It was in Kolkata (here more info in english and german) and it was the year 2006. My first impulse when I left the airport building was to leave again immediately. I regarded myself as an experienced traveller as I had already spent some time travelling in South East Asia. My idea was that India could not be that different. On my cab ride to the centre I felt like I had landed on another planet or had travelled at least 50 years back in time.
It was completely overwhelming as there were so many “extreme” impressions to deal with at the same time. The ‘Ambassador’-cab looked like a vintage car but it is still built in India and Kolkata was full of them. The poverty, barefooted men pulling rickshaws (see also ‘My Barefoot Friend:’ The story of Kolkata’s rickshaw pullers), the dirt, the smog, the noise of the traffic, the smell and the sheer volume of people made me speechless. Outside the cab it looked a little bit like a post-war scene and it took me some time to realize that the buildings only ‘looked’ destroyed. They were often just half-finished, in need of paint and inhabited.
I was not really a spiritual seeker but extremely curious and open for new experiences. Many years before I had started with meditation, Reiki and workshops of all kinds and had met many people who told me that they had been to India. Some just for fun and many to visit ashrams and undertake a spiritual journey. I was so curious to explore this fascinating country which is so highly regarded as the holy land of gurus and spiritual teachers.
Quote from abcnews:
Tales of divine intervention float out of local villages, telling of young girls who cry tears of blood, yogis who can lie in roaring fires, healers who can cure the sick with a single touch, Sufi shrines that ward off bad spirits, and Hindu holy men who live for decades without a single drop of water or crumb of food.
For some in India, these ‘miracles’ are unquestionable acts of God. To others they are falsities that hinder the progress and development of the country. For still others, the performance of miracles is a way to make a living. Nonetheless, whether they come from God men or con men, no other place on Earth sees more miracles performed than India — whatever they really are.’
On my travels here I have also spent some time in ashrams, not looking for a guru but to experience the atmosphere there. Mostly I found when I watched the deep devotion of others to the ‘guru’ I found out what is NOT for me. Anyway, for me the real spiritual experience of India lies in finding your way to let go of the Western attitude and to ‘go with the flow’. In our series ‘soulrefresher’s travels: India’ we will describe some of the extreme everyday situations and what one could learn from them.
Now it is 2012 and my own way of travelling in India has totally changed since that first arrival in India. I have found my way to deal with the extremes and the chaos and to understand that this chaos often leads to a solution in the end. On my first visit I moved frequently and spent only a few days at each place before moving on to the next. Today I enjoy spending longer time at places I like and really having time to experience them. Usually it increases the chances of meeting locals which opens doors to experience special things and lead you to places you normally could not visit as a tourist. One example is Jitu, a friend who owns a travel agency; he introduced us to a Sadhu who lives in a small, simple hut close to Himalaya caves in Rishikesh. The time and the talks with the sadhu have been a highlight of my travels. We are working on a longer blogpost about that.
Travelling here again is also about coming back to places I had been before and to meet again people I have built up a connection with. In 2006 I made my Reiki master course in Mc Leod Ganj/Dharamsala with Amit Namdev (Amit Reiki) and we have kept up the contact until today. It was great to meet him again and experience that there still is a special connection between us. In spite of his young age he has been an inspiration for me since we have met. In the meantime I have practiced Reiki a lot and it became an important part of my life for myself and also to help others – hence Reiki is an important part of soulrefresher’s services. Sitting together with Amit after six years gave me the feeling that a circle became complete. Also Deb, (other half of soulrefresher) developed trust in him very quickly and decided to do her Yoga Teacher Training not in Rishikesh, often described as the ‘Yoga capital of the world’ but with Amit (Yoga TTC) in McLeod Ganj. A post about her experiences in this course will follow.
So, many people say “You love India or you hate it”. I think this is generally true even if I don’t see it that extremely. I don’t really ‘love’ India but I have a deep respect for the country and it’s people. My respect increases even more when I get the chance to meet the locals and get glimpses into their lives, particularly the role spirituality has for them. It is extremely interesting how everyday life and spirituality go hand in hand here. In a way it seems that it does not fit at all and then again everything fits together perfectly. I know that sounds contradictory but that is India and India starts to be relaxing when you just accept and stop asking ‘why’.
Hope you will enjoy our upcoming posts about our experiences in India.
Arne Kruse ‘Gopal’ for soulrefresher