Whirlwind Final Week at Rishikesh

It has been a whirlwind last week.

We had a talent show last Friday where we found out that we are an incredibly talented bunch as people drew, danced, sang songs they wrote for the occasion, played guitar, told stories, sang opera and all sorts of wonderful things. One girl is a world champion for vaulting, which is gymnastics on horses, and another dances hula hoop professionally, and another Is super passionate about composting. Jenn and I were involved in a 9 actor art yoga play piece where we told the “story of us” through om chants and yoga positions that gave tribute to the victims of the flooding and our own personal journeys of growth and discovery.

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Last Sunday, we trekked up a mountain to where Rishikesh Yog Peeth is building their ashram. It is so peaceful up there overlooking the valleys, surrounding by so much green, flowering vines hanging off of branches and butterflies fluttering about. Nearby the ashram in construction is a tall 50 metre waterfall that cascaded over rocks, through caves, down into the lush forest below. We climbed all over a part of the waterfall and also into the cave where a part of the waterfall began. Nestled in the womb of the waterfall, a few of us meditated and chanted om and the reverberation of the vibrations surrounded us as water flowed past our legs in the semi-dark. It was really amazing and a truly special moment and place!

I have been volunteering at Khushi Kids and more and more kids are showing up. The public school was supposed to open up this past Monday on July 8th but there are still small mountains of mud and sand in the classrooms. They have broken down the front gate to the school now so they can get tractors in there to pull out more dirt than people bagging sandbags. In addition to teaching English, I also ran two workshops. I did an art workshop where we made picture frames and then took pictures of all of them for their beautiful new frames. Yesterday, I did a nutrition workshop where we learned about carbohydrates, proteins, fats, vitamins and minerals. We made posters, coloured them and then I have everyone mangos after they correctly identified two vitamins in mangoes and what those vitamins are good for (vitamin C and vitamin A – immune system and vision)! I had 30 kids in my hour and half long class yesterday!!

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I wasn’t able to get to go to Khushi Kids as often as I wanted this week because I also got sick. It hit quick. On Monday night, I started feeling a scratchy throat. Tuesday morning, I felt a little cold and because that is a complete anomaly here, I realized I had a slight fever. By that evening, I was too sick to go to asana practice and my whole body felt so achy and weak. It took all of my energy to get up to go to the washroom. However, the amazing thing about being a part of a big family now is that everyone was so wonderful. Other students checked up on me often, making sure I had water and anything else I might need. They shared their support, caring and personal pharmacies. I think between the whole group, we could have a pretty well stocked pharmacy. I am just really touched by how many people cared and showed their love and support. The teachers always asked me how I was feeling as we saw each other around and our friendly restauranteers and even Kapil from Khushi Kids offered to drive me to the hospital if I wanted. By the third day, the fever broke and I started feeling better. Actually, what really helped was going to yoga practice where breathing with movement and sweating was amazing. I guess it makes sense because we are all so close with each other but the same sickness spread through our group like wildfire and many of us were sick for a bit.

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I managed to recover enough for Friday to make it to our friend Ashlinn and her partner Havvie’s Indian wedding blessing. It rained before and after but during the ceremony, it was a beautiful sunny day. We all got dressed up in our colourful saris, did our make-up and hair and went up to the Shiva temple up on the hill where our friend from Sai Home restaurant (who is also a Brahman priest) did the ceremony. The ceremony involved flower petals and rice for prosperity and tying the sashes of their wedding clothes together and walking around the fire as witness seven times together and then putting bright marigold garlands on each other. It was a very beautiful ceremony and Caitlin sang the songs that they each picked in dedication to each other.

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In addition of all this, we also fit in our normal schedule of yoga practice, writing our philosophy essays, preparing and teaching a class, study and  our anatomy and physiology exam and of-course had to fit in ample chai time and hanging out with each other.

It was all worth it and we had our colourful graduation last night. We dressed back up in our saris and Indian outfits and had an hour and half long blessing ritual, then had live Indian devotional music where we all started dancing, then Roshan with all of our teachers gave us our certificates.

6 weeks seemed like an eternity at the beginning of the course but the last two weeks has passed by both in a blink and timeless. It’s like a really good dream where you feel that you have lived an eternity in another world yet when you wake up, it feels like you just closed your eyes. We have been on a wonderful, magical journey with 50 other people who have become like family to us. Each person is so uniquely amazing and I feel has deeply touched every other person making positive energy ripples through us all. I feel so blessed to have had this amazing opportunity to meet and experience all these positive lights and also get to know my own inner light a little better. This morning, as we made our emotional “see you laters”, we already are making plans on when we will see each other again.

The light in me greets the light in you. Namaste.

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