Fortune Smiles

Luck be a lady tonight.

This blog, is going to be out of order from my posts, I still have a couple I need to finalize, but meh they are not fun, and this one is fun.

Sometimes there are things that require attention, and this time this one does.

As I pen this post, I’m sitting in a coffee shop in Seattle, one of my favorite cities on the planet. Something about this place just sinks into my skin and makes me content.

The weather here is what could accurately be called abysmal, dark, overcast, grey, and perpetually alternating between cool and warm with the waves of humidity, wet and dry — although more often wet with a slight chance of soaking wet through the perpetual drizzle.

Still somehow, this is perfect for me, it represents everything about humanity in my eyes. Deeply troubled, struggling for purpose, answers, logic, with no idea what lies just beyond the edge of the horizon. Stuck down in the midst of the perpetual turmoil of existence, thriving and seeking always seeking, knowledge, passion, source, heart, answers, always seeking.

Since my love affair began with this city, about 5 years ago on my very first visit, the universe has blessed me with an opportunity each year to return, at a slightly different time, to confirm as I have suspected, that this is a place I could call home.

This year like the others, an opportunity arose, and once again I pounced on it, in cat like form. D had a conference here she wanted to attend, and being the ever supportive big sister I am, I offered to tag along and shelter part of the bill to make certain she could enjoy herself in this trip and not have the added burden of financials to worry about.

As the conference she is attending is at the airport hilton, we are staying at that hotel, which is quite an advantage over all. It has afforded me the chance for a respite from driving, from a vehicle, while still offering the luxury of convenience travel. Its literally across the road from the airport, and the light rail, a mass transit system for the city that goes from the outlying areas into the heart of Seattle.

Today during this week long adventure into an art form I have only been exposed to through the development and career my sister has been traversing for the past few years. And I must say, its quite enjoyable to watch the camaraderie and interactions of both the known and the unknown and generally the people becoming so much more self aware, and confident. This art form is a blessing for many of those in life, this world we share, that have issues, as I did previously being comfortable in their own skin. It helps with teaching the embodiment of positive self image, and empowerment through a truly beautiful device. Its a nurturing community, where people of all shapes, sizes, and backgrounds can come together with the joint purpose of art.

Also, the beautiful men and woman make for magnificent eye candy all around the hotel, and convention center, god bless you each and every one for being so willing to showcase your bodies with such confidence for my feasting eyes. Yeah I guess this means I have some perv tendencies; there is something quite intoxicating to me in people having self confidence in their bodies, its like a drug, may I never get enough of it.

In this trip, I have set several goals. Some of them more intimate and personal, others more generic and on behalf of others. There is the goal to pick up a Seattle mug for a colleague for her collection, my collection already containing several. There are the gift cards I promised to my usually coffee hang out manager. Then there was the goal of meeting, greeting, hugging and feeding a kind soul I’ve met online that has listened to me lament my life struggles and has calmly offered a willing ear.

Today, this meeting was the goal. I popped across the street to the light rail and hopped on board to travel down to the preselected meeting place, Pioneer Square. Having requested that BK select the place for our meet up, both tasking him with selecting the restaurant, after several hashing out conversations of types of food, style of food, we both agreed on Thai – a favorite for both of us, and something with ample quality selections. Being as how this is his haunt, and I would be intruding in his work day, I requested that he pick the locale for our meeting also, hoping he would – as was the case – select a place close to the restaurant, and easily accessible by the rail.

On the rail, which was surprisingly easy both to get to, get into, purchase a ticket for, and to negotiate. As well as being surprisingly fast, it only took me about 40 minutes – about the same amount of time if I had been in a private car for the actual drive. I met an interesting lady, that chose to sit next to me on the ride.

We struck up a conversation, and talked about this that and the other thing on the ride. She asked for my feedback about a personal relationship matter, as she had been seeking an outside sounding board for her thoughts, and while I laughed at the whole interaction, I felt blessed to have shared. She was kind, she has a trip planned to visit her grand children next month, that she was quite excited to share. Her son had recently purchased her a smart phone which she was still trying to learn to utilize. We spoke about a myriad of subjects as we traveled, and there was a kindness and comforting sharing to the whole exchange. While we didn’t share names, we didn’t need to, she was “kind lady on the rail”

As I exited the rail, I got a little twisted around, but armed with my handy cell phone and my mobile google maps, I felt quite secure at my 3 block walk to the assigned meeting place. Passing by numerous coffee shops, including this one I’m sitting typing in now, I resolved to do this blog after the lunch.

Sitting in Pioneer Park, people watching and waiting, my wait for BK was not long, as I had arrived early, and sent a quick email, he immediately responded and walked over to meet me. We had exchanged pictures, so he knew what to expect, and I knew it was him. He has a smile that is contagious. A soft gentle temperament, while I can imagine him being enraged, or impassioned about things, its not his general nature, and his face shows the calm sweetness of his soul that reflects in his approach.

Having read his profile, I had already determined to ask him about one of the items he had mentioned, which ended up being a delightful learning opportunity for me. I love brain food. Those conversations, where – in my case – the technical details are so far above my head, that my brain struggles to grasp and map out the details to the roots and structures in my head that they are grounded in – (having a solid foundation in science, mathematics, programming, english, and history) – and allowing new trees of of wisdom to blossom. I love these types of conversations, and the universe has afforded me many times to meet up with fabulously intelligent individuals that are a wealth of good, fulfilling and fruitful knowledge, usually timing it serendipitously for me in such a way that I can grasp the concepts, and build upon them into other areas of development. This conversation was no exception.

While I will not go into the specifics for many reasons, not the least of which is that this content is BK’s alone, and while I feel blessed for him to have shared it with me – not only will I get the specifics incorrect, inaccurate and wrought with fallacies, I will generally likely be infringing upon his intellectual property.

I would however, like in general terms to explain the general ideology that we discussed. He explained in quite specific and detailed terms – he is quite a talker when he gets comfortable about the subject matter – the brain methodology for visualization. Basically how our eyes work with our brains to provide the images and things that we call sight. He further went into the details about the gaps in these, and how our brains fill them – this is similar to that old joke story that passes around often about if the letters in the first and last position of every word are correct, the rest can be jumbled or transposed, and the brain can still read the words completely. This works the same for vision. There are gaps in our vision, that our brain effective makes up to fill in the emptiness and provide meaning. This further expanded into a parallel conversation about psychology of superstitions, and the brains need to find patterns, to seek the patterns, and make meaning of them. In the absence of the natural or true patterns, our brains, our creative minds make them up in the form of superstition and belief. This sidetracked into many spiderwebs of conversation, learning and general idea exchange.

BK is a very kind and smart man, I also made him eat quite slow, and somehow something I said or did at some point was off-putting, I’m not entirely certain what I said, or how I had said it but his demeanor changed at one point. I made an observation, as our brains often do, and I’ll ask him about it later, when its in a little more comfortable environment – virtual, the environment where I typically talk to him about these things. Overall, the conversation was very pleasant.

I had previously commited to buying him lunch, and while he, being a true gentleman reached to pick up the tab, I snatched it back and covered the bill for us both. The place was a wonderful choice, the thai food was amazing, and I would highly recommend Ferry Noodle House as a staple choice for tasty Thai in Seattle.

After a thank you hug, we parted ways for him to return to work, and me to continue my trolling of Seattle.

Stopping on the way back to the rail at a really fun bookstore, it reminded me of Mysterious Galaxy Bookstore in San Diego; Seattle Mystery Bookshop – I found a treasure to take back and enjoy – even if I have promised to stop buying paper books, it was just too good of an opportunity to pass up. Plus I love bookstores, I love walking through them, its like visiting old friends.

Leaving the bookstore, it was time for a cup of coffee, and a Starbucks to document my tale. Low and behold I found a BK and coworker picking up a quick drink on the way back to finish out the day. Life is full of small surprises 🙂 great and wonderful, and it truly is a small small world.

Thank you Seattle for hosting me yet again, I plan to enjoy more wonderful bliss the rest of the week, and savor this warm cool wet dry weather when I return to Austin next week.

Gateway to India, Friendship and exploration of overheated variety

India Part 3

Had made plans for connecting with the teams that support my company in Mumbai – one of the gentleman had come over to Pune the evening before to meet me and drive me early in the morning back to Mumbai. I would be checking into the hotel in Mumbai with all of P and my luggage, then have the remainder of the day to sight see/meet and greet with the team before flying out on Friday.

Wed night, P was in a pretty sore state with his back still, so packing up all of our luggage for transport fell to me. I awoke early on Thursday to pack and be awake to meet with the team. The plan was to connect with them at 7:30; this would allow time for me to enjoy breakfast. In order to finish packing both sets of bags, I arose at 5:30, this was still a tiny bit of a struggle as I’d not gotten to bed until well after 3:30.

After enjoying the final day of the hotel banquet style made to order Indian dishes that was included with our stay at the Hyatt, armed with all of our travel luggage, I awaited in the lobby the arrival of my friends.

Connected up with the two of my escorts for the day V and W – who were gracious enough to have secured a driver for the trip back to Mumbai. Its approximately a 2-3 hour drive depending upon the weather and the road conditions between the two major cities. It was quite nice to be traversing this distance during the day time, which afforded the chance to see the amazing mountain views.

The weather in Pune was quite lovely the entirety of our stay. It was easy to not notice this as it was just so moderate and temperate, with the highs in the 80’s lows in the 60’s – and the humidity relatively low it was really quite comfortable and pleasant.

For the drive, we rode with the windows down, and it was nice, to feel the air and to see the majesty in the mountain views. I’ve always enjoyed mountain views, and this was really a rare treat, V mentioned that the views are even more amazing during the monsoon season, as the water falls off the mountains in waterfall like cascades, which was easy to see and imagine from the way that the water had clearly sculpted the slopes.

We stopped at a halfway between way stop, and while I was a little apprehensive about leaving all of my luggage in the car, I took my comfort from the driver/V/W and I allowed their contagious non-concern to permeate my being and to trust that everything would be just fine. They had offered to provide some of the American Rest area selections, but I had let them know I was still quite full from breakfast, but that they should enjoy whatever seemed best for them.

We ended up in the local style place, and V and W both got some small things for breakfast, including one that I have grown to love – its a donut like treat that looks for all the world like a gummy worm type of candy. Its taste was very reminiscence to round rock donuts, and I was immediately delighted to have found some taste memory connection. They also procured a cup of Chai for me, local style, which is served in small cups, much the way coffee is enjoyed in Brazil. The chai was very good, fresh and potent, and helped further wake me from my small amount of sleep and started the day off brighter.

The driver had the most amazing eyes, his eyes were dark brown hazel, and had that depth/haunting quality to them that my brothers eyes have, he had the most interesting tattoo on his arm with a quote that I photographed, and later looked up to learn its source. “Hurt me with the truth, but never comfort me with a lie” – its apparently a proverb with unclear historical reference. It just struck me as so profound at the time, and quite serendipitous to me. Life lessons in small things.

It started to become apparent as we neared and reached Mumbai, that the weather in Pune had been so much more mild, as the humidity was the first awareness that hit my senses of arriving. It was approximately 10:45 when we arrived at the Intercontinental Mumbai for checkin, V and W contacted PG who would be the third of my escorts for the sight seeing portion of the trip.

The hotel was stunning, literally across the street from the ocean, with a breathtaking view, that was hrmmm quite uplifting to the spirit, and provided a temperate breeze from across the water. Still quite warm even for early morning, we went up to my room to freshen up whil ewe waited for PG to arrive to the hotel. This did not take long, and after a brief introduction and welcome, we were well on our way in a local style taxi for the sight seeing expedition.

The first stop on our tour, ended up being one of the most profound and impactful experiences I had in the while of India. We went to a temple in Mumbai to Lord Shiva. As we entered from the small neighborhood type area, there was a feeling of reverence evident to me, and I immediately slowed to observe, and reflect. There was a sacred cow in a structure to the side, well cared for, and happily visible out of the heat of the sun and the structure providing it a safe comfortable area in which to relax. There were colorful signs along the walls, tribute type signs to many of the different deities. As we climbed up the wide cobblestone walkway up spiraling around to the top of the tower temple, I was struck but the age, and the sheer number of feet that had crossed this path before.

As we reached one of the lower platform levels, there was a shrine and guru of some sort taking up residency in the area, it smelled of incense, and had a reverent feeling to the area, some had left shoes out here, but the guru waved us past, onward to the upper levels of the temple.
As we four walked up the steps, I was sweating heavily. The sun baking down on the black blouse I’d ignorantly thought to wear into this location, and the heat from the climbing, in addition to the thick humidity and the general temperature. It felt much like a summer day in Orlando where I was raised, one of those days when you would not spend excessive amounts of time out doors.

We reached the outdoor foray area of the temple and there was a cubby type location for us to slide our sandals off and into, as we walked the rest of the way into the temple proper area feet uncovered. The stones were well worn, and even in the heat there was an element of coolness to them, while baking in the sun had warmed them to the touch, it was not the type of heat that maintained or lingered, it was not an uncomfortable walking area. The stones were also surprisingly clean, well swept, and maintained.

The temple area had three main elements to it, the statue of the bull to whisper requests into the ear to send to the god. The antechamber in the rear where there was a place for longer term meditation and prayer. The altar area where they were anointing the ardent were anointing the statue and saying the prayers, and a small area to send a quick prayer and to be anointed. PG got anointed, which I’m truly not certain of the symbolism of this white adornment, I will need to spend some time meditating and researching to learn the secrets of this, but I think it has to do with a donation of gift provided.

The feeling in the place had a pure sense of reverence, and it was very easy to feel it as a holy location. I was humbled, and spoke a soft prayer to one of the many gods of whom I’ve had patronage over the past few years. I whispered my needs into the ear of the bull, and felt a pulse of energy as they were sent towards the altar at the center. We stayed for a few moments, and as we headed out to return to our shoes, there was a loud noise, as they started a service.

We returned to the main temple area, and I was able to participate in the ritual aarti that took place. There was chanting, clapping, noise and general loud ringing of bells in a synchronicity. There was a feeling of raising energy and joining of life force in a elevated prayer. It was very easy to be swept up in the movement and the energy. I was elated, as I suddenly had the feeling of being in the presence of a god form, and that my prayers were being responded to and needed clarity was on the way to me. The service ended with an anointment table and a statue to off to one side, to acknowledge and offer thanks for these responses to prayer. I offered thanks, and accepted an anointment on my head for the answers and fulfillment to come to my requests.

Generally, it was one of the most profoundly spiritual moments I’ve experienced in more than twenty years. I felt clarity, connection, deep center, and purpose. Generally, I felt one with all of the universe, all of humanity and it was a truly humbling experience to feel my place and acknowledge my path as both relevant and irrelevant, my struggles as unique and yet precisely the same as everyone else, my challenges no more or less than those of all around me. I was not alone, and the things I needed were at hand. This was more comfort then words will allow to be expressed.

I expressed my overwhelming gratitude to my guides for bringing me to this place, for facilitating my experience, and while it was hard to articulate exactly the overwhelming awe I was experiencing, I think my tears and general lightheartedness did go a distance towards providing ample explanation.

In the interest of providing me a full and robust sightseeing tour, we departed the temple, and the tour around Mumbai continued. We headed towards the statue for the Gateway to India. A truly inspiring archway that points the direction towards the center of India, and faces out over the port of Mumbai. Its quite impressive to behold, and while the crowds were thick around the actual building, even from a short distance, it was quite dwarfing. It sits across the street from a famous hotel the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel; which had some calamitous history in recent years, but has been rebuilt and restructured, much of the original structure is still in tact, and it is quite an impressive sight. We walked down and photographed both of these structures, before heading around a few more sights on our driving around the city, and then onward to lunch.

The coastal waterway path from the Gateway up towards the hotel, was impressive, and quite enjoyable to watch and see. It offered coastal breezes, which in the open air taxis were greatly appreciated. The ride around in the car was a little bit, squishy, being as how the vehicles tend towards the smaller side, and there were three of us along the back, but it did not feel overly tight, as we enjoyed the views, and alternated time in the middle seat, big thank yous to V for most frequently volunteering to ride in that middle seat, to allow me both the opportunity to see out the window and experience the views as we rode.

We headed over to one of the first options for lunch, and as we waited, it was determined that the wait would be very long, and the second option had no wait, and would be able to get us in very quickly. We headed over to the second restaurant, and the team started to arrive very quickly after we arrived. It is worth echoing again, that all of the food I enjoyed in India was both amazingly fresh, flavorful and so filling without any side effects I’d be cautioned to expect/anticipate. I’ve always enjoyed Indian food, and the opportunity to experience so many flavorful variations is definitely worth mentioning repeatedly.

As my energy was starting to fall off, it was again time for a chai tea at the restaurant. This place offered either individual portions, or the chance to dine family style where we would select entries for the table. We opted for this option. I got to meet all of the team, and they played musical chairs here and there and it was such a lively large gathering that we had three full tables of sharing. This provided me the chance to try some different variations. I had made the request of my hosts that my only request was Chai Tea, and that the food be spicy, Indian spicy. They were happy to oblige and I was serenaded with tales of the recent green chili contest from a few days prior.

The food arrived, and was served from the gentlemen walking the tables, in large portions. All of it had amazing flavor, and it was simple more than I could possible consume. I was struck by the kindness and kinship felt between the team mates. They were all enjoying this time, they had all come out to meet me and enjoy the meal and time with me, and it was a holiday for them. This was a choice, not an obligation, and they had made time and were enjoying the experience.

We talked, and discussed work a brief amount, and discussed my experiences and learnings in India. I got to meet A, who had been kind enough to prepare a wonderful sight seeing list for me for Pune, and helped plan this outing for lunch, she also served as my faithful companion for the rest of the afternoon and evening, and was a welcome source of infinite information about Mumbai and bubbling optimism. She provided me with a suggestion of advise when I kept staring at all the food I was unable to finish, everything being more delicious then the previous in the course of the meal, that I should stick to enjoying the things that were my favorites, a very different approach to the meal then I was accustomed to, but it was definitely a welcome suggestion.

It was decided we would walk over to a very old famous tea house after the meal, to allow me the chance to experience some of the best tea Mumbai had to offer. The walk was quite fascinating to me, the streets in Mumbai are not unlike many of the streets in Europe; or New york for that matter, the sprawl of urban life evident every where. The buildings alternated between ancient style structure, to very new and modern, with not so much as a blink or beat in the diversity. The walk was not long, and it was actually a nice way to work off some of the overly stuffed from too much delicious food that I had felt when we first left the restaurant. I was however, drifting towards sleepy again, lack of sleep, general heat, and overfull tummy working against my curiosity and interest in exploring.

Some of the team opted for Ice Cream over the tea house, and many departed on their way to enjoy the remainder of the holiday after lunch. There was a smaller group of us that enjoyed the tea house, and I was able to sample some of the most exquisite high grade single estate Assam tea I’d ever had, a rare treat. A made certain I was able to try some of the Chai the place was also famous for, and this was quite amazing, it shows the difference that using a standard clay pot, over time tends to make in the texture and flavor of the tea. This tea, had the closest flavor to the tea I brew at home, and it was just outstanding. We talked and chatted, and I enjoyed and savored my tea.

The discussion became where to enjoy next, and the decision was made to try and take me to the mall, so I could experience one of those in India, and also to find some more tea for me to take as a souvenir on the way home. On the way to the mall, we drove around the city more, and I learned about the different districts, and how Mumbai was originally 7 different islands, that were filled in to form the city. It was amazing the history that my hosts were able to provide, it was honestly better than most tours I’ve taken in other cities. We stopped for a photo opportunity at the largest single family dwelling, a huge house high rise apparently owned by one of the Oil brothers.

The mall itself was strikingly similar to an american mall, western ideas clearly evident. It was interesting to observe some of the differences, the central cluster area was not a food court, but a high end grocery store. There was also an atrium area in the center with an overlook, that was meticulously clean. While there were many brand stores that I recognized from the west, there were also many stores that were specifically and unique to India. One of these being an ayurvedic store, that I just loved. There were so many things I would have happily packed up to bring home with me from this mall and the trip over all. I had however, upon initial arrival to the hotel, coordinated with the concierge to ship all my previously obtained souvenirs home, and they were already boxed up and on the way back to the house. I exercised unusually uncharacteristic restraint and did not purchase many more items, I did however find some amazing tea finds, that I was quite excited to be bringing home. Sitting in the grocery area, a store very similar to a whole foods, I was suddenly met with an overwhelming sense of exhaustion, the lack of sleep from the rest of the week suddenly catching up with me, in the moment of respite over the cup of tea. A was quite gracious and had altered the travel plans to allow me the chance to head back to the hotel to freshen up, and check on my husband, who I knew would be arriving shortly from Pune.

We left the mall, heading out and walking to pick up the cab. The drive back to the hotel was a little crazy, there was a significant amount of traffic, being rush hour in the evening, and also heading towards the beach, where the final festival day of burning was to be occurring. The place was overly packed with people, and the drive took us a significant amount of time. I was drifting during this time, affording a few precious moments of napping as we waited, and rode.

We were able to reach the hotel, and P arrived moments later. Knowing he was safely checked into the hotel, having freshened up, and changed my blouse, we headed out to get some local chaat from the beach. Refreshed from a few moments respite, and ready for more experiences to round out the night.

We headed over to the beach, and I got to enjoy a traditional street style Chaat & bhelpuri – both of which were very different. Several of my colleagues had rounded out the day by meeting up with us, to enjoy the evening meal, and to chat before we parted ways back at the hotel.

Overall it was an amazing day, a wonderful chance to meet and greet, and an overwhelmingly positive experience for me in Mumbai.

Returning to the hotel room, and finding P camped out on the bed, having forgotten his hat in the cab, and then having forgotten to return his badge –> forcing the poor driver to return twice to the hotel to provide him with these things, it was an overall crazy evening.

The view from the hotel room was nice, and the room over all was quite opulent, it was especially nice to experience considering I had been able to pay for the room using my points, and so it cost nothing for such a lavish experience.
In the morning, I was able to enjoy a quiet breakfast in the really neat GastroPub that the hotel had, the waiters went above and beyond to provide me with exceptional service, something I’ve come to expect always from IHG hotels, and one of the reasons, given my choice, I would chose to only stay in chains they own. I had a beautiful ocean view to enjoy with my breakfast, as I reflected on all of my times and experiences in India.

We had scheduled transfers to the airport early in the morning, as it was apparently customary to arrive at the airport in Mumbai 3 hours before fights, and due to the rush hour traffic, this required that we leave the hotel quite early. The trip to the airport was long, but it was uneventful, and it was a very nice view of the city as we headed out.

The check in experience at the airport in Mumbai was also an experience. We were booked in business class, which I would highly recommend to everyone traveling to India. We were treated like royalty, and offered a very reasonable upgrade to first class for the flight to London. This upgraded our lounge experience for the 3 hours in the airport, and more than fast tracked us through security, we had a private experience passing through security. It was interesting, that the military personal doing the security screening at the airport, actually screened something in P’s bag – an iPad stand, that on the scanner for all the world looked like a large style pocket knife. I was actually quite impressed with the entire experience.

In the lounge we were treated to a 3 course breakfast, and a scheduled massage service, while we waited for our flight. Talk about impeccable service and comfort treatment. This was a crowning token of our hospitality in all of India, as the final blissful moment as they sent us off over the sea back to our next destination.

As I finalize writing this almost two weeks later, I find that some parts of my heart have remained appropriately in India. I have touch points there now, that I can access, and sense, and that I miss terrible. I feel a deep longing in my soul for a return to this place. The wonder and overwhelming positive nature of the people and the experiences make it humbling and remind me daily of the possibilities that abound in the world. The very things that can be imagined and done, if I am just willing to dream, and step into that realm of knowing that exists beyond belief now for me.

It is my strong desire to again return to India, as I have yet to scratch the surface of all the experiences and learning that are available and awaiting me there. I would like to extend my soul felt gratitude to all of the hosts, and all of the individual spirits and souls that went above and beyond to ensure that our experience in this amazing culture and country was profound, intimate, and overall profoundly positive. May blessings abound for each and all of you, and may they extend beyond to all you touch for this kindness.

I will cherish the memories, and experiences, as I continue to mentally walk through them, and remain focused on the lessons I’ve learned in my time visiting.

Serendipity – Meditation in the moments

*****Note – this post, and some of the subsequent ones were prepared over multiple sessions, so the tense between them will be scattered, as I draft in present tense, but when I neglect to edit/finalize in the moment, this becomes past tense, and bluntly as this is my blog; and while I started to fix this one, I’ve just decided creative license is in order, and in the interest of getting the information down, I’m not going to fix this — if this will drive you nuts, feel free to skip this and likely the next 3 posts 🙂 …

India Part 2

Started the day out with a great breakfast with P – the buffet at the hotel (Hyatt Pune) was quite nice; they have many Indian dishes for breakfast, and each day was filled with exploring new possibilities of combinations. Wednesday of the trip was spent exploring a puffed pastry served with an aloo gobi style topping that had wonderful green and yellow curry flavors. The chai tea has gotten better every day so far and has improved in flavor of spices. Today they also had grilled vegges with a pesto sauce which sounds odd for breakfast but was actually very satisfying and tasty.

The plan for the day was a driver scheduled for 4 hours, and a trip to the Osho Meditation Sanctuary Resort. The driver arrived to deliver me, and it was no trouble to get over to the place, although the driver was trying to show me many of the sights along the way, and in hindsight he mentioned he has not been inside there before, because of the stringent joining requirements (Warning #1).

I went into the welcome center, and was struck immediately with a powerful overwhelming wave of energy. There was a koi pond and fountain inside the covered outdoor welcome center.(Warning #2) I sat down to breath for a moment and connected to myself before rising a few moments later and proceeding to the counter.

The kind woman at the desk, helped me significantly and explained the break down of charges to visit the facility for the day. There is a ‘registration’ as a membership fee – one time thing. Then there was a daily visitation rate fee, as well as a fee for robes (required specific attire, Maroon for day time, white for evening) and a locker fee, in addition to the cost of a lock for the locker. I asked her to boil the whole fee thing down to one total, I took that total converted it to USD – and it was just under 60$ total. While this was a little pricey for a visit and meditation sitting for a couple hours, I figured it was worth the splurge for this as the place clearly was a conduit for excessive amounts of energy, and I could already feel them in the lobby.

Proceeded to check out, and apparently the total was not the total, there were “other” fees associated it (Warning #3) – it was slightly more, not a huge deal – I also had to pay in Local currency (Indian Rupees, but I still had enough from my conversion on Sunday before sight seeing)

Having paid my bill, it was on to the next step which is … HIV test? Yes, you read that right you must take an HIV test before you enter the actual facility (Warning #4) – I don’t so much have a problem with taking an HIV test, or the taking of one, but it was hrmmm well I’d just had one last month and it rather felt like when people hit you up for the 4th or 5th company donation in the same week – you say “I gave at the office” — Not an option here, plus’s were it was fast, and all be it a small sterile needle pin prick, efficient. Can’t help but wonder what else they are testing for with that small sample of my blood however, since 🙂 its blood, which is energy – which is … you know where I’m going with this – but me being me – I stubbornly persevered, clearly recognizing this as the at least second warning, at the time, but having completely in the moment overlooked the other ones as warnings.

Now it was registration time where they get all your vital statistics, you sign up for membership and they take your picture for your registration. The name of the kind lady assisting me with this was Pigeon (Warning #5 – oddly this one was quite a near and dear warning to me) — I’d seen a pigeon on the window ledge outside the hotel room window and suddenly hearing this ladies name it made me long for the safety of the hotel room. I persevered.

Next I was walked outside and across the street to the store. This is where they try and fit you with the robe that you need, the lady got confused a few times about what i was needing but when we finally agreed upon a style of robe – they had … many many options of maroon robe… I took it into the fitting room only to find it did not fit – she had to go find another robe, which was named the “The Margaret” (Warning #6 – again odd on here, little bells going off about this one)

Took the robe, it fit okay up to pay, and got the lock and they marked off on my “voucher” of money the prices for the items I’d bought. I headed to the locker rental room where they “marked” off my pricing for my locker rental – and pointed me down a path and to take 2 lefts, there were no lockers to be found. I basically walked around the entire area in big circles for about 20 minutes, before finally finding another person – that was not too busy – had passed 4 too busy to help me find the lockers. Also saw a cat that was sitting on a ledge — I walked up towards it and it started meowing as I got closer, it looked directly at me and did a yawl sound (Warning #7 – and clearly number 3 if I passed the others)

Lady walked me to the “locker” room – which was no where near where the directions had taken me, I negotiated to the locker that was to be “my” locker, and it smelled like cat marking – I took this in stride, and popped out the lock loaded my gear into the locker and tried to lock the lock. It wouldn’t lock.

I sat down on the bench and fiddled with the lock, no luck no lucking. I tried turning the entire thing – no luck no locking. I surveyed my options, I could leave my belongings in an unlocked locker – including my passport — or I could take this as a final sign — having in my head added up the other signs and come to the conclusion that this was not apparently the right place for me to be visiting on this day.

I changed back into my street clothes. I headed first back to the locker place and turned in the sticker for the locker number they had given me and advised them I would not need it. Walked back to the store, and handed them the lock and explained that it was broken – the lock was a Krishna lock – which for me heh – this was also another warning, but I had opened the package so quickly I hadn’t noticed until I tried to put the lock back. I walked back across the street, and into the welcome center – because apparently they had kept my copy of the registration paperwork – which had been requested by the locker ladies, they had needed to call to obtain it and I figured since I’d paid for a day visit pass I wasn’t going to be using, it was probably a good idea to get this information.

I was greeted by an entirely different set of acolytes at the registration desk, they had to reprint my membership details, and sufficed to say it was a learning experience. Apparently now I have a life time membership to this place, if I chose to every go back.

I had the local cell phone that P’s colleagues had provided me to ensure I would not get stranded, and I was grateful for this, but at the time, and in hindsight. I also had the phone number of the driver for my touring. I called him, and he arrived within a few moments to pick me up. He asked if everything was okay, and when I expressed politely as I collected myself that apparently it had not been the right place for me to be, he nodded knowingly and he suggested a few places for our next stops.

The driver took me to a wonderful place, it happened to be one on my list of places I’d hoped to visit, and its sort of an odd coincidence that it happened to be the place to which he took me. Pataleshwar is a cave temple cut into a basalt rock dedicated to Shiva – who happens to be one of the gods I have a strong affinity towards.

The temple itself is in a very unadorned area of town, looking very much like a casual park, there were people holding a gathering of some sort in the shade of one of the trees just adjacent to the lower cave area. It looked like a lively gathering, with many women dressed in quite bright colorful attire. As I headed across the courtyard I was struck by an overwhelming since of majesty. My heart was happy to be in that place, and my feet hastened forward to explore. It was quiet, so quiet, there was the chattering of birds, and the sounds of a small smattering of people worshiping in the open stone gazebo portion where there was the first altar for worship.

While there was no sign to indicate that the removal of shoes was necessary before proceeding, there was a trail of shoes to the side, and there were barefooted individuals filling into the cave. I felt no concern at removing my sandals and leaving them to the side, as I proceeded inside, drawn by a sense of well being, purpose and belonging.

The cave temple was dark, strangely comfortable in temperature, neither hot nor cold, neither damp nor overly moist. It was just comfortable. The air smelled of perfumed incense, but not overly strong, and not unpleasant, the lingering recent burned smell. I approached the effigy at the altar at the front, and I felt the need to kneel and pray. I took this as a good sign, and knelt down on the stone, and prayed. I was in the temple for some time, and there were others – not many, that came and went as I maintained my personal silent vigil. There was a sense in my heart of my prayers being heard/received, and acknowledged, and I felt as if I were free to go or explore but that my time in prayer was at an end for that day. I rose, and backed away respectfully. Returning to my sandals, and observing quietly as I walked back out to the road. The place felt amazing, its hard to put into words, but it had the feeling of Christmas, smores while camping, clean laundry – it just felt right, and it felt like I belonged on a fundamental level that there are no words to detail.

Reaching back to the car, and with longing I tried to convey words to the driver to indicate that this was what I had been seeking in my travels to India. This place, with its 10,000 years of history, of prayer, of worship, to a source I find able to meet my needs, able to hear my call and to answer. This was the place I was seeking. He was delighted at my reverence, and proceeded to take me to a few other temples, much more modern, much more elaborate, with many more people due to the Navratri Festival being underway.

After the other temples failed to provide me with the sense of serenity, and that serenity from the first carrying over, the driver persevered to ensure I’d had the best sight seeing experience around, and took me to a local museum that was fascinating, it had quite a collection of antiquity spreading many generations, and many broad interests. Raja Dinkar Kelkar Museum had a fascinating assortment of items, from instruments, statues cooking utensils, to amazingly old hand carved wood archways and furniture, hand woven sari and garments all meticulously preserved. It was not difficult to lose myself in that place, exploring the many treasures, and by the time I reached the end of the 3 story, 2 sided building, it had been over 2 hours.

Connecting back up with the driver, he took me to a place called MGM drive, which is apparently a famous road for shopping in Pune. He took me to a shop that we hoped might have a figurine of Lord Shiva. This was sadly not the case, while they did have many amazing and beautiful statues, the one which was the correct pose was a huge stone piece, that I could not even fathom how I would get it home, and or how would persuade P it was a necessary purchase. There were also many amazing rugs, including some kashmir ones hand woven – they are woven with a thread count so that when they are turned different directions, they reflect the light differently and the colors in the rug appear to change. This was a marvel to me, and we examined about 30 different rugs and several I had really been interested in buying – however the cost was high enough I wanted P to approve of the expense, and he was tied up with meetings at the office. I passed, and made a small jewelry purchase from the ship after all the exchange of ideas.

My time in the museum had overextended the time allotted for the tour in the number of hours I’d booked and reserved for the driver, but he was extremely accommodating, and was more than willing to ensure that I had completed the things I had hoped, and seen as much as I needed and wanted to see. It was extremely refreshing to not only not feel rushed, but to feel well provided for, to have him so happy with his job in driving that he was willing to stay longer to ensure that everything was perfect. Upon arrival back to the hotel, I was suddenly struck by how truly exhausted I was, how satisfied I was with my day out exploring, and how truly blessed I felt to have been enabled to achieve my desires for this trip by this driver. Fully expecting to have incurred additional charges for the extra hour of additional time due to my distractions at the museum, I was welcome and pleasantly surprised when the driver simple shrugged it off and told me how nice it was to drive for me that day.

After this entire experience, I can truly say I fully understand the meaning of Namaste, in the core of my being.


There were so many good experiences in India, its very hard to individually chronology each of them during our time in Pune adequately, as I was busy experiencing them in the moment at the time. There are a few others I’d be remiss to fail to mention, so below find some of the specifics I want to document for my own sake:

* Spa Day
* Dinner at the Bhatnagar Household
* Potluck at Cybage
* Doctor visit


Spa Day

On Tuesday, I did one of the typical things I do on vacations, I booked a full day of services at the closest day spa, in this case the hotel spa. Typically, a spa within the hotel is significantly more expensive, and the services are far from optimal, in my previous experiences, which while not extensive are varied and multiple. This was not to be the case in India. It is evident throughout the culture and the presence of the people, that health, and self care is a large portion of this concept, is not a minor thing in this culture. The spa services were not only, by western standards extremely reasonable in price, they were also quite catered towards ensuring I had a relaxing and thorough experience in rejuvenation.

The spa had a large area, with an open swimming pool in the back, laid out to feel like while still within the hotel, and within the structure of the city, was a tropical oasis of comfort. There were the canopy style cabana beds lounging around on one side facing towards the water, which was flowing like a river with a water fixture in the pool to keep the sound of water cascading throughout the area. This was immediately off the main reception, which also had several little resting alcoves to await or rest between services.

I booked multiple services, and they flowed by design one from the next with the same therapist, which provided continuity of service I’ve previously not experienced most other places. It also allowed for a level of relaxation far exceeding previous spa experiences. The therapist herself went above and beyond to ensure that my comfort and needs were provided. The body scrub, hair wrap, full facial and aromatherapy massage that had been extended – all in all 300 minute of bliss, totaled just under $200 USD. Significantly less than I have ever paid for far less personalized treatment.

The personal steam room was also the shower attached to the changing/locker area, and the therapy room – which was designed to be able to accommodate a larger party of up to 4 guests at once. The room was clean, but very elegantly decorated, so as to seem comfortable, and safe while not being overly elaborate or distracting from the purpose of relaxation.

My only observation of pause, was that the massage tables – more the type that are used for facials or waxing, were not quite as comfortable for the length of time of my services. While this is not something I noticed during the services, the services running concurrent, caused me to experience a tad bit of discomfort upon rising, as my body had been in a too stiff a position in a few places for the length of the treatment.

Upon leaving the treatment area, and returning to the entrance, the hostess at the spa entrance and check in area looked at me odd when I requested to leave a tip, it was apparently not something expected for spa treatments, or atleast unusual enough that she did not anticipate my request, and was visible surprised by it.

This was not the only or even a rare surprising encounter with the staff at this hotel, they were all curious, kind and very will to assist with any need or request. On one of the days, when Phil’s back was in a bad place, and I had gone down to the breakfast buffet alone, they waitress at the check in for the breakfast offered to send up a plate for my husband if he was in pain. Later, when I returned to the room, and ended up ordering room service, they brought it from the buffet at no additional charge. The service and hospitality we experienced in all of India was hands down the best and most hospitable anywhere in the world. I felt like an honored guest, not just a paying guest. The entire experience allowed me to stay in the moment, and to experience and enjoy my time in this amazing and beautiful country.


Dinner at the Bhatnagar Household

On Monday evening, a friend and colleague of my husbands – Mr. Bhatnagar had invited us to join him for dinner at his home. A few years back, when he visited the United States, we had hosted him to dinner in our home. It was a great treat, and P & I were both very much looking forward to the experience.

He arrived at the hotel to pick us up after the work day was complete. We braved through the worst of the rush hour traffic in Pune to get to his home, all the while chatting and entertaining, as he filled us in on this being his normal commute, and how it was actually a little worse than usual due to the holiday, but that his commute is typically 45 minutes from office to home.

Exploring off the beaten path in any country is always far more educational then the tourist areas, and this was no exception in India. Its extremely easy to get caught up in the “what they want you to see” vs “what the reality is of life” in most countries. This was not really the case in our time in India. While Mr. Bhatnagar is not an extremely affluent man, he has a steady well paying job, that he has had for sometime, and while he has a small family, a wife of a little over 7 years, and a daughter that is 4, with a new baby on the way, his neighborhood did not look strikingly unfamiliar to the United states suburban areas. He lives in a condominium style housing, where he owns the unit where his family lives, there are multi house units, similar in type to a apartment or condo type structure, many units stacked together in one larger building. They are secured, and there is a neighborhood community counsel that sets the rules for the area. There is a center common area for children to play in, and there were people out and about with animals playing when we arrived.

His home was quite nice, very comfortable, and while it was smaller than the amount of space we are spoiled to experience in the United States, it was in no way cramped. They had very modern amenities, furniture, furnishings and generally a very clean and well loved feeling of welcome home pervaded through the entire experience.

Mrs B had prepared an extensive and elaborate meal for us to enjoy, and we enjoyed some tea and conversation upon first arrival. Their daughter is a delight, and clearly a crowning jewel in the household. It was a wonderful chance to get to see and converse in a much less formal environment and share Mutual experiences on life, family, home, culture and marriage.

The meal was wonderful, and the loving care with which it was prepared, shared and offered made it even more an experience to enjoy. Mrs B has a small garden on her porch, and some of the spices and the vegetables for the meal came from these. We all ate to being stuffed, and content, and finished off the meal with pleasant conversation and general life discussions.

On the way to return us to the hotel, at the close of the evening, we all went together to the local ice cream parlor, a special treat for all of us, and the ice cream was quite good. The traffic was a little heavy on the way back to the main portion of the city where the hotel was, but there were lights and decorations up everywhere for the festival, we talked about many of the traditions, and it was very interesting to see them being learned by the daughter.

Overall, I have to say this experience was one of connection, and started off the entirety of the trip in such a positive place, it would have been nearly impossible for things to not continue to spiral upwards from this time.


Potluck at Cybage

P had pulled a muscle in his back on Tuesday, and was in some pain so they opted to allow him to sleep a little later on Wed morning, and the two of us went into the office together, me as a visitor and he to work for the day. The teams had planned a potluck in our honor, which was quite an elaborate experience, and a wonderful opportunity to experience more local and traditional style Indian dishes.

During the initial arrival, our host took me on a tour of the team, and I got to meet all of the team members that support P and his company. It was so nice to meet so many happy smiling intelligent people all happy to be at their jobs, and clearly happy to be supporting my husband and his company. It was somewhat a surreal experience, in no other place in the world could I have done that entire introduction, and met so many people and left the encounter retreating back to the office assigned to P during his stay, super charged with energy, rather than the usual drained of my energy. Each and every member of that team took the time and effort to personally greet me and to make specific and personal connection and interaction with me. It was, well it felt like being a rock star I’d imagine, and I am but the wife.

The office itself is in a very interesting place, the company owns enough room to expand, and its a cluster of buildings, very well kept and very pristine looking. The entire building is organized, modern, green and nice as well as easy to navigate. It was interesting to view the city from the top of the buildings, the view is breathtaking, and the pot luck took place at the open covered area patio lunch area there. They had partitioned off a section of the lunch area for the purposes, and it was quite interesting to watch the engagement of the team, and also the other cybage teams and members.

All of the food was outstanding, it was not a question of which dishes I liked or didn’t like, it was a question of how much food I could reasonable eat without needing to be rolled off the table.

Truthfully, there was no food I experienced in my entire time in India that was not delicious and wonderful – there were just many many dishes I enjoyed more than a few others. This Potluck was one of the highlights, both the care and the organization that went into this, particularly considering the fact that two of the ladies that organized this meal for our enjoyment were actually fasting during the meal – for the high holy day of the holiday. The fact that they would organize and oversee such an elaborate spread of abundance, in a time when they would not be able to enjoy or partake was quite humbling.

Its hard to express in words, how positive this entire experience was for both P & I – we both enjoyed the food, the camaraderie and the pleasure that serving us was providing for the people that brought it. Each of the chefs in turn came over to see how we had enjoyed their dish, they prepared the plates for us, and we were able to sample so many of the dishes. This was also a very nice time to enjoy some dishes that are not traditional restaurant fair but are quintessentially Indian. One of these was a new treasure in my eyes: shrikhand

The efficiency with which they cleared the celebration and everyone returned to work was also quite interesting, it was never about the time, the time passed so fast, it was hard to relate, but it was just a very memorable and pleasurable experience enjoying a pot luck with a team of new found friends.


Doctor Visit

As previously mentioned, P had hurt his back from a combination of tucking his legs and the bed at the hotel being a little too firm for his comfort and body. After the potluck, our host saw fit to take us over to the on site doctor to allow P to be seen and to determine root causes, and eliminate any possible concerns, as well as provide him with some relief from the pain.

There are many things P is good at accommodating in the pain department, back pain – referred from his legs, specifically his iliopsoas is not one of them. This is the type of pain that takes him out. It was very kind of our host to recognize this and ensure that P was well cared for and that the pain was addressed.

The experience waiting for an on site doctor, was actually remarkable faster and easier than anticipated. P & I both met with the doctor, who was a no-nonsense type of individual, he listened to P explain the problem, and then he also listened to me relate to him further details about that and about a hive allergy reaction P was also experiencing on the tops of his feet.

The doctor examined P and then sat down to make notes. He documented his findings, and his interpretation in a very legible hand writing on a note pad – this was extremely strange for a doctor in my experiences in the western world. This guy’s penmanship put me to shame. He then proceeded to write out 4 prescriptions and then he went over his findings, and his recommendations and the medicines, what they would do and how they were to be taken. He read this all from the paper as he handed it to us to carry with us.

Our host took us to a chemist, where they prepared the medicines, and the packages we got were no-nonsense, and from the discussions with our host, they were not overly expensive. Having spoken with several other friends, India is apparently a very reasonable place to get safe routine medicines at a very accessible price, and without a tremendous amount of hassle.

Upon returning to the hotel, we were able to look up all of the ingredients online for each of the medicines, it was very nice to see them all very clearly labeled with % of each item, and to be able to clearly understand what each medicine contained. While the details about possible implications and uses were also on the packaging, using Google provided more of a sense of common understanding for us, that left me feeling quite safe with the products he would be taking and the uses and requirements for them.

Overall, the entire experience was quite pleasant, it just seemed like if you were going to have health issues, India would be the place to have this occur.


The next post will go more into the travel from Pune to Mumbai and the experiences with my teams there, over all the stay in Pune was amazing. The city is very progressive, not a surprise for a college town, and it was very easy to get comfortable in this city. It is quite modern, but its also very easy to see it, similar to Austin has had tremendous population boom in the past 5-10 years, with new structures going up and expanding the borders on all sides. It would be an interesting place to re-visit in another 5 or so years, to see how much it has and will change, I’ve no doubts that it will continue to be evolving, just as the people and culture will continue to suck forth the best of the western culture and integrate it, while retaining the highest values of the culture it so holds in reverence as a way of life.