A beloved old friend stopped by recently before I headed towards another continent yet again. After some desperate attempts to get some words out of me about my many adventures around the tropics he finally gave up and made fun of my inability to tell travel stories. I took a great relief in that! Finally my inner circle started to realize, I am not secretive; just incapable of telling stories! All I end up uttering is ‘ehhhmm, there was a beautiful sea, pine trees, very pretty’. Pathetic really! So I decided to put my stories into writing instead. It is an issue though to write about this specific trip as I am at a puja; a Sanskrit word used for a spiritual ceremony like a pilgrimage. No good can come out of details shared from a puja neither to the teller nor to the reader; so I will stick to our daily experiences and their reflections on me.
On the way to Mumbai I ran into Pema and Rebecca. Pema is an old friend I met first in Sundance and later at a Vipassana retreat. I got to know Rebecca on the island last year. She seemed like a quiet, introvert girl; then I got a chance to watch her dance the Hawaian Hula and was amazed by the mesmerizing, elegant goddess acting through her. I didn’t know that Hula dance is so naïve and feminine at the same time!
We had our first samosas together at the airport and took our flight to Nagpour in the center of India; a bus and a taxi trip later we were in Gurudji’s house. I prepared myself for a quiet, conservative environment with men and women in their separate corners as it is required in a vipassana retreat however where there are Agama people there is a joyful circus. Thanks to some of my fellows from the Agama Teacher Training Course, especially Joceline, I managed to find some refuge. Ironically Joceline was the only person I didn’t have any conversation with during the whole three months of the TTC. During this puja however, she turned out to be my savior. Together we stepped away from the loud and hyper-social into peaceful and reserved. She took me to a nice corner in Gurudji’s house to settle in and the journey was officially on!
I took this trip inspired by my friend and teacher Manu. I thought if this beautiful man turned out to be so angelic after working with these masters, this is the direction I am interested in. Gurudji is a right-hand Tantra master following the guidance of King of Shambala; a sacred realm of enlightened souls. White or right hand tantra can simply be described as a path of awakening going through the force of life, universal energies and powers. In practice it is a highly shamanic path involving working with mantras (sacred sounds) and yantras (sacred geometric forms), meditations on cosmic powers of manifestation called Mahavidya’s, rituals involving several elements. I don’t want to go further with details of this path; need-to-know-basis let’s say. I joined the puja following many long conversations with Manu and also due to my curiosity of right hand tantric practices. Well if I am calling myself a yoga teacher, I should know more about what I am referring to sometimes, right? Besides I haven’t been on a trip with no clear idea about where I will end up. I keep on going to restaurants to eat dishes I’ve tasted before, to stores to buy staff I can put on my shopping list in advance, to destinations I have a clear idea in what kind of setting I would find myself in…Even last year when I decided to spend some months in Thailand on an island that decision may have been radical for some, but for me it was a place I have seen and enjoyed before to study a teaching that I have experienced and deemed fit before. In the current context there is a tiny factor decreasing the surprise element; most of the 101 participants are or were students of Agama. So some of them I even know personally which of course gives a feeling of security. However I want to believe that step by step I am still increasing my tolerance to ambiguity with this choice!
Manu warned us many times in advance that our western minds may be challenged by not only the harshness of the physical conditions but also the chaotic practice. We should expect many physical and emotional purifications and the only way to make it through is to surrender to the process. For the ones who haven’t been on a spiritual journey before; let me tell you that this whole concept of purification is a nasty business! The physical and emotional purification also means equally intense reactions to whatever is happening to our being and you may find yourself in rather dark holes that you weren’t even aware they existed within you.
Saoneer was logistically very challenging for most Europeans but as I had the experience of spending many nights in my own country’s villages, nesting in sleeping bags in cold gyms at youth camps during my college years and camping on the mountains for years I wasn’t really bothered much. For five days we went into a marathon of rituals and long hours of meditation with many mantras. However that part wasn’t so easy. This puja focuses on the root of our being, the Muladhara chakra. Muladhara is the gateway between our body and the nature surrounding us. Therefore our physical wellbeing and strength, our desires, needs, fears and anxieties concerning the material world, our patterns and addictions pumping up our ego are mostly managed by this chakra. Therefore many got seriously ill and/or had to deal with strong emotions and thoughts coming up while stirring the energies at this level of our being. On my third day in Saoneer a very heavy flu took me over. Amplified by breathing constrictions my emotions got so wild I couldn’t sleep anymore and had to turn on my computer and write down all the dark thoughts passing through my mind. In my teenage years where I believe my mind had a lot more clarity and sharpness I used to heal myself by writing. If there was a sleepless night, I would just let the words flow; so I wanted to do the same. I was totally shocked by what came out. I lived the darkest, ugliest, unhappiest, loneliest loser version of myself in those moments. When I read it now I am touched by the sincerity and the purifying effect of those words. In the next days of the puja more dark thoughts and anxiety, especially about money and career popped up, but it all got a lot milder after that night.
Physically and emotionally destroyed I asked myself many times in the middle of a ritual ‘what the f. am I doing here? Did I totally lose it?!’
By the sixth day of the puja we took off for Kamakya. Imagine 101 people and Gurudji’s extended family occupying the small airport of Nagpour! My record in travelling in a group was taking four busses full of AEGEE people from all over Europe to Cappadocia with three other friends and heading to Skopje again in a bus full of youngsters; so limited to road trip. Reminiscing all these beautiful events I keep telling myself how blessed I am for having such an amazing life; feeling so much gratitude for all these adventures I was allowed to experience! And now I add and upgraded travel experience, a plane full of people in one common direction and purpose! We all enjoyed this trip and the fresh air after staying at Gurudji’s place; especially the warm showers in Calcutta. Throughout the whole trip I enjoyed staying in the flow without making any prior arrangement other than buying the flight tickets and it all worked out beautifully.
And Kamakhya! As many other tantric hotspot, this town is also wretched and intense. I’d imagine to witness some divine esthetics and artistic expression but either due do the overpowering of vedantic paths or the negative influence of the magicians following black tantra that’s hardly the experience. However these towns are indeed energetic hotspots and it is hard to miss it. In that sense Kamakhya was truly special and I felt very good in a strange way, although I didn’t recover from my mean flu. According to a myth Shiva gets too comfortable in his deep meditations and neglects his chores of destroying the universe, while His fellow God Brahma keeps on creating and Vishnu keeps on preserving. So his fellows beg the Great Mother; the divine Goddess to send Shiva a consort to keep Him in action through her feminine power. The Mother agrees on one condition; she will take a worldly form of Sati, Shiva’s consort if the men on the world remember and respect her divinity. Shiva and Sati enjoy a great love shaking mountains with their ecstasy. However as the time pass men forget the divine nature of Sati, the feminine and neglect her. When Shiva and Sati were not invited to a gathering of all deities and gods, Sati gets upset and decides to leave her body after entering a state of deep meditation. When Shiva finds her dead body he gets so furious that he tears the sacrificial body into pieces and let’s each piece drop on the earth. Each piece generates earthquakes and tornados wherever it lands. The details of the story changes according to the teller but their common point is Sati’s yoni fell on Kamakhya; therefore this town is considered as the yoni of the Great Mother; the universe. There are smaller and larger temples for different deities; each one of them with a small, dark sanctum sanctorum for the goddess full of incense. Many Bengali’s sacrifice goats for the Great Mother, making the whole scene even more dramatic with real blood running through the gates of the temples. Beyond all these experiences, I left a piece of my heart in the main temple; devoted to the Great Goddess and one of her many faces.
Kamakhya is definitely not a place for a regular tourist to visit, but if you are on the search for a connection with the feminine, the power, the source she can tell you many stories. While listening to them I kept wondering about the stories hiding in the mountains and valleys of Anatolia and my mother country beyond the Caucasus where my roots lie.