Musings, Personal Practice

Semi colons, situations and surviving Samsara

Semi colons, situations and surviving Samsara

When I was 18 years old I was suffering from a rather horrible bout of situational depression – although I didn’t actually realise it at the time (because I didn’t actually know what ‘depression’ was or how it was caused or even why) so I hardly talked to anyone about it because it just seemed so wierd, so unexplainable and so confusing…

This situational depression however brought on an existential crisis. It was – in hindsight a blessing disguised as a curse – as I tend now to view all of life’s lessons that turn up at my door – there is meaning and growth to be found in every situation if you allow yourself to look for it.

Anyway – for anyone who has never experienced one of these and if one does arrive for you in the future – my advice to you is this –

  • Make your own meaning
  • Find your own purpose
  • And I guarantee – in time – the veil of fog will lift and the world before you will be brighter and more beautiful then you can ever imagine possible – Once you get to the other side that is! You will see it as my dad calls it – a “break through” even though at the time it may feel like a “break down”.

Anyway I digress… Yes, so – I was down in the dumps and my life lacked meaning…

What’s the point?

Why do I exist?

Why can’t I just fade away into the darkness and sleep forever more?

Everything seemed so gray, so tasteless and so horribly HORRIBLY dull!
Thankfully however – synchronicity turned up and brought me something truly beautiful at EXACTLY the time it was needed.

I went to Art College and I met an Artist Teacher (who I’m glad to say is now – some 16 years later one of my truest and closest friends and who is referred to as ‘The Cabbage Shirted Teacher in much of my writings).

This teacher inspired me.

This teacher had also struggled and grappled with feelings similar to my own.

This teacher sat me down one day when I had confessed my feelings of self loathing and told me that when he was about my age he had felt the same way and he asked me if I thought that he should have allowed his life to slip away from him.

“NO!!!” I cried.

“Definitely not!!!” I exclaimed.

“You are too important to me, to the world, to your students!!!!! YOU definitely needed to live!!!!”
“Well now” he said in a calm and quiet tone. “Wouldn’t you like to be able to sit in this chair one day?” He then asked me tenderly.

“Wouldn’t you like to be able to give this gift that I get to have right now – to yourself and to someone else one day?”
“What do you mean?” I asked with tear stained cheeks feeling utterly bewildered and baffled.
“when you get to my age – you will feel completely different. I guarantee it, though I know it doesn’t feel that way right now.”
“You will find your purpose and you will find your peace.”
“Life will still have ups and downs – I’m not saying it won’t – but one day if you work at it your good days will far out number the bad, life will have meaning and it will make sense and then you’ll be able to give this gift to one of your own students for you will know exactly what they are going through because you will have been there in the past yourself – and trust me – it’s a fabulous gift to be able to give”
That gift is the gift of hope.

And hope does not live in the land of despair.
That conversation was the seed to wellness. It gave me courage, determination and a will to survive and hopefully, quietly and secretly I allowed myself to dare to dream that one day I would thrive. That conversation sparked a fire deep within my joyless soul. That gift helped me see that someone else had felt like I felt and that they had definitely gotten through it and I knew this because that person was someone who I loved and admired and respected deeply.

That person was the person I knew that I wanted to be someday.
I remember everything viscerally about that moment in time. the dark room we were sat in, the smell of the art materials – the burning wood, the sawdust, the paint fumes, that distinct smell that graphite emits… I remember the feel of the mottled blue plastic chairs we were sat upon, the sounds of power tools, the lulling of the radio in the background,  shouting voices all around…

The look of his big black notebook stuffed full of bits of paper, my brown sketchbook, my inner life hidden within its pages…

WELL – Just before I left for India – I got to have that exact same conversation with one of my own students. He was of a similar age to what I was when I had my own crisis of meaning and as he sat in front of me and told me how he wanted to end it all, how he’d had enough of life, as he sat shaking, eyes filled with anger and rage and confusion I realised that that great moment was now upon me and this ripple of serenity washed over my body.

I took a deep breath as I saw myself for a brief moment sitting across from myself in that room once again, sat, so unsure of myself on that blue mottled chair.
It was then that I told him about my own conversation with that inspiring teacher all those years ago and then I asked him if he thought I should have allowed my own life to slip away when I was his age

“NO!!” he cried.

“Don’t be silly!” he exclaimed.

“You’re too special, we need you! The world needs you, you’re so positive, so happy, you make us laugh and smile!!!”
“Well” I said empathically,

“One day, how wonderful do you think it’s going to feel when you get the chance to sit in this chair?”

He looked at me confused, I saw disbelief and disillusionment in his eyes and then I swore to him I had done the exact same thing when I was 18.  After this we went quiet,  turned pensive just as I had done all those years ago with my own tear stained cheeks.

And then I lifted my hair and explained the tattoo on the back of my neck.
A semi colon is used sometimes instead of a full stop. When an author COULD choose to end a sentence but instead decides to simply have a brief pause and then continue. YOU are the author and that sentence is your life ;

semicolon

One of my friends pointed out that this painting (acrylics and inks) looks like a minion! hahaha

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Musings, Personal Practice

Mahadevas, Kali’s, Taras and true inner peace!

Mahadevas, Kali’s, Taras and true inner peace!
If you’ve known me for a while – or perhaps even if you haven’t – you may have noticed that my thoughts, beliefs, ideas – about spirituality/ the human condition/ education / art / whatever else I’m interested in tend to be rather fluid…
As in – Once I have gained new knowledge or insights – if they ring true – I assimilate them into my belief system and my entire outlook on life changes – sometimes within a mere moment…

I personally like this about myself – I don’t think being easily influenced is necessarily a bad thing – there’s a difference between easily influenced and easily led and I like being open minded and I like “growing” myself – though I know to others it can seem “wishy washy and frustrating” at times BUT I genuinely don’t care!
My ideas and beliefs in regard to spirituality have chopped and changed quite a lot over the past few weeks while here in India.  I’ve learned so much – and I’ve discovered so many ancient ideas about life are so very similar to my own inner philosophies.
Only a few weeks into my trip I had decided I was definitely a devotee of Shiva – I do believe that there is a bigger “superconciousness” that is within and above everything in creation (I used to name this as Panentheism – which I discovered when doing my BA dissertation on Tracey Emin – she called herself a Pantheist and introduced me to the philosophies of Spinoza.

However – I also completely believe in the power of the mind to be able to tap into this essence IF we are working at the right frequency.

While still in India however – I realised that at that moment – due to current life situations, stresses and what not – I was not working at that right frequency and that was why I had jumped so gung ho to the ‘grasping’ at Lord Shiva – a few days later when the Shiva euphoria had subsided – I realised I would not be becoming a Shiva-ite any time soon. Though I respect and am glad that the concept of “Shiva” had appeared in my life.

I will always love the concept of Shiva but I won’t be putting “Shiva” at the centre of my world…
Many of the people on my yoga course talked at the closing ceremony about how they had never been spiritual before and visiting India had changed that. It had opened their eyes to new world’s, new ways of being, new ways of seeing.
I’ve been “spiritual” thought NOT RELIGIOUS my whole life. I can FEEL that I have a soul and it feels delightful to be touched so deeply by life. And since the age of 15/16 I’ve knew about and wanted to reach Samadhi – it is an incredibly good feeling knowing that I am getting closer to this each and every single day.

So – as again – depending how well you know me – you may have heard me say this several times too:

“A BOOK HAS CHANGED MY LIFE!”.

“A book has changed my thinking!”-  or rather, as happens usually – a book has confirmed my own inherent beliefs. Ones I had always felt inside but didn’t know about any other philosophies or schools of thought that could back them up. That would enable me to fully trust my own judgement – why had I never fully trusted my own judgement before? Why for so long did I not allow myself to listen to my own wisdom?
THAT IS until I read a book about the ten Mahavidyas!!!! 😍 😍 😍 😍 – “Tantric visions of the divine feminine” by David Kinsley.  I encourage ANYONE with an interest in tantra/spirituality/eastern philosophies or even feminism/judgement of self/the other – from a spiritual slant – to have a read!!!
This book not only helped me to realise that I don’t need or actually want to spend my life worshipping Shiva and visiting temples or doing pujas (though I do love a bit of mantra chanting and I’m a big fan of knowing all about and making Yantras – but I can do these Sadhana’s alone and through my practice).

This book – having turned up at the right time also helped me to realise that ME – EXACTLY as I am, EXACTLY how I “be” in the world – with all of my flaws and inconsistencies is 100% absolutely divine.  Just like the whole of life and the whole of the universe and the whole of everything else held within it!

As it is!

And I don’t think that was actually the authors intent upon writing – he was just cataloguing the myths and legends and explaining the meanings behind the ten mahavidyas – ten goddesses that are misunderstood by the West, ten goddesses who don’t fit into the usual framework of ‘Hinduism’.  These goddesses are not married, they are not mothers, they do not “keep peace” in the universe… These 10 goddesses shake things up a bit and Kali is considered and evidenced in the stories to be more powerful than “Shiva”…
So – where I’m going is here – The Buddha was right – self realisation IS the key to happiness.

BUT yoga was right too – for yoga not only means union and excellence in all actions – it also means consistency.

Consistently being TRUE to your own self.
The Buddha was consistently peaceful and compassionate, Shiva was consistently the destroyer and slayer of unconciousness – he was not compassionate like the Buddha by ANY stretch.
And I am consistently inconsistent!
And within that inconsistency is the dichotomy I always used to grapple with…

On one hand I’m a deeply spiritual person who wants the world to live in peace with conpassion and harmony – but also I am a super passionate, hedonistic crazy, childlike hyperactive fool!

And these two opposing parts of my being used to REALLY get on my nerves! I was always frustrated that I couldn’t just choose a side! But now, I am not only at peace with who I am –  I have not only accepted who I am but I have also embraced it. I have realised that it is absolutely GLORIOUS to be both introverted and extraverted. It is absolutely DIVINE being able to connect with children and disappear into imagination land to slay dragons and ride on magic carpets – Yet also be able to be humbled by nature, to be able to sit quietly all day, taking in the majesty of the world.

I’m no longer interested in trying to become someone I am not. I’m childish and I’m deep. I’m passionate and I’m profound. I’m working class and I’m a weird artist who spends her days painting and singing show tunes. I am ME. 🙂

I’m ready to just live my life, pursue my interests, enjoy my bad self as the ever changing divine mess that I am. Because life is too short for worrying, life is too short for sadness and life is too short for judgements and recriminations. Within everything bad there is also good – you just need to know how to find it.
The other day a vegan friend of mine posted something on Facebook about how some people “claim” to be spiritual but then eat animals and animal products like they actually just don’t care.

I found the meme funny and she quizzed me on whether I was ACTUALLY a vegan.  I responded saying that I was not (I do tend to eat only plant based foods when I’m living in my good place), I explained that I used to be and that I do know all about the horrific meat and dairy industry but that my own consumption of all foods/beverages over the past few years – WHEN NOT IN MY PATTERNS – was done consciously and mindfully and I stated that I believed everyone should do as their own hearts tell them to.

But if one is claiming to be spiritual it would be nice to think that they were concious of what they are consuming, where it came from and to genuinely appreciate and give thanks to all involved in its production.
One of her friends who I’ve never met proceeded to tell me that anyone who consumes animals or their products (milk/cheese/yogurt) whether “consciously or unconsciously” is inherently evil.
Several years ago I would have took that statement to heart and I would have had an internal battle over it as I did do frequently when changing from vegan to veggie to “concious consumer” back to vegan/veggie etc etc… In a circle because at the time I just couldn’t for the life of me figure out who I was!
I also have friends who still have those internal battles…
“I want to be a good human being and I want to drink milk and occasionally have a steak… But I KNOW the animal industry is bad… I know veganism is better for the animals… YET I also know deep down inside that I am NOT Satan incarnate and I’m pretty sure that I am not inherently evil even though I knowingly choose to eat the flesh of an animal who is already dead or I knowingly drink a mango lassi or have a pizza with cheese… Seriously? Am I going to hell for choosing this?????”

AAAAAH – QUEUE the over thinking monkey mind of the growing individual.
But then what if another voice pipes up – what if you allow your own inner wisdom to have a word. If you did perhaps it would speak as follows as mine now tends to do:

I know that my karma is not going to be incredibly bad if I have some chicken with my dinner, I thank the animals for giving up their lives and  I don’t eat them very often if I am the one cooking and when I do – these days I do generally have peace in my heart.  I am stupidly grateful for what goes in my mouth and I savour it. Truly. I don’t allow myself to feel bad any more. And is that really wrong? Surely we should all just do what  is right for us and let everyone else do the same?

You worry about your karma and I’ll worry about mine. Life is far to short in my opinion to spend it angry over what someone else puts into their mouth.
So when this person facetiously told me to “enjoy my karma!” after I had sincerely told her that I hoped one day she would find peace in her heart because I know 100% that I  – a person she has NEVER met – am not inherently evil and her vitriol would therefore have no impact whatsoever upon my life.

I stated that I most certainly would enjoy my karma – because I’ve FINALLY realised something fabulous deep inside about “who I am” and my spiritual path/place in the world and this book has just reaffirmed it.
Especially when I read about a concept called “left handed” tantra! It made me smile, it made me beam, it made me feel a great and beautiful peace ripple through my body. It made me realise I have got a great deal of wisdom (for some subjects!! NOT ALL – but – give me time haha) that many others do not have and I raised a brow and chuckled to myself…
“Do not judge what you have no desire to understand.”
This book reaffirmed to me that any action you take – ANY – as long as your intentions are good, as long as you GENUINELY mean to do no harm, as long as you are concious and ACTIVELY in touch with your “higher self” or inner god/goddess – well that action is not a bad action and it does not need to be regretted.
That action – regardless of what it is – is pure because it is done with a good heart and even if society at large thinks it’s polluting or distasteful or overly erotic/indulgent/harmful/whatever – it doesn’t matter.

What matters is how YOU FEEL, whether you are connected to your god/goddess WITHIN YOURSELF – because if you are – “Life” is a spiritual practice – all of life is Tantra. All of life is Bhakti… And ALL of life feels REALLY REALLY GOOD IF YOU ALLOW IT TO.
To thine own self be true.

Thine own HIGHER self. Thine own god conciousness. Thine own Kali, Tara, Shakti, Durga… You name the “God/Goddess/Buddha” that resonates with you and you OWN IT.
Mind you, I also think – anything you do unconsciously also does not need regretting – for if you don’t know what the right action is in any given moment – how can you really take it?

We are meant to make mistakes – We are human and they help us to grow!
For too long I allowed the thoughts of others to influence my own – negatively. I took their judgements and criticisms and internalised them for many years.

I, like many others have been guilty in the past for judging myself by other people’s standards and what a fat load of good that did me eh!

For too long I was afraid to embrace exactly who I am, for too long did I not approve of my actions, my thoughts, my desires – yet I knew I was being silly and I worked upon changing and I got there eventually. Reading this book about the Tantric Mahadevas and the ‘Left Path’ just cemented my ideas and philosophies about life – BE WHO YOU WERE BORN TO BE!

Do not be afraid to be uniquely you and let your divine light shine!
Savour every delicious moment of life, every mouthful of food, every divine scent that flits past your nose, every tender brush of the skin, every single momentary eye contact with another human being or gaze upon something wonderful in nature for THAT is spiritual divotion.

That is Bhakti for the embodied god/goddess within.
My path is not Shiva (though Shiva is amazing) – my path HAS and always will be some sort of wierd hodge podge of everything that resonates with me and that includes this new (to me yet VERY OLD) idea of Tantra. For Tantra is worshipping the gods and goddesses through embodiment – “becoming” them and worshipping the them” inside of your OWN self.
AND I am LEFT HANDED and I always have been – yet sometimes I also use my right.

Therefore the left path of Tantra… The path of Kali, the path of heroes, the path that is deemed polluted – well – that is sometimes my path too and I finally understand it and embrace it and I embrace me in all of my human, worldy, sensuous esoteric mystical divinity!
Today I feel like a “grown up”.
Today a shift has occurred.
Today I actually feel like a wise sage instead of a confused child.
And today I feel like a woman who honours herself in all of her crazy glory. A woman honours her Kali, her Tara and her Shakti.

A woman who feels complete and has stopped judging herself as “less” than anything or anyone else on this fabulous planet of ours! A woman who is ready to put her OWN art practice at the forefront of her life.

I finally understand the notion of the body being a temple – for there is a Goddess dwelling inside – and I shall cherish and honour and indulge her – to give her thanks for finally moving in and filling me with divinity and love.
And I have india, it’s history, it’s philosophies, it’s yoga, it’s cow worship, it’s respect for yet consuming of the animals, it’s Hinduism, it’s Tantra and it’s Buddha to thank for this.
Namascray my dears For we are all truly divine and if people do not understand us –  well – thats their own problem.

 

For if you do not think I am imperfectly perfect exactly as I am then you do not have to sit at my table – and that goes for my old self. I am so glad that I do not allow judgements to “hurt” me any more.
A fitting Annieism for this post – “those who matter don’t mind and those who mind don’t matter” and another one is ‘Let it like water off a ducks back”.
For some reason in the past I used to judge myself harshly – I have no idea why and to be honest – I no longer really care – the past is the past and that really is all there is to it.

Yet – perhaps this was just a part of ‘growth’ I needed to in order to truly have compassion. In order to make me wise or just to make me appreciate life when I got older.

My younger self had – at times – a truly negative self image, but with age came wisdom and now thankfully that part of my being has dissolved.  I don’t think I’m gods gift to humanity or that I am better than anyone else – but I do now think we are all perfect in our imperfections – EXACTLY as we are!

Yet I know I will never ever stop learning or evolving – for it is TRULY what makes us grow!

And when I make mistakes and realise afterwards – sure – I still feel bad – I am a human after all – but only momentarily. For then I pick myself up, I try my best to redeem myself and I apologise if I have to and then I get on with enjoying my fabulous life.
For anyone who knows me – will know this past year has been a particularly tumultuous one. I made a lot of decisions and I changed my life completely and – as life is sometimes –  it was incredibly stressful at times. I decided to go to India as I felt I wanted to ‘reconnect’ to myself and I’d been desperate to go there for many many years.

A wise friend told me before I left for India that I was not going to “find myself” that I was going for a break, to have a much needed chill. I did actually hope that I would ‘find myself’ there and I would come home as an entirely different person. Now that I have been here for 6 weeks and am getting ready to head back to the UK I realise that both of us were right in part.

I am coming back EXACTLY how I left. Yet one part of me has finally been completely eradicated – the part that sometimes crept up and didn’t love or accept myself exactly as I am. The part that judged and criticised itself on occassion seems to have finally have been eradicated and in its place is the tender, compassionate and caring part that used to be reserved mainly for others and it is now paying full attention to itself.

If you have never given yourself the gift of ACTUAL self love – self compassion and self embracement – do it! And do it today! Trust me – it feels TRULY amazing!

Screen Shot 2017-10-28 at 11.31.34

Watercolour & pen doodle – the self as a 1000 armed bodhisattva – Avoloketishvara also known as Quan Yin.


NB – Namascray – A similar greeting to Namaste except instead of it meaning ‘the divinity in me greets the divinity in you’ it means ‘the Crazy in me greets the Crazy in you’.

Annieism – Sayings from my Nannie Annie – she was a GREAT influence upon my life and is featured quite a lot in my work!

 

Musings, Personal Practice

A White British Woman visits India alone and muses on it.

“I could live in India!” I sighed  dreamily this morning.
“I could definitely make this my home”.
It’s so different to how I imagined it. It’s so GREEN!!! It’s so lush! Many of the old buildings are SO unbelievably beautiful!

And then as I had my slow and steady early morning boat ride while watching the deep red sun rise along the Ganga in Varanasi I was transported back to Indias glorious and noble and wealthy past.

I saw the buildings in their former glory.

I glimpsed the Brahmans in their fine regalias… The King’s, the Sultans, the glorious glorious temples lining the streets, coated in gold…
But then I noticed the untouchables… I noticed the children working hard and both marrying and dieing VERY young.

I noticed the inferiority of women, I noticed the caste system. I saw people from lower castes being beaten and having their tongues chopped off for daring to utter a Gods mantra.
History played itself out like a movie right before my eyes and I stopped for a moment to catch my thoughts.

Yes, Great Britain raped and pillaged India – of that there is no doubt.

India is now poor because we colonised her and there really is no getting away from that fact.

But the beggars, the lepers, the people being treated as “less than” others because of their job, their role, the family they were born into.

Well.

That was all here way before the British were.

But education instead of physical work and child marriage was not and neither were the railways. Oh and widows still usually had to kill themselves after their husbands had died.
So Today I have managed to find some peace with what my ancestors did here. History is simply history. The ones with the power take their privileges and that sadly is just the way it has always been – I AM NOT FOR ONE MINUTE SAYING THIS IS GOOD – I am not one for being in a position of power myself.

BUT

Wherever there is bad – there is always – somewhere – if you seek it hard enough – some good to be found inside of that experience – somewhere or somehow!
Today something important happened.
Today, while in Varanasi – India just became India again. It stopped being the country that my country ruined.

It became a country with a history.

A country with its own unique history – one that intermingled with other histories – just like we as people do – we come into each others lives and we bring both bad and good and we change one another.
The more dominant person at the time has their will followed, sometimes to the detriment of the other person and sometimes for the better. The more wise of the two shines a mirror on things that need to change and if the other person is able to see sense then changes are made. And a lot of the time both people genuninely grow through the interaction.

If the weaker of the two becomes more powerful or cunning then the relationship ends or changes.

If the more spiritual of the two has an impact then the more materialistic one comes to understand life better.

All relationships bring change to both sides. Perhaps we develop fast or slowly, perhaps we make up for our wrongs or we don’t. But like countries after their relationships end or change – we all evolve in one way or another through our interactions.

Seeing an emaciated child sleeping on a cold hard slab of stone ripped my heart in two this morning.  Seeing tens of men lining the streets with legs facing the wrong way or stumps instead of arms made my heart bleed all over again like that time in the tuc tuc on the way to the Krishna temple in Rishikesh.
There is SO much more blatant poverty in Varanasi than in Rishikesh but then being constantly pestered for money and grabbed at by men in the street forcefully and constantly having them trying to sell me things, being taken to an expensive restaurant for dinner and a friends shop by my tour guide and basically being bullied into a corner and almost forced to buy extremely expensive essential oils “with my credit card” filled me with rage.

How dare you assume that because my skin is white and I’ve managed to travel to India alone that I am rich and have money to throw around?
I HAVE NO MONEY MYSELF, IT IS NOT MY FAULT YOU ARE POOR!” – I wanted to scream and I wanted to scream it loudly.

It seemed that day that all of my illusions of how majestic and spiritual india was had came to a crashing halt.

But then I realised that a month ago – I was that rich tourist.

While the younger ones haggled over 20 rupees I happily paid what the shop keepers asked of me. Two dresses and two pairs of trousers for less than £10 – yes – I am ok with that! I am happy to spend that sort of money – especially now that I’ve got it to hand.

And yet,  I understand and empathise with the backpackers who are in their 20’s and haggling – I was there once too you know.

But as my trip is drawing to a close and my house is still not sold I find myself once again counting the rupees. I find myself noticing how much a masala chai costs. I find myself asking the man at the hotel how much I should be paying for an iPhone cable and I leave the shop that wants 400 rupees (£5) and keep searching till I find one for 150 like the man at reception said I should be paying and I realise that lack, poverty and desperation really does do things to people.
In my mind I saw that small boy sleeping on the cold stone slab morphing into an adult.

Would he eat, would he survive if he just sat at the roadside passively? Or would he need to become dominant and forceful? Would he need to try desperately to tug at the heartstrings or forcefully try his best to get the foreigner to part with the cash that he believes she is loaded with?
Or perhaps I wondered – could there be another way for him? For that little boy asleep on the cold hard slab.
So on the drive to Bodhgyaya I decided to change my dominant thoughts about Varanasi and the people dwelling there, and I tried my best to not feel angry and scared when at the service station the man’s attitude changed abruptly from smiles and namastes to giving me a dirty look with a furrowed brow and him trying his best by pushing back his shoulders and cornering me, demanding more when I offered him 20 rupees to use the washroom (in rishikesh it was 5 ruppees).
I started picturing the beautiful Ganga again, I pictured all the pilgrims coming here from all over India, all over the world may be! I pictured the mourning sombre families burning their loved ones while boat loads of tourists took photographs and stared while they were singing mantras, having a 15 day funeral and hoping to send their loved ones out of Samsara. I pictured the ornate hand carved buildings from the 12th century, the fine silks and the women selling tooth brushes made out of branches of neem…

And I pictured that boy making his own pilgrimage. I pictured him heading north to one of the ashrams. One with a good swami like the one I met at Phool Chatti Ashram in Rishikesh – That gorgeous old man who radiated loving kindness – (not the guru who has just been sent to prison for raping his disciples) and I pictured him taking respite there.

I pictured him working the land in return for food and shelter. Growing his soul and mind through meditation and study and turning into a Swami himself one day. And I mentally swapped that for the wish I’d made with my flower and candle offering to the Ganga that morning.

If my original wish doesn’t come true – well I’ll be a bit sad but it’s not so bad. I’d give that precious wish up if it means that boy will go on to better things.

Yet I will now let it all go and leave it in the hands of mother Ganga and I’ll let it all slip out of my mind,  just like I will let the children in the service station begging me for money that I don’t have slip away into the past too – as the past is in the past and I am on route to a new tomorrow.

A new tomorrow where I will wake up in Bodhgyaga. Where, unlike when in Rishikesh – I have no money to buy things with without haggling, I have no bananas or sweeties to give. Where 10 rupees will seem just as precious to me as it is to those children at the roadside and I will truly value money, food, shelter and the life I am fortunate enough to live back at home once again.
Yes, you are poor – DESPERATELY poor in fact BUT it is not my fault and when I am poor too – you don’t get anything out of me. Like yoga philosophy class taught us. When your life is abundant you share with others and you do it with an open and giving heart as I have always done but when it isn’t – you can do nothing but look after yourself first in whatever way you personally deem appropriate.
And if that means some people pester people they perceive to have money then that is what I have to accept for I realise I can do nothing to change their perception of me – all I can do is be true to myself, to live my life the only way I know how.

To pay the asking price (if I am happy with it) for things and to give resources when I have got them and to say no either as forcefully or as empathically as needed when I have not got anything to give.
The second part of my trip has helped me to become more assertive. I have cottoned on that before someone brings me a cup of chai or I use a toilet I have to say loudly “NO – TELL ME HOW MUCH!” First – before I agree to things. Because when you haven’t got it – there’s a big difference between 10 rupees and 40!
So instead of ignoring the children outside the service station completely I looked into their eyes. I smiled, said Namaste and said “no, sorry – I don’t have any money”. The little boys continued to pester, they banged on the car door and pointed to their mouths. But the little girl waved goodbye to me and smiled.  We both raised our hands in front of our heart centres in a Namaste as my car pulled out of the service station and back onto the highway once again.

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Shiva Trishula’s – Ink.

Musings, Personal Practice

India and our Great British Empire

Autoethnographic musings upon life… This year I spent the summer in India – while I was there I painted many little pictures in my sketchbook, completed my 200 hour Yoga Teacher Training Course and experienced ‘Life’ through a new lens. I wrote several musings and I’m going to post them here… And I’ll attach my paintings too.

Lord Krishna’s Birthday, India and our Great British Empire

Today is Lord krishnas birthday, to celebrate we all bought saris and went to a magnificent white marble Hindu temple covered in sparkly lights and beautiful, rhythmic “Hare Krishna” music and dancing and twirling and golden gods everywhere you looked! It was truly magical – and I got to go there in my very first tuc tuc!!!!!!!

Covered in sweat we waited at the road side for our tuc tucs to bring us back to the yoga school and we all chattered excitedly.

Everyone was elated!

It had been a fabulous night of dancing and singing and twirling around with gorgeous radiant little Indian girls showing us how to dance!
One of the other students had noticed some baby piglets, “Oh my God how cute!!!!!!!” I exclaimed and got closer to take a look.

And then my heart fell.  I noticed they had been born and were living in a HUGE pile of rubbish. I was then reminded of the cow I had saw just a few days earlier who was eating a cardboard box… That had saddened my heart a fair bit too.
I left the piglets with my gift from Lord Krishna – I had made an offering to Krishna in the temple and I was given the sugary butter and sweeties (his favourite foods) to eat so that my life may continue to be sweet and rich. As I climbed into the tuc tuc it struck me that those piglets would probably not have a rich and sweet life.
As our tuc tuc meandered back to the yoga school instead of gazing at the Ganga and laughing about how I’d never complain about pot holes again (as I had been saying on the journey there) – I looked to the other side of the road. The side where the beggars “lived”.

And as we drove past all of the men with no limbs I thought about how significant this day truly was. For it is not only Lord Krishna’s birthday –  it is also Indias independence day. The anniversary of the day that my country decided to “give India back” and as I looked upon those men with no legs I was reminded of all the heated debates I have had over the years about the legacy of our “Great British Empire”…
Yes, I have always “got” your logic – my life would not be sweet and rich if my forefathers had not raped and pillaged the rest of the world.
But for this – I have never felt thankful and that has at times infuriated others in the past. It is just that for me – I know at what price these gifts have came.
I always have.
Ever since I visited the slave museum in Liverpool when I was 7 and saw just how our glorious buildings were created and paid for.
And on that bumpy ride home in our tuc tuc this evening it really pained me to see how India – with its rich and inventive and spiritual past – is a third world country where the electricity is not stable and the water isn’t clean and the cows eat cardboard boxes.
Yet most of her gold lives in glass cases in museums in my country – for all of the world to see – in my country where electricity and clean water are not even given a second thought and Lord Krishna’s birthday is not celebrated, with those twinkly lights and the glorious music and all of the people singing and dancing and being thankful for the rich and sweet life that he has bestowed upon them.

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