APRIL 5, 2017 | India - Shanti
We arrived in Lakshman Jhula, Rishikesh, exhausted, after a 5 hour train ride and almost 2 hour rickshaw ride from Haridwar station. Despite most of us being in desperate need of a nap, air-conditioning, and lunch, we were immediately struck by the beauty of this unique town. Temples and stupas stuck out among buildings, nestled in between the beautiful Ganges river and huge green hills. After a half day of resting and exploring, we headed to Phool Chatti, where we spent the past week living the “ashram life,” and learning about the yogic path.
Following a 5:30 am start, our days at the ashram were packed full with various kinds of meditation, chanting, breathing exercises, yoga, and philosophical lectures on the yogic path. The daily meditation classes varied from singing beautiful mantras in a group with bells and drums (called kirtan), to simple guided meditations on cultivating compassion. Along with the two daily meditation sessions, each day also included a two hour long silent meditation walk, during which we visited (and got happily soaked in) a local waterfall, meditated on the rocky shores of the Ganges river (or ‘Mother Ganga’), and took part in a ritual bathing in the river. Beyond meditation and yoga asanas, the course also included a session of laughing yoga (my personal favorite), during which the entire ashram group lay in a circled and laughed hysterically at absolutely nothing (or faked it till’ we made it), then danced our hearts out, singing “hoo hoo, ha ha”, with Indian tabla music playing in the background.
Although deeply restful in many ways, our week at the ashram had it’s challenges. Whether it was waking up at the crack of dawn, pushing through difficult yoga sessions, spending long chunks of time in complete silence, or even waiting seven hours between lunch and dinner, each person in our group (myself included) found something that tested them in some way. However, I can honestly say that despite our individual challenges, this past week was one of profound growth for all of us. Every one of us has come out of this experience having learned something new, either about the yogic path or about themselves. Namaste and much love!