The sound of Islam prayers go off at around 5:00 to 5:30 in the morning. Two beautiful yet short chants invade the sky, the grasses and the India households in this beautiful Himalayan valley. I can hear one closer that the other, yet both clearly, both demanding worship while offering peace. There’s something very beautiful in looking into the mountains while hearing foreign men chant through what I can only imagine as a* loud speaker peeking through a tall tower in some mountain mosque not too far away… “I am so far away from home and yet so incredibly at home,” I think to myself as I breathe in the cold, the fog, the diversity. We are somewhere in the Doon Valley, nearby the capital city of Uttarakhand, Dehradun. In comparison to Delhi the air here is clean, clear and caring. The Himalayan fog does creep upon the valleys in the mornings and the nights remembering us to wear warm wool clothing and Indian style ponchos. I walk around wishing to become butterfly so I can fly amongst the flowers, the shrubs, the mango orchard. Sit on top of Papa Dog’s nose while his two pups follow me around in circles, barking, sniffing and jumping up and down. I am human, though, to my sad surprise, so I bent down and pet the three dogs as they come my way, biting the ends of my scarfs and sniffing on my wool pants. I make my way to the dining hall past the Mandala Garden, to find delicious ginger and lemongrass tea waiting for the early birds.
My body begins to awake slowly and lazily as I wonder if the day will bring us warmth, or if we have another foggy trial ahead of us. I walk behind the dining hall, one of the pups following my steps, and see the kitchen staff working hard at making us breakfast, the fire wood oven burning and an old Indian man squatting perfectly without effort while cutting some papaya. It’s a learned technique you know, to squat without effort here in India.
It reminds me of my first night here at the farm. During my farm tour, our guide pointed out one set of bathrooms, which happened to be Indian style, that is a wonderful hole in the ground. That night I awoke around 3:30 a.m. and cursed my body for needing to pee at that time, it was my fault really, “I should have gone before bed”, I thought. I filled myself with courage and made my way to the hole. It’s about 3 degrees Celsius outside, and because our dorms are not heated, that means its freezing anywhere past my covers. I opened the door of the female bathrooms and looked down at the hole, the smell of pee and excrement filled my nostrils. I seriously considered going behind a tree instead, afraid my shoes will slip and I’ll fall, like Alice, yet instead of magic I’ll find myself in pure shit. I talked myself into getting it over with, “I am planning to stay here in this farm for three months, and before I leave I should be an expert at hole toilet use.” I closed the door, held the air in my lungs, pulled down my wool pants, prepared a handful of toilet paper and held it tightly in my hands. I courageously squatted down only to realize I have no sense of balance, so I placed the toilet paper under my chin and held tightly to the borders of the door while wondering how many people hold on there with their hands full of poop and bacteria. As I start peeing, I’m so uncomfortable the pee ran out of me at full velocity, flying between my shoes and landing on the floor in front of me. I couldn’t hold my breathe any longer, so I let go and the toilet paper fell down from my chin, “God damn it,” I thought. Then I did my best not to pee all over my shoes or pants and forced my tight muscles to lift me up, I reached for the toilet paper breathing heavily and feeling cold and nervous… only to realize the next day there’s western toilets on the other side of the dorms. Oh India, so blessed to be your student, always challenging, always making fun of my ways…
I step into the lecture/movie/yoga hall and turn on a small light, it’s still dark outside and many are sitting down next to Mahadev, our spiritual guide, to receive the sunrise with an Agnihotra meditation and ceremony. I get a yoga mat and lay it on the floor, dust flies up in the air, running away from the frozen ground. I close my eyes and sip my herbal tea until our yoga professor comes and my body starts to reveal new heights as my joints stretch and laugh, or claim justice, “why do you wake us so early?!” Why do I wake you ever? I have time here to do yoga twice a day, by myself or instructed, to feel my body day by day, as I seem to get taller and longer and stronger. My body and joints are grateful now every morning as I bow myself to Mother Earth and thank Her for another day, salute the Father Sun and get inspired to work hard, learn much, and listen past the laughter, discussion. I ask Mother Luna while she is asleep to give me the capacity to see beyond words and actions into the inner light of those around me.
Turns out most of us here are looking for something, within or somewhere out there in the unknown. Some come to heal, others to fight, others to wake up from the business of comfortable living. Some come to share, teach and request support. Demand change. Each and everyone of us, turns out, is a seed in pani (water) waiting to be planted in our hearts, our lands, our nations and carried into generations to come. This farm fights Monsanto and protects the rights of lands, farmers, first peoples, Mother Earth, diversity of seeds, foods, recipes. It protects life from the soil to the growing child. While we are all here figuring out ourselves and reminiscing on our lives back home, those we love more than we thought possible, those inner changes we need to be healthy, those never ending possibilities to become engaged in our communities, at the same time, just by being present in this moment, in this farm, we are also becoming warriors of the land. We are filling our heads with powerful, beautiful and challenging knowledge. Because my background is different and my passion is to protect the divinity of female sexuality, I have learned to connect the dots between sexuality and fertility of the land, between the respect and honour of Mother Earth and the equal necessity of respect and honour of vaginas, wombs and the intricate secrets of female sexual divinity. Both sacred, both beautiful, both in extreme need of protection and care. I am seeing my work through the soil that falls through my fingers when we weed, and in the many different seeds and grains I find in every meal, and most importantly for me, in the ways my body is connecting to me through every yoga stretch, every sound sleep, every bucket shower.
In fact the mornings here are a simple reminder on the sunrise growing inside my heart, soul and body. A reawakening of the flower inside my core, the honey running through my veins, the magic coming into my mind. I am coming back to my inner beast, the nature in my being. I am being born again.
A bell rings in the distance and breaks the silence of meditation after our yoga session, we roll slowly to our side and help our bodies up. The sun fades through the fog and shines shyly but strong through the window, the yellow flowers shake in the morning breeze. The warmth collected in our bodies during yoga starts to dissipate as we walk slowly and calmly towards the dining hall. There’s a chai pot now sitting next to the herb tea pot, delicious, milky, sweet chai. Nothing at all like the chai I get back home at Second Cup, Reads or Starbucks, something has gone missing in the crossing of the Atlantic. Breakfast welcomes us, those who did yoga, or meditation and those who just woke up. We all come united and feast in delicious papaya, banana, chick peas, chapati and chilli peppers. After breakfast we come together to do our morning circle. Here we chant another morning meditation, share quotes to reflect on life and love and challenges, announce needs, activities, arrivals and departures. People introduce themselves while others think upon their experience here while saying ‘good-byes’ and ‘stay in touchs’.
We then separate in three groups and each group takes on a cleaning task, giving back to our community and relieving our Indian co-workers from all the work. Reflecting on the beauty of duty and communal work. The wonders of cleaning energetically while doing so physically. Some clean floors, while others clean tables and arrange stools, some of us clean toilet garbages all while getting to know each other better or enjoying inside jokes. We are becoming familiar here, now we are a family. For me, since my things are packed in a storage somewhere in Fredericton, and I have no place on Earth where my things resides, a wait awaits this place does feel like home. I have two outfits, one pyjama, one thermal underwear, a hoodie and a jacket, my hiking boots (now renamed Indian shoes) and a pair of sandals. All my belongings neatly organized in a small cabinet. Books and journal on top, incense and candles. This is my new home.
At 10:00 a.m. there’s more chai. Some people bucket shower, some wash clothes in buckets, some listen to music, some draw, some skip out for a smoke, some read, some walk, some hold conversations. I like to arrange my space, to move the energies of yesterday to welcome the ones from today, to ignore the smell of my stinky socks by rolling lavender essential oil on them, I only have two pairs so… I like to pretend cleanliness and refresh my perspective and mood. At 10:30 a.m. we meet to go into the fields, where we mostly weed (because of the season I’ve been told) and some share their music and discuss feminism, patriarchy, farming techniques, customs, personal stories, goals, dreams. Some squat quietly and weed, observing the beauty and richness of the soil, quietly murmuring ‘sorrys’ for the weeds while looking with pride at the fresh carrots, or rice, or mustard standing by itself, a solemn declaration of power and independence. A slap in the face of Monsanto.
Lunch unites us at 1:00 p.m. I look at the field, vast and green, pure and beautiful. The dogs are laying around sleeping lazily in the grass, or the dirt, or under the shade of a Neem tree. Food is served banquet style, and doubles are encouraged. I love eating under the sun, but at the beginning it was too cold and lonely out there. Now we sit in circle on the benches outside and eat, everyone using the chapati differently, some as a spoon, some as a burrito, some as mini tacos like me. We rejoice in the deliciousness of food, the spices and different grains intrigue us as we eat gratefully. The day, therefore, dances forward calmly and sure of its purpose and rhythm. This is my favourite time of the day, as it becomes my own, I read or watch silently, secretly waiting for the 4:00 p.m. bell announcing afternoon chai and biscuits. I mostly prefer to analyze my thoughts and indulge in some self-analysis. Break the rules and dream of the future, although sometimes I simply dream of the alternative. Sneaking out for a smoke here and then, and sometimes spending the afternoon doing extra yoga, practicing head stands or playing animal noises with Mo. Lovely Mo.
Mo is one of the most unique and beautiful women I’ve met in my path so far, with a passion for farming, restoring land. Mo’s hands have the story of the world written in them, only 23 and yet each wrinkle smiling at the histories of past lives. Mo is Goddess with long, brown hair and big, fierce eyes. A big zzzaaaah for you girl. Mo is a sister found in a different land. Both of us from the American continent and yet we meet here. Letting our inner children run into the wild, and securing our current women into each dance move. Let the music follow us wherever we go, and let us always salute one another in the battles of our world.
At sundown we meet again with Mahadev, watching silently as others play volleyball, their excited voices and active bodies. Watching silently as the dogs run around in circles behind Papa Dog only to come lay next to us and sleep as we thank the day for its blessings and plead the fire to light us through the night. Watching silently as Mahadev organizes the cow dung in a copper bowl, lights a fire, melts ghee on a spoon and mixes it with rice. At the exact moment of sundown, we proceed to chant and burn the rice with ghee on the fire. A delicious smell fills the air, I focused on my posture, imagine myself sitting inside a white room, or colouring the wall white (thanks to Mariah for the hint), while I smile at the chirping of birds, the cheering of the volleyball players and the feeling of a dog biting his fleece behind my back. I am here. I am good. I am in this moment, and tomorrow I’ll be again. Hopefully someone stronger, wiser, and much more in love with humanity and its fights.
“… but the meditation is not the way of the machine, it can never be put together to get somewhere; it is not the boat to cross to the other side. There is no shore, no arriving and, like love it has no motive. It is endless movement whose action is in time but not of time. All action of the immediate, of time, is the ground of sorrow; nothing can grow on it except conflict and pain. But meditation is the awareness of this ground and choicelessly never letting a seed take root, however pleasant and however painful. Meditation is the passing away of experience. And then only is there clarity whose freedom is in seeing. Meditation is a strange delight and not to be bought on the market; no guru or disciple can ever be of it; all following and leading have to cease as easily and naturally as a leaf drops to the ground…” Krishnamurti’s Notebook, page 314
*I just asked the two Indian men in the office, “what do you call that thing that is like a cone that when you speak in it it comes out very loudly?” they both shrugged and one of them said, “loud speaker” and we all laughed, oh the beauty of non-native English speakers!