she is.  How she is genuinely on a life path of beauty and consciousness.  How constantly, truly, and deeply she supports me on my path.

We practiced vaman this A.M., forced vomiting as a stomach cleansing technique.  I did it because everyone else did, and because I so much wanted to be rid of the half gallon of warm salted water I drank rather than have it pass thru my intestines.  Not something I’m likely to add to my weekly or monthly routine.  But it is reflective of how deeply, completely, and comprehensively the experience of yoga as a way of life, a philosophy, and a means of attaining Samadhi, is being provide us.  It does get a bit tedious at times, the same routine, the same schedule, the same food, the same people, but it is what this ashram is about.  It feels completely like camp to me.  Boys’ and girls’ bunks, dining hall, group activities, camp staff, counselors in training, a day off, strict rules of conduct and behavior, final tests, camp songs, snakes, cows, chanting, it’s only lacking color war.

Speaking of tests, that’s another part of the tedium, not the physical exams where we practice asanas in front of independent examiners who grade us, but literally the three two hour written essay exams, and a final 1500 word essay that I’ve written on of all things whether a serious student of yoga needs to believe in “God.”  (More of that later perhaps, but it’s first and foremost a definitional problem, and within the yoga context my answer is yes.)  I will miss the discipline, the purity, the simple clarity, and rigors of the ashram.  My asana practice has definitely improved, although whether this will help me turn the page toward having a constant and disciplined daily home practice I don’t know.  There are so many sensate temptations at home, from cheese and bread to beer and scotch, each of which I could easily do without, especially when temptation is not nearby, but why should I be such an aesthete in so short a life, where pleasure is so prized?  And it is also totally clear to me that you can’t have your yoga cake and eat it too, and that absent the overall yogic discipline, deeper levels of spiritual development are precluded.

            Meanwhile three weeks of the teacher-training course are over.  I have a very clear invitation to return as a volunteer at any time as long as I like.  And I feel this place to be a refuge when I need it.  I also spoke w Maia and Sam which was nice for me … and reassuring … and good to know they are doing well.

December 1, 2011

On my once weekly day off, along with only four others, I choose not to go into town and instead enjoyed just hanging around the ashram, doing some writing and laundry, napping, and talking on the phone with Joy.  In the late afternoon I walked into Talwade, the local village, and was besieged by people young and old who couldn’t speak two other words of English, but all of whom knew clearly how to say, “one photograph.”  Ultimately I found a cab that for twenty cents took me into Trimbak and the sacred Trimbakeshwar Temple, itself adorned with garlands of flowers and a prominent sign that said, “Only Hindus Allowed Inside,” but since I apparently look like some sort of Hindi, I mean what else accounts for dozens of folks all calling me “uncle,” far better from my perspective than the hookers calling me “grandpa” in Thailand, and provided I was willing to hand over my $500 iPhone to the impoverished shoe check guy, they’d let me walk onto the grounds, barefooted of course, to see the inside of a relatively unimpressive temple, first standing in a long line of shoving pilgrims that most reminded me of queuing up for the Space Mountain ride at Disneyland.  During my entire time out of the ashram among 1000s upon 1000s of people and pilgrims I was the only Anglo I saw, so maybe they assumed I was a Hindu.  Plus wasn’t I the one chanting old Sanskrit mantras while waiting in line.  Besides – since I didn’t so much as have my wallet, a phone # to the ashram, or my passport with me, and was taking casual in my travels to an entirely new dimension, maybe I had become an honorary Hindu for the day.

December 4, 2011 – Midnight

            My time at the ashram draws to a close.  I have learned so much here, have been soooo relaxed here, so very clearly do not want to leave, and have been given so warm and heartfelt an invitation to stay.  And this place has been so good for me, so deeply and genuinely restful for my head, my heart, and my psyche, not to mention my digestive tract.  It will be very hard to separate, as I imagine it is hard to separate from any good summer camp or retreat experience, not to mention my preconditioned anxiety about pretty much any separation.  It really has been so deep and multilayered that I know I won’t have integrated it fully until I lie in shavasan for a while and let the whole experience percolate through my mind, body, psyche, and spirit.   And in the present moment, from where I sit today, what I feel, besides separation anxiety, is simply overwhelmingly grateful and lucky, blessed, and appreciative. 

December 5, 2011 Martin Taub’s 97th birthday (1914 – 1982) - dead 29 years and me not far behind him, but in no hurry to get there. 

I was led on an amazing visualization yesterday in which I saw myself both on my 20th birthday, standing at attention at Fort Dix, NJ, in my army uniform, as my parents took my picture, and as the man I appear as today, sitting in a yoga class at an ashram in Talwade, India, 51 years later.   I imagined the 71 year-old man embracing the 20 year old, comforting him, telling him how everything would be okay, realizing with him that the path from the Bronx through Fort Dix to the ashram in Talwade was a single straight line, that, incredible as that might seem, the path that was taken was the path meant to be taken, the shortest light distance between any two points in time.  Then I imagined being met here today by some future self, an eighty year old, who embraced me much as I had embraced the 20 year-old, who told me everything would be alright, and that the path from here to eternity was also a single straight line that was meant to be.  I nearly cried.

The notion of karma is quite amazing in the ways it frees me, and I think would free anyone, from the stingy pressurized constraints of a single lifetime … and the notion of karma is every bit as logical as the clearly implausible notion – that decades ago I would have sworn was the only “truth” - that we “begin” as sperm and egg – even with the blessed generations’ old dna/rna they carry - and that we end with our last breaths.  I mean we’re talking beginnings, endings, transformations and drops of water here my friends, and the unique snowflake that descends from the heavens to dissolve indistinguishable into the ocean no more started in the clouds it descends from than that we do.  You’ve got to be careful what you wish for about this spiritual growth stuff, young Bruce, I tell myself.  Because here you are, believing things you would have thought completely mythological in your earlier wisdom years, and now think are closer to truth than what you then believed.  I just have to say again that I am so excited, awakened, engaged, relieved, grateful, blessed, and dare I say it, happy.  Now how was it exactly that I got here?  Oh yeah, by way of Fort Dix.

I want to say something about being 71 years old, and particularly something about how being here at the ashram has so powerfully helped me to integrate this particular stage of my earthly manifestation into my soul and psyche, after all I’m still just a kid playing at being an independent and wise adult aren’t I?  And yet I receive immensely positive feedback from the people at the ashram, staff and students alike, all of whom seem proud of me, as though I am a testament to the healthful potential of yoga, and respectful of me, seeing in me their positive projection of what an older man, a father, a grandfather, can be, healthful, open, not cast in a predictable mold or one of the walking dead … but maybe those are just my projections.  Anyhow I feel as though being here has helped me integrate into my 70’s, sore as I am, out of place as I am among these 20 and 30 something seekers, not counting my absolutely pathological roomie, but that too is another story.

Speaking of pathology, the student papers and presentations have been quite interesting in the main, and one of the students, Van, who works at Yellowstone and doesn’t own 3 pairs of pants was talking about backpacking and how the ideal there is to carry less, and how the desire for affluence is actually a form of mental illness, a contrast to the Yamas and Niyamas that praise austerity and non possessiveness.  And in a yogic spiritual context, using Yoga DSM 11, it is absolutely true that immensely acquisitive and insecure people could clearly be seen as pathological and anti-social in a context of other than the Western materialistic one.  There is so much more fascinating to say about this.  But at the moment all I want to note – again? – is that I am happy, and happy with myself, and that I have a plan to meet my sister and Ian in Aurangabad, and go to the caves in Ellora and Ajanta together, to visit Miles’ ashes and his spirit that was left and resides there, and then try to rendezvous with Apurna and Pravin in Pune, and go to Varanasi hoping I can bear it, and to study with Sunil trying to integrate what I have learned at the ashram before it escapes. 

And aside from tearing myself away from here, before I decide whether I want to come back, I’m also starting to fantasize about Kathmandu.  And I know with great clarity that I would have stayed here another week were I not meeting Sheryl and Ian.  Did I say I was having a good time?  What about that I was feeling good about myself and relaxed?  Maybe being beyond materialism and the entire Western context does make a difference.

December 6, 11 – Last full day at ashram

            Planned to go to remote village for Seva distribution that I donated generously to, but after doing my yoga practice on my own in the morning found that each step I took was as if floating on sacred ground in sacred space and could not imagine leaving the ashram for a multiple hour van ride with bubbly compatriots over Indian roads when what I most wanted to be was quiet and alone, which I managed quite nicely thank you, and while I’m not quite ready to reencounter the world of commerce, taxis, hotels, train schedules, airports, packing and unpacking, changing money, in a word, travel, I am melancholically resigned to leaving here. 

One of my favorite people here, a 24 year old sophisticated woman who has just completed 2 years in the Peace Corp in a remote Philippine village and is on her way home to Seattle to see her family for the first time in 48 months and to pursue a degree/career in “international conflict resolution,” asked, “When will I see you again,” and I had to say to her, “I don’t think we will.  This was our time.” The 24 y.o. was interviewing me, and that too was quite interesting, because for so much of my life I viewed myself as a warrior and a fighter against human injustices, stupidity, and cruelty, whether that was on behalf of oppressed minorities in America, or native peoples, children, whales, cows, the environment, Vietnamese, Palestinians, Jews, my own suffering and fear, I was a fighter, and what I wanted most was to change the world toward a more peaceful and saner, less competitive manifestation, and be relevant to such a positive transformation.  And now, beginning in my late sixties and early seventies I have so clearly changed/evolved that I no longer see myself battling to transform the world, but rather as wanting only to vibrate peacefully and wisely, to emanate and radiate what I wish for and who I currently perceive myself as being: calmer, more accepting, less involved in my particular Egoic distortions, at peace.  Did I say, “I REALLY DON’T WANT TO LEAVE THE ASHRAM.”  It is so odd to be the old man here, because in ways I still see myself as being in my late teens and twenties and don’t really feel that old … except in my knees … okay and in my genitals … okay, yes, fine, and in my psyche.