Day Fifty Two: Experiments in Living
Really happy to see more healing communities emerging in the motherland, much like what we’re experiencing over here in Rishikesh….see: Can Yoga Help Chase the Postelection Blues?
Speaking of all things healing, the day to day has been one gradual DIY experiment in creating the ideal routine of healthy healing things, touching everything from food to meditation and pranayama practices, ayurvendic concoctions, weekly massage, yoga practice, literature, morning pages, food journaling…all locally sourced in the equally buzzing and sleepy mountain town of Rishikesh.
I’ve been doing yoga every day now for six days straight, finding a really nice morning groove that’s gotten me out of bed every day by 7:15a. Unlike most yoga teacher training schedules here, this is probably late, but if you could just hear and feel how loud and chilly the winds are in the early morning, you would likely opt for our schedule too. The yoga school next door rings a bell at 5am for a guided meditation that begins at 5:30a – maybe I can dip into that for Rishikesh 2.0, but I can tell you, that will probably not be happening this time around J
The typical day here is beginning to shape up to something like this (with the exception of Sundays!)…
7:00a – Alarm and snooze
7:15a – Get out of bed
7:30a – 8:15a – Caffeine fix (ayurvedic doctor says no dairy for breakfast, so I’ve been substituting regular milk for coconut milk. Good stuff if you’re curious)
8:30 – 10:00a – Morning yoga at AYM School, Ashtanga style
10:30 – 11:30a – Breakfast at Pure Soul and catch-up on the world’s happenings, though mountain town wifi makes this a headache on occasion
11:30 – 12:00p – Ayurvedic meditation exercises to work on bringing down my dominant constitution “Kapha,” which is currently out of balance (poor digestion, low energy, over attachments, negative thinking, etc), per the medical guidance of Dr. Harsh, also my landlord. This is now the second time my landlord and doctor are doubled up as one (helloooooo chiropractor in Greenpoint).
12:00 – 5:00pm – Exploration of all kinds – hike down to the Ganga in search of sunlight and good nesting spot for podcast listening, trek to Swag Ashram’s oldest ashrams and age old fire ceremonies, lovely conversations and run-ins with friends all around town especially on ATM lines (avg wait time: an hour plus), cow watching, motorbike explorations, hunting down any kind of wifi signal in town, browsing books in the many yoga and meditation bookstores, playing with puppies while picking up laundry, etc.
7:00p – Dinner at Pure Soul, because they’re the only restaurant in town now that accepts credit card (no money, mo problems…but not really because Pure Soul is my favorite restaurant if haven’t already noticed). We’ve only recently been lucky to find other restaurants sympathetic to our money situation, allowing us to open up tabs and paying when we can. So is the life in India right now, and grateful for real community togetherness and trust.
9:00p – Bedtime reading - current books on rotation are “Our Revolution” (Bernie Sander’s recent release) and “Aphrodite’s Daughters”
9:30p – Bedtime (no wifi at home makes for early bedtime)
Life is good.
I’m now on a mission to find a music teacher to work with. As a former drummer, I naturally feel a pull towards tabla but am toying with the idea of experimenting with the harmonium. There’s something beautiful about melodic droning especially to complement all the mantra chanting I’ve been doing at yoga class or weekly kirtan circles. You would think a hippie dippie town like Rishikesh is simply overflowing with music ashrams and teachers, but alas, that is not the case. There was one place, a music ashram, tucked away in the mountains whose space had great vibes – sadly, this did not apply so much to the music teacher who had zero interest in negotiating down the price. Where’s the love?
My second attempt at finding a teacher came a day later when I walked into the busier part of town across Laxman Jhula. A music school sign guided me onto the second floor of an apartment building where I found a super smiley Indian woman sitting on her bed with her harmonium, which I soon learned was her instrument of choice. Her husband, who she calls Baba, teaches tabla and djembe in a studio a few doors down on top of a local hole in the wall restaurant, Café Namaste. I decided to give that a whirl one day and it was an interesting experience to say the least.
Neewar (Baba) picked up the tabla at the age of 12 and so began his love affair with music, which is rare for someone who doesn’t come from a family of musicians. You see, in India, musicians are born and bred from families that come from a musical lineage. You do what your parents did and their parents did before that. Neewar broke from tradition knowing very well the struggle that comes along with such a decision. While he smiled a whole lot during our lesson, I could feel his inner critic energy emanating and a subtle evasion from answering my questions, especially ones that related to his musical upbringing and where he studied music.
Not sure if it was his style of teaching or the style of Indian music teachers on the whole, but tabla class was unlike any music instruction I’ve ever received. There was no theory, sheet music, or real introduction to an instrument that was completely new to me. He positioned my fingers on both drums and showed me a scribbled note of different vowels, which would be assigned to different finger notations. Playing with your fingers is definitely a unique experience compared to playing with sticks and relying primarily on your wrists for strength. Also, in the absence of sitting on a drum throne with access to a kick drum and hi hat, there’s more reliance on an inner metronome for keeping time on tabla. It was pretty sweet to play a new instrument and feel completely immersed in rhythm. His intermittent reminders of “don’t think too much!” kept me in the flow of playing from a place of heart, not ego. That may have been the lesson I was supposed to learn?
The curiosity in me wants to try out other teachers and styles before I commit to anything, which I think is the way to go here. It’s not as easy as googling “music teachers in Rishikesh,” but thanks to our ever-amazing landlord-doctor-got-them-hookups-on-everything, I will soon be meeting with his friend who teaches both tabla and harmonium tomorrow night! Oh, and super random, but did I mention that he also has a solution for poor circulation, which translates to cold hands and feet? Apparently, you mix pure gold in water with herbs and drink a small portion every morning for a month straight. He’s got this “gold” stashed away in the bank, but promises to make us a brew sometime soon.
As I alluded to earlier, Sundays deviate a bit from our normal routines. Today, we rented the motorbike, aka the “Pleasurecraft,” to explore the outer reaches of town a bit more, specifically Agama Center for tantra workshops in December, an Osho Meditation Center further out in the mountains, and one particular yoga teacher we’ve been trying to pin down since we got here, Yogi Naveen (we came to find out that he’s a bit of a celebrity teacher who will be going down to Goa to lead a course in the same time we’re looking to do ours).
Of the places we scouted, the Osho Center by far hit the spot. Dynamic meditation is their jam, and I’m excited to try out their daily schedule this week:
· Dynamic meditation
· Dance meditation
· Kundalini meditation
· Evening saatsang
Did I mention that you can drop in to all these meditations for free? All they charge is 100 rupee for meals. That’s a steal if I’ve ever heard of one.
Their location away from Rishikesh, deeply tucked into the mountains with the coziest and cleanest access to the Ganga made this place one of my favorites so far. Just see for yourself.