Shoemans Trail

The quest for liberation

Tag: spiritual

Ubud – Art capital and temple area

The last days I spent in Bali, but not south, this time I went further north to Ubud, the art capital of the island, a lot of painters, sculptors, wood carver and artists live close by. The whole area is surrounded by rice fields and a lot of temples can be seen. I went to the most important ones and was templed out after a long day, it was a bit touristy but not as bad as the Uluwatu temple

First I went to Tirta Empul  with it’s hot springs and dating back some 1000 years. It was too crowded with tourists but a perfect start, the next temple I visited is called Gunung Kawi, the Poet Mountain Temple, some pretty good rock carvings can be seen plus an older temple completely carved out of the rock – quite impressive! The Goa Gajah elephant cave is carved in the rock too with a nicely lit lingam and a Ganesh Statue inside. But the quietest, slightly off the beaten path was Pura Kehen with its big 11-tiered meru towering the inner courtyard.  Chapeau for all the rock carvings in the area, of course a legend tells the story that most of it has been carved out by a supernatural being called Kebo Iwa within one night…

The best experience I had at a smaller non touristy temple 2 minutes from the resort I stayed. I first discovered the place in the evening when a group of musicians was rehearsing special Balinese temple style – I never heard before, check this out: http://youtu.be/0IglFlEUc7E   The main ceremony was on the day of my departure and I managed to attend for 2 hours, men in white wearing sarong to cover the knees, a sash around their waist and a typical white hat. Women were wearing colorful dresses and carrying donations – mostly on the head – each of them very beautiful. Children accompanying their parents, behaving, everyone showing grace.  Priceless !

I also checked out the local chocolate factory Big Tree Farms, all organic with coconut sugar, no milk and a perfect tour with tastings from raw cacao beans to the final product. the tour was very informing and changed my view of chocolate!

I really liked the slow pace and restfulness of Ubud and its citizens, going around in the country side with loads of temples and rice paddies is so relaxing on its own. The only stress I had in traffic – an hour before sunset, when everyone wants to go home and the roads are jammed for 2 hours.

It’s been a sweet ride the last months I look back half sad and with pure joy, but more looking forward to returning home, meeting all my family and friends, eating the good cheese and breathing the slightly cooler air of Germany again. Indonesia you’ve been a blast!

Isha Yoga Center – Liberation from within

The program I attended is called Bhava Spandana (BSP), the description sounded quite intriguing “The word Bhava literally means “sensation.” Spandana can be loosely translated as “resonance.””  or “…go beyond the limitations of body and mind and experience higher levels of consciousness.” and “…a world of unbounded love and joy.”
Also in my initiation to Shambhavi Mahamudra in Berlin last September one of the volunteers said that this program really changed a lot for her so I wanted to see for myself. A couple of guys wished me good luck others said what a terrible birthday present, so I was a bit worried before.

In the end it was all true the 200+ participants were requested to contribute a 100% and serve as a host not as a guest during the 4 days, we gave it all and really went beyond until we felt one and experienced pure love and joy through powerful meditation and other processes, what a mind blowing experience, I could hug everyone and felt so energized, I still can feel the buzz, no smokes, alcohol or other substances involved 😉

The last days I took it easy as the program was not just mentally but also physically quite strenuous, I met with Pavan, Sanjay, Timo, Anish, Pravin, Atam, Shiva, Chandu, Julia, Wael, Bryn and all the others I came to know, it felt like I met half of the Ashram now! With Timo from Berlin and a couple of other BSP participants we went for a nature walk to the Kovai Kutralam waterfalls on a clear day inhaling nature to the max, meditating and let our sprits rise even more!
Back at the Ashram when sitting at the grass with my blanket, Sadhguru’s helicopter just landed and I saw him getting out, multiple people approached but held the distance of about 100 meters, the energy level rose again!
The last day we had the rare opportunity to attend a Dharsan with the mystic, it can be summarized as a meeting with the guru for just a couple hundred people.
The topic he picked for the New Year’s speech was “life” we should start to live life properly, look at the life around and within; it was just the continuation of the BSP program and made so much sense for me.

Cheers to the beautiful people of Isha, hooray to the good times in bliss, this was just the start, now we’re gonna spread the energy in the world, BOOM SHIVA!

Isha Yoga Center – Getting started

The moment I’ve been waiting for so long has arrived, in the early morning I arrive by train at Coimbatore and an advertisement with Sadhguru on it is greeting me as I disembark, on my way to the ashram some 30 km out of town in a lush forest surrounded by mountains I’ll see his face on various shops, the Isha foundation is supporting the locals – pretty nice!

Here I am the Isha Yoga Center – if you want more info on the temples, structures the set up and the daily routines like food, have a read here:
http://wikitravel.org/en/Isha_Yoga_Center

Arriving feels very friendly although there was some issue checking in but Andre from the overseas office resolved them easily and I started volunteering the first days until my program was starting.
When I first went into the meditative space of Dhyanalinga, which does not ascribe to any particular faith and is open for everyone, I couldn’t believe the energy, just by sitting in the dome with the mercury based linga I felt the buzz, wow!
In the evening there was a special x-mas dinner for the overseas people. The food was delicious and so healthy as usual at Biksha hall. The first evening came to a perfect end when Sadhguru suddenly rolled past with his Segway wearing no Turban but a grey woolen hat. “You’re having a party without me?” and “Whats the occasion?” were his questions, on the answer “Christmas” he just turned his head and accelerated again. Somehow he felt like Santa Clause though…

I met Pavan who initially introduced me to Sadhguru and made friends with Sanjay from Nepal, who arrived the same day as me. I also came to know the ashram and its people a bit closer, Sanjay and me volunteered in Biksha hall where all the 1000+ guests, volunteers, swamis and brahmacharis are fed.

For pourinami the day of full moon offerings can be brought to Dhynalinga, so we offered milk and were able to touch the 3 m tall lingam, electrified I started my volunteering day in Suryakund a consecrtated bathing site and temple, telling at least 500 Indians to not touch the snake in the temple and basin and to remain quite as this is not a public pool without using words, clapping and hand signs were my powerful weapons 😉
The Ashram was crazy busy that day, so many people came to offer something, the moon is at its maximum illumination and in the evening we attended the ceremony in the Linga Bhairavi temple, 2 hours of traditional music, dance, puja, chants, and rituals, a fantastic unforgettable evening and the first opportunity to receive the feminine energy of the divine, after the Abhishekam the procession around the temples begins and also martial arts and fire play and important role, my eyes widened and tiredness was magically blown away that evening, indescribable, I was smiling all the time!

But the best was just about to come…

Annapurna Circuit – getting closer to heaven

Considered one of the best trails in the world – 40 years ago, still advertisements can be found today promoting the trek. In the 1980’s the construction of a road started which changed things a bit, now the road goes up to manang on 3500m. the road is the worst dirt road i’ve seen so far, big boulders, lots of streams, steep as shit, even with a mtb hard to tackle, of course there are 4wd jeeps going up and down and most of the time there is an alternative trail to the road.

Landscape is still amazing and the way pretty easy to find, i didn’t take any guide or porter, i can carry my stuff on my own…
so much happened during those 11 days, so many people i met and i can’t refer to all, i just talk about the things that struck me the most. google the names to get more detail!

starting in besi sahar i was reminded of costa rica, brasil or bolivia, lush green, rice fields, a couple of trees and some villages up on the hills. the trail goes up the marshyangdi valley crossing the roaring marshyangdi river multiple times on fabulous swing bridges i fancy walking on, it’s been a while – back in lovely aotearoa i started to love them DSC07922

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the big giants still hiding in clouds up in the sky and i walk for 2 days up the valley always wondering what’s next behind the next bend, facing rock walls and sweating my ass off on the steep trails, accommodation is basic as is the food, all places have the same menu approved by the annapurna conservation area project, prices go up the higher you go.

On the 3rd day i went from tal to timang gaining more than 1000 m in height, the clouds give way to some snow covered peaks and i need to smile, half way up in the sky, mighty mountains, in the evening the moon lights magically mt. manaslu, a beautiful 8.000er, 1 of 5 people going up there won’t return! DSC07962
on the trek you usually see porters carrying up to 30 kg on their back, they laugh at my small backpack with 15 kg…villagers, cows, goats, motorbikes and jeeps on the road, not that much trekkers – i’m on my own – so peaceful!
even at night time i’m the only guest in the lodge so lot’s of socializing with the locals who speak english, my nepali is still non existent 🙂

the 4th day will take me up to 3.000m passing the districts hub town of chame and the apple orchards of brathang, the road was blasted out of the rocks, drill holes still can be found in the bluff.
just like the death road in bolivia, no handrails or security, always watch your steps!DSC08007

coming round the bend, the mighty rock wall of oble dome comes into sight, another magical moment in the trek.
being a result of glacial abrasion, it just rises as little as 1.600 m up the sky – you see the bike rider on the road?…the little black dot, so you can imagine the big scale!
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getting cooler up here and blankets are being supplied at night time, that’s nice as my summer sleeping bag can’t take temperatures below 0.
the next days i take it slow to pay respect to the altitude, as i can already feel it’s effect on my body, need to walk slow uphill and breath more deep. i pass pisang, and mighty annapurna II. In most of the villages and all along the way you’ll find mani walls – prayer walls with many tiny wheels, always walk past them on the left hand side and spin the wheels clockwise, Om mani padme hum…DSC08039
next town on the lower route is humde and I’m reminded of tupiza in bolivia, the rocky slopes of the mountains are washed down revealing different minerals shining in multiple colors in the sunlight

i continue just to the next town of muchi, the area here is more dry, mostly pine trees DSC08073

i want to go up to milarepas cave, some 1000 years ago a tibetan monk called milarepa went up here to meditate
i met guillaume, also going up with his guide and we form a pack. the cave is collapsed now but prayer flags lead the way, passing the stupa and following a bit dangerous loose rock trail going up on 4.300m, here meditation is hard, as the air is so thin, i take my time though…It’s starting to snow we gotta go down, you don’t want to be up on the mountain when the weather changes!
the next two days and nights will be all white/grey skies and bloody cold nights, which changes my plans quite a bit…

we had a nice poker tournament up in manang escaping the sudden winter outbreak, honoring poker thursdays in berlin… no beer, no smokes though, cheers to ginger lemon tea – big pot, bring it on! 20151029_201745

using coffee beans, white beans, noodles, pistacio shells and grey beans for betting – good times brothers! cheers matt, ryan, tebo and harika

I come to a decision, i’m not crossing the pass, i’ll go back out of multiple reasons, not feeling going higher, my body said more than once – go down.
I’m not prepared for that much snow and the cold temperatures hard, rough at night in buildings with no insulation, heating nor double glassing – sleeping with all jumpers you have brought on, wearing your hat, covered in sleeping bag and blankets – I don’t want to buy more gear to pace up, it’s another 2000 m higher from here…
I’m quite happy with the decision and looking forward to walking down again – to the warmth.

To be continued…

World Peace Pagoda

I made friends with Matthew a kiwi from new plymouth in lovely aotearoa, we got on quite well and took a hike up the hill to the worlds peace pagoda.
Anyone interested in more info about the stupa, follow the link: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shanti_Stupa,_Pokhara

First we got a boat to the start of the trail and managed to climb the steep hill in under an hour, taking our time though.shanti stupa

the views from atop were just magnificent, although a thunderstorm was rolling in slowly.
Pokhara is actually widespread but all the touristy part is happening in lakeside so all the 2k stretch along the lake. you’ll see the highest peak on the ridge in front, that will be sarangkot the lookout i went to and also the start for paragliding activities as such. hidden in the mountain the mighty peaks, but from the pagoda came a different deeper vibe. always go around clockwise!
pokhara from shanti stupa

we went further for a small lunch break and enjoyed the view, a dog was chilling just 2 meters away, i called him and he came! he didn’t like our nuts but enjoyed our company 🙂 so when the 2nd big thunder rolled in we decided to head back down, our little friend was following us and the rain just started we found cover and waited a bit. in our little shack were a tourist couple and an older nepali who couldn’t speak english, everyone waited until the rain settled and without any word we all went our separate ways.
further down the stony steps which were all in different shape and texture made out of sliced himalayan boulders, the dog still following we decided to give him a name: stupa, we formed a pack, hell yeah!
So here were we, coming down to town in light summer rain, stupa just guarding our backs checking left and right and after a while in town finally we lost him, too many other, more important things in dog life…

a crazy thing we saw after checking the roaring waterfalls, the buddha robotic museum, it was 30% off so we paid 200 rupies, little less then 2 euro and we got to see the lifestory of siddhartha gautama the buddha, thats the one you might just know as buddha, which means the awakened and in modern culture is often referred as enlightened.
so there were 10 rooms and every room had a different setting, most of the times full sized puppets were standing or sitting at a different scene, you get headphones and the operator starts the show, like a theater without actors, the puppets were robotic instead and every now and then they were moving their arms when speaking or twist their body, the volume of the machines moving was louder than the headphones so that was quite funny but after 10 rooms everything is told and you’re calmed down as it’s recommend closing the eyes and breathing consciously when the show as over in of some of the rooms.

it took us a 40 min walk back to our guesthouse gauri shankar and as we were rolling through damside, cutting through the park at the water and entering lakeside the sun was just about to set, lightening the clouds in a brilliant colorful way.

May we all live in bliss, AUM SHANTI …

An early morning stroll along the shores of the ganga

Every morning the holy river will be awaken by hundreds of people all along the shore, they pray, sing or play music, others take a bath in the brownish waters.

So i got up at 5 to walk upstream away from the main tourist drags, its still dark outside, hardly anyone is up, still some people sleeping at the concrete stairs above the water, many stairs you can find in the city, big and small, long and wide. only a few boatmen are up already asking “Boat? Sir?”, “Cheapest, Sir!” with a smiling “No thank you” i went on, across the small burning ghat which is mainly a crematorium, you won’t see a lot of people burned outside hardly anyone is in visible range, in the distance i see fire burn, it’s still dark outside, voices are dragged by the wind along the fire, after i passed the last big set of stairs it gets really muddy, not even 2 month ago in monsoon time the river level was high up, hardly any of the stairs were above the water, so now all the dirt will be slowly removed for tourist season starting december. that bit however was not cleaned and a small stream of water running across made that area hard to cross.

the fire i saw in the distance is an open covered temple like building with people sitting underneath praying and around them big candles burn, not far away a small stage is located with peaceful music playing – just the right thing to start the day with a beautiful sun rise and a lot of spirituality, next to the river people praying and meditating, sadhus posing for pictures, believers bathing extensively and others just enjoying the moment, a normal start of the day in the holiest of the cities

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in the evening the river is put to sleep with classical indian music more boat rides and a lot of singing for a few hours until the morning sun arises for another time…

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