Rishikesh is one of those special places. You know, the kind that feels more like home than home itself. As a traveler, I have been blessed to know many of these: Valencia Spain, Cesky Krumlov Czech Republic, Cuzco Peru, Paia Maui, Lahinch Ireland, Seattle, Salt Lake, etc...places you visit and feel as if you've arrived, never wanting to leave. You don't want to leave them because you feel the pulse of the place. You spend more than a couple of days making friends in coffee shop owners, finding your tribe and a hangout spot where you sit in the corner and write, and read, and just be. You dive in...because it just feels right. You plant seeds, and create a foundation, and even though there are so many more places in this world to explore, you continue to go back to these homes. These are the places I'm talking about. And I've done the work and made the change to make one an actual physical home, as I moved to the mountains a year ago to Salt Lake.
But now I sit here, in Rishikesh India, thinking about my time in another such home - Cesky Krumlov - about one year ago today. I had just left my husband of four years, whom I had been with for seven years, and traveled to the Czech Republic for my brother's wedding. I was at a turning point in my life, making decisions for myself and moving forward in the best way I knew how: intentional movement. Travel. Trusting the Universe. I sat in Cesky Krumlov in my little room by the river - my second home when I lived in Prague, the village whose coordinates I had inked on my body, and the place where Tom proposed to me - and I was told by a colleague, partner and friend that I was no longer welcome with the company I co-owned and had put so much of my heart and time into. Fitting, it seemed. Everything was coming full circle. And I was gifted a clean slate by the Universe in one of the most special places in this world to me. At the time, a blessing in disguise. But it didn't come without extreme heartache and an overwhelming sense of loss. Through it all, I learned important lessons. Rishikesh is reminding me of this. Like the monsoon that floods the narrow streets of Dharavi, the memories come rushing back into my mind. Rishikesh is reminding me what is most important: to love myself.
Rewind, time...to a little over one year ago I was spending time with an incredible woman and doing EMDR therapy. I was initially hesitant to do so, since talk therapy was helping me work through my feelings quite well. I had never gone to therapy before, but it was - paired with yoga - the best choice I could have made for myself at the time. EMDR stands for Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing, and it is used as a means to process thoughts and distress memories, often used in cases of trauma. I didn't feel like I fit the criteria, but I gave it a go anyway. You're probably wondering how this fits into the story, huh? Hang with me for a second...you'll see soon enough. I think I had just 4 sessions of EMDR, but it was in my second session that I had a total and complete awakening. I had been feeling anxious, and my body had been acting out the emotions my mind was sorting out, in a seemingly endless struggle. I was having panic attacks that left me breathless in a pile of tears and sweat on the bathroom floor. I was broken. I traveled often that winter to the mountains. Escaping from reality. During that second sesson, Lynn asked me to close my eyes and think of the place where I am most calm and my breath is most even. I closed my eyes and let my mind do the work...my stream of consciousness went something like this:
Time in nature. Camping. Little material posessions. Backpack on my back, everything I needed with me. Nothing more. The mountains. The fresh smell of evergreen trees. Crisp air on my face. Corduroy for days. Time spent with likeminded people who speak the same language. My tribe. No need to put a mask on...I could be me. Breathing easy. Flowing through life. Loving people. Loving myself. Being loved. Truly and authentically, and deeply.
I realized then what I needed to do. All the searching...all of the time spent on the mat...all of the work I was doing...was leading me back to me. Reminding me to return to nature. Return to the mountains. So I did. It's funny how quickly we can forget moments of awareness like this. Not that the awareness isn't there, but the physical feeling that was so poignant at that moment had escaped me, and so I moved on with life. Moving to one of those special places I called home, a career found me, in the very industry that enables me to breathe evenly, up on the mountain and surrounded by my tribe. This was no accident. After a long winter and too much time spent behind a desk the last couple of months, I misplaced some of the lessons I learned in the last year and a half. Rishikesh brought them back to me.
While I've been in India the last few weeks, I've covered a lot of ground. I've traveled from Mumbai to Ahmedebad and Kutch to Bhuj and Bhujodi and back to Ahmedebad and Mumbai and up to Jaipur and over to Rishikesh...not quite living by my "move slowly" mantra. But in Rishikesh, I feel good. I am moving slowly. I am staying in a great place (Shiv Shakti Guesthouse) with people I trust. I take daily naps. I walk the city with comfort, traveling to my favorite cafe just down the street on the Lakshman Jhula side (Little Buddha Cafe). I rafted down the Ganges with an Indian family yesterday, and flirted with a monkey who didn't reciprocate. I got an ayurvedic massage from a true healer, followed by a steam bath that made me feel as if I shed layers upon layers of toxins and bad juju. It was the best healing experience I've ever encountered. This afternoon I will visit an Ashram. Tomorrow morning I will go on a sunrise hike. But it was last night during sunset yoga that I was truly reminded of the moment in EMDR where I realized that returning to nature would enable me to return to myself. At the end of our practice we chanted mantras as the motorbikes sped by, honking their horns. The monkey on the roof slowly passed my mat, attempting to steal both my attention and my laundry hanging nearby. The breeze fell cool upon my face, thanks to Friday night's storm. And he said to me, as if he had known me forever and knew what I needed to hear, "Trees. Sunshine. Family. God. Water. Mountains. Think of, and thank, everything happy in life. Salute your Asana. Salute your God. Salute your parents. Salute yourself." And there it was again, that feeling...the memory of the place where I breathe evenly.
Traveling alone, and traveling to Rishikesh specifically, has reminded me to love myself. To honor myself. To be honest with myself. To trust myself. Rishikesh, and India, have reminded me that I am enough. And that the simple things in life are the most important. Not money, not material objects, not sitting behind a desk...but nature, people, and experiences. I recently read an Elephant Journal article about a Paulo Coelho quote that resonated with me. This is what the article said, "He asked a wise person for advice and was told to forget his biography and just be - to discover himself in this way, in the shining light of the present moment. The thought panicked him. 'How can I stay myself if I willingly forget all that I was?' he asked. And he was told: the important stuff stays. What's left behind, we don't need. What remains, remains. And this remainder will always be enough." Amen. Deeply thankful for this moment in this place, and for relocating this awareness. Namaste.