Glimpses into my Women’s Spiritual Pilgrimage to India – September 2016!

Well, where do I start? And which photos do I include?

Firstly, it was an enriching journey and a well needed holiday. I am confirmed in my belief that being spiritual means different things to different people, and that is absolutely fine by me. There is no right or wrong way of being spiritual, in my mind. I am also proud of and confirmed in the way I teach yoga and how I guide you into exploring your physical, mental and emotional potential and allow you to feel content within your body and your mind.

Secondly, India has much to offer, and I will surely be returning one day to explore this vast and diverse country even more.

Thirdly, by travelling with an open heart and having good intentions, like seeking to understand, one will not exploit those living in poverty. It’s ok to continue to travel to third world countries.

Fourth, surrender to the things you can’t control. I know it’s a no-brainer, but I was surprised by how slow and inefficient everything and everyone works. So, I had to surrender to India time, India efficiency and Indian people’s way of shaking and nodding their head at the same time, which can mean both yes and no, or maybe. Oh, and the semi-existence of wi fi. At the same time, it was reassuring to feel how everyone has their place, their task, knows what they’re doing and goes about their day with ease and calm and no sense of hurry or urgency. Quite fascinating really.

Fifth, the level of energy and depth of the various spiritual places we visited varies and takes you with it, overwhelms you, surprises you, makes you feel a certain way. It plays with your heart. So tears galore in my case, from touch-down to farewell.

Sixth, my favourite place was Varanasi, the oldest, holy, living city on the planet. And my favourite experience was the Aarti, a Hindu ceremony, on the river Ganges. I personally feel very peaceful in the presence of slow, flowing water, as I have grown up very near a river. I’m also very fond of ritual and ceremony. You hear me say “celebrate” a lot. In particular the use of one’s own voice, chanting, singing and reciting are pastimes close to my heart. More on that with the appropriate pics further along.

Seventh, my most needed experience was connecting to my heart space, to slow down, to be on my own and to allow for Bettina to be heard and felt. After all, it has been 14 years since I had time on my total own.

Enjoy the glimpses into the journey and know that my musings simply reflect my opinion and are given with the intention to inform and to entertain. Perhaps even amuse. All places and experiences would validate a blog post and story on its own.

New Delhi and the Taj Mahal.

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Delhi was a kind and soft introduction into India. It’s a big city in a third world country. The site and gardens of the Taj Mahal in Agra reminded me a lot of home. In fact, I felt very at peace, in harmony and at home. The gardens are lush, spacious and well kept. It surprised me how small the inside of the mausoleum was though. The energy is calm, not vibrant. The view and the gardens (moonlight gardens) from behind are magical beyond words. Of course, I had to strike a pose on the spot.

Dilli Haat – Market shopping for souvenirs and appropriate clothing.

Eros Hotel – for a soft landing into India.

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I hugely enjoyed the climate of Delhi. 30 to 38 degrees Celsius and some humidity. No heater needed, no layers of clothing to warm up, just nicely enveloped in warmth.

This market stall is where I spend most of my time in Dilli Haat, as the market holder was very humorous, talkative, witty and kind. I was looking for experiences, for connections to people, rather than just another souvenir. Oh, and I loved bargaining.

I have to say overall, I had nothing but pleasant experiences. The people are kind, softly spoken, a bit hard to read at first, but then you tune into their energy and smile with them, at them, let them make interesting comments about your appearance, and simply marvel at the sense of calmness with which everything is accomplished. Initially, I took this as a form of des-interest, and dis-connection, this is not the case though.

I was particularly amazed at how effortlessly the crowds of people both on land and on the river subside after a gathering without any pushing, yelling or aggression in any way. Same with the traffic on the roads, everyone tuts their horns, but there is no aggression or sense of immediate urgency, everything is accomplished in due time and calm effort. Remarkable. Maybe it’s the climate. I’ll have to dwell on that a bit. And I invite your comments and viewpoints.

Varanasi – The holy City.

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To watch and experience life on the banks of the holy river Ganges in Varanasi, was a highlight for me. The daily morning rituals, the business of the river during the day and the ceremonies in the evening are all equally important and rich. One feels privileged to be able to observe the going ons on the river and to be walking the streets of this magnificent place. The energy and atmosphere is both calm at times and vibrant, heavy often and mystical. Varanasi plays with your senses, you’ll experience sensory overload, as it is always loud, busy, colourful, warm, dramatic. A splendid place to practice pratyahara (drawing your senses inwards), pranayama and meditation.

The Thali, a meal consisting of the 6 different flavours (sweet, sour, salty, astringent, bitter and spicy), as well as all other food offerings were delicious. Curry for breakfast, lunch and dinner is what suits my palate and body well. And what is not to smile about when there is masala chai tea offered wherever you go. At the end of the trip though, I did miss the act of chewing. So a salad was a welcome addition to my diet, as well as a bit of dark chocolate once at home.

The streetvendors, stallholders and beggars were not as in your face as I had been warned about and had anticipated. I felt very much in control and having my personal space respected. Of course I only bought from and gave to vendors where I had an outstanding experience, where I felt some form of connection. Either because of their sense of humour, their story, their way of looking after me and keeping me safe.

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Pilgrims from the south of India admiring the beauty of the banks of the river in Varanasi. And below, the view onto the river from our room.

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Streetlife in Varanasi and an evening ceremony on the waters’ edge. Aarti is a Hindu ceremony of worship, held in the evenings to celebrate and honour a deity. Here, mother Ganges, Devi Ganga, is worshipped as she represents life, she is the creator of all and everything. I could write a blog on Aarti alone. For now, simply imagine hundreds of people on land, hundreds out on the river on boats, heat, chanting of vedic mantras by these 5 priests, bells and other musical instruments, fire, flowers, intense colours, dance moves, clapping and happy vibes, and see if you can simply tune into the divine vibrations of this sacred act.

Below, I found my calling on the Ganges. And offerings in front of the Durga temple.

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Varanasi – yoga on the rooftop, overlooking River Ganges.

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Yoga in India is a lot, if not exclusively, about prana. The moving, keeping and increasing of prana, life energy. This yoga master took us through a number of yoga practices and the format is very close to the format we practice here at The Art of Balance – Yoga and Massage, you use breath to connect to your body, you move with asana, you practice pranayama, you relax. Yes, our yoga practices are often more vigorous, more flowing, more strength and flexibility building, more well-rounded and definitely longer. It was both re-assuring and embarrassing when he pointed to me and said : “You have perfect body, perfect practice”. So there you go. I have to own it. And you can too!

Bodhgaya – A World Heritage Site, where Buddha attained enlightenment.

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The Mahabodhi temple is the site where Buddha attained enlightenment.  And the statue below is the Big Buddha of Bodhgaya.  Significant places of worship for practicing buddists all over the world.

Cows – the celebration of life.

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cow

In India the cow is holy as it represents the mother, the creator of all life.  One gets quickly used to the sight of this creature and is surprised to see how well it fits in to daily life.

Colours of India – Farewell my friend.

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Colourful and meaningful experiences are everywhere.

India, you have been good to me, I will keep you forever in my heart.  I am grateful for the experience and for all the people I have met along the way.

Thank you to Belinda of www.belindaodea.com for making this journey possible.

Thank you to YOU my reader, client and student for allowing me to grow so I can allow you to do the same.

I hope you enjoyed this little journey and if you have any comments or questions, please let me know.

Until we meet on the yoga mat or the treatment table.

Om Namaha Shivaya.

Bettina Pfannkuch