Precious moments - witness them, feel them, be present with them

What is so fascinating about India is how it forces you, me, to be completely present. There is so much going on that you can’t help but just ‘be there’. To observe. Never in my life have I been as still as I am here. I met a wonderful man in Mysore who explained the noise in India is necessary. That if one can master stillness amongst it then one has truly achieved a deep level of awareness, of being centered. I have my moments, but I certainly work hard to consciously be here.

This place also forces you to be very patient. Nothing is easy here. The usual things which are so simple back home are a real challenge. This is always the case when doing any sort of travel, but in India it’s especially true. I’ve mentioned many times about internet being an issue. For me, I’m use to it to connect with the world, but for Indians, its the least of their worries. And with that said, I’m boarding a 3 day train to Agra this afternoon so I wont be in touch for a couple of days!

Oh - funny but not so funny story.  In Munnar, while showering before bed, I noticed my bathroom window was open. As I knew it was closed earlier in the day, (and I told housekeeping not to worry about cleaning my room), I knew no one had been in there. A little nervous about this, I went over to the window to close it and saw a man starring into my bathroom!! He had been watching me shower!
The only people it could have been, (who knew I was in that room and that that was my bathroom window), was a staff member at the hotel. Las Palmas. I could have touched his face he was so close, but I screamed so loudly he ran away quickly. Seriously!!!! For you women travellers out there - make sure you double check your windows are locked!!

Ok, I have to run now. I had other posts written but with computer troubles and internet troubles I lost them :( I will have time on the train to write those blogs again and will be sure to post them when in Agra.

Wish me luck!!

Namaste xx

Tea, tea and more tea

My day began at 5.30am with a beautiful Hatha yoga practice beside my bed. I really enjoy this practice as it concentrates on strengthening the body and bringing full awareness to it. By taking the time to move through each asana, its a great opportunity to really ‘notice’ how my body is feeling. With Vinyasa, its a much faster pace and the subtle feelings within can be missed. So it’s nice to have the balance of the two throughout the week.  

After enjoying vegemite toast (yes, I brought a tube with me) looking out the window to the green mountains which surrounded, my driver and I traveled to a tea museum. This was the real highlight of my day. Learning all about tea and how it is made (white, green, black, chai) was really something. There is so much love which goes into tea making. I also found it amazing that all different types of tea were made from the one leaf! Me being me, and lacking in general knowledge, I felt a little silly when I learned this. I literally though black tea was made from a different, yes black, leaf. Again - feeling a little silly on this end! Turns out it’s just the older leaf! And the oxidization process determines how strong the tea is. Just as an apple turns brown when its bitten into, so do the leaves when being processed.

I also found it amazing to learn that tea is a tree! Not a little shrub like they appear. They can grow to 25 feet tall and can live for hundreds of years - the one plant. Here, they have trees over 140 years old whilst in China they have 400 year old trees! The trees are pruned to be small to make it easier to pluck and ensure all trees get equal water and equal sun. Amazing.

Unfortunately no one is allowed into an actual plantation. Although we are surrounded by tea plantations, you can’t visit them like a winery back home (which was what I pictured). I want to try and get a picture of a tea plucker but I may not see one. Or if I do, they will be a million miles away, hanging off the side of a cliff. Im not kidding! I don’t know how they do it?? The hills are verging on vertical and they carry huge bags of tea on their head.

I also went to a look out point in a national park with mountain goats- after waiting 2 hours in line for a ticket to get up! But it’s all an experience right!

This evening I have been doing a lot of thinking about home. I’m nearing the end of my trip and I must say it will be very sad to leave. This place is so amazing, in a crazy kind of way. I’m also nervous about going back to ‘reality’ - however I will be living in a new state when I get back which is exciting, and random! For the final 11 days in India I’m focusing on being still and preparing myself to leave. This is important and something Bharath told me to do when my course was coming to an end. I’m committed to absorbing every precious moment here and being grateful for the life changing experiences I’ve had/am having. But in saying that, I am also ready for home where I shall practice the same way of being. Presence doesn’t just apply when travelling.

Had I been single with no one back home who I miss, then I could definitely keep going. However, 3 months away from the man I love, my pooch (who probably doesn’t miss me one bit being the snob he is), and my family is a long time. Coming home will also mean I can get into the full swing of teaching. I’m certainly nervous about this, but just as I’ve put myself out there to come to India, I must do the same to find my first student. One step at a time. I love that I have come to accept this way of living, rather than trying to ‘rush to the finish’ line.

What will be, will be. Just as everything has been falling into place over here (and back home also), I have no doubt the same will happen back in Australia. It’s all about perception right?!

Well, I must get out of this little booth I’m still in at my current hotel. It’s not the most inviting of places to be! But very glad it’s here. That’s for sure.

Tomorrow I’m off to Cochin. Thank you Munnar for having me. Until next time!

Namaste xx

P.S. Pictures not forgotten :)

Marathons, cliff hanging and tea. What a day!

I’ve had such a wonderful day. At the moment I’m sitting in a tiny concrete walled room the size of a telephone booth using my new hotels ancient history PC (as there is no Wi-Fi). As I type, I tend to find myself in pitch black darkness as the power has gone off yet again. Every few minutes or so. So funny. I love how humbling so many of my experiences thus far have been.

There are so many stories to tell. Every moment of the day is a new tale with funny, sad, holding on for dear life moments.

To begin - at 4am this morning I awoke to my alarm to practice Vinyasa yoga. It was only an hour practice as I needed to get myself ready for my safari tour on the lake. Although a challenge to get out of bed due to a later night, splashing cold water on my face woke me up nicely. Once I get into this practice I can help but feel so energised. That’s the beauty of yoga. It prepares the body so well for the day ahead. Bringing clarity and a feeling of being centered in the mind and body.

Having limited time this morning forced me to formulate a shorter sequence, hence putting my teacher skills to the test. I also tend to be strict with myself in terms of having to do an entire sequence or nothing - so remembering to be more gentle with myself was an excellent way to start the day. Because let’s face it - anything is better than nothing and placing this added pressue on my training only makes the experience less enjoyable rather than enjoyable. This is one of the many beneficial learnings I have taken from Bharath and will actively apply to my life.

At 6.15am I met my driver who was to take me to the jungle safari cruise. We drove about 5-10 minutes away from the hotel and ended up in a que of buses and cars. I didn’t quite understand the whole process of getting a ticket but I knew there was something important about getting there early. He also kept talking about a second que I needed to get in which cars cannot reach, and explaining something about running… I wasn’t sure.

Anyway, my driver turned off the car and walked to the front of the line (about 300 metres away) to get an entry ticket. Suddenly I noticed all the drivers, who were doing the same, were RUNNING back to their cars. It was like a tidal wave of Indian drivers running toward me - and my driver was part of that wave. The gates had been opened and cars were pushing past and flying through it, near taking each other out in order to get in.

Single file, the cars and buses traveled through the jungle for about 5kms before reaching a car park where everyone stopped. This is when it got mental. My driver started rushing me down the road. I noticed Indian’s were running all around me. My driver told me to run also! I now know this is because there are limited seats on the boats, 60 I think, and if you don’t get one - too bad!!! So I was running for about 1km to get to the next ticket booth! Holding onto my handbag and shawl which was flying around, I powered my way down this windy path through the jungle - following the crowd. Although I certainly wasn’t the first person to start this mini running race, being fit definately worked in my favour. Indian people were dropping like flies - having to stop and catch their breath. Let’s just say fitness isn’t a priorty in India. But it certanly helped me today! One man started running with me, as I was a novelty to run with, and decided to have a conversation with me about Australia winning the cricket. So funny.

When I made it to the ticket booth I was literally in the equivalent of a mosh pit, being shoved in every possible direction and people were pushing their way through to the ticket booth. As I’ve learned to shove back, I managed to get my ticket and make it through the otherside alive and in one piece. This was probably more exciting than the safari cruise. I later learned the reason they are so strict on numbers now is because 45 people drowned 5 years ago when 140 passengers were put on a boat which only had capacity for 80. Everyone went to one side of the boat at once and it flipped. This boat was still on the bank, rotting away. Eerie.

This mornings trip was in some ways relaxing and in others stressful. Everyone is eager to see some animals so it’s hard to keep everyone seated making viewing hard, but generally it was fine. I was on the top deck, seat number 49, and with orange life jacket on I just sat an appreciated the experience I was having - races and all.

The river was full of old dead trees and we were surrounded by the jungle. The lake and mountains were covered in thick fog, adding extra atmosphere to the whole experience. Although there wasn’t a whole lot of activity we did see a number of bids, the eagle being one. We also saw monkeys high in the trees, a group of wild boars and their little babies running along side, and a herd of elephants! With baby elephants also, as we approached the end of the river they came running out of the jungle and gathered at the water. The babies seem quite naughty, spraying water. Although we weren’t very close, we certainly got a wonderful view of them. Apparently we saw more animals than normal on our cruise. We were considered lucky.

Since then, I’ve travelled a further 3.5 hours from Treekadhy to Munnar, which has one of the largest tea plantations in the world. I wish Owen was with me, being the tea lover he is. To get here though, was 3.5 hours of some of the windyest (not a word but it is now), narrowest, highest, most dangerous roads ever. Combine 2000ft mountains with crazy Indian drivers, including bus drivers, and you see my point. Often with no guardrails, we nearly got wiped off the edge so many times. I also get car sick, so the constant snaking through the mountains sure did test my stomach!

Never before have I been so mezmerized by a landscape. I’ve seen some stunning landscapes in my time all over the world, but being surrounded by tea plantations is something else. Perfectly manicured hills/mountains of tea bushes are everywhere. Even the one roundabout I saw was of tea! Tomorrow I have an excursion to some plantations which I’m excited for. Should be amazing.

My new accomodation is on what they call a Hill Station, and I am surrounded by these plantations. I feel very lucky to be here. I also feel sad as my driver will be sleeping in his car for the next two nights. He considers his car 5 star accommodation. I nearly burst into tears when he said that. I’m not sure if it’s appropriate to get a room for him? Probably not. I was warned this sort of treatment can do more harm than good. But it just makes me so sad seeing how some people have to live. And yet he seems so happy. Never complaining. There are certainly many lessons I will be taking home from this phenomenal country.

Ok - enough from me. I should get out of this booth and eat something. Unfortunately pictures will need to wait until I can have access to internet.. Turns out this is a little difficult when on the road. But again, grateful for this old PC!

Lesson for today: Smile and be grateful for all the amazing opportunities I have in my life. Don’t sweat the small stuff. There are much bigger things going on in the world. Appreciate every moment as it is and always look for the positive.

Namaste xx