BIG YOGA BLOG
Why I took my shoes off and walked 3800 stone steps, and why you should not miss Gaura Vani at Big Yoga.
Monday, July 16, 2012
by Sarah Martin, Big Yoga teacher
There's something about India. You've probably heard that. You probably are also in one of two camps: 1. You can't wait to set your feet on Indian soil and are just waiting for the right opportunity to do so; or 2. You don't understand why on earth anyone would want to go to such a dirty, poverty-stricken country. And if you're in 2. you also probably immediately ask people who just came back from India "did you get sick?". I was in camp 2. for a long time. And then, all of a sudden, I was in 1. I was in New York, working on my 500-hour teaching certification, and I was around a bunch of people with open hearts, or at least hearts which were ready to be open...and working on it. One of those people was Gaura Vani. I had heard about him, and listened to his music during yoga classes that I took. I was ready for a trip to India, and I happened to be looking at Gaura's website (why on earth I was doing that, I don't know, but I think it involved the universe and the plan for me)...and there it was, a trip to South India in spring 2012.
Fast-forward, and I'm crying my eyes out on a bus on the way to a Barata Natyam performance in the South Indian state of Tamil Nadu. India, if you'll pardon my French, has kicked my ass. I won't go into why, but let's just say that the whole experience of being in India will break you down quickly, whether it's the abject poverty, the noise, the cows in the streets, the beggars, or, probably most of all, the beauty in spite of all of this. And I'm mad at Gaura Vani, the co-leader of our retreat group, because I feel that he was the one who set me off. To be clear: he was not, but I needed a scapegoat. The next day, even though Gaura knew, because he knows everything, that my hot tears were misdirected, he came to me and told me that he was my servant, and his goal was to make sure that I had the best experience possible in India. My heart melted, and I let go...or at least I thought I did. I let go of a lot that morning, because Gaura Vani's sweet words and bear hugs let you know it's safe to be open.
Fast-forward again to Tirupati, the home of Tirumala Venkateswara Temple. This is a serious temple--75,000 pilgrims visit there every day. You can drive up to to take darshan (view) the presiding deity of the temple, Sri Balaji, or you can climb the 3800 stone steps to show your devotion. You guessed it, our group was taking the long route. And everyone was barefoot, except me and one other person who shall go nameless. Barefoot?!! Up 3800 stone steps in INDIA? I thought they were *nuts*. No way, man. We stopped at a little area as we began our ascent to make little stone "houses" that look like the cairns you see on a hike to guide your way. The local story is that you make a home in Tirupati so that you always have a home to go to. At that moment, building my "house", I looked up at Gaura, and I felt his devotion, and his openness to love in everyone and everything, and I truly let go. I took off my Merrells, tied the laces to my backback, and took off, barefoot.
I feel so thankful to have spent two weeks in Gaura Vani's company. His attitude of service--complete lack of selfishness and his open devotion to serving others in the name of the divine--inspires me every day to be better, to open my heart, to believe in the beauty of connection. Do not miss Gaura Vani's visit to Big Yoga on August 11 if you are searching. You know who you are.
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