Monday, February 11, 2008

India Chronicles by Psalm Isadora

The following are excerpts from my fellow yogi Psalm's most recent journey to India. Her words were so touching that I asked her if I could share them with all of you on my blog. Enjoy!

Also, please check out her website, and those of you who live in the Santa Monica area, check out her classes, workshops, and/or trainings.

Much gratitude and love to you, Psalm.


jan 20
greetings from mother india! every day is more wonderful than the last here, something inside me deepens as does my love and understanding of yoga. i am still in goa, my students have left (they will be rejoining me at my guru's ashram later this week). i find myself a traveller alone in india again. of course i am not really alone...i have such good local friends here. nothing is too much to ask, they drive me around on the back of the motorcycles (sometimes 3 people on a bike!) and feed me for free. how delicious and free it feels to ride motorcycles in india, like the freedom of childhood. there is of course, all the trash around and pollution, but the beauty of india is in people's hearts. people smile at you, and you will never forget their faces, the genuine smiles burns themselves in your memory. i am teaching yoga to the workers at my friend rohan's restaurant in the mornings. they sleep on mats on the floor and wake up for surya namaskar. we have so much to be grateful for in the states. your eyes are really opened to that here. and yet my friends here are happy and sincere with so little. what you have to give is your sincerity and smile. the culture is so different here, but i am not learning to follow a new culture, i am learning to follow my own heart. that is the greatest gift that ma india, my guru and these people have given me, the courage and strength to follow my own heart.

jan 21


i invited a man from delhi to have dinner with me and some friends at rohan's restaurant tomorrow night. we were at the night market, which is like a tiny city filled with booths, almost like something i would have imagined in morocco, except with a little trance mixed in. he said, "inshallah, if it is meant to be". inshallah means as god wills. it is a good phrase to pick up in india, where so little is in your control. i repeated this to my friend ramesh, and he said, "but you are god". i thought about it. if god is living in you and me and nature, then god willing would mean self, others and environment willing. all these forces combine to make our destinies. it is not only what my own self wants but also what the greater Self wants, and how i can find myself in harmony with the greater will. inshallah.

jan 23
i am very excited to come home and share what i am learning! i am in pune now....and for different reasons than i originally thought. i do not find myself being pulled to the osho ashram, instead i feel my heartstrings pulling me to my guru. there are many people here seeking, the searchers. it is a strong energy. but right now, i just want to sit and be with my teacher who i feel knows what i am looking for. this trip has brought a real maturation in myself. this yoga is a living thing inside me and she grows of her own accord, through desire and grace...and it is fed by the friendships that come to me. my time in goa was so magic. i am planning to come back next rent a house and teach donation yoga there to the locals and the travellers. things have come together in an interesting and powerful way.

jan 24
feeling my heart pulled to my guruji's ashram, i will be flying there this friday. i will be studying more pranayam, mantra and bandha with him. also teaching a women's workshop in vizag on the same while i am there. you should see these is such a joy to teach them! it fills me with purpose and shakti coming here and teaching the locals, their love for the yoga is so pure and simple. and they are so receptive to me as a teacher. the first time i came i thought the indians wouldn't want a foreign teacher, but it seems they really appreciate someone coming from so far because of such a great love for the practice. their hearts are so open, it helps my heart to be more open and the teaching comes through with no effort on my part. just this great guru energy on this well worn path of people reaching for something higher...going back, back for thousands of years and even before that. we are very blessed to be a part of it.

jan 25

the question of suffering

yesterday afternoon was very difficult for me. pune is a pretty small city in india compared to mumbai, dehli or calcutta. but every time you get into the city, there is the noise, the traffic and the most extreme poverty. the most extreme poverty. it breaks my heart, but i am here for a reason and if i take it all in i will drown and not get anything done. women come up to me in the dusty streets, covered in dirt with their babies slung to their hips. they do a silent pantomime of holding out their hand to me and then bringing to their mouths to show they need my money to buy food. and their eyes, their eyes are big haunting black discs that convey so much sorrow. are they really so sad? are they really so hungry? i don't know, but coming from america it is a terrible thing to see a mother and child asking for money and food like this and to say no. there are so many of them that even if i emptied my wallet, i wouldn't even begin to make a change. and then i would be left with nothing, and wouldn't be able to do the work i came here to do. it seems to me that people who need help usually need more help than you can comfortably give. so i will work on myself, i will let the change in myself grow until it can't help but bring change for others. this is how i usually think of things, people need help, i want to help, but how do i want to help? how can i use my special talents creatively in a way that will bring me the most happiness and contentment? i have made it a rule for myself not to hand money to people on the street. the first time i came to india, a little boy came begging when i was sitting in a rickshaw stopped in traffic. rickshaws are basically motorcylces with metal shells on top. they are much cheaper than taxi cars, but they also leave you open to the streets. in a real car, your windows would be rolled up and you would have some distance between yourself and the rest of the world. i gave the boy a rupee note, and then 5-6 more boys came running up, climbing on and into the rickshaw, grabbing me. traffic began to move and they were almost getting run over, holding on and running along with the rickshaw. the driver began beating them off with a bat. i sat in the back terrified and sickened, i have learned that things escalate quickly here.

i said no so many times yesterday. to an older woman with a small child who dragged the child through traffic to follow me. to a teenage boy with a stump for a leg. to an old man with a cane. to a young mother with the most beautiful face and a baby on her hip, standing at the side of my rickshaw. i remember all of them, i remember their faces even though i put out my hand and say no. even though i have to pretend i don't see them, looking straight ahead as if they don't exist. even though i yell at them, "amma, no, no", begging for them to stop begging from me. they don't just go away when you say no, they stand and stare or grab at you, until you have to be very clear, very insistent on not giving them anything. you have to do it to cross the street, you have to do it to go anywhere, to do anything. i remember all their faces and i am sorry. sorry that i am not able to help each of them. i came back to my hotel last night to have some tea before bed, and there were a group of dogs begging for food. most of them looked pretty healthy, but one puppy had a lame leg and you could see it's whole skeleton wrapped under it's skin. she was a pathetic sight. one of the tables was throwing naan bread to the dogs, and every time the little one ran for some, the other dogs would snarl and scare her away until she limped off, nursing her leg. so i took her in my lap and caught some of the naan bread and fed it to her from my hand. she gobbled it up with her tiny, sharp teeth, almost swallowing it whole. after awhile she must have gotten full, because she stopped eating the naan and curled her tiny head on my lap. all bones, i could see her spine as she curled herself up, like a seashell on my lap. she tucked her head inside my elbow like a little bird. when she looked up at me, she was so small and pitiful, but also beautiful. she is a little blond dog with big black eyes that look like they are rimmed in kajol, the black indian eyeliner. i sat and held her in my lap, wrapped in my shawl for warmth, trying to give her a little comfort and a resting place. i could feel her little belly breathing against mine, a little bony belly, so fragile. after awhile i had to put her down, i wanted to take her to my room, but i could see the fleas all over her. i put her down and walked away quickly, i looked back and saw her limping behind me, so i walked faster so she could not follow me. i got to my room and started to cry. so much suffering i am confronted with here. human suffering, animal suffering, nature is suffering also. it was difficult to breathe. what to do about all this suffering? you do the work that is in front of you. you do the work that wants to be done. you do the work that has begun itself and just asks for you to go with it's flow. i know this. i know that everything is suffering, but also everything is bliss, i know this. i know that the people and the little puppy have been born and will die, and that i am attached to the idea of time, of when. and how and where. and i believe that we all are involved in choosing our births, our families, our lives circumstances so we can learn as individuals and inform the whole. i know these things, and i know how silly i am, every day there are hungry dogs and people, and yet i still live my life. but put one little dog right in front of me and i am brought to my knees. i am drowning in my feeling of the suffering of the whole world. i am not looking for answers or philosophy. i just know that when i have to turn someone away, i armor my heart and it hurts me. so i cried and that released my heart, and then i fell asleep.
today i will do the work that is in front of me, i will take the little dog to the animal hospital. i will do what i can here and now. and tomorrow i will leave for another city, i will leave the little dog behind. and maybe i will have made a difference, and maybe not. but i will have stayed present to the circumstances and genuine to myself. that is all i can ask, to move lightly with love, and to help because it gives me pleasure, not because i am trying to save the world. to do the work that is in front of me, the work that is asking to be done.

jan 25

someone gave me the name of a vet who came to the hotel to look at the puppy, i have decided to call her lola. of course she does not belong to me and i cannot take responsibility for her, but her belly is full of chicken tonight, and she is sleeping soundly wrapped in a warm shawl in my room. the vet was wonderful, he even does yoga! he helped the puppy and then i helped him with his back pain by prescribing some squats, fierce chair pose and uddiyana bandha. he gave the dog an injection for her leg, and said we are best leaving her to find the balance in nature. he said that her little body is strong and most likely she will find the strength to recover herself. the drive for life is so strong in all of us. his words reminded me that it does not all ride on my shoulders, i am not that important. i surrender the dog to god, grace, nature and her own innate intelligence. earlier today i fed her and when she was full she ambled away to lay on a sunny patch of grass. her little face was so content and serene, the warmth of the sun was comforting her. there are so many variables that it is a great mystery what will heal her. i caused myself a great deal of suffering last night by putting the weight of the world on my shoulders and not surrendering to that mystery. i am grateful for the encounter, it showed me my attachments, my fear, my limitations and my compassion. inshallah. tomorrow i fly to the ashram.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

2 February 2008

It is freezing in Hong Kong.

Ok, so, it’s not literally the temperature at which water freezes, but it IS 8 degrees Celsius- apparently the coldest it has been here in several years. The rain and humidity make it feel colder than it is, too. It is cold enough that with every exhale outdoors, I see my breath float out in front of me.

I’ve just returned home from an afternoon at Brunch Club, a cozy café/bistro, with a college friend. It’s a popular spot – particularly on a rainy Saturday – in Soho on Peel Street, which is where I live. It’s just a quick three-block walk up from my flat (I love the convenience of being able to walk everywhere). We waited outside for nearly an hour to sit down, staring hungrily through the French doors at three tables with a combined sixteen people, all of whom were finished with their meals, blissfully unaware of us shivering in the cold. Ironically (or maybe karmically), after scoffing at their selfish social behavior, we ended up sitting at our table for six hours. (*insert sheepish shrug here.) A cozy spot indeed: the walls are lined with reading material, there is free wi-fi, and the wait staff does not rush anyone out. Patrons are invited to sit back and relax, and we did just that…ordering breakfast items, lunch items, milkshakes, and coffee. A total of seven of us came and left our four-person table during our time there. It’s how things flow in Hong Kong...people walk by, drop in, come and go.

My friend was my big bro in our business fraternity at UCLA (yes, I was in a business fraternity; it’s funny, I know), which means he took care of me when I joined, helping me feel comfortable, giving me advice, and sharing his own experiences. I looked up to him. He was the nicest big bro I could have asked for, and being a fellow Aquarius (his birthday is just one day after mine), we’ve always gotten along quite easily. He’s been in London for the past few years and plans on staying there for the foreseeable future. I realized today that I followed in his big-brotherly footsteps when I moved to Hong Kong.

Everyone, everything, every moment, every thought, every breath affects us, at some point, to some degree, whether we recognize it or not. There is an incredible, inconceivable order to the apparent chaos of bits and pieces that comprise our lives. And the Universe/God/Big Mind constantly offers signposts of comfort that everything is unfolding precisely as it should be. Oftentimes we digest these signs as coincidences or serendipity or kismet; I personally think déjà vu is part of the phenomenon as well.

"Synergy." *insert that funny hand movement Topher Grace’s character does in the film “In Good Company” here (PS you ought to watch it if you haven’t yet).

Even if we just take, for instance, Peel Street (where I live, in case you weren’t paying attention above). My cross street is Hollywood Road (I came from the Los Angeles area), around the corner is a store that sells statues of Buddha (including a (necessarily) scaled-down replica of Thailand's Reclining Buddha, my favorite Buddha statue in the world; he sits front and center in the main window so I pass by him every day), one block up there is a Buddhist altar, the studio where I practice is a five minute walk away (I've always wished I had a studio close enough to walk to), and one of my closest friends from college has been living on this same street for three years (unbeknownst to me when I first moved in). I take all these signs as confirmation that I am exactly where I should be.

A few of my friends will remember that in the month before I left California, I said I had a feeling I would end up in Hong Kong. It didn’t make sense to any of us, as I’d never been here before, I’m not Chinese, and I’m not a big city kinda girl (rather, I've always wanted to live on an island, although unbeknownst to me at the time, Hong Kong actually is an island). But my intuition – which I’ve become more strongly connected to through my yoga practice – was telling me that Hong Kong was to be my new home, and it was absolutely on spot.

As time passes, I realize more and more that my present moment is my dreams made manifest. There are countless points of perfect synchronization between my life as it is and what I've always wanted. Everything from living in Asia, on an island (I am an Aquarius – the Water-Bearer – after all, and therefore love being near water) (and you might remember that I think I was a mermaid in a past life) (not to mention that my boyfriend is a diver, who I believe found me in the ocean in that past life), on Peel Street... To teaching yoga abroad (which was an idea that came to me during my very first Teacher Training)... To even the smaller things like telling my friend back home that I had a student last week that looks like her, and that student showing up in my very next class... Or seeing the Manulife building in Causeway Bay for the first time yesterday morning, and meeting someone last night who works in that building.


Thoughts become things, per the law of attraction (you’ve seen or read "The Secret", right?). Whatever you want to call it, the truth is that you create your own life…every piece of it. I believe this is what is meant by destiny, what is reassured by moments of déjà vu, what is signified by coincidences. Know it, own it, have faith in it.

And as Sister says: Manifest, manifest, manifest!

PS I kid you not, I had déjà vu whilst writing this to you.