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The End…and many new beginnings by Mike Gehard
The End…and many new beginnings by Mike Gehard

It has been quite the whirlwind journey in not only the physical level but also many other levels of my being. I knew that this journey would not be your typical “vacation” but other than that I had very little in the way of expectations. I knew that Dandapani, through his priestly connections, would provide us with access to some experiences not available to the regular, “Western” traveler but little did I know that he’d also provide us access to some very simple “tools” that would allow us to absorb and integrate these experiences in a way that made sense to each individual participant based on where they were in their life and where they wanted to go.

Parts of this journey seem like just a blur in my mind but other stand out as clear as if they happened just yesterday with the strangest part being that the clarity of the memories seems to be independent of their order in time. Our journey was broken up roughly in two parts: about a week of visiting lots and lots of Hindu temples and witnessing ancient, traditional Hindu ceremonies and about a week of staying at some pretty posh (by my standards) hotels practicing yoga, attending classes on meditation and other spiritual topics taught by Dandapani as well as a lot of down time to reflect, process and integrate the experiences.

As I said earlier, I knew that this wasn’t going to be a typical “vacation” but little did I know that I’d end up laughing, crying, loving, being challenged, meditating, chanting, dozing off and sitting on the floor packed so close to a bunch of Indians that I couldn’t move for almost an hour. If there is any human emotion I’ve missed it’s probably because it just wasn’t as intense as the others.

For me the most powerful experience by far was Chidambaram. In Chidambaram we were presented with the opportunity to interact very intimately with a family of priests for a couple of days. Although their family of 5 (mom, dad, and two sons plus one beautiful, slobbery, vegetarian boxer dog) live in a very small “house” that consisted of two rooms, they provided us with two meals (dinner one night and lunch the next) as well as our own personal tour of a very important temple to Siva. Although the family spoke very little English (Dandapani and his mom Nirmala translated for us from Tamil into English) I experienced a personal connection that I will not soon forget.. Couple this connection with the opportunity to chant the Yoga Sutras of Pantajali in a temple founded by Patanjali himself made me cry for the first time in as long as I can remember. To this moment I have no idea what I was crying about but if I had to take a guess is was probably some old sadness being pushed out by the joy I was feeling as my voice resonated through the halls of the temple. It was as if Pantanjali was there with me supporting me.

Another highlight for me came towards the end of the first week of the journey. It was the opportunity to just sit and listen to a group of priests in training belt out some chants from the Vedas (Hindu holy books) in Sanskrit (an ancient language that is used in all Hindu rituals as well as much of the yoga world) for almost 2 hours without stopping. I had no idea of what they were saying or what it meant but I now fully believe in the power of the spoken word and it will surely change the way I speak to those I encounter in my daily life going forward.

The classes taught by Dandapani contained a lot of information on Hinduism (Dandapani is a Hindu priest) and spritual growth (meditation, goals, etc) that I had heard before, either from Dandapani himself or via my yogic training, but this time the information resonated differently with me. I am convinced that part of this difference was because of the experiences I was having on this trip but I also believe that part of it was caused by my own internal state at this point.

Don’t get me wrong, I feel very blessed for my life to this point but I do have some rather major life situations on my plate (I won’t bore you with the details) that need dealing with one way or another and the combination of the temple experiences, teachings, environment and my willingness to deal with them had allowed me to gain some new found clarity on a direction when I return home. Now I just have to survive the journey home that consists of a flight from Cochin to Chennai, a 4.5 hour layover in Chennai, a 10+ hour flight from Chennai to Brussels, another 2 hour layover in Brussels, a 9+ hour flight from Brussels to New York City, an overnight in NYC, a 3+ hour flight from NYC to Denver and finally a 2ish hour drive (depending on weather) from Denver back home to Edwards, Colorado.

To all of the 12 people that I’ve had a chance to connect with on this trip, thank you for all for being my teachers in different ways over the two weeks. You have taught me more than you can know. You will all hold a special place in my heart in various ways.

I look forward to seeing all of my Colorado peeps upon my return and I hope that we’ve gotten some snow while I’ve been gone.

Mike

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Days 12 to 15 – Kumarakom, Kerala
Days 12 to 15 – Kumarakom, Kerala

Our amazing 15-day spiritual adventure came to a conclusion on Feb 7th. Here are photos from the last 4 days that were spent in the lake side village of Kumarakom. The Kumarakom Lake Resort was home to our group as we settled into the last leg of our journey. With lots of classes and ample…

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Days 9, 10 & 11 – Periyar, Kerala
Days 9, 10 & 11 – Periyar, Kerala

Greetings from India. We’ve been away from our laptop and hence have not posted anything as of late. Here’s a link to photos from days 9, 10 & 11. They include the drive from Madurai to Periyar where we stayed for 2 nights. Highly recommend a visit to this place. Up in the hill st...

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Photos, photos, photos! Days 6, 7 & 8.
Photos, photos, photos! Days 6, 7 & 8.

Click here for photos from Day 6 (The drive from Swamimalai to Thanjavur, visit to the 1,000 year old Brihadeeswarar temple and lunch at the Ideal River View Resort) Click here for photos from Day 7 (Our first day in Madurai, the group goes sari shopping, view the temple towers, meet with the hea...

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Swamimalai by Tatiana
Swamimalai by Tatiana

We arrived in Swamimalai last night and were greeted with flowers, music and a baby deer upon arrival at the hotel.  We’re staying at the Anandham Swamimalai Hotel that is a lovely eco-resort that cares for local deer and one of the deer just had a baby the day before we arrived.  The baby deer&h...

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An Amazing Day in Swamimalai
An Amazing Day in Swamimalai

The Anandham Swamimalai is a gorgeous resort built like a south Indian village and its our home for 2 nights. With deer wandering the property, village like thatched roofs above our rooms, coconut trees, paddy fields, cows and more we almost don’t want to leave here for our next destination. The ...

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Day 4 – Chidambaram to Swamimalai
Day 4 – Chidambaram to Swamimalai

Our morning started in a wonderful way. A few of us were up at a little after 5am and got ready to be at the temple by 6am when it opens to spend some quiet time by ourselves meditating. We stayed for over an hour and watched a procession as well which was led by…

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We promise not to sell your email address to other monks, priests, religious organizations, angels, God or the Devil.