Rishikesh

 

I think I love this place so much because it stirs all kinds of emotions in me.
It challenges what I’m used to. It puts me face to face with myself. Looking myself in the eyes and see all the things I try to push aside, things I don’t like.

On one hand, the immense beauty of the Himalayas and the Ganges.
The vibrant colours all over. People, vehicles, animals, all sharing the same space, the same streets, blending into this lively buzz, that might seem more like a chaos to an outsider who has just landed from the other side of the world where everything is so clean and orderly.
The sounds, the angel-like mantras of peace and tranquility and inner calm played on the streets, mixed with sharp tooting horns of cars, scooters, tuk-tuks and other kinds of motor vehicles that I am unable to identify. The mooing cows, barking dogs, monkeys and humans, all expressing their existence, contributing their voice to the whole. The drills, welding and hammering sounds of the men working in the heat and dust, the singing and the mantras at sunrise and sunset and the singing of birds I don’t hear in the north, contributing their part in what ends up sounding like a one big song. A song of life. A song of India. A song of a place nourished by the spirit and power of Ganges River that flows through it all.
The smell of burning inscents, cow pat, cooking food, piss, sweat, occasional perfume, car fumes and more cooking food. Alternating one after another.


On the other hand, streets covered in shit, stains, piss, spit and blood. Dogs with open wounds from previous nights fights. Ripped ears, pieces of skin on the face or head missing, weird hanging tumors under the stomach. Cow with a broken leg, hopping on the three remaining healthy ones. Beggars and homeless, sometimes without legs, often skinny and hairy. People walking barefoot on the dirty streets, so many western tourists adding to the mixture. People trying to grab your attention, sell you something or get you to come into their shop. Kids following you begging for money to eat. Scarfs and clothes and jewellery and Buddha statues everywhere. Everyone thinks you have money and they all need some of it. You have to learn to become indifferent to some degree. You have to learn that you can’t help these animals with their wounds rotting in the dirty streets under the merciless sun. You can’t give money to everyone. You can’t buy everything that is available. Feeling bad or guilty about these things doesn’t help you. You just have to accept that things are the way they are. This is how it is here. There are too many things to feel bad about. Too many worries to carry on your shoulders, too many material goods to carry in your 40 litre back bag for the next 6 months.
The process of tuning within oneself is much more possible here. It happens almost automatically.
This place stirs all kinds of emotions in me that are easier to keep aside in the west where the external world seems so easy and well taken care of.
As I wake up in the mornings to do Yoga on the rooftop, trying to find a place where there is probably no dog shit or piss, or at least it’s dried out ages ago, I feel my mind being pulled to all these sounds and sights, being distracted by people walking past or staring from another roof top, the morning wind challenging my balance. There is so much going on that my mind has no capacity to focus on it all. It’s overwhelming. So the focus goes inwards. It looks for peace and it can be found within.

But the way to peace is not easy. I have to go through barriers. And I notice how much un-processed shit is still residing inside of myself. Generally they’re feelings of being unworthy. Not good enough. Should be better. Should do more. Guilty feelings about this or that. Pressure to be readily available to others rather than taking care of myself first.

I know life is a never-ending cycle of ups and downs. We cannot consistently live in one end of this spectrum. Tendency to try and block the sad or darker feelings that are seen as negative just causes this blockage of energy, leading to tightness in the muscles, anxiety in the mind, unable to just stop and breathe, feelings of being stuck. When prolonged, it will lead to sickness.

This place does have magic in it.
It’s in the taste of a home cooked dal.
It’s in the smile of people’s faces. Despite of their situation, almost everyone here is friendly and smiling.
It’s in the innocent curiosity of people’s eyes when they stare at this strange, tall white woman.
It’s in the way you have to let go of all your expectations when you first step your foot in this country. Leaving your ego and and your high hygiene standards behind.
It’s in the way this place makes you breathe – for yourself, with yourself.
You have to love yourself. Otherwise it won’t work. Otherwise nothing will work.

You have to breathe.
You have to love.
Everything else comes after.


Namaste,

Hannele



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