The morning bell rings, as usual, at O dark freakin’ 30 in the morning…  Ummm, excuse me Mr. bell ringer man, didn’t you get the memo that it’s my birthday?  I believe I will be sleeping in today, STOP RINGING THAT BELL!! I roll over to check my phone to see what time it is… Maybe Mr. bell ringers’ alarm clock was set wrong and it’s really only midnight and I get to sleep another 4 hours…  My phone confirms it is, in fact 4:45… B.U.M.M.E.R… I check my phone one more time, just to make sure I wasn’t dreaming, and notice I have email in my inbox…  Yay! (I love getting emails from all my peeps out there!)

I open up an email from my friend Paul… As usual, his funny little twisted sense of humor makes me laugh and it gives me the energy I need to pull myself from the warmth of my little cocoon bed and make my way down to meditation… Today is gonna be a great freakin’ day! 

Meditation proves to be challenging, as usual.  Have you ever tried to sit still for an extended period of time and keep your mind free from outside thoughts and brain chatter?  There’s a lot more to it than that… But let me just say, it is difficult!

After an hour of battling my mind in meditation, (and mostly losing) it’s up the hill I go to yoga and we, Ommm, shanti shanti shanti, and into downward dog… “Morrre straight your legs”, Venket says… Yes drill sergeant!

After breakfast, I join a small group going down the river and over to another ashram to satsang, to hear Sri Moogi talk.  Satsang Moogi whaaaaat?  When in India… In our group, there’s Daniel and Sheyanne from Sweden.  And then Carlos and Jürgen from Germany…. Ummm, then there’s me.  We all meet at the guard gate at 9:30 to take the 20-minute walk.

At the guard gate while signing out (everyone has to sign in and out when they come/go from the ashram) we meet this adorable young girl with a huge backpack suitcase on her back and a small backpack on her front.  Dammit, I’m getting old if I’m calling a girl in her mid 20’s a young girl…  Birthday reality check… Geez…  She looks weary and exhausted, and the guards appear to be giving her a hard time.  She explains that she’s checking in today but that her room isn’t available until 1:00 and they’re not letting her keep her bags at the office until check in.  Understanding the total exhaustion of arriving from overseas, AND hiking the 600+ feet of stairs from the street to the guard house (with heavy luggage…  Grrrr) I totally grasp that it is completely out of the question for her to hike back down the stairs with bags in tow just to hang out at a café until 1:00 and hike back up…

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Without hesitation, I offer to run her back up to my room to drop her bags and tell her she can go with us to see this Moogi enlightened fellow.  She tells me she was on her way to see Moogi anyway…  Perfect!  We introduce ourselves as we trek up the hill, and somehow, I feel like I have known this woman for many many years already…  Yes, let’s call her a woman, not a girl… better… She tells me her name is Sigrid…. What – are you kidding me?  I said, “Are you my cousin”?  She gives me this puzzled look… I explain that I have a cousin named Sigrid that I’ve never met and although I know she can’t possibly be my cousin, it just strikes me as odd for some reason – Sigrid is such an unusual name… How crazy would it be if I somehow ran into a cousin all the way over here in India…

(Oh my goodness, I have to tell you, as I sit here and write in my little grass courtyard outside my room, I am surrounded by 15 or so, monkeys playing and running all around me – in front of me near my bedroom door, behind me on this wall, in the trees above me and climbing to the second story above my room.  The people upstairs are giving them scraps from their kitchen and it has attracted so many monkeys.  (I’m pretty sure we’re not supposed to feed them)  Just a few seconds ago I turned away from my computer to reach for my camera and a monkey grabbed my leg!  Eeeekkkk…  I yelped!!!!  He ran away…  Just testing the limits with me, I presume…  Ok, ok, you’re ok… He just grabbed your calf with his little monkey fingers, he didn’t scratch you and there’s no blood…  You’re ok…  you’re ok…. Eeekkk)

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Back to my day…

Ok, so don’t get too excited, Sigrid is not my cousin…  But she is a kindred spirit, nonetheless, and we continue the trek up the hill to my room (foothills of the Himalayas and all, very hilly around here!).  I tell her she is my cousin from another life…  Not quite the same ring as ‘brotha from anotha motha’, but, ehhh, it works… We drop her bags and head back down the hill towards the guardhouse to meet up with the group again…

On the way down the hill, we are approached by the Yoga Niketan management… They are NOT happy with us!  Geez, I haven’t even been here a week and I’m already in trouble with management!  With a wrinkled, angry expression on his face, the old Indian man says, “No, no…. must come back 1:00.” Where is the peace, love, and happiness Mr. management fellow?   I explain that she is my friend and that I let her keep her bags in my room until hers is ready.  He says, “NO, NO, why you let keep bags in room?” I continue that it’s just until check in and I try to persuade him that it’s ok… She’s with me! As if we go way back…  

Flashbacks of the many episodes I’ve seen on TV of that Locked up Abroad show scroll through my mind and I think to myself, this could be the beginning of a scenario that unfolds in an unexpected way where I end up in an Indian prison for 20 years!  Her bag is in my room – could she somehow take something from her bag and put it in mine?  I quickly run through all these, “What if” scenarios…  This is just how it happens on documentary TV Eryn!!  No… No… My room is locked, and my new friend will be with me, there’s no problem here…  Plus, she is my new cousin… I somehow know she is good people…  Although, sometimes good people smuggle drugs… Hmmm

Management doesn’t give me the chance to make this decision though, and they follow us up the hill to fetch her bags from my room…  She goes with management back to the office to sort it out and I rejoin the group to head down the Ganges over to satsang…

We arrive to the ashram where Sri Moogi will speak, and I am surprised to see at least a thousand people packed tightly in this huge room with a corrugated metal roof, no insulated walls or air conditioning, and only ceiling fans.  Luckily at 10am the weather is very pleasant and the room is still cool from the night before.  There is a big swing in temperature here at night, being in the low 50’s and then in the mid 90’s during the mid day sun.   We all pack tightly into the auditorium and take our seats on the floor in lotus position (cross legged).

This Moogi fellow is very interesting… and profound… and moving… and thought provoking… He speaks mostly on how to deal with our own inner afflictions and how to view life and what not…  Good stuff!  What a great day – on my birthday, to sit and listen to someone so inspiring… Yep, this is gonna be a great year! (Vicky dear, I wish you had been here – you would’ve loved it!)

Daniel and Sheyanne leave early to get back to Yoga Niketan for lunch…. I hardly realize it’s past noon… Jürgen and Carlos, the two German men and myself stroll back down the river and back towards the ashram… This is the first time I’ve had the chance to spend any time with these two gentlemen, and they are quite interesting… and easy to talk to…  They were very quiet when I first arrived Saturday, and didn’t notice them speaking at all – I later found out they were observing complete silence for several days, which is pretty common around here.  Jürgen is currently working on his thesis in Art Therapy for his PHD and Carlos, buys goods and textiles and other things in Thailand and sells them back home… Brilliant idea, Carlos!! 

There are many families there at the river, as we stroll by, doing their laundry and bathing…  I believe they bathe here out of necessity, but the Hindu people also see the Ganges as their most sacred river with many healing powers… Hmmm, shall I take a dip in the highly polluted and contaminated, yet sacred and holy Ganges? I have already eaten raw vegetables, fruit and yogurt lassis outside the ashram and that went well…  Ummmm, we’ll see…. 

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I make it back to the ashram and have missed lunch, so I go on back to my room and sit in the courtyard and do some yoga…. Before too long, Sigrid shows up and comes over to tell me more about the management fiasco and that she finally got in her room…  I say to my new cousin, “Hey, come with me to the German Bakery in Laxman Jhula, it’s my birthday and I want some cake!”  Laxman Jhula is a short rickshaw ride away and I remember loving it the last time I was in India.  Sigrid comes over and gives me a huge birthday hug, “Ohhh, how amazing, it’s your birthday!!” she says in her Australian accent, “Of course I’ll go with you to the German Bakery!”  We run into Venkat on the way out of the ashram and he joins us for the trip to the German Bakery…

We catch a rickshaw over to Laxman Jhula and, oh my, it is quite the trek from where they drop you off to the bakery.  I have worn flip-flops and am not navigating the steep stairs very well in these shoes… (These are not stairs that are up to American code, remember – the rise is so steep, it’s even hard to go down these stairs)  The stairs twist and turn going down, down, down with lots of little shops on either side of the stairs… But we can’t stop to shop – we want to make it back for 4:30 afternoon yoga.

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We finally make it to the bakery and it is packed full of people, and we find a little table overlooking the river.  We get apple pie (for my birthday, I felt it was only right to have this American classic) and a Nutella pancake to share amongst us.  Yummy yummy yummy, we fill our tummies with lovely desserts and lemon, ginger, honey tea…  What a great way to spend my birthday…

We make our way back to the ashram for our afternoon downward dogs…  Rippen is the other yoga instructor that teaches the afternoon class.  Seriously?  There are two yoga instructors that live here at the ashram to teach two yoga classes a day?  So… one yoga class per teacher, each day?  Wow, what a life!  Surely they have other side businesses or something… Must investigate further…

After dinner, Venkat catches Sigrid and I and says, “Can I meet you in 10 minutes?”  “Ok, sure”, I said…  Venkat arrives to my room shortly thereafter with a birthday cake with my name on it and everything!  Candles too!  No way… A birthday cake for me?  Here in India?  Get outta here!  Venkat explains that it is bad luck in India to not celebrate a birthday.  No… no… we don’t want any bad luck here, thank you…. Bring on the cake!!  He says, “You are birthday baby – must celebrate, must celebrate!”  The birthday baby… Too funny… I thank Venkat for bringing cake and making sure no bad luck comes to me.  Sigrid and Venkat light the candles and sing Happy Birthday in their Australian and Indian accents… Adorable!  Just made me smile to be a world away from everyone I know and here, two, almost strangers, are here as new close friends celebrating my birth… Truly amazing…           

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(Birthday cards some of my special people sent me away with – thank you!)

This birthday baby will long remember this special day in India…

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