28 April 2016

What Did I Learn While I Was in India?

After four months in India, what did I learn?
I learned a lot. So much that I hope I can figure out how to keep ahold of it.
  • I learned heaps about yoga. I learned about alignment, adjustments, anatomy, new yoga poses, and so much more.
  • I learned that I want to be be a yoga teacher. I love teaching and helping people. I think once I get my sequencing down, I’ll find it very rewarding.
  • I learned that you can’t be somewhere that makes you unhappy. Even though I liked the perks at my old job, I felt so drained and miserable that it literally changed who I was as a person and how I felt all the time. I was almost destroyed. I won’t do that again.
  • I learned that people are people wherever you go.
  • I learned that cultural differences are huge. People are not being rude, they are reflecting their culture. Americans are probably seen as rude in some ways. You just need to accept that first.
  • I’ve seen a lot of truly incredible sights out there in the world. India is full of a lot of spectacular things to see.
  • I’ve learned that if you ever struggle when you’re alone traveling, a smile to a child or woman can make all the difference. I made a lot of new friends that way.
  • I learned that being here now is the most important thing for me to focus on and to keep my mind fresh and present. It’s been great for me to practice that.
  • I learned that there are ways to do things differently wherever you go, and still get stuff finished.
  • I learned that you need to chill out when traveling in India. Uptight traveling does not get rewarded.
  • I learned that sometimes you do need space from the ones you love, and it helps you both grow independently, and get closer even when you’re further apart.
  • I learned who my real friends are.
  • I learned a lot about tasty Indian food.
  • I learned a lot about spirituality, especially Hinduism.
  • I learned it’s better to be satisfied with where you are now than be disappointed constantly.
  • I learned that Indian women have the most fabulous fashion ever.
  • I learned that love comes from within.
  • I’ve learned that chanting mantras can make me very, very happy.
  • I learned how to be happy wherever I am.

Last Days in Mumbai

I don’t know exactly why, but there’s just something I love about the energy of Mumbai. I can feel it as soon as my taxi emerges into the traffic of the city. I felt this way last time I got there too. Even though it’s hot and kinda grossly humid and there’s horrendous traffic and poverty and chaos, I still somehow love Mumbai as a city.
This time I was staying in Bandra. It’s kind of the hip area outside Mumbai...think Williamsburg, but with Bollywood film stars instead of hipsters.
After I arrived, I took a walk to a yoga studio, found out about the morning classes, and had dinner right there at the Yoga House. I had a paneer burger. The fact that I can eat a veggie burger made out of CHEESE shows you why I love India so much.
After, I had a little wander, popping into shops, and then went back to my room to shower and go to sleep. I first tried to organized my stuff as best as I could, and felt overwhelmed. How could I be going home in the morning? How? It felt...impossible.
I got up at 5am and went to meet Amit (founder of RRUN, India’s only running nutritional company) and his awesome wife, Monica. We went on a run along Bandstand, with nice views of the water, in peaceful streets. We got coconuts at the finish, and sat there, chatting, relaxing. It was a really nice way to start my day.
Then I showered and ate at my hotel, and left all my stuff in their left luggage room. I headed out to YogaCara for an Iyengar class. The teacher that that gruff shouting Indian personality, but she wasn’t mean. She was just being firm and strict. Iyengar is always interesting and I like taking it, as the focus on alignment is so interesting and important for any yogi.
After the Iyengar class, I stayed for a Restorative class. The woman was sweet, but she had so much energy it felt a bit weird for Restorative yoga. I’m used to soothing music and Nicole Hooley’s calm voice for my Restorative yoga.
After, I hopped in a tuktuk and went to Iskon Temple. I arrived in time for some kirtan and the aarti. People were super into it, and I sang along to “Hare Krishna/Hare Rama.” There’s something really powerful about chanting (Read Ram Das’s Journey of Awakening for more on the power of chanting) and I love singing along and participating in the aartis. After, I bought some delicious coconut biscuits to eat on my plane ride (Definitely tastier than those horrid bags of peanuts!) and had a wander around, eating some random street food (spciy samosas, sweets I didn’t really know what they were…) and then wanted to walk to Juhu Beach. It was just so hot that I barely made it there, and then hopped in a tuktuk back to Bandra.
I wandered a bit into a few shops, and then sat down for a leisurely lunch. After a while, I realized I had to actually go to get ready. So I did.
I felt an overwhelming sadness. I wanted to stay, really. Yes, I wanted to go home and see Wayne - but I wanted to stay. There was so much more for me to do in India, so much to see, so many people to meet, so much yoga to practice.
But for now, I’m going home. (After a trafficky tuktuk ride where I sang the entire time to myself, and three hours in lines at the airport before I got to my gate, which was boarding when I arrived! Oh, and then two flights…)
I’m looking forward to implementing what I’ve learned, but I know it’s best to stay in the present where I am, and focus on being here now.

Patnem, Goa: YOGALAND!!!!

When I was googling yoga intensives, the Yoga Intensive at Kranti Yoga in Patnem, South Goa came up. I didn’t really want to go to go Goa again (especially in April!), but I liked the sound of school. While the intensive was costlier than other intensives, I really am glad I went - it was so worth it.

The yoga intensive was great: you are busy from 7-10 a.m., generally with one pranayama and meditation class, and one yoga class (ashtanga primary series or modified ashtanga primary series). Then you get an hour and a half off to eat breakfast (which was amazing, really; all their food was pretty wonderful and if you wanted something different, you can just go into the kitchen and ask for it. WOW. Opposite of the overboiled bland food at Sivananda Madurai.), and usually, I might catch up on emails, reading, or just relax in one of the swinging mattress and journal or write V a letter. After, it’s 1.5 hours of alignment and adjustment; then lunch. After lunch, we usually had a big break (though on certain days, there are lectures; I went to one on ayurveda), during which I’d go on the beach and relax. The waves were usually pretty crazy mid-day and swimming was almost impossible, so if I couldn’t dunk it, I’d sit in the shade and occasionally rinse off in the beach shower to cool down. Then class again 430-6, and then, time for a quick run or relax before dinner at 7. Most nights, I was so tired that I went to bed between 9 and 10, especially since I got up at 530 to go running.

There was a big group doing their YTT at the same time, and I have to say, I’m glad I did it with our group, who was way friendlier and most inclusive. (Most of them barely acknowledged me. It was totally weird.) I talked to them about what they learned, and they did some slightly different stuff than me, but I think I went to a really good program that fit my needs well.

On weekends, there were only 2-3 classes a day, and some people went off on excursions and adventures, but I spent most of my time relaxing on the beach, studying yoga, chilling. I didn’t feel the pressing need to run around and see more stuff. I’ve learned on this trip that seeing stuff doesn’t fulfill me; experiences do, and also, time to myself. So writing, reading, meditation, yoga….that’s what I need now.

The routine was nice, and I grew to appreciate the bright spots; all the learning I was doing in yoga; the amazing food; the gorgeous sunsets; the friendly locals; the six different kinds of tea that I could choose from. My little hut was cozy, and I’d chant with my mala beads at night, even saying hi to the ant festival that was taking place in my bathroom. It was okay.

And then I left, just as things were getting good, as some rad yoga holiday peeps arrived. But life isn’t about staying put, at least, for me, it’s not about staying put. It’s about moving on, and I’m almost home.

17 April 2016

Chennai, Again (Yes, Again)

When things weren't what I had expected at the ashram, I couldn't take it. The negative energy there was overwhelming; I knew I needed to leave. I didn't want to travel more; I realized I was sick of traveling and moving around.

I wanted to go back to my home-away-from-home in India, Chennai.

I was originally connected with Ash via my friend Graham and also the Ultra List. He invited me into his home, where I stayed with his super sweet parents and him. Ash and I went on humid, sweaty, hot runs every morning, ate at excellent restaurants around Chennai, geeked out on running, did a few tourist stuff, watched some movies. It was relaxing and super mellow. I had a nice time.

I cancelled some plane tickets, and booked a flight back to Chennai, where I was reminded that traveling isn't just about seeing stuff.

It's about the people you meet.

It's about learning more about yourself (ahem, that would be yoga here).

ash is sponsored by this protein powder....and they put him on the container!
Ash and I might not ever hang out again (though we hopefully will meet up at some races, if he doesn't end up coming to NYC....though I will likely be back to visit him in the next year or two!) so why not spend more time with someone that I think is absolutely awesome?

So I went back.

We had our routines. Hot sweaty runs, followed by fresh juice. We showered and ate porridge, then Ash napped (and I did once). Getting up to run at 4, 430, 5 am means that a nap is often essential! We'd drive out to do errands, and head out to lunch at some delicious place. With my stomach falling apart, we stuck to a lot of non-spicy eateries - some truly delicious ones! (Bombay Brasserie, you've won my heart! Your rose vanilla milkshake was the best....) We'd go back to AC or to a cafe or watch a movie - something indoors mid-day. The combination of the high heat and the high humidity just made mid-days too oppressive to be out. We tried one day and went to some temples, and nearly melted. We hid in an AC'd cafe until the heat died down enough to explore. In the evening, we'd get ice cream and stroll on the beach, or hit up a cafe, and get some delicious dinner. We might watch a running movie after dinner, if I wasn't falling asleep in our car ride back.
kurta shopping. showing me everything in a bright color in a size small mid-thigh length kurta.


We spent one day shopping - I bought sarees for me and a relative, bought some gorgeous sequined blouses I plan on wearing at Burning Man. I bought more bangles that I really need (but oh how I do love them!) and got my hands hennaed. We went to a nightclub after and danced to popular Indian and American music, and we were the only ones drinking juice. (I have not felt like drinking at all since I've been here in India.)

I had such a good time w Ash, just talking, creating an awesome friendship, enjoying running with the different runners of Chennai. I didn't want to leave - I had a sad lump in my throat when I was at the airport, and kind of wished my flight was cancelled so I could spend one more day hanging out with his family, running with his friends, drinking muskmelon juice, talking about who belongs in the Mount Rushmore of ultrarunning.

But travel is about bits and pieces, and it was time to move on. I came to India to do yoga, and I left to study at Kranti Yoga, an amazing yoga center, so at least, I left something amazing to be somewhere amazing.

13 April 2016

Sivananda Ashram: Definitely Not "Eat, Pray, Love" Ashram

You think, “Ashram,” and you think, “Enlightenment! Learning! Meditation!” My ashram experience wasn’t exactly that.
My friend Barbara recommended Sivananda Ashram; she had visited another one years prior, and loved it. I went to a different branch than the one she had visited, and didn’t exactly have the same experience.
I started my first day by arriving before the morning satsang; I wanted the full experience. The days were full and I thought it might be best to integrate by arriving first thing.
Here’s what a sample day at the ashram was like (or any day of the Yoga Vacation):
6-7:30 a.m.: Morning satsang (meditation, chanting, listening to a reading from a spiritual text)
7:30-8 a.m.: Tea time
8-10 a.m.: Yoga
10-10:30: Brunch (though def not like in NYC!), served while sitting on the floor. South Indian sattvic food - no onion, no garlic, no spice, vegan. Served with herbal tea and buttermilk.
10:45-11:45: Karma Yoga. Basically, you clean as part of your selfless service.
11:45-1:00: Free time. I used this time to draft emails, read, shower, do laundry
1-1:30: Optional coaching. You could bring an asana you struggle with, or a question about yoga, and get one-on-one help, and watch others and practice asanas.
1:30-2:00: Tea time, again.
2-3: Lecture or movie. Geared for beginners, with a hint of brainwashing.
3-4: Free time. I used this time to shower (again, yes, again), do laundry, have a snack, or on one occasion, go for a run wearing pants.
4-6: Asana
6-630: Dinner
6:30-7:30: One hour of wifi. Everyone would turn off and just focus on their computers, catching up nonstop over the hour and ignoring everyone and everything else.
7:30-8: Free time, used to shower, relax.
8-9:30: Evening satsang.
10:00pm: Lights out.

It sounded like an intense but awesome experience. I was excited to immerse myself, and couldn’t wait to focus JUST on yoga. How lucky was I?
Not very lucky, it seemed.
While some love this experience, I didn’t connect with the Sivananda Ashram. There was an energy I didn’t connect with, and I noticed it almost immediately. When you asked questions, like, “What does this chant mean?” You got vague or annoyed answers. Or the, “There’s a book on the bookstore on this.”
It was a sattvic living: sattvic food (We all complained about craving sugar, cheese, and alcohol!), wearing sattvic dress - you had to wear loose-fitting, well-covering clothes. So no yoga tights, no tank tops. It was boiling - days would get in the 90 F, and we were all sweaty in harem pants. (And - for those of you who know yoga, you kind of suffocate when you do asanas like plow when wearing these pants! Ugh, it’s like curtains over your face….) I would change my sports bra and clothes several times a day, hand-washing everything. (Luckily, it was so hot, things dried rather quickly.)
I went to one lecture on meditation that was so basic, but only focused on one way to do it. “You must meditate with your eyes closed.” While this is how I meditate, I know there are traditions that keep their eyes open. Everything was like, “This is how it is.” Even asanas were practiced in very different ways.
My yoga teacher, Hannah, from my YTT, told us that it is very dangerous to do backbends right into forward folds and vice versa. “It can disorganize your spine,” she told us. I’ve always noticed that yoga helps alleviate back pain, but here, possibly because we were constantly doing backbends into forward folds and vice versa, I was possessed with an achey back. Others in the program complained of the same issue. “I never have back pain back home…”
Another lecture I went to presented some basic yoga concepts and theories that I had recently studied in my YTT….but some of what she presented was just wrong. I began getting frustrated, and shut up.
And then I knew: I don’t belong here.
I had also gotten into an argument with the director about running; he refused to give me a pass to let me leave campus to run, and if I ran on campus, I needed to cover up. Pants while running in the heat? No way. I would get heatstroke. Then, the last straw was when he told me I had to pay for a single room for one night of my dormitory arrangement (I had paid up front for three nights of a single; after two nights, I moved to the dorm to save money. I asked if I could transfer the deposit to my dorm room and pay the dorm price; I was told yes. They refused and made me pay for the dorm bed at a single room price.). I just got so annoyed.
I got in a cab and went to Madurai. I felt a weird sense of relief, and I was sad. I had so looked forward to an ashram experience; I thought it would be peace, learning, yoga, meditation, and love. It was rules, acceptance without questioning, and a weird energy. I was glad to be gone.

Good for some people, but not for me.

12 April 2016

Trichy & Madurai

The only way to get from Tiruvannamalai is a night bus; I didn’t particularly want to take a night bus, especially as I had already booked a non-refundable hotel. The guy at Sunshine Guesthouse said I could take a taxi there, and the driver would stop in Trichy on the way so I could see some temples, and also get lunch. Okay.
At the first temple in Trichy, the big one, we discovered most of it I couldn’t go to because I wasn’t a Hindu. Okay. I took some photos outside. My driver was pretty stoked for his assignment because he was a Hindu; he got to visit temples and get blessings as part of work. Nice for him!
He knew of another temple - Durga Temple - and we headed there. We parked too far away and burned out feet on the road and sidewalks as we limped into the temple. There was a long line for a blessing. My driver showed me how to hold my hands, and I was all ready with a 10 rupee tip. I got a small line of jasmine, and some white chalk on my forehead in return.
I was the only Westerner. No one minded me that I could tell; I got many smiles, people looking but with curiosity. I took photos only where appropriate, and looked up, amazed, at the devotion, at the offerings, at the gorgeousness of it all.
I don’t really understand much about Hindu temples, but I know I love them. I love the energy. I love the devotion. I love the beauty. I love the preciousness. I love the grime with flowers. I love it all.
I was feeling light after visiting this temple, and as we walked out from the long metal fencing, we got to boiling hot concrete, and we hopped-limped back to the car. A woman with a skinny baby held out her hand; a man shoved her aside, selling his flowers. India is so many things, all at once.
I went to a banana leaf thali place; 60 rupees (less than a dollar) for all I could eat. I asked for a spoon, which took ten minutes to procure, during which I ate most of my meal with my fingers.
Back in the car, we went to Madurai. I checked into the Madurai Residency, which was nice. It was totally affordable (1800 rupees) for what I got: breakfast (which I skipped), tons of toiletries and a sewing kit and a comb and all these freebies. After settling in a bit, I headed out. What did I want to do? There was the Gandhi Museum...but I don’t know. I kind of just wanted to go to the big temple and wander the streets. So I did.

After a while of traveling, another museum starts to look the same. It all feels pointless. While I kind of wanted to go to the Gandhi Museum, I more wanted to walk the streets and explore, like I did. I bought cookies from giant glass jars. I sampled sweets that I had no idea what they had in them. I bought a 10 rupee chai, 20 rupee coconut. I drank a 40 rupee fresh pineapple juice. I tried the Madurai special, rose milk, and I loved it. I looked for samosas but couldn’t find them (They’re more of a North Indian food, but you find them everywhere.)
I wandered in the temple, amazed at its glory. I took some photos, but mostly, absorbed the energy. After a while of wandering, I left.
I stopped in some shops. I bought one of the tops that Indian women wear, long enough to be a dress but with giant slits up the side. (Good to wear leggings under.) I bought a 10 rupee strainer to use for making chai back home, some henna paint, some barrettes. I wandered. I hunted for an ATM, trying six before I was able to get any money out. (India’s ATMs don’t always work.)
I got lost. I looked at people, at animals, at traffic. The sky grew darker, a bit with pollution, but mostly with dusk. I headed back to my room.
I showered because your feet are always filthy in India. (You have to take off your shoes to enter any temple.) I was done. Tired. I didn’t feel like leaving.
Instead of searching for food, I went up to the restaurant on the top floor. There was non-AC rooftop view and AC no view. I choose AC. I ordered paneer and peas, a lime soda, and some naan. I ate this very good meal alone, feeling good, happy, excited for what’s next.
It’s always onto the next adventure!

06 April 2016

There are some times....

At times, traveling can be so rich and rewarding. It is full of new adventures, new foods, unfamiliar sights, gorgeous scenery.
And at sometimes, it can be downright lonely. I’m in a lonely bit now...I know it will pass, once I begin exploring and dreaming and thinking, but now, I am thinking, “Why did I extend my ticket? Why am I even here?” I’m incredibly homesick for a blip, even though yesterday I was on such a high of what an amazing trip I’m on.
I’m lonesome for my Wayne and our cats, and our beautiful, comfortable home. I’m lonesome for privacy and quiet and solitude and not being stared at. I’m longing for my friends and my family. I’m craving a kale salad and the streets of Brooklyn.
I’m sure I did the right thing by coming here, and have two more yoga intensives. They will be intesive, and very likely hard - but they will be good. It’s just a matter of getting there and figuring stuff out.

Or so I tell myself.

Surprises in Tiruvannamalai

Tiruvannamali turns out to be one of the most rewarding places I’ve been. And it’s the spirutality, but also, a very unexpected person.
I got to my guesthouse, Sunshine Guesthouse, and was told I should rest for an hour, everything was closed. Everyone in India always wants you to rest, relax, sit down - and I’m often the opposite, I don’t mind walking around in the heat of the day, but okay. I did some laundry in the bucket and put the fan on to dry it. (Exciting lives of backpackers!)

Then I headed out to the temple. It’s not just one temple, but a collection of a lot of temples. There were tons of Hindus praying, listening to the talks, getting ash on their forehead. I was the only Westerner that I saw inside, and everyone was very serious. I watched from a distance and observed.
After, I decided to walk to the ashram. Everyone in India thinks you should take tuktuks everywhere, but I like to walk. On my walk, I stopped to get a coconut, say hi to some children, pop into a few shops, relax. In front of the ashram, after buying some mala beads for a friend, I began to dodge traffic to cross the street - tuktuks and motorbikes driving like they were on a mission. A woman begging followed me.
And then I heard, “CHERIE!”
I turned around in disbelief, because really, who could know me? There was just one person in India who knew where I was (Ash) and he was back in Chennai.
I couldn’t place him immediately, but then I realized after he said, “Burning Man Ultramarathon.”
Yes, he was one of the runners! I remembered that he was from Hong Kong, and a pretty decent runner.
He introduced me to his fiancee and we chatted on the street for a while, during which more people asked for money. (Everyone does different things with giving money here...some don’t do it on principle that it will encourage people to beg more, others give to two people a day. I give to people that don’t hound or hassle me; I don’t want to encourage those people.) We went into the ashram, and talked more, and then listened to the chanting. Pure peace. Wonderful energy in there.
They mentioned they wanted to do the mountain walk tonight; did I want to come? Absolutely. I had wanted to go but didn’t want to do it alone.
After getting something to eat and dropping off at my room for a bit, I met them again. They were dressed in white, and I was dressed in sweat.
We began the walk. It was a pilgrimage where you stop at 8 lingas, these shrines basically, and there are other temples on the way. We imagined a lovely  mountain trail; it was primarily a busy street.
There were lots of pilgrims, most barefoot, even though it was night and on stone-covered roads.
We talked about reforming the education system, love and pregnancy, food poisoning, marriage on the playa, being satisifed, conspicious consumption and consumption culture, how to be happy...the conversations were thoughtful and thought-provoking, and I was grateful for it.
We stopped on the way and ate some cauliflower dosa.
We walked some more. We stopped at lingas on the way, accepted ashes on our foreheads. We removed our shoes and watched as the pilgrims walked without shoes, bravely.
It made me believe in the miracle of travel, of the world. I was suppsoed to be in Tiruvannamalai the day before; I almost stopped in at some shops or a restaurant, but didn’t. So the timing of the stars led us to meet up at this perfect moment.

Burning Man is not just a festival, it is a community. And I’m grateful to have been a part of it.

05 April 2016

Chennai, Again, or Friendship

When Pondicherry and Auorville had less to do than I expected, Ash invited me to come back. I could have spent more time in Pondicherry, wandering in cafes, writing, but I figured I’d head back up to Ash’s, hang out with him, get some nice runs in, see his super sweet family.
It was nice to be back. His mom said, “Welcome home.” Ash and I set into our rountines quickly; nice restaurants out, drives around town, hot and humid runs where we’d complain about the heat, wandering here and there. Barkley was going on, so we spent quite a bit of time tracking that and geeking out. I would IM with Paul Kentor, get some secret updates that he somehow knew, share them with Ash, and we’d refresh our Twitter feeds furiously. We drank fresh juices (cantaloupe, or musk melon, as they call it here, is a new favorite), searched for places with AC, complained about the heat.

This part of my trip made me realize that traveling is not necessarily about seeing things, but meeting people. And sometimes you spend more time getting to know the same person - and that’s just really rewarding and wonderful.
I’m feeling grateful to be here, exploring, living, being.

03 April 2016

Auroville: Utopian City

When I first heard about this utopian city in India, it piqued my interest and I thought I should stay. My visit was interesting, with some rough edges, but I’m glad I went.
You can visit Auroville for the day, stay for a few, or, if you want to volunteer, stay for two weeks and help out with a project. Or, you can move there.
It’s a collective community and belongs to everyone. There is an emphasis on education and learning and humanity. It is not religious, but definitely has spiritual elements. And it’s beautiful.
I checked into Auromode Apts, which was cheap and not in an awful location (but not necessarily the greatest either). However, I did not have AC and was pretty miserable in April. I could barely sleep all night - it was just so humid and hot.
I walked down to the Visitor’s Center, where I visited the exhibits, shopped a bit at the boutiques, ate an awesome quiche at the cafeteria, wandered a bit. Then I got to register for the Matrimandir, a golden dome where people meditate. I rented a bike and explored.
Auroville is a big area spread out, and it’s really hard to walk. It’s best to explore by motorbike or bicycle. I enjoyed biking on the trails, being along, just seeing the interesting buildings. The area has a really wonderful vibe. I found myself chanting my chakra seed mantras while I biked, and felt an incredible sense of calm come over me as I biked.
I visited the Tibetan Peace Pavillion, which has a stone the Dalai Lama placed. As I drank a sweet lime soda, I thought about how grateful I was to be where I was. I was no longer working a job that made me unhappy, stuck in a life where I couldn’t figure out how to live my dreams. I was having the space to do things like bike ride in interesting places, dreaming, just thinking, just being. I wasn’t constricted. I was happy. And I hadn’t been happy a lot the past few years, so it feels really wonderful.
I ate a vegan sandwich and then headed back to my room. I know the roads get dark so I wanted to go to my room and relax before things got a bit confusing and dark. I spent the rest of the night working on an article, but unfortunately, it was way too hot to be comfortable, or even sleep. I barely slept on my sandpaper-like sheets and woke up in a pool of sweat.
In the morning, a run on the trails was very tranquil. Soft surface, and I saw a few people walking or biking as a gentle vibe across the entire village made me feel happy. After a shower (pointless; I was immediately sweaty and gross), I went over for my appointment of the Matrimandir.

I arrived at 8:45; we watched a movie about Auroville, and then a few buses took us over to the spot. We waited in one area, then those who had bags checked them. Then we waited in another area, and then another. We got information about Auroville and the Matrimandir, the beautiful golden dome we were about to explore. Silence is necessary, and if you cough, you have to leave. Yeah, that’s quiet.
First we walked around, and then entered and sat around a circular pool made up white marble semi-circles with water pooling over the marble. We were under the sphere, and it was a peaceful lovely place to meditate. Then we went upstairs, where we were instriucted to put white socks on (our shoes were left outside, of course) and then we walked around. Everything was beautiful and white and just so serene. And then we entered the meditation room; dark, but with light from the sky going to a glass/crystal circle in the middle. You could sit on cushions and meditate. Just so peaceful.
And then...a hop on the back of a stranger’s scooter and in a taxi. Short and sweet...but with some interesting elements.

Would I go back? Probably not. I’d recommend staying overnight so you can rent a bike (you can’t unless you are staying overnight) but if you don’t like to bike or have your own, going for the day is good. But you have to reserve the Matrimandir a day in advance, so it does make sense to stay.

Pondicherry (aka Puducherry): A Little Bit of France in India!

Everyone told me I’d love Pondicherry. I did. It was gorgeous, kind of French, a bit more peaceful, great shopping, lots of cafes, and with great places to run. My kind of town.
Ash and I drove in and ate at a super swanky place (but cheap of course...it’s India). I noticed that the typical Indian menu was replaced with a more French or European one. Okay, I could do with some non-Indian food for a while (especially with my stomach still on the outs). We explored the town, drove to the beach, ate some waffles and crepes at a cafe, and hung out.
Then Ash left and I relaxed in the AC, and then went out to do some exploring on my own. I found some cute shops everywhere I turned, and ate dinner at some random but absolutely delicious restaurant (baked tofu!!!!) in a gorgeous garden. It didn’t feel like India. My stomach was off, so I hate a lime soda (sweet), which helped things feel a bit better.
I was staying at Le Hibscus, utterly gorgeous and peaceful. My room was big (and it was considered to be the smallest one!), and I just enjoyed relaxing there a lot. It was probably my favorite hotel I have stayed at in India.

In the morning, I got up at 450 a.m. and headed over to the beach, mere blocks away. The road in front of the beach is shut down from 6pm-7am every day, and is full of walkers and runners in the early morning every day. Even at 5am, the road was full of people and I felt quite safe. Best of all, I had a great opportunity to see the sunrise every day while waves crashed in the background. People smiled, sweating, getting exercise; people played awesome Indian music from phones in their pockets. Good vibes.
There aren’t tons of touristy things to do in Pondicherry; I visited the Sri Aurobindo Ashram, in which you can’t see a ton (but you can go to the gift shop….I did end up buy some books to try to better understand Aurobindo’s mission and The Mother).. I went to the big temple, which was lovely, but I got hassled to buy tons of crap after, even to the point of being followed down the street. On principle, I refuse, but it really was annoying. I also went to a bunch of Auroville-product shops and went on a bit of a shopping spree. I bought some cute sweaters and more incense and jewelry and some presents for family and friends back home. So much that I needed to buy a bag to put it in and rearrange my stuff. And I just mailed stuff back! It will be a bit of a PIA but I am not traveling a ton - staying in two different ashrams for 10 days each, with a night in Tirvanamalli, Madurai, Kanyakamurai, and Mumbai. My trip is winding down.
I took a mid-day shower, changed, did some yoga, and then got some amazing mehendi done on my hand and food.
Dinner at another random cafe, and a quiet evening in my room.
In the morning, another lovely run, another lovely breakfast, a bit of relaxing...and then off to Auroville!