(This image was originally posted to Flickr by Naresh Dhiman)
Those of you who are regular readers of this blog know that I am planning a lengthy stay in India next year. I had planned to spend two months in an ashram in south India studying yoga therapy with a swami. I have since learned that the ashram is not all it was cracked up to be which actually didn't surprise me all that much. I am certainly not going to spend my hard-earned yoga money on an ashram or a swami who makes false recommendations on an India travel website.
I learned that there were about 10 obviously fake posts on the thread about the ashram and they all seemed to be from the same city in India (Madurai, where the swami is based) from people who claimed to be from outside of India. Any website owner knows where people are located by the IP address, i.e., your computer's signature, the same way a blogger knows where readers come from by looking at their site meter.
I take all things with a grain of salt (sometimes with a ton of salt) so while I had received very nice and friendly emails from the ashram when I was planning my stay, I was always cautious, I did not drink all their Kool-Aid. That's just what I know about India and the spirituality biz. There are many people in the spirituality game in India who love to part Westerners from their money because so many naive peace-love-dove feringhees are willing to give it to the first dark sadhu who says "Come, I give you enlightenment."
After learning about this I emailed the ashram asking for an explanation. I never heard back from them.
Now I have more money for my trip, the money I won't be giving to the ashram. I've changed my plans to taking private classes again at the Krishnamacharya Yoga Mandiram like I did last year (and believe me, they also like Western money) and I can spend more time in my Indian home, Chennai.
Now I can get to the Kumbh Mela in February instead of in March because I won't be spending January and February at the ashram. This will be extremely auspicious because Shivaratri is February 12 -- "Mahashivaratri marks the night when Lord Shiva performed the 'Tandava'. It is also believed that on this day Lord Shiva was married to Parvati Ma."
I can already feel the shakti. OM KALI MA!
The best part is that I can spend more time with my friend (who originally was going to meet me in Delhi after my ashram stay), so we're going to travel for two weeks in the south then head north for the Mela. This will be my fourth trip to India and her ninth trip, one of which included a Mela. Thirteen trips between the two of us -- can you tell that we both have the same passion for India? Well, with India it's always a love/hate relationship...;)
If things work out I will fly to Africa after the Mela to conduct a yoga retreat either in Tanzania (maybe with a safari option) or on the island of Zanzibar. My friend who lives in Tanzania flew to Chicago last week to see me -- we had not seen each other since India, 2005 when we were together for a month at KYM. We've always stayed in touch and she had invited me to teach in Arusha, Tanzania but the timing was never right. Next year it will be. She knows people who own eco-resorts, perfect spots for a yoga retreat. If it happens, it happens, I am not attached. But it would be DAMN COOL to conduct a yoga retreat on Zanzibar! But I will detach from the outcome. To my global readers who have told me that would they would love to take classes with me....watch this space!
The Kumbh Mela in Haridwar in 2010 is the MAHA Kumbh Mela, the GREAT Mela, not the Ardh or half Mela. The Mother of all Melas. And I'll be there, me and about 50 million of my closest friends. The largest spiritual gathering in the world.
My astrologer has always told me that the years 2008 to 2010 will contain great learning experiences for me and not just in yoga. That I will soak it all in "like a sponge." Even before India was a thought in my mind a vedic astrologer told me that during the years 2008-2010 I will experience "divine grace."
I take everything with a grain of salt. Whatever happens, happens. But all things happen for a reason.