“Ohm Away From Ohm”: Part 2

Two: The Sacral
The second chakra is related to our connection with the outside world; relationships, friendships, family, and openness to experience.

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The buildings of the village were in an amazing state beyond repair. It was clear things here were used until they literally ceased to exist; nothing was wasted. The energy of the village was pure and safe; but I was freaked out. Interestingly, and sadly common for intense travel, my mind had planned an amazing journey and my body was fighting it. I couldn’t eat or sleep for the first week. The biggest spiders made me jump. I was convinced the scorpions would attack when I fell asleep. And someone told me to watch out for the mean monkeys; they stole sunglasses off peoples’ faces. I worried India was too much for me after all.

After a sleepless first night in this new “home”, I woke up early to a crisp sunrise over the Himalayas. At 6:00 am, we gathered around a gorgeous tiny temple for the Bodhi Tree International yoga school’s traditional opening ceremony. The temple perched on the side of the mountain, with a classic brightly coloured Hindu roof and clean white pillars. Inside a statue of a goddess sat awaiting our prayers. We wore all white. Three of the male teachers from the school performed chants and gave the statue tokens of rice and water. This lasted forever. We let the prayers, sunshine, and cool morning mountain air wash over us. Eventually, we stood to receive a handful of warm rice and a red thread tied around the right wrist. The thread connected us to each other, our teachers, and our journey; it was a sacred memento that I would cherish.

The students stayed in guesthouses, a quirky combination of hostel and ashram. Later that day, sat in front of the main guesthouse, eating breakfast, I felt like a kindergartener dropped off for their first day at school, except all the other students were cool grown up travellers. And just to truly solidify this metaphor, my mother, after not hearing from me for a few days, somehow managed to find a lecturer’s phone number online. He came to the breakfast table and said, bemused, “Um. Madeleine. I don’t know how, your mother in America found my mobile number and called this morning… She wants to know if you’re okay.” It took every ounce of restraint to not burst out sobbing in front of all the cool kids. In reality, I was by far the youngest student on the course, and they all thought it was sweet of my mom to worry.

Bhagsu is a tiny village on top of the world. We ventured to the village centre. It was a funny mix of hippies, gap years, yoga teachers, and young wanderers looking for cheap drugs. This bubble of bohemia had somehow become a mecca for students of spirituality. The crowded and hectic main road happily catered to Westerners. An Israeli café sat atop the hill, a remarkably familiar pizza shop across the way called University Pizza (which was surprisingly delicious), and a cool café, with floors and walls of cushions, known as the only safe place to order a salad. The Magic Tree coffee shop became my favourite – consistent wifi, amazing lattes, and a Nepalese barista with dreadlocks, who liked me for my own unruly locks. The secret local Bhagsu was around a corner from this main stretch, suddenly no Western pizza or lattes. Tiny shops pushed as much fabric in the entrance way as possible. Savoury scents of Indian and Tibetan food, especially dumplings, were pungent. Women yelled prices for anything as I walked by the market area. I watched the local men enjoy the outdoor community pool, in tiny speedos, while their women and children watched on the side. I was making an effort to mentally capture everything about this village scene, but I’m not the first person, or the last, to learn it’s impossible to fully grasp India’s incredible chaos. There was a long path to the Bhagsu waterfall; a famous tourist attraction. Every onlooker had a camera out to save the moment. The Indian tourists asked to take pictures with me. Maybe because I had crazy curly hair or the palest, freckled skin they had ever seen.

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By Madeleine Kelsey Levine