I had a dream. I was already there walking the streets and I was fine. I knew this was a sign and some of my fear of traveling to a third world country for the first time subsided. My family, on the other hand, was terrified and begged me not to go. That’s why I set up my blog, so they could see where I was and what I was up to. But I was dead set against getting an international cell phone like my father cheerfully suggested. After all, I wasn’t traveling for 17 hours by plane, 24 hours total travel time, to the other side of the planet so anyone, anytime, could find me. No, this wasn’t a vacation. I wasn’t going on a guided tour to all the famous tourist destinations. I wasn’t staying in fancy hotels and eating at Pizza Hut and McDonalds- considered good American food. I wanted to experience the real thing. I wanted to stay in ashrams and practice yoga, meditate and pray. I wanted to meet and talk to people on the streets and learn about their way of life. I wanted to immerse myself in the holy water of the Ganges River. I also wanted to avoid getting sick, like so many people who visit third world countries do. So I got the minimal shots required, packed my backpack according to the lonely planet guide book, had my parents drop me at the airport and was off on the adventure of a lifetime.
India was a place I had wanted to visit since I met my first teacher and fell in love with yoga. She had traveled there many times in her seventy-three years and even had a Sankrit name, Madage, which means sacred mother. It was 1996 and most of the students in her class were new to yoga, like myself. But somehow we knew that we were in the presence of a true teacher: someone who had become a sannyasin and taken vows of poverty, someone who trusted that God would take care of her, someone who had been touched by this holy land and returned to it whenever the universe provided. For me, I’ve always been a rebel, doing things differently than most. I enjoy the challenge of silence for a day, a weekend or longer. I look forward to weekends with friends, sharing homemade Indian food and lively conversation about spirituality. Or a Saturday night celebration of sacred Kirtan chanting. I knew I was ready to go deeper and I knew that India could take me there. I had done months of therapy to uncover and discard many layers of Avidya from this lifetime. I read all the books my teachers suggested on yoga and meditation. Six months after I finished my certification in 2001 I opened a yoga studio in a small town in Minnesota and plunged right into teaching full-time. Wow, had my life changed. How had all of this happened? I used to be like everyone else, getting up every morning and going to my “dead end job”, as Lama Marut would say. But I always knew there was something more for me and when I stumbled into my first yoga class, I knew I had found it.