Photo by Carrie Stiles

Photo by Carrie Stiles

Across the World: My Half-Year in India

Travel Blog #4: April 21, 2017

I’ve had the urge to write for quite some time. I was going to create a beautiful pre-birthday blog. Didn’t happen. I was going to write a re-cap of my magical Odissi training in Pushkar, ending with a dream-come-true performance on April 2. Oops. Blame it on power outages, horrible wifi, 100+ degree weather…whatever the excuse, it didn’t happen. Until now.

I realize now that more experiences and realizations and reflections needed to happen before I write you.

I’m sitting in a room that I’ve rented near the Ganga River in a town called Laxman Jhula (Rishikesh). I’m on holiday from dusty, dry, hot Pushkar. For the past few weeks, I’ve been focused on buying beautiful clothing and jewelry to sell, launching an “LBL in India Pre-Sale” on Facebook, also buying gifts for friends and family. I’ve been pretty much non-stop action since my women’s tour began on Dec 28 of last year.

I didn’t escape the heat by coming to Rishikesh. Even though it is more north and in the mountains. It is hot and humid. My least favorite kind of hot. I grew up in the Midwest, where you felt like a hot dripping wet rag during the month of August. I remember it. Oh so well. 

My first two days here were uncomfortable. I was getting over a stomach “issue” and I was so…freaking…hot. Heavy hot. Tummy hot. Everything hot. I was ready to jump on a jet plane home to the cool, rainy springtime in Southern California. No air conditioning in this room I rented, but a very strong ceiling fan has been my saving grace. And the cool breeze coming off of the Ganga river in the early morning. Dipping my toes in the cold river every morning. And cold showers. About 3 a day.

So here I am now, sitting in my room while the heat blasts outside, ready to finally write.

I’ve also been reflecting. A lot. Reflecting on the past 4 and 1/2 months. So much magic. So many wonderful lessons and challenges. So much growth, as a dancer and person. So much deepening, as I continue to shed and release and let go of what is no longer needed.

So many incredible surprises.

Here’s a story for you…

Photo by Narendra Kumar

Photo by Narendra Kumar

The Up-Leveling

During a pizza party one night with fellow Shakti Sisters this past February, Colleena Shakti looked over at me and said “you should get your Odissi costume.” Um, wha? Say what? “Ishvari (Shakti Sister) is now in Orissa and is getting Ameya’s (another) costume. You should also have her get yours. It should be ready in time for the Temple Festival on April 2.” She said it casually over pizza, but it rang in my ears like the hugest statement of my life.

I had never considered getting a costume. I mean, I knew I would get one at some point, but definitely not now. I’m still a baby, after all. And my beautiful, beloved teacher was telling me it was time. So I just kind of shrugged and said, “oh… ya, sure. How much?” She gave me a range of what I’d spend, and I said I’d look at my budget, thinking that budget limitations could be an excuse to not get the costume. To not grow. To not step up my game.

Fate steps in.

I happened to mention the Odissi costume to my parents and asked whether they’d be able to forward the money for it if I decided to get it. They said yes. Shit. About a week or so later my dad called and said “Your mom and I have decided not to forward the money to you for your costume. We’ve decided to buy it for you for your birthday.” Double shit. It’s happening.

Ok, so I was excited AND terrified at the same time.

Would I ever be worthy of wearing this costume? Would I stumble and fumble like a klutz once the headpiece, ghungroo (ankle bells), and all of the shiny sparkling things were on? And the make-up? Would I look like a clown? I imagined myself with quivering rosy red lips, bright white face, plastered pink cheeks, and big exaggerated eyes darting to and fro, wondering if anyone could tell I was a fraud.

Surrender.

But, alas, I had to lay all of that down. I chose to trust my teacher. I chose to trust my body and the hard training I had been doing.

I chose to wear that costume with grace, gratitude, humility and confidence. I visualized myself smiling and proud after the performance. Over and over again, I saw myself happy and grateful on stage with my teacher.

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And I was. Oh, I was! It was magic from beginning to end. I fumbled a tiny bit…but nothing out of the ordinary. I always get a little nervous during a performance. After that first little fumble, I danced with such joy! I let my ego fall away. I focused on the dance and the love that I have for it. I focused on my amazing teachers and the energy and love they bring to my life. I focused on the offering. On the devotion and commitment that makes this dance what it is.

 

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So I look back at this experience with humor… at the thought of me contemplating NOT getting the costume. What wouldn’t have happened had I said “no, not yet?” I wouldn’t have covered as much ground as a dancer and I wouldn’t have gotten over those mental obstacles (Jai Ganesh!)… so that I could step up my game and to take on more of a central role in the Temple Festival performance.

The lesson here: when your teacher tells you that you’re ready to step it up to the next level and deep inside you know you’re ready, you know you want it, don’t make excuses or stall. STEP UP. Trust in your body wisdom, intuition, skills… and if you fumble or fall, is it the end of the world? No.

Life is waiting to be LIVED!

 

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The River

So I’ve escaped to the mountains and to the Ganga to heal and rejuvenate. I’m a Santa Barbarian after all. Yes, I love the desert, but there’s nothing more healing to me than cool bodies of water, green trees, and giant boulders. I made a vow on the second day here to establish a beautiful rhythm and daily morning practice, which includes a walk to the river, yoga, pranayama, prayer and journaling.

It has been an absolute godsend and lifesaver at this point in my 5 1/2 month journey in India. I miss the cool ocean breeze and green mountains of Southern California so much.

In Shakti School of Dance we had a wonderful schedule and daily morning practice… to ground, reset, and ready ourselves through yoga, pranayama and meditation for the intensity of Odissi. And when I’m not with my teacher it is more difficult to maintain this rhythm. I’m sure you can relate.

I think the heat and humidity has been a motivating factor for this new dedicated practice. To get up early and walk to the river before the heat is too much for this Minnesota-bred white girl to take. To move, breathe, and pray with my feet in the sand at her water’s edge is precious beyond words. While Pushkar is my home, this Rishikesh place has my heart as well.

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Plus, the river…well, she calls me. Ma Ganga is a magical body of water. She is powerful. When I’m at the banks of her I feel cleansed, rejuvenated and held… in love.

The lesson: I realize that no matter where I am… to start each day cool, calm and connected (to nature, source, self) is how I want to live. I already have plenty of fire and wind that whips me into all sorts of shapes and ways of being. I love these aspects, but balancing them out with the energy of water and of a grounding morning practice (earth) is paramount to my health and well being.

So there you have it, folks. I wanted to update you all a little and also share some personal experiences and realizations. Cuz that’s what I do and it’s what I love to do!

I pray that each one of you finds greater balance. That you are able to feel more cool, calm and connected each day. That you say “yes” to stepping it up and living life with ease and surrender, trusting in your own body wisdom and intuition. Trusting in the divine play of this life.

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Embracing you from Mama India.

Love,

Lisa


P.S. => Wanna come to India with me? Two amazing opportunities await you.

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1) I’m co-leading a retreat in South India on Ayurveda, Yoga, Mantra and Dance with Aparna Khanolkar in mid-December of this year. Only 10 ladies. Registration and more coming soon.

2) I’m also co-leading the second annual Women’s Tour of North India with Kathy Hayden from Dec 28, 2017 to Jan 18, 2018. Only 6 ladies. Registration NOW OPEN. Visit here Now

Wanna do both? That’s also possible (special discount). Contact me to find out more.