DAY THREE – ‘CHARANPADUKA’ – God’s Footprint
Just before the sun rose I followed the ladies who collect tulsi (sacred basil) up the path to a place called Charanpaduka – God’s Footprint.
Here at the shrine I sat and had herbal tea with the resident Yogi Baba. The Baba, a member of Nath Sampradaya, runs a wonderful hut cave and makes it available for visitors or overnight guests. Surrounded by breath-taking scenery, I imagined bringing some hardcore yogi back for some satsang and meditation (Shive, Peter, Milan, Micah?)
The Baba told me there was another cave much higher up, specifically dedicated to women who want to meditate. I was keen to spend a couple of hours in unspoilt blissful retreat, so I asked him to lead me there.
I watched the Baba as he climbed down over rocks, picking his route carefully back down the mountain. This was the route I would need to take to return safely to base camp.
I found a flat ledge just above the cave entrance and settled in for a long meditation. Just before going into the deep inner space I took a few snaps to show how beautiful and breathtaking the setting was.
In the emptiness of self I found wells of gratitude, of appreciation, of all the emotions.
In such a pristine setting, the feeling of awe saturates the mind, and a sense of elevation is intensified by the presence of the mountain goddess – Nandi Devi.
Sitting there, I felt like a jewel in the mountain goddess’s pendant. My eyes felt like clear waterfalls, my bones like rocky cliffs. My hair was the trees, the high rare air my lungs. This meditation place seemed to be the real reason for this part of the trip. I felt so blessed to have arrived to find peace and blissful silence. My heart itself repaired here.
This was perfection.
This morning I had scheduled a special Empowerment Meditation at 7am, where I envisioned myself and all my students, friends and family members, past and present, re-routing our energies through the highest planes – to connect to our higher self.
At 6.30am I headed to Mana West, the stronghold of the ‘Bravest of the brave’. Undeterred by snow and cold winds, I made my way down to the sacred waters of the Saraswati and Alakananda rivers.
In my meditation by the river, I envision all the people I know one by one. Some appeared to me as mountain gods, others as mountain goddesses. Some appeared as divine minstrels and some great energies. Other people were tuned out or distracted by the business of life.
I imagined clearing and cleaning up all past impressions, all energy deposits, and directing all that energy to the Akash, the highest realms. My intention was that everyone could reclaim their own energy, as could I. This clear pristine space was the perfect setting to let go and reconnect.
After the meditation was complete, I headed back to Mana village and up to the Vasudhara Falls. The trek followed the Alakananda high up the valley.
Mana village disappeared and the rough-hewn path made the going difficult. Finally, I reached the waterfall and I had to wonder if it was worth all the effort. Sometimes we follow the narrow path to make ourselves stronger. Sometimes the narrow path finds us reflecting on the true nature of the quest.
I returned to Badrinath near sunset as the weather was closing in. Today was a fulfilling and enlightening day.
Sometimes, when we put up with hardship along the journey, the destination offers the sweetest fruit. Badrinath is a jewel of a palace: with high altitude (3300m), thermal hot pools, rushing rivers and snow capped peaks. Immediately you feel your spiritual radar light up.
The bus trip up to Badrinath took over 15 hours (319.5 km), via the rockslides and sheer drops of NH 7. I took the pilgrims route on a government bus packed with devout people. We were not alone.
The traffic up and down the mountain was intense, with earthmoving machines working around numerous rockslides. As traffic banked up the trip got slower and more difficult.
The Haridwar bus terminated at Joshimath late in the evening, so I completed the final 50 km to Badrinath the next morning with a taxi load of people. In the taxi I got talking to an interesting young woman named Ashoo.
In regards to spiritual life in the West, Ashoo said that the trappings of luxury, workplace competitiveness, and social status, diminish both our spirituality and humanity. She continued, “in their own eyes people see themselves as superior but in the eyes of god we are all equal.” Ashoo reminded me that humanity is an important part of spirituality. If we treat each other with respect and kindness, rather that aloof coldness, the world and is a better place and our spiritual practice is made complete.
After bathing in hot pools filled with ecstatic splashing women, and paying homage at the Badrinath temple, I headed up on foot to the village of Mana – ‘India’s last village’.
It seems you can only find this level of natural beauty and simplicity high up in the mountains. The local Indo-Tibetan people carve out a basic existence and yet everything seems flourishing.
Just beyond Mana village, the Saraswati River thunders out of the mountainside. The rushing waters carve out rock caves and fall with breathtaking velocity. The Saraswati joins the Alakananda River just below Mana.
Sitting at the confluence of the Alakananda and Saraswati Rivers, reinforced the energy of my name given to me by Guruji – ‘Alakananda Saraswati’. I decided that this incredible place would be the site of my Empowerment Mediation scheduled for the next day.
A few members of the Tuesday 6pm class gave money regularly over a few months so I could hand small donations out to the poor. Local people in Haridwar were so grateful when I was able pass that generosity on.
Money was also given to buy flower malas and leaf boats to offer to the local Goddesses and the wonderful river mother- Jai Maa Ganga!
The sun was rising on a new day. The beautiful fast flowing waters of Mother Ganga washed all my old karma away. It is such a refreshing and uplifting experience. Offerings were made for our shared prosperity and health.
Birla Ghat, a public place where marble steps lead to river, is filled with song, devotional activities and natural energy. I come back here time and time again because nothing makes me feel as good as an early morning dunk in the naturally high pH (8.9 pH) waters of the Ganga.
A boy tries to catch coconuts, which are thrown into the Ganges as offerings for peoples’ prosperity. Blessings to us all on this beautiful day!
Calls to prayer woke me this morning at 5 am. Broadcasts from minarets echoed across the background noise of the waking city. This podcast captures the sound of that ‘ungodly’ godly sound.
Seaking retreat from the dusty streets of downtown Delhi, I took refuge in the lush green grounds of the Lakshmi-Narayana temple. The first morning light illuminated marble of this beautiful complex. Here I was able to release some residual stress and sit in peace.
Minor birds in the temple grounds seemed to be sharing news of the day. All around parrots, squirrels and abundant bird life seemed excited about life.
Feeling pangs of breakfast stirring, I killed two metaphorical birds with one stone and headed to Chandni Chowk to see what was there and find something to eat. All I can say is I’m glad the shops weren’t open because it seemed like a place that could get very crowded.
After stopping in a side alley for some lassi, I caught a cycle rickshaw back to the hotel. The crowds at Sadar Bazar were amplified by people buying presents and fireworks for the forthcoming festival of Diwali. Insane traffic!
My train leaves today at 3pm. Looking forward to waking up tomorrow in my fav town of Haridwar.
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After bathing in the sacred Ganga at Haridwar, Ali will head up to Badrinath and Valley of Flowers high up in the Himalayas
She will then return to Delhi and pick up her new India group and return to Haridwar.
We will visit Rishikesh, and stay at the Parmarth Niketan Ashram
We will then visit Guruji’s ashram in the rural area of Barsana.
Here we will engage in a special lingam installation ceremony to honour Guruji’s mahasamadhi (passing)
After Barsana, the group will travel to Jaipur
Ali’s weekly blog will be posted via her Facebook and website page
WEEK 1 – Ali will be here teaching
Milan has been practicing yoga for 17 years and has been coming to Ali’s classes since 2008. Like Ali, he has a Masters in Religious Studies and has travelled India extensively. He attained his certification as a hatha yoga instructor at Yoga Darshanam in Mysore, India. His classes are always tailored towards the students present in each class, but in general he focuses on strong, dynamic and aware practice.
A normal timetable of classes will resume throughout November