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  • Writer's pictureoliverbramford

Into the Jungle

Last night I was walking home in the dark up the rough track through dense jungle, and a friendly dude on a scootie (scooter) stopped to offer me a lift. I was very grateful, I was 1km into a 4km uphill hike back from Rishikesh to Shiv Shakti Yogpeeth. He said it was very dangerous walking at night. I was surprised, I felt very safe. I asked why. In a thick Indian accent he said one word, "Animals". Then, 300m from my destination, we saw a large cat dart into the undergrowth. It was a cheetah.

After my first week in India, staying at Phool Chatti Ashram, I spent 10 days at Anand Prakash Ashram, an authentic guru-led residential yoga school, with a focus on awakening kundalini - the upward motion of subtle energy or sensations in the body from the base of the spine. I certainly felt uplifted from practicing with them. With a combination of wholesome ayurvedic nutrition, daily pranayama (breathing exercises), asanas (physical yoga movements & stretches), mantra chanting, and devotional singing, I have begun to feel pleasant and enlivening sensations bubbling through most of my body, more or less consistently. As a result of these practices I now feel energised and relaxed, clear and open, contented and alert, peaceful and purposeful, to a greater or lesser extent, pretty much the whole time. Thank you to the thousands of committed souls who have carried these traditions from generation to generation, and preserved this way of life.

Despite my overall sense of profound wellbeing, challenges remain. I am still a human, apparently. Anand Prakash Ashram is in the middle of Tapovan, a small bustling loud, busy spiritual tourism district of Rishikesh. Speaking to locals and workers here, it seems that Rishikesh has changed radically in the last 5-10 years. Once a place for sincere spiritual practitioners to find guidance, and learn ancient wisdom practices from experienced masters, this place has become overrun. A mushrooming of hostels, cafes, shops, hawkers, yoga teacher training centres and courses of varying repute, and white water rafting & adventure providers jostle to serve the hoards of travellers who now flock to the town, on a hedonistic journey to consume experiences, get high, and get laid. Great teachers and schools still thrive here, but the signal is increasingly hidden in the ever-growing noise. Even Anand Prakash Ashram is listed in the Lonely Planet guide book.

Speaking of signal, reliable wifi has been my biggest challenge since arriving over three weeks ago. It transpires that I cannot use an Indian sim card in my phone - it gets corrupted by my French e-sim, which I need for security notifications to login to online banking, etc. And the only fast reliable wifi I have found is in an exceptionally unwelcoming cafe, with considerable background noise. As my next experiment, I intend to get a portable router/dongle.

Luckily for me, my roommate, Sanjay, a fifty-something year old Indian family man, is also on a mission to tune into the signal. We both sought a quieter wilder place to meditate, away from the distractions. Sanjay is a very nice guy, and is proving to also be highly resourceful... I'm luck to have his as a friend.

So, out of the urban jungle we have returned to nature's bosom... relatively speaking. I have spent nearly a week tucked away in the wilderness of this lovely funky hidden little yoga centre, sharing a room with Sanjay, surrounded by warm groovy souls, bathing in the waterfall on the sunny days, with high speed wifi that stays up about 95% of the time (it mainly drops when monkeys play on the lines). We have decided to stay here for a month, and have feelers out for our next home-from-home.

In fact, I have felt no compulsion to leave this place. I only went down the hill yesterday because the wifi went down and I had a meditation class to take online.

I am increasingly aware of a tension between my current reality of teaching online and embracing community life. I see the teachers here living in such an organic way, teaching in person. It seems like a blessed and seamless existence to care for the guests/students who are staying here, eating, chatting and laughing together between classes. Currently there is dis-harmony around my work situation, closely related to my financial situation. I intend to sit quietly, patiently and spaciously with all this, whilst continuing to methodically work through my to do list, and allow things to unfold day by day.

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