The Story of an Unexpected Friendship by Stacey Green

It’s been several weeks now since my return from Vedic Odyssey’s Spiritual Adventure to Nepal and India.  During this time several people have asked me why the cow is considered holy in these parts of the world.  I had no idea.   So began my Google quest for knowledge on the subject.   I thought the following summed it up nicely.

Stacey Green feeds a cow in Rishikesh and tells of her experiences with cows in India during her Vedic Odyssey spiritual adventures.“In Hindu-majority countries like India and Nepal, bovine milk holds a key part of religious rituals. For some, it is customary to boil milk on a stove or even lead a cow through the house as part of a housewarming ceremony. In honor of their exalted status, cows often roam free, even along (and in) busy streets in major cities. In some places, it is considered good luck to give one a snack, or fruit before breakfast. In places where there is a ban on cow slaughter, a citizen can be sent to jail for killing or injuring a cow.”

“Cows often roam free”. Um, often?  How about ALWAYS roam free?  Cows have the run of the land from what I could see.   Every mode of transportation yields to the cow.  The bus, motor and auto rickshaw, van, motorbike, chicken, goat, stray dog and last but not least the human being, all make way for the Holy Cow!  They roam into stores and across major highways (cows are considered to be the greatest traffic hazard in Delhi), lounging anywhere and everywhere.  They seem to have no particular goals or aspirations and eat and drink whenever and whatever they please.   They don’t answer to anyone and just like to hang out with their friends in the streets.  No purpose in life other than to ‘just be’.  They are a true example of living in the present.

I think I dated this guy in college.

They seem to exude a sense of royalty (or is it apathy?) and entitlement.  They are well aware of their exalted status, you can see it in their eyes.  If they were in New York City, I imagine they would roam around Central Park, the Plaza, the West Village, Barney’s and Bloomingdales.   They would dine at Balthazar, catch all the latest shows on Broadway and get massages at the Four Seasons.  They would have the Wall Street Journal delivered, but they wouldn’t read it.

Stacey Green feeds a cow in Rishikesh and tells of her experiences with cows in India during her Vedic Odyssey spiritual adventures.“It is considered good luck to give one a snack” In India, the cows eat EVERYTHING!  One does not have to search very far for an acceptable snack.  One afternoon in Rishikesh, I decided to feed a local cow the remainder of my croissant from breakfast.  He happily accepted each piece and then proceeded to give me a gentle nudge as if to say, “so….what else” (for some reason, I imagined him saying this in Woody Allen’s voice).  Not believing that I had no more baked goods up my sleeve or in the bag he nudged me several more times. I figured the only way to convince him was to place the empty bag beside him on the street.

He polished off some leftover crumbs and examined the bag thoroughly.   He then ate the bag.   Might I add, with as much fervor as the croissant that once was inside.

I’ll let you know if this brings me good luck.

Not until you actually roam with these beings, as equals on the village streets does the place they hold in society become fathomable.  In fact, even then, it is still quite surreal.

Stacey Green travels on Vedic Odssey's spiritual adventure to the Himalayas of Nepal and North India.After hanging with my new friends out East (and I don’t mean the Hamptons) I feel less inclined to eat them.   New York City is home to some of the best burger joints in the country, I know this from personal experience.  However, for now and the foreseeable future, I will find something else to put on a bun with mustard, ketchup, a teeny tiny bit of mayo, raw onion, lettuce, tomato and a little hot sauce.  I should hope they’d do the same, given the chance.  I’m grateful not to have to find out!

Moo!

 

Stacey Green's note to India and Nepal

NEPAL
Photo of a Nepalese child“Nepalese greet each other much in the same way as people do everywhere else in the world – i.e. with a cheery sign of recognition and a chat. The traditional Nepali greeting, and farewell, is to raise both hands gracefully, palm to palm, and close to the body, in what is known as namaste”. This comes directly from the little Customs & Etiquette of Nepal book I purchased pre travels.

To the author of that little book, Sunil Kumar Jha I have this to say. “Um, have you ever been to New York City? People barely greet one another period, let alone put our palms together gracefully, show respect and have a chat! Really, everywhere in the world, wouldn’t that be so very nice?.”

To Nepal, I say, “You had me at Namaste!”

I received my first Namaste from a young man on my fight to Kathmandu as we stepped off the plane. I say ‘given’ because it truly does feel like a gift, every time you receive this greeting. He clearly knew I was a foreigner (hmmm…maybe the hair?) and was excited to hear about where I was from and where I was going. He gave me the number of his family’s home and told me if I needed anything I should not hesitate to call. As he slipped through customs quickly he once again pressed his hands together at his heart, looked me straight in the eyes and with a slight sweet bow of his head forked over a namaste. I like this place. People are nice.

Namaste from the patient driver who had waited outside the Kathmandu airport for almost two hours past my estimated arrival time to take me safely through the crazy crowds and safely to my hotel.

Namaste and a personal escort from one of the hotel managers back to the airport to retrieve my luggage that decided to take a later flight that day.

Namaste as my new friend’s café owner at the airport handed me a cup of tea while we waited for my luggage to arrive (which I pretended to drink ,still being a little weary of the water on day 1)

Stacey Green meets up with young Nepalese kids in Bandipur, Nepal.

With the local kids in Bandipur, Nepal

Namaste from the children in Bandipur who wanted to take pictures with my camera., who not for one second wanted anything more, like the actual camera.

Namaste from the pashmina shop owner in Pokhara with the gigantic smile who’s floor we sat on for 3 hours as he unfolded scarf after scarf and offered us ‘best price’

One of my fellow travelers actually received a Namaste from an elephant in Chitwan.

A Namaste is free, you can get them anywhere in Nepal, and they come with absolutely no strings attached. They come from the men, the women, the young, the old, the poor, the poorer, the cows and the chickens seem to say namaste with their eyes. Okay, maybe not the chickens so much. It is the gift that the Nepalese people keep on giving. Wholeheartedly.

The Nepalese people also smile naturally, they are actually brought up to do so according to Sunil Kumar Jha. But I didn’t just take his word for it. I felt it every day.

For the next ten days, namaste from everyone, all day, every day. Thank you Nepal, I will cherish every one.

Stacey

PS: I’ll let you know how my little namaste experiment works out in NYC. So far, mostly weird looks. Wonder how the office is going to react when I show up at my new gig on Monday in my Sari with a dot on my head!

 

It has been quite the whirlwind journey in not only the physical level but also many other levels of my being. I knew that this journey would not be your typical “vacation” but other than that I had very little in the way of expectations. I knew that Dandapani, through his priestly connections, would provide us with access to some experiences not available to the regular, “Western” traveler but little did I know that he’d also provide us access to some very simple “tools” that would allow us to absorb and integrate these experiences in a way that made sense to each individual participant based on where they were in their life and where they wanted to go.

Parts of this journey seem like just a blur in my mind but other stand out as clear as if they happened just yesterday with the strangest part being that the clarity of the memories seems to be independent of their order in time. Our journey was broken up roughly in two parts: about a week of visiting lots and lots of Hindu temples and witnessing ancient, traditional Hindu ceremonies and about a week of staying at some pretty posh (by my standards) hotels practicing yoga, attending classes on meditation and other spiritual topics taught by Dandapani as well as a lot of down time to reflect, process and integrate the experiences.

As I said earlier, I knew that this wasn’t going to be a typical “vacation” but little did I know that I’d end up laughing, crying, loving, being challenged, meditating, chanting, dozing off and sitting on the floor packed so close to a bunch of Indians that I couldn’t move for almost an hour. If there is any human emotion I’ve missed it’s probably because it just wasn’t as intense as the others.

For me the most powerful experience by far was Chidambaram. In Chidambaram we were presented with the opportunity to interact very intimately with a family of priests for a couple of days. Although their family of 5 (mom, dad, and two sons plus one beautiful, slobbery, vegetarian boxer dog) live in a very small “house” that consisted of two rooms, they provided us with two meals (dinner one night and lunch the next) as well as our own personal tour of a very important temple to Siva. Although the family spoke very little English (Dandapani and his mom Nirmala translated for us from Tamil into English) I experienced a personal connection that I will not soon forget.. Couple this connection with the opportunity to chant the Yoga Sutras of Pantajali in a temple founded by Patanjali himself made me cry for the first time in as long as I can remember. To this moment I have no idea what I was crying about but if I had to take a guess is was probably some old sadness being pushed out by the joy I was feeling as my voice resonated through the halls of the temple. It was as if Pantanjali was there with me supporting me.

Another highlight for me came towards the end of the first week of the journey. It was the opportunity to just sit and listen to a group of priests in training belt out some chants from the Vedas (Hindu holy books) in Sanskrit (an ancient language that is used in all Hindu rituals as well as much of the yoga world) for almost 2 hours without stopping. I had no idea of what they were saying or what it meant but I now fully believe in the power of the spoken word and it will surely change the way I speak to those I encounter in my daily life going forward.

The classes taught by Dandapani contained a lot of information on Hinduism (Dandapani is a Hindu priest) and spritual growth (meditation, goals, etc) that I had heard before, either from Dandapani himself or via my yogic training, but this time the information resonated differently with me. I am convinced that part of this difference was because of the experiences I was having on this trip but I also believe that part of it was caused by my own internal state at this point.

Don’t get me wrong, I feel very blessed for my life to this point but I do have some rather major life situations on my plate (I won’t bore you with the details) that need dealing with one way or another and the combination of the temple experiences, teachings, environment and my willingness to deal with them had allowed me to gain some new found clarity on a direction when I return home. Now I just have to survive the journey home that consists of a flight from Cochin to Chennai, a 4.5 hour layover in Chennai, a 10+ hour flight from Chennai to Brussels, another 2 hour layover in Brussels, a 9+ hour flight from Brussels to New York City, an overnight in NYC, a 3+ hour flight from NYC to Denver and finally a 2ish hour drive (depending on weather) from Denver back home to Edwards, Colorado.

To all of the 12 people that I’ve had a chance to connect with on this trip, thank you for all for being my teachers in different ways over the two weeks. You have taught me more than you can know. You will all hold a special place in my heart in various ways.

I look forward to seeing all of my Colorado peeps upon my return and I hope that we’ve gotten some snow while I’ve been gone.

Mike

 

Greetings from Mamallapuram!  My name is Mike and I am one of the participants in the 2010 South Indian Odyssey.

Well we’ve finished our second day in Mamallapuram and are preparing to head out to Chidambaram mid day tomorrow. Before we head out of Internet range for a couple of days I wanted to take some time to share a couple of thoughts that I’ve realized in the past couple of days with all of you in Internet land:

Investigating our habits – I’ve decided to take this trip (my second) through India to practice a little self study experiment.  I love experiments and I feel it’s the best way for me to concretely see what affects certain actions I perform have on my life.  My experiment is to commit to eating only an Indian vegetarian diet (take a lacto-ovo vegetarian diet and cut out the eggs) as well as cutting out all of the alcohol from my diet while in India on this trip.

I’m not a strict vegetarian back home (my friends in Edwards, Colorado can attest to my love of our weekly Burger Night at eTown) and I have been known to imbibe in a beer or two (Colorado has some pretty great micro-brewed beers available locally).

My reason for this little experiment is to show myself that my life is perfectly fine without meat/eggs and alcohol.  This little experiment  could be considered a form of tapas and while not as extreme as some forms of tapas it will still be a great undertaking for me. It won’t be terribly difficult because here in India vegetarian meals are plentiful and alcohol is somewhat “expensive” so there’s no need to think “how will he get through this”.  I will still have to make some conscious decisions at meal time since some of our group will be partaking in a bit of drinking at meals (although we’ll all be eating vegetarian so that part is easy) but I’m confident that I’ll make it through unscathed and probably a little narrower around the waist as well.  :-)

Remaining open to others – If you’ve been to India you may have experienced the difficulty that occurs when  interacting with locals.  The Indian people are wonderful people but due to cultural and language barriers I find personal interactions are hard to come by.

The other day Dandapani and I were out in Mamallapuram at the tailor shop (India has wonderful tailors and the clothes they make are inexpensive and very nice) and we were talking to the shop owner.  Discussions were going well but the mood very business oriented.  All of a sudden something changed and the next thing we knew we were having a cup of chai tea with the man.  I can’t put my finger on what shifted but I am glad that we were both were open enough the recognize the shift and explore it further.  The next day I went back to the shop to collect the shirt I had made and spent a good 30 minutes joking and laughing with the shop owner.  As I left the shop, the shop owner shook my hand and even gave me a hug as I left.

I may never see this man again in either of our lifetimes but I know that in that short period of time I had a positive affect on his life and he had a positive effect on my life.  The moral of this story is that even though it may seem hard and you may feel like a connection may never happen if you stay open to people around you every once and a while you’ll form a connection with a person that may touch you deeply.