Shifting landscapes and perspectives

We had very little conversation on the road from Badrinath.  Aloneness and introspection had been our modus operandi for the past ten days and we had no need or interest in sharing our individual experiences, perceptions  or insights.  We rested in a cocoon of mental silence.

The ten days there had touched me in so many ways that I felt vaguely unsettled.  It was as if I was on a precipice, one foot was already off the ground and I was about to free fall, unsure how or where I would land.

On the way up the mountain Devananda had insisted that the driver stop regularly to let him take photographs of the ever changing, exquisite beauty and spiritual landscape which is the Himalayas, its nature, colors, its villages, its people.  On the trip down the mountain he rarely even looked out the window.  I imagined he was doing what I was doing – engraving memories of the past days on my heart.

Randy was quiet too for the most part.   He sometimes spoke with the driver.  He had learned some Hindi and was speaking English with an Indian accent.  He seemed so happy, so at home in India.  I thought he was probably the only American I knew who could easily live in the Himalayas, for the rest of his life.

I couldn’t live in the Himalayas.  But, I knew that I would be back, again and again.  There were times on this pilgrimage when I sat still seated just beyond my reasoning mind, where all the answers to all my questions were–  where I could access  insights into my self and intuition would dawn about my life and from where I got direct guidance.       Badrinath/Santopanth Tal  held a the key for me to unlock this place, in my mind and heart.  It is my Inner SatGuru.  Badrinath  is Babaji.

I had heard Govindan say that there are two kinds of people, people who have been to India and those who haven’t.  I finally understood what he meant.  My life prior to this pilgrimage had ended; my life now would be different.   I had truly accessed my Inner Guru.  Now my life would be driven more by purpose and towards achieving an aim.  The aim was to live an authentic, exemplary life so I could be united with Myself.   I didn’t know what that would mean for me.  There was a lot  percolating in my confident heart.

We made it all the way to Rishikesh that first night.  I felt that we were all walking with a lighter foot on the earth.   I imagined my equanimity would follow me back to the U.S., back into all  life challenges.  The fact of the matter was it didn’t even remain with me for 24 hours after I left Badrinath.  Randy had run out of money in Badrinath and Devananda and I were picking up the tab for him.  I don’t recall what happened but Devananda blew up and told Randy not a rupee more, so  I was paying for all his expenses and then he did something, had a spa treatment… or said something or other, and I blew up at him.  Randy was definitely there to test us.

The next day Randy left for Mussoorie to visit a friend and Devananda and I went to Haridwar.   He needed to pick up the jewelry that he had made for his wife.  I wanted to stay in Haridwar until I had to leave for the flight back home and he wanted to shop in Delhi for his family.   I was not ready for the noise or the pollution in New Delhi so decided to stay in Haridwar.

Several days later while in Haridwar,  I met Govindan and Walter coming back from Badrinath.  They were all aglow.  They had great days at Santopanth but a tough trek out.   The night before they left there was  a snow storm and a great deal of snow covered the rocks and boulders  so they had to travel very slowly.  They had been unable to get to Mana before nightfall.   They traveled on those narrow, rocky, silty paths covered with snow and ice in the dark!   It was so dangerous in good conditions, that I could not imagine that they had continued in the dark with only those little high-beam flashlights to show the way.  They shared with me, that in the morning and just as they were leaving, they watched an avalanche erupt on the mountain closest to their camp site.   The huge mass of snow continued to shift not only down the mountain but also up over the ridge of the valley where they were standing, and some of it ended up pelleting them as snowballs.   It is well known that in the Himalayas Divine nectar comes in the form of precipitation.  This was a blessing; no doubt about it.  They had felt confident to travel even in darkness.

I got a ride with Govindan and Walter to the airport in New Delhi.   Surprisingly, Govindan was on the same flight as we all were.  Unfortunately, I got very sick from the six hour car ride to Delhi.  The taxi had a bad muffler and traffic was backed up.  The air was a mix of dust and fumes and the combination of being physically run down and wide open from all the fresh Himalaya prana, I seemed to  just absorb it all.  By the time we got to the airport I had an excruciating headache and was throwing up.  Govindan had to physically help me stand up as I tried to hold it together long enough to get through check-in, immigration and security.   I slept most of the way home, which was a first.  We all arrived in New York, had time for a hug and were off to our respective flights back to our families.  The pilgrimage was completed.  However,  the fruits of it had not yet begun to fall.

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