We all know that 2020 was a year to forget. A year like no other most of us have ever lived in our life time. Corona-19 virus with mask wearing, lockdowns, social distancing, Zoom meetings, jobs lost, concerts cancelled, restaurants closed, take-outs, home schooling, travel plans on hold, working from home, line ups for toilet paper, food banks, mom and pop’s going out of business, standing in line for groceries, no hugging, gyms closed, deaths, many deaths – too many, overworked front line workers, hospital beds at capacity and need I go on?
But soon 2020 will be over (good riddance) and we will embrace 2021 with vaccines and a renewed optimism.
So, let’s start off the new year on a positive note by remembering something good that happened to us in 2020.
For me, it was my trip to India which I wrote about on this blog.
I was fortunate enough to return home before the virus hit my country and lockdowns began.
So, what was it for you? What’s one good thing that you remember from 2020?
May your home be always filled with love, kindness, warmth, joy and peace throughout 2021.
On Wednesday, it was Canada Day and I went golfing with my brother. Some Canadian Geese decided to show up to mark the occasion and add to the sand and water traps. Dreadful obstacles.
The geese seemed to have more confidence that I did about airing my shot over them. They were perfectly oblivious to my presence.
I, on the otherhand, had little confidence. I picked up my ball and called it a good Canada Day.
Happy 4th of July to all my American blogger friends
This is my Covid-19 Hairdo. It’s a mess, I know, and I can hardly see. I’m just grateful for my exceptional sense of smell!
A dog’s sense of smell is its most powerful sense…It is so sensitive that [dogs can] detect the equivalent of a 1/2 a teaspoon of sugar in an Olympic-sized swimming pool.
You can read more about my amazing sense of smell HERE.
Let me begin by apologizing for not responding sooner to all your warm and encouraging comments on my India series. For some inexplicable reason, WordPress did not show your comments. Then, I discovered that all your comments were pending! Sorry.
Now, on to Varanasi, which was the most fascinating of all the places I visited in India.
Varanasi, one of the oldest cities in the world, is situated along the sacred Gange River. It is here that the Hindus come to bathe in the holy water and to cleanse their sins.
As one approaches the river, the streets are lined for blocks with men and women amidst roaming cows, motorbikes, cars, rickshaws, pilgrims and tourists. I cannot imagine how social distancing can ever occur here. People are crammed as they are, practically on top of each other. It is extreme chaos. And, yet, amidst all of this there is an intense spiritual mood as they make they their way to the banks of the river for the evening Aarti. Aarti is a Hindu spiritual fire ritual performed by Brahmin disciples to honor the holy river, Gods and deities.
Every evening, seven Brahmin disciples, using lamps, incense and chants face the river as they worship the goddess, Mother Gange.
Further down the river is where cremations take place. There can be as many as a hundred cremations a day. Mourners line up for their turn to dip the body shrouded in cloths and on stretchers into the Gange. The principle griever, dressed in white, registers the body and picks up the wood necessary for the cremation. This dipping of the deceased in the Gange and then purified by fire and throwing the ashes into the river is meant to liberate the body from the cycle of life and death and thus move on to a higher plane of being.
Sunset on the Holy Ganges
What would India be without its sacred cow
The car ride from Rishikesh to Agra took us through some of the poorest parts of India. It was about a ten hour drive going through one village after another which looked pretty much the same.
And then there was the magnificent Taj Mahal- one of the Wonders of the World – a Mughal architecture which combines elements from Islamic, Persian, Turkish and Indian styles of buildings.
This ivory-white marble mausoleum was built by the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan in memory of his favourite wife, Mumtaz Mahal who died giving birth to her fourteenth child. It was built by the Shah after Mumtaz’ death in 1651 as an expression of eternal love for his favorite queen.
When the Shah met Mumtaz Mahal it was love at first sight. The name Taj, meaning “crown” is of Hindi and Sanskrit origin. Mahal, meaning “love” is of Japanese origin. Thus, one can say that The Taj Mahal is the crowning symbol of love.
Leaving South India and landing in the north is like being in a different country. While Southern India is much like a touristy-vacation spot, North India is what I have always imagined India to be and more, and why, as long as I can remember, I have been drawn to travel here.
The first stop was Rishikesh, the yoga capital of the world. There is a yoga studio almost every block offering different styles of practice. Although many offer teacher training courses and retreats most welcome drop in classes.
Rishikesh is along the Holy Ganges River at the bottom of the Great Himalayas mountain chain.
The water in the Ganges here is sparkling clear. Certainly not at all like what I had heard and read about the Ganges.
It was here in Rishikesh that I had the fortunate experience of staying at the Yoga Nikitan Ashram (a stark room with only a cold shower, no heat – in February the temperature was still cold- a bed without sheets and a blanket under which I slept with my jacket on). The ashtanga yoga classes (based on Patanjali yoga philosophy), given by swamis or gurus (I’m not sure), were some of the toughest I’ve had, but also some of the most satisfying and spiritually nourishing.
While I was here Jivasu, the founder of the Naturality Movement was giving a workshop on A Natural Path of Awakening.
If you follow others, you will miss yourself.
Although I was not registered for the Naturality workshop and was leaving Rishikesh the day after Dr. Jivasu had arrived I was privileged to be able to attend his opening session and only wished that I could have stayed for the entire workshop.
Naturality is a process of accepting life in its totality, which encompasses fear and stillness, sorrow and joy, turmoil and peace. It is an effort to know one’s own nature and the nature of the external world, two sides of the same reality, rather than following a system or a teacher.
“The most beautiful book to read is the book of our life”
This pretty French influenced city is located along the south-east coast of India on the Bay of Bengal. Its architecture is cheerful and colorful.
Kolam art is very popular in Pondicherry. A kolam is drawn with white rice powder every morning in doorway entrances in honor of the Goddess Lakshmi (Hindu goddess of wealth and good fortune) and to bring harmony and joy into the house.
The black stones are a feature of the beach.
In the evenings people dress up to walk along the Seaside Promenade. It is a beautiful site to see the women in their colorful saris. In the afternoons it is deserted under a hot Greek-like blue sky.
Sri Aurobindo Ashram is in Pondicherry and it is here really where my spiritual quest took a leap forward. No photographs are permitted inside the Aurobindo Ashram. Having taken off my sandals I stepped into a beautiful garden overflowing with flowers. People sat in a circle and meditated. I felt like I was touching the spiritual heart of India.
Wishing you all a healthy, safe holiday
and happy moments
Kerala is a state in the southern part of India. We stayed in, Cochin, a pretty fishing town by the sea.
One of the nice parts of Kerala are the backwaters – a network of lagoons, lakes and rivers. As soon as I was on the water I felt a peacefulness come over me. It was absolutely delicious and delightful and appreciative to be in total silence. India is very noisy with its constant honking and motorbikes.
Kerala is also known for the iconic Chinese fishing nets along the Fort Kochi shoreline. In the evenings people gather by the shore where the fishermen sell their catch.
It was at a yoga studio in Kerala that I had a wonderful yoga experience where the instructor had me do a head stand, something I hadn’t done in ages. That day I learned that yoga is also about physical memory and overcoming my fears.