My beloveds and other random visitors,

I tell you stories here because that is what I do, but in truth, I have not told you anything about Rishikesh. The stories I have told could have happened anywhere in India I imagine, or possibly anywhere in this general neighborhood of the globe, away from the over-safe-quiet-conscious west.

Imagine, if you don’t already believe or know this, that the life 90% of humans live, with their daily drama, interactions, needs, desires, worries and other normalities is but a story we tell ourselves, a dream we have about our life. Then imagine that the leftover 10%, maybe more, one day, through luck, wondering, good karma, or whatever it is, suddenly wake up to the real reality that exists beyond the story we all tell. But maybe not quite fully. They are like Neo the first time he meets Morpheous, contemplating whether he should take the red pill or the blue pill. Well, 90% of humans in Rishikesh (and I feel quite a few cows too) are like Neos, either right before, during, or after the taking of the pill.

You can go to the cafe and enjoy your chai tea while discussing the one Soul. That is completely normal, maybe even expected. People the rest of the sleeping-dreaming world would call enlightened, though I prefer the term awake, come here and sometimes live here. Miracles are common place. There is a man down the street that has been teaching yoga for 89 years. He is now 104, and doesn’t look a day over 90. There is a Brazillian man that can fill a room with entranced devotees. His mere presence makes you feel warm and fuzzy, and the chanting that takes place in his place of residence will bring up emotions you didn’t know you had. You don’t need to believe. It happens whether you do or not. There are sages who have not eaten for years because they can extract essential nutrients directly from the sun, the source of earthy life force. There are some that can levitate, or transport themselves to other places instantaneously. There are people dressed in white (yoga teachers mostly) who cast an aura of strength that is palpable within a 100 feet radius as you walk down the street, and some dressed in orange that have joy in their eye even though you would call them beggars, bums, homeless in the west. There are energy healers, tarot readers, sages, monks, shamans, seekers and beleivers. This is the Rome of spirituality. All spiritual roads lead here.

I think the Ganges helps. Up town, to the north of here, I saw a restaurant’s sewer flow directly into the sacred river. It doesn’t mind. Downstream from it, where my friend and I immersed ourselves for the first time last week, the water is clear. My friend had a wound that he had tried to treat for a few days. That night it was healed. As for me, the joy I felt for the rest of the day I feel cannot entirely be attributed to the mere excitement of jumping in a sacred river and having a story to tell about it. Even here, from the hotel, you can feel its presence, its calm, its strength. I’d go as far as saying its love.

But that is not the most amazing part to me. Great gurus and masters and sages – that’s fine – it’s the regular people, the hotel staff, the cooks, the shop keepers, the beggars, the cane-juice makers, the construction workers, etc. – that truly make you feel like you have strayed into Shangri-la (and if you don’t know what Shangri-la is, you should really read “Lost Horizon”). Sure, they like their pop-music, cell-phones and such, but when they work, they are most likely to sing “Om nama shivaya” (I honor the divine in me) . If they say hello, they might call out “peace” or one of the deities names. The whole town is vegetarian (sucks being a cat around here). Organic, Ayurvedic conscious, fresh food is the norm, not a fancy fad for rich westerners. I don’t know if it is the result of the training or a true reflection of the culinary magic that takes place here, but I have yet to have a bad or mediocre meal. I have a culinary crush on the chef at the Oasis Cafe down the street. I have a spiritual crush on several of our teachers. I have a joy-crush on this whole town. And in just a few minutes I am off to sushi (vegetarian, organic, Indian-style sushi).

That is how much I can say now. Rishikesh really should be experienced, not described. I feel like I am bombarded with important food for my soul, my brain and the rest of my life, but the rate of intake isn’t manageable, so I’ll just gulp it all and use the 5-6 months on the trail to let it percolate down and digest what I will and cast away what I won’t. The pull of the Pacific Crest Trail is getting very strong in me now. I am glad. It will make leaving Rishikesh less traumatic. I will be back anyway. The majesty of the Himalayas lays just out of reach, and I would feel I have wronged myself if I didn’t spend some proper time visiting them. I will, however, not have time this round because the day my teacher training ends, I am signed up for a tantra workshop – which is what you think it is, and a whole lot more too – and when that is finished, the Dalai Lama is coming for a visit. Maybe I can see the Himalayas from here, if I climb higher than the temple where I was today … but that is just another story.

Love to you!

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