I'm feeling all the feels this week! Two more of my friends left Thursday to go home to Nashville and Newfoundland. I knew I would be sad and lonely when they left, but I still wasn't prepared for it. I spent the last month wishing for time alone. I had been living alone since June 2016, and had embraced the loneliness that sometimes went along with that. I did the work around being alone and had actually started to enjoy it a little. Then I came to India. I shared a room with a fellow introverted extrovert, meaning that we both needed a significant amount of downtime away from people in order to recharge. We actually managed it pretty well without getting on each other's nerves too much somehow. It helps that she was my travel buddy who I fell in love with the instant I met her. I couldn't hate her no matter what India tried to pull out of me. We joked that she was Mother Mary, especially after she told us that she used to dress as Mary for Halloween, and she definitely embodies that loving energy.
The first two weeks of India flew by as we visited temples and the ocean, ate delicious food and shopped. Boy how those girls like to shop! I say girls and don't include myself in there because I couldn't even imagine packing around more stuff with me on my travels at the time, so I stubbornly refused to shop. I waited patiently in the stores while they shopped for gifts and keepsakes and clothing, and I have to admit that the first clothing shop we went into made me a little gunshy on the shopping. While I feel like a millionaire over here with the exchange rates, seeing a price tag with a thousand marker on it was a little intimidating. Even if it was still only $30 (about 2,000 rupees) per piece of hand printed beautiful fair trade fabric clothing. The cotton here is beautiful, and it dries super fast, which is helpful when you're sweating buckets in the Indian sun.
After our first shopping trip, we went for ginger mint lime sodas, which are kind of a big deal here in India. They're so refreshing and help take the edge off the heat. Not to mention they do a great job of settling the stomach. We all freaked out a little about the fried potato basket, which had French fries in it, something most of us don't even eat at home. They were absolutely delicious, and so good for grounding the energy here. It was a little scary that we were all so excited about American food after just a day in India.
And the temples, the amazing temples! They're all so different and beautiful and magical. We went to one called the Eagle Temple on top of a mountain near Mammalapuram. We walked up 600 steps to the temple at the top. The steps were steep and small, and Satya and Corrine trained us to serpentine our way up to the top. The view from the top was amazing, and the monkeys joined us to enjoy it. We had been warned about the monkeys being crafty little buggers, who would steal your bag and drink from your water bottle if you left it lying around. Despite the warnings, at the top of 600 stairs, we still felt the need to lighten our loads. Two of the girls left their bags lying in a corner as we were taking pictures, and as one of the larger monkeys came over that way, we all spread out to make room for him to cross. Little did we know that he had actually honed in on the bags lying in the corner and was making his way over to them, not to some other destination. As the monkey reached for the bags, one of the owners dove for it, grabbing one side of the strap as the monkey grabbed the other. I didn't see any more of what happened, because as soon as all of that went down, the monkey hissed and that was all of the warning I needed to evacuate the area. As I beelined my way into the temple door with several other tourists, the fight with the monkeys persisted until finally, the girls had their bags back and the monkeys were shooed away empty-handed. Note to self: these monkeys mean business. Do NOT let bags off your body.
The inside of the temple was not at all what I was expecting. To seal the walls and roof, they smeared oil on every exposed surface, turning it all black and shiny. This was a stark contrast to the holy places I was used to that were all bright white and spacious. The ceilings in the temple seemed to close in on us as we sat waiting our turn to participate in the first of many fire pujas on this trip. After the puja, we were corralled to another area of the temple where we stood in line to observe the Shakti room in the temple. We were corralled from there to another area of them temple where we stood in wait once again. As we stood there, I noticed two of the girls in our group had tears in their eyes. In my normal nature, I began to nurture in the only way I know how, offering the girls a hug and asking how I could support them. They refused my support, though, and as I stood there "rejected", I felt an anger rise in me. It didn't feel tied to the event or the girls, but something in me was triggered. It held on for a solid day before it finally released its grip on me and I felt normal again.
After Mammalapuram, we found our way to Tiruvannamalai, where Corrine and Satya's guest house and orphanage are. It is also situated at the base of Arunachala Mountain, which is believed to be the manifestation of Shiva. It is said that walking around this mountain in pradakshina on the full moon will remove lifetimes of karma whether you believe in it or not. We didn't stay through the full moon on our first visit, but I'm planning to extend my trip at least until the next full moon. I've been told that anywhere from 750,000-1 million people come to Tiru every full moon to walk pradakshina. I'll be one of those numbers soon.
So anyway, back to the title of this post, one of the many things I've learned on this trip is that we need to embrace change. That's a lesson that I've seen shared so many times, and it's definitely shown itself as true on this trip to India. Plans change. Times are flexible. People come and go. The only constant is change.
I'm learning to embrace that change once again as my familiar group of friends is replaced by some new arrivals. The same day the last two of the group left, a couple from San Jose arrived at the guest house. I loved them the second Satya called me into the office to introduce me to them and only found out later that she is a yoga teacher and they are both Amma (the hugging saint) devotees. She reminds me so much of my friend and fellow yoga teacher, Taunia Rice, in Nashville, and the similarities don't end in the light in their eyes, height or hair color or that they're both retired ballet dancers. Pragna's husband looks like a Brazilian version of Taunia's husband, and they have embraced me into their journey in much the same way that Brent and Taunia did, making me feel a welcome and special part of the trio instead of a third wheel. The irony doesn't end there. The day before, I had been emailing with Taunia about India and how much I love her. She was on my mind right before her energy appeared physically in front of me in a slightly different form.
That's right, I'm embracing change today in the form of embracing two new friends who will be with me no matter where this journey leads me. Plus, I'm excited to have someone to walk with me for pradakshina and to tell me stories about the amazing Sri yantra puja we got to witness last night.
Love and light, fellow travelers!
The delicious ginger lime mint soda we enjoyed on the first day!
Yoni (female) and lingum (male) that are represented in some form in most of the temples in India.
The steps...oh, the steps...