“Ohm Away From Ohm”: Part 4

Four: The Heart
The fourth chakra is our home for love, compassion, and forgiveness.

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The intense yoga schedule was making a difference for my body. I felt healthy and strong. Waking up early each morning, eating amazing home cooked Indian food, and being away from the technologies and stresses of modern life was also nourishing for the body; like a month long detox. Karo, co-founder of the school, repeated one main philosophy for our yoga. Yoga should never hurt. Yoga makes people feel better. Ahimsa; to not injure. We don’t injure ourselves by contorting into a crazy pose just to look impressive, and we don’t injure our students by making them feel they need to impress anyone, including themselves. This theory liberated me to just push myself the tiniest bit each day. And by going slowly, I improved without even noticing. Suddenly one day, my arms were stronger and I could do an arm balance; a pose I had watched more advanced people do for years. And with certain ease, a lack of struggle, I had learned to balance my whole body on my newly toned arms.

I took an adventure to the bigger town near our village called McLeod Ganj. Home of the Dali Lama, as well as being the Tibetan capital of India, meant this little city attracted plenty of tourists. After the calm village, McLeod Ganj was almost unbearable. People tried to fit way too many cars on small roads. The honking and yelling was so loud, I couldn’t hear myself think. The “sidewalks” were made of metal grates placed over open sewage or trash. There were limitless treasures for sale on the streets; the most gorgeous leather bound notebooks seemed a perfect travel-writing souvenir. There were Tibetan prayer flags strung from buildings, and amazing shops filled with singing bowls and meditation beads of lush stones. And there were Tibetan monks, wearing traditional robes, begging people for money. Comparing Mcleod Ganj and Bhagsu further epitomized the disparities of India. The peace and chaos, the ugliness and beauty.

Some of us students wanted to let loose on Saturday night, and went looking for the hotspot in our Indian village. I ran into cute scarf guy, and after a sufficiently awkward greeting, one of the girls invited him to join us for drinks. We entered a small family restaurant with live local music. It was festive; full of middle aged people dancing around tables, and one or two other Western visitors, and we all smiled at each other. Scarf-man sat next to me and we talked the whole night about similar interests, cross cultures, and how the guitarist in the local band had taught him once. He told me to close my eyes for a second. And draped the special turquoise scarf around my shoulders. “It’s a gift. Really, I want you to have it. It deserves to be loved.” I was moved, and wanted to accept his beautiful gesture, that clearly had no expectation or motive. My classmates were skeptical and this sparked a small debate over what women should accept from men. Maybe the rules are different when travelling. Or maybe I just had to trust my intuition that this man was a generous, unassuming friend.

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By Madeleine Kelsey Levine