Our quaint, little cottage at the Vivanta by Taj Holiday Village Hotel in Goa, India is flanked by two towering Banyan trees. With many branches and roots descending both downward and upward, they are beyond fascinating to look at. I am immediately intrigued to learn more. The size and stature of the Banyan is unlike any tree that I have ever seen. From the main trunk, many branches travel down toward the Earth seeking to create even more roots in order to gain more of a stronghold to support its massive trunk. Even more branches twist and wind upward as if reaching toward the sun for nourishment and future growth. As I revere this amazing monument of nature, I am immediately reminded of the parallels of this tree to our lives. We have our main trunk which is the foundation we are given by our parents. Then each of our experiences we incur on our adventures through our lives are translated through the branches like a superhighway of events shaping us into who we will become. Some of those branches grow into more roots, creating stability and a stronger base of support to help us weather any storms that may come our way. Yet, other experiences allow us to branch upward. To grow. To learn. To rise up from who we were to who we will become. It is said that the Buddha sat under a Banyan tree for 7 days to attain enlightenment. Perhaps we won’t be sitting under the Banyan for more than a few minutes or ever reaching enlightenment; however, it is hard to not be moved by the sheer strength and stability of this tree. Each day, each experience, each moment, we are moving in both directions. Creating stronger roots and developing organically into more amazing individuals. Just as the Banyan tree has done with it’s branches and roots, we will back upon our lives we will be in awe at how much we have done, where we have come from and who we are.
To read more about the Banyan tree, visit:
As you may have read earlier, I had written about my father. I lost him in October of 1993 when I was 18 years old after a year-long battle with cancer.
In that post, I had also mentioned that my father had lived in India as a young boy. After reading that, many people asked me about his heritage and his Indian adventures.
My father’s adventure began much earlier as an adopted child of very eccentric grandparents. As a little girl, I would listen to his stories about his life overseas. His father worked for the World Health Organization in a division that concentrated on the betterment of India. Because of his government affiliation, my grandparents, my father and his brother had the opportunity to live in places like India, Nepal and Tibet. This overseas adventure took place around the time he was 11 or 12.
He had told me stories of having a pet monkey and how the monkeys would run amok in the streets—I guess that is why I had to get 3 rabies shots—“just in case.” I remember one story of him playing outside and putting his finger in a hole and being bit by a pit viper snake. He would show me the scar on his finger as if it were a badge of honor.
As I mentioned, my grandparents (well, at least my grandmother anyway) were very eccentric. She had a houseful of eclectic wares that she had picked up along the way during their time overseas. Two of those items are significant to me to this day. One item is a brass Ganesh statue and a blue Buddha statue. If you have been to our studio, you will see the blue Buddha statue sitting by our front entry door. He is a bit worn, but that makes me value him even more as every time I look at him I think of my Dad and wonder if I would be into yoga and making this trip if I had never heard his stories.
The blue Buddha was too big to accompany me on this trip; however, the brass Ganesh is in my bag. He will be close to me the whole time. As I venture through cities where my father has gone before me, I know that he will be with me as well.
Well, it is time to board the plane! We are flying out of JFK in New York and will make a pit stop in Paris, France, then on to Mumbai for the night. It is about 20 hours of travel today into tomorrow, but I will update when I can.
Much love and Namaste’,
As we celebrate the transition into Fall, it is like saying goodbye to an oldfriend or family member. It’s hard to let go, but also reminds us that the road continues ahead of us waiting for us to embark on our next journey.
For me, it is hard to believe that 19 years ago this month, I lost my father to cancer. That loss taught me so much and helped shape me into who I am today. One of the fondest memories I have of him is listening to his stories of how he grew up in India. His stories were fascinating ones of pet monkeys and elephants and getting bit by a pit viper snake!
Well, for me, this fall welcomes the journey of a lifetime for me. I will be heading to India at the end of this month. I will visit places that my father had been before me. Even though he is not here, or there, I feel that he will be with me as I make this trip around the globe. I invite you to come, too. Just as I blogged while in Thailand, I will be blogging my way around the World. Come along, it is sure to be a trip that I’ll never forget!
Om Shanti, Namaste’
Prior to venturing across the globe to Thailand, my 4 yr. old daughter and I had many discussions about what I was going to do while I was there. One of the highlights of our itinerary planning was going to be seeing elephants. Elephants in Thailand are revered in work as well as religion. The sad part is, much of their work is exploitative…giving rides to tourists and even walking the streets at night begging for tourists to “pay” their “mahout” (trainer) for a bag of food to feed them or to take a photo. I came to Thailand thinking I was going to be able to ride an elephant and wouldn’t that be so awesome?!?! What I didn’t realize is that “work” elephants, such as the ones that provide rides for tourists are considered “livestock” and there are no rules to protect them from abuse, neglect or even from being killed by their mahout. Wild elephants, on the other hand are protected, yet are still poached and hunted for their tusks. In the last 100 years, the World’s Asian elephant population as dropped 90% and their available habitat has shrunk 95%. Today, only about 25,000 Asian elephants remain wild and in the next 30 years, (that’s in our lifetime, mind you!) they could be extinct. That’s a pretty heavy thought to consider.
On Friday, we were privileged to visit the Elephant Nature Park, located in the jungle about an hour and a half North of Chiang Mai. The owner, a woman named “Lek”, which means “small one,” has dedicated her life to saving these magnificent creatures. Her facilities runs on volunteers that actually pay to spend weeks at a time there, taking care of the elephants. Many of these graceful giants have made the sanctuary their home because of illness, injury or abuse. Lek and her team have nursed them back to health and now provide an educational safe haven for them.
After being treated to a “jungle lunch”, it was “bath time” for the elephants. Boy, was that a sight! multiple elephants made their way down to the river where we were waiting. As the elephants entered the river, some stood, while others lounged in the water. We splashed them and rinsed the mud off their backs while some splashed us back. All of this dubious bathtime was a little in vain, because upon finishing, they just went back to their savannah and rolled in the dirt! This is their way of applying sunscreen…did I mention it is VERY hot here in Thailand?!?! About like South Carolina in August, but more sticky, if you can imagine!
After bathtime, we got to meet the baby girl. She is a 7 year old twin and LOVED to give kisses. Honestly, this ranks pretty darn high on my list of amazing life experiences! Actually, to describe this day as amazing truly isn’t strong enough.
Lastly, I want to share the story of Jokia. We heard about Jokia on the shuttle up to the sanctuary. Jokia was sold into logging, back in the 80’s before it was banned in 1989. She was pregnant at the time. When Jokia went into labor, she was working up high on a hill. When her baby was born, it rolled down the hill and fell to its death. Jokia was not allowed to tend to the baby and was forced to continue to work. It’s pretty wild to think of an elephant suffering from depression, but she did. She refused to work, whereas before, she had been compliant. In a bout of rage, Jokia’s mahout blinded her by stabbing her in the eye. To defend herself, Jokia injured the mahout by hitting him with her trunk and injuring him. In retaliation, the mahout blinded Jokia’s other eye. Upon arriving at the sanctuary, Jokia received her name. It means “tear of heaven’s eye.” Rightfully so. I know this story is depressing, but what you need to know is that, albeit blind, Jokia has made a complete recovery! Even better, when she arrived, another female elephant, Mae Perm, sensed that Jokia had special needs and took her under her wing. She spends every day with her and accompanies her wherever she goes, looking out for her and keeping her safe. This is a true story of resilience and the strength of sheer will. I know we all possess that deep within. We all have the courage, strenth and resilience that Jokia had. We just may not realize it until we actually need it. So, no matter what is coming your way, I encourage you to dig down deep and find your strength to push on. We all have everything we could ever need buried inside ourselves. Just sometimes, it takes a little digging before we find that treasure. I would encourage everyone to find that gem within before we actually need to. Explore it and get to know it when you don’t need it, so that when you finally do need it (and we all will!) you can access it easily and freely. Much elephant love and namaste’.
For more information on how you can help, please visit http://www.elephantnaturepark.org