Friday, April 24, 2009

Closing This Chapter of My Life Story

When I was in NY checking in for my flight to India, I met an older woman named Susan, do you remember her? Well, I will never forget when she said,
"This trip is going to change your life Cody."
Such a uncomplicated statement couldn't have been anymore precise and impactful for that's exactly what my hopes were set on with coming to India.

First and foremost want to express my undying gratitude from the innermost center of my heart for being given the opportunity to travel around India. I feel exceedingly appreciative that I had a well enough paying job making it possible to hoard my earnings (Thank you Brett), and that I had friends to heap on the love and support whenever I needed it. Most of all, I want to personally thank my parents. I will forever be in their debt for the unfathomable amount of love, inspiration and support I received from each of them.

All the matters I am going to talk about are solely based on my personal experiences and what I personally learned from them, so it may not apply to everyone. There is no fact behind any of this, its solely my opinion, so take it for whatever its worth.

The first question to be addressed is; "Why leave?"
When we are truly content with our situations in life, we don't change it, so why did I leave? All of my reasons came back to the underlying motivation to scrutinize what else is out there in the world for I was disgruntled with life. As the days progressed closer and closer to October 15th, more and more things in my life were collapsing into shambles, pushing me closer to India and further away from happiness. I didn't know how to change my discontentment, all I knew was that I needed a change of surroundings and a change in myself, so I could start over with as minimal dust on the mirror of my soul as possible. Ever since I began to sincerely desire to come to India, everything seemed to be programmed by a means I cannot explain other than to call it Fate, The Universe, God, or Karma whispering into my heart,
"Stop wishing to go, and put your dream into motion. First step; buy the ticket, everything else will work according to that."
To my astonishment it did. The date for my leaving L.A. was completely at random and everything worked according with my hearts deepest desires. I am young enough to where I could skip out for awhile and explore the world and myself, not having the apprehension of meeting a mortgage payment or taking care of my children or meeting the responsibilities of a career job, so why not go to India? There was no better time than now.

"But why India?"
For starters, since as long as I can remember, Ive always been fascinated with other cultures in all their different aspects, and and there is no other country that gives you a taste so potent of culture, than India. Each state in India, feels like a different country because its so different culturally that the one your were last in. From the clothes to the language, to the people to the food, to the landscapes and to the weather. Aside from its cultural diversity, India has so much to offer to see and experience, more so than any other country. Anything is at your fingertips in India; From adrenaline pumping white water rafting, to being a camel jockey in the sand dunes, to learning the arts of Indian culture, to divine and sometimes exhausting spiritual pilgrimages, countless amounts of monasteries and ashrams for self-realization, to exquisite beaches to bum around, to scrumptious food, to picturesque festivals all year round, extraordinary temples, forts, and mosques, and a mix of people coming from all around the globe in hopes to experience it all. You could spend a lifetime traveling around India and not see or experience the whole India. India's essence I don't think will ever be able to be grasped no matter how many lifetimes are spent discovering it all. I chose India because there were certain things I wanted to focus on, and India was a perfect candidate. Most American young men my age, wouldn’t think about going to India if given the opportunity to branch out into a different country. They would most likely want to go to Europe, so they could legally smoke pot and get prostitutes in Amsterdam, or to get obliterated at Oktoberfest in Germany. I on the other hand, wanted to focus my energy elsewhere, on something more constructive, positive and tangible. The only touchable way I brought true peace of mind and lasting happiness into my life was through a spiritual practice keeping my life in balance. There is no better place than India to get oneself back in a spiritual check. India in its vast entirety has everything I wanted to explore, all in ONE place. No other place offers such a extensive array of experiences so why go anywhere else? Including all of this and more, people who come here are starting to realize there is truly something magical here that keeps drawing people from all across the world to see for themselves. But what is it?

Have you ever caught a glimpse of a truly happy person before? What was it about this person that made them so inciting? Was it the smile on their face as they drive their Ferrari down the road, or was it something a bit more deep than that? Maybe their health was perfect? Or still, not quite deep enough?...When I first got to India, all I saw on my way to my hotel was filth and people living in the midst of it, animals eating and sleeping in it, and young children playing in it. Seeing this, I felt disgusted with my own good health and the money in my bank account. The truly notable part was all I saw was smiles, and all I heard was laughter. At that moment, it became vastly apparent; India and the people here have something great to teach me. None of them owned a car, let alone a Ferrari, and their health was far from perfect, so why were their faces as fresh as beads of mildew on blades of grass? Slowly spanning over the length of the trip, I saw and was even blessed with the opportunity to talk to people who I felt must know something I don't know, like they were in on a secret to life that few people in this world know. Well, they do. Their secret, which is written in the major religions here, was their non-attachment to whatever possessions they owned and to life itself. I want to clarify what this non-attachment means. Non-attachment DOES NOT mean being non-participative, what I mean is they don't carry burdens on themselves, or cling to property. Learning the art of this non-attachment especially to my comforts, money and possession proved to be of much value to ,y enjoyment of this trip. Concrete slabs for beds became comfortable, cold bucket showers got warmed up to, no television kept my mind focused, pestering beggars became opportunities to drop attachment to MY money, and MY possessions turned into just things. The old bearded man in Delhi who told me I was crazy and that I need to drop my attachment to money was right. This magical way of looking at life was more predominant in the extremely elderly people but in a special way. Their faces shined as bright as a baby's face upon seeing its first toy because they never felt that aging is something to avoid or try to postpone. In America we spend billions upon billions of dollars on products to make us seem younger by coloring gray hairs, smoothing out wrinkles, covering up bald spots and not to mention the mind blowing amount of unnecessary plastic surgery. Why does our society feel aging is something to hide or be ashamed of? I cannot wait for the day for my hair to gray, I’m going to grow a FAT gray beard and be stoked about it! I cant wait for thick wrinkles across my face, because it will mean I lived a happy life full of big smiles! The lesson behind all of this is that we have to learn how to let go of what brings us pleasure in life, in order to enjoy it. We cannot fully experience the fruits of life, if we are grasping hopelessly for it. We will get rope burn from holding on too tight. Have any of you seen the movie, "Of Mice and Men"? There is a main character named Lennie, who is mentally retarded and isn’t aware of the incredible physical strength he posses which often puts him in sticky situations. When Lennie was given a bunny rabbit, out of excitement of how soft the bunny was and out of fear of losing it, he squeezed it to death with love. This happens all over the world, not just in movies. This is done in marriages by husbands and wives, in relationships by boyfriends and girlfriends, and its done to children by their parents. We hold on too tight, taking the life out of life itself. To have life, and enjoy all of its splendor, we must at the same time let go of it. This "letgoness" is essential to enjoy any pleasure life presents.

One of the reasons India is unique and special to me is because each day of life in India is a growth opportunity. Everyday, you are exercising and expanding your patience, kindness and compassion. From dealing with pushy aggressive touts, rickshaw drivers, beggars, a communication barrier, power outages in the midst of writing a 2 hour novel, no hot water on cold days, no water at all on hot days, and constant late transportation, to just name a few. The past several years of my life, I have given serious thought to becoming a monk, for I could see myself soaking up the monastery life for quite the chuck of time. Given the opportunity here in India, I started to honestly question my intentions behind this life changing decision. Many of us go through life, telling ourselves, and others a story, because the story is band-aiding a wound that we don't want to treat or heal. After many days of self inquiry I came to the realization that all of my intentions were for all the wrong reasons. I was a scared child escaping from the responsibilities in life in hopes to get to a safe haven where I will forever be whacked out in bliss. Behind this I learned that, I was placing peace and happiness outside myself, which is why Ive always felt dissatisfied with life. For example, I was placing it in this trip telling myself,
"Life will be so much better, happier and peaceful, WHEN IM IN INDIA"
or placing peace in years of meditation telling myself,
"Finally I'll have peace of mind AFTER I MASTER IT!"
India showed me that you don't have to renounce the world in order to live in it, even though many people do here. It might be the right path for some people and I thought with my whole being that it was for me, but its not. Having a balance between the worldly pleasures, responsibilities and a strict spiritual discipline, is how I want to live my life, and did here in India. But the truth of the matter is, true happiness is cultivated within yourself, and true peace comes from the contentment of where ever you are. Until that is cultivated, happiness and peace will never be with you, where ever you are or in whatever you do.

Have any of you taken the time to notice the monumental beauty behind a steadfast candle flame? It is a beautiful sight. This flame is unwavering, its robust destructive energy is contained and as so, is focused entirely on its being. But what would happen if that unwavering flame gets knocked over? Its catastrophic energy is released, and it could blaze up a firestorm that could destroy a lot of land or at worst even kill people. The most vital priority for the rest of my life, which always has to come first is my sobriety. My addiction is like this candle flame. I have to be constantly aware of its slaughterous energy for if I have it under control and contained, I am able to focus my energy appropriately to bring light into the darkness of my life. If my addiction gets out of control, just like the flame getting knocked over, it would annihilate my life and everyone else involved in it. I will never forget, when I was waiting to board in N.Y. Ive never felt so dislocated and out of sorts in my life and then my entire being was spellbound by the sight of a fully stocked empty full bar, alluring me to take a seat. Everything else in my vision vanished into complete blackness, and all I saw was this mouth watering sanctuary. Without a seconds hesitation I had a hallucination of swimming in that hideaway of alcohol. It felt good. However what struck me as odd was Ive seen many bars back home, even held my friends drinks and not had a problem, so why was I brought to my knees this time, taking every ounce of energy in my body to resist? Its because I knew I could get away with it and no one would know. My addiction would plead with me taunting me,
"From this point out Cody, you have the opportunity to be anyone you want to be, to completely reinvent yourself. You are going to meet so many people who don't know about your past, present or future, so INDULGE you fool while you can get away with it! When you get home, you can go back to normal. No one would know!"
It took some time but coming back to my senses,
"But I would know...And I like who I am...There is no need to reinvent myself...I love who I am and who I am becoming..."
This trip has given me the final test in my sobriety, that even in the mist of great trials and tribulations I have the strength to push my addiction aside even when I know I could get away with it, I can focus my energy on truly experiencing the many tasty fruits that life has to offer.

Have any of you ever taken the time to really see water flowing in a river? Its a beautiful sight. It flows with grace and ease over anything in its path never looking back. It focuses solely on where its going. The two most important aspects I cultivated while traveling was to go with the flow of the current of life and readiness. Have you ever tried to resist the current of the river before? Sometimes it is very difficult to stand your ground let alone move forward, is it not? Its so much easier to go with the flow than to resist, common sense no? Life is no different. Why resist and make conflict? All it does is make your head hurt and face frown, and that will bring everybody down. So much of our energy gets wasted on conflicting ideas and emotions. When we can let go of our ideas of how we think things should be and go with the flow of life, we will know true peace. What truly matters is, the awareness of "WHAT IS" actually going on, and the grateful acceptance that you are alive and experiencing it. Why be anywhere else? Why do anything else? You are where you are, so smile. Each moment of life is too precious and short to be anything but happy and content with where you are, to just be, and to be alive experiencing whatever life unfolds, with a smile. Doors close for others to open, go with the current of the river of life with a smile and you will be truly rewarded. But what happens when the river reaches a dam wall? It stops , becoming utterly still and patient, does it not? However, what happens if the wall cracked open? What happens to that calm water? The water immediately without hesitation pours out. The readiness of that water didn’t hesitate a second to pour out for the water is always ready to pour out. This is what readiness truly means; to expect nothing but to be ready for anything, and proved to be of great value to mental clarity on this trip.

Since the beginning of humankind there have always been people who worship the sun. Without the sun everything would perish and wither away on Earth. The sun bestows its light and warmth unconditionally, to every man, woman, child, plant, insect or animal, regardless of what they do or don't do for it. The sun has no enemies, strangers, or friends for it passes down to everyone equally with its light and warmth. The sun to me represents each human’s capacity to unconditionally dispense their love to all living beings in life. By the loving grace of God I have been shown what it means to truly touch souls with another human being by realizing the loving potential in my heart and transmitting it to everyone expecting nothing in return. This is an experience of inexpressible joy. What happens when dense black clouds get in the path of the suns light? Light and warmth are diminished, no? I feel clouds represent the guards each one of us has that blocks us from pouring forth the greatest fruit life has to offer, love. Ive never truly experienced such joy until those clouds were fully out of the path of my love pouring forth, REGARDLESS IF THEY WERE A FRIEND, ENEMY OR STRANGER. I think you all can agree with me when I say love is truly the greatest gift to hand over, no other emotion compares to feeling loved. The entire world needs to open their hearts and realize their capacity in themselves to dish out to every man, woman, child, plant, insect or animal with the purest love they have, regardless of what they do or don't do for us personally. Stop reading this for a minute and imagine what the world would be like if each one of us had this intention behind every action we carried out in our day to day lives. Without love, life will never have any real depth. The true beauties of the world cannot be seen, let alone felt. The single most important thing in the world is love, and sadly its what the world is lacking the most. Without love our world would crumble in an instant, are you aware of this? With all of this in mind, may each one of us use the sun as a means of motivation to be a beacon of light, love and warmth for the true benefit of all beings in this world full of darkness.

Flowers are beautiful gifts from God, are they not? Have any of you ever taken the time to really see and smell a flower before? Its a beautiful sight and smell. India has quite the overwhelming of the senses and one of those being the sense of smell. So many repulsive smells and fewer pleasant ones. I remember very vividly walking along a pathway on one of the meditation courses and in the midst of thick green foliage lining the walkway was one flower blooming bright, exalted up to the world. So I stopped, got a closer look and took a long exhilarating whiff that made my whole body tingle in divine intoxication. Flowers are extraordinary to me because a flower never wants to be a tree or a shrub, it wants to be exactly what it is, a flower. Flowers shine like no other piece of foliage because it believes the fact that it is complete and beautiful as it is. One of hardest things Ive had to tackle in my life was to learn to fully accept, love, and be content with every aspect of myself; To see myself as whole and complete as I am just like a flower. To not feel inadequate because just like a beautiful flower, each one of us are complete as we are, and once we truly believe this we will always be in blooming beauty. A flower that just opened to the world is a beautiful sight is it not? I feel flowers represent each human’s beautiful nature within themselves. When a flower hasn’t bloomed yet, it is closed and its beauty is withheld, confined from the world. Just like with humans, when a person is closed to the world, their beauty is withheld. But the moment the flower slowly creeps open the petals to the world for everyone to see, it shines with all its beauty and as a result is a truly magnificent sight. Imagine what the world would be like if we all believed in the fact that we are beautiful as we are opening the pedals that confine our beauty that lies within us.

Trees are a magnificent gift from God are they not? These towering beasts are supported by meters and meters of roots. If you need to kill the tree, what do you have to do? Kill the roots. Without the roots, the tree dies. The people in my life are the roots, the life force, the glue holding my life together. I consider myself extremely blessed that I had so many people to miss and want to see while away and that so many people to miss me and want to see me while away. The people we choose to have in our life are very crucial for they either contribute to our life or death. When I was not in a good place in my life, the roots that held up my life were contributing only to my doom rather than my bloom. Once these dead negative roots were killed off, only the healthy positive roots remained helping me to grow in vibrant loving delicacy. Being away from all of you for so long has opened my eyes to how much each and every person means in my life, for each and every single on holds an equal spot in my heart for who they are. This, was my the highest hurdle to jump over each day; That I couldn't be with, have a hug, or even talk to the people who mean the world to me. Through this, I realized how powerful memories can be, for at times it was all I had to sooth the loneliness I felt. In times of great despair like with my rash in Kerala, these memories were invaluable to me. The comfort each memory I have of each one of you back home, brought a warmth to my body like a blanket on a cold day, and for the briefest of moments, when I closed my eyes and focused on each of you, it felt like you were sitting right next to me. At this point, I was free to talk to you if I wanted to tell you about my experiences or to tell you how much I miss you. That's the beauty of memory, no one can take that from you for its stored in your heart. Ill never forget how that felt. To sum it up, my friends and family mean more to me than anything.

Have any of you ever seen a moth mistake a candle flame for a mating call? If so, what happens? The moth without hesitation flys directly into the flame and gets burned to death. A major obstacle I faced not only in this trip, but in all aspects of life is tasting the many flavors fear comes in. Now, I’m not suggesting we should blindly kill ourselves but behind the moths actions there is something truly inspiring, if we look close enough with the scales of our eyes and heart. It saw the flame and without a moments hesitation followed its heart and did whatever it could to get it. On the way to its impending doom, the moth wasn't fearful about rejection or death, it died without fear pursuing what its heart desired. The moths actions set a great deal of inspiration for me because I encountered great fear everyday but the antidote was to follow your heart because your heart never leads you astray. Listening to and following your heart is what truly gives life meaning and this trip has taught me to not let the fear of the mind, no matter what the flavor, cloud the passions of the heart. I truly felt free to the world and through this I realized my life passion or calling; To see the world with a backpack on my back, having no real plan each day, not knowing who ill meet, where ill sleep, how ill get there, no agenda, and a pad and pen jotting down my sights and experiences so I can write about it to those who care to read it. This constant uncertainty truly was the essence of the journey and it made it such. Each moments uncertainty brought with it a freedom I never knew existed. May we all use this as a means to cultivate the awareness to listen and follow our heart.

After spending a few months in India, I feel this country and its essence can be compared to one of those 3-d pop out images. Have you seen these before? This picture at first seems to draw lots of confusion for it seems to just be a mess of colors, nothing special, no piece of beautiful artwork here. I was extremely confused upon seeing India’s "mess" at first. The overwhelming amount of excrement, pollution (air and litter), the violation of "personal space", cold long uncomfortable stares and more attention that Britney Spears walking down the streets of Hollywood. However, given the right mindset, patience, and time, this splotched mess's beauty slowly was revealed. When you look past all of this, the beauty reveals itself, just like the 3d picture. You have to look past the image and then,
"POW! OH! That’s it!"
You see it. Some things like the excrement and pollution I cant explain other than when you catch a glimpse of the magic behind this country, these feeble issues are overlooked and in a sense forgotten about and accepted. Everything Ive been able to adapt to, some slower than others but each second of life for me in India was a transformation in motion. Each second you are adapting and changing your views on things because India forces you to with its situations and experiences that you are put in.

One of the last things I want to leave with is a quote, from one of my favorite movies, "The Shawshank Redemption". I feel no other quote fits this trip more perfectly.
"Some birds were not means to be caged their feathers are just too bright. And when they fly away, the part of you knows it was a sin to lock them up, does rejoice, but still, the place you live in is that much more dry and empty when they are gone."

Ive always believed with my whole heart that everything in life happens for a reason, and I believe the answer is two fold. The first side of the coin is that everything that happens in life is an opportunity that each individual has to decide what kind of life they choose to lead and live by the actions carried out, the intentions cultivated and the desires seeking fulfillment. India opened my eyes to the reasons why I felt disgruntled with my life back home; I was responding to life in the wrong way. My eyes have been opened to the realization that the way I responded to life in the PAST, were the causes of my PRESENT discontentment and how I reacted to the present was repelling happiness for my FUTURE. If you want to look at your future, look at your present actions and intentions. If you want to look at your present situation look at your past actions and intentions. With the situations and experiences of everyday life here, slowly the veil was uncovered and I found the change my life needed. In my past, I spent many years leading a life leading me to a couldasack, reaching a stopping point in my life for all I was doing was running around in circles screaming,
"Why am I not getting anywhere?!?!"
I was living a life that’s only future was to forever run around in circles and be miserable, a life hardly worth the precious and wonderful gift of life. By the loving grace of God, I was given another opportunity to change, another chance to choose what type of life lead. Despite the actions I must make amends to, the destructive habit patterns that need changing, the backtracking I must endure in order to take steps forward, I dont condemn any bit of it for it shape shifted me into who I am today, and this is a person I can finally take pride in. For the first time in my 22 years of living, I can honestly say I am proud of who I am and what I strive to become.

The second side to the coin is that everything happens as a means to teach us something because behind every experience, situation there is God whispering the secrets of the universe into your heart, so listen and be aware. There is an undeniable energy in this world. Some people call it God, Karma, Allah, Jesus, The Universe, Mother Earth or whatever label you want, this energy force works according to your actions, desires, and intentions in a similar way to what science calls "The Law of Attraction" Truth is, I dont know what it is exactly, and honestly I don't think the label matters, but I do know the more I noticed it, the stronger it became. I know for a fact that this energy works with your hearts desires, for my soul desire was to stop living a life of pain. This energy heard my hearts plea, and paved the way for my trip and life. With each experience, sight, or smell, whispering to me how to be the change I wished to see in my life. Great inspiration lies behind this world, have you taken the time to notice this? Its in a candle flame, its in a river, its in the sun, its in flowers and trees, its in insects, its in people, its in experiences, its in all aspects of life. Being in India showed me that the real teacher or Guru is the world itself, the secrets to life are all out in the open, and in our daily lives. Its all a question of how we look at it, and if we take the time and awareness to hear the hidden wisdom.

I came to India because I needed a change in my life. I didnt know how exactly how to bring about the change, but I knew what the end result must be. That change has taken form in more ways than I can begin to count, so I guess you can say this story has been a success.

To close this chapter of my story
; How we respond to life with the actions we carry out, the the intentions we cultivate, and the desires we seek to fulfill, become the story of our lives. The story of my life is that it took me getting lost in a deep rut of darkness and pain, in order to find myself walking on a path of light and happiness.

I enjoyed telling you all this chapter of my life story, I hope you enjoyed reading it.

See you soon.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Varanasi: Living in India

"Sit down, and shut up or I will PUNCH you in the FACE!"
"What?!...I didnt do anything I just--"
(Carlos sit down man...This guy will level you....)
"This bus should cost 60 rupees, not 165!! Give him his money back we will find another bus!"
"No just--"
(Dude carlos, I dont want to have a brawl in a bus man...)
"Carlos, its fine, Ill pay for everyone just sit--"

Carlos then sits down next to me and at that moment it became apparent; we were getting held up on a empty government bus by small time mafia men for what amounts to about $6.

What happened was we got on a bus that was going to leave in 10 minutes from Sunali to a town about 4 hours away, so we could catch a train to Varanasi. No passengers were on the bus yet, so we get on, put our stuff down and take a seat. Immediately one man entered the bus and acted as the conductor collecting money for the tickets. His price was triple the amount it should be. I had no idea how much the bus cost so when he told me how much I handed over my money thinking he was the correct conductor telling me the correct amount. He immediately passed the money over to another man behind him, who then left the bus. Carlos asked me,
"how much was the bus?"
"165 rupees"
Carlos stands up and says,
"No No, it should be 60, get up lets get our stuff"
"Where are we going?"
"On a different bus, it should be 60 rupees"
The aggressive man came over to Carlos and that is when he threatened him to sit down and shut up or else we would get punched in the face.

Carlos at this point is wigged out. He whispers to me,
"That guy was going to PUNCH me in the FACE man...I believe him too man, that guy was SOLID man, SOLID. I grabbed his arm and it was like concrete man, SOLID. We need to get out of here man...We were held up on a GOVERNMENT BUS, not a tourist bus, this was infront of the driver MAN...Who knows what could happen to us on the ride, we need to get a new bus.."
While Carlos was freaking out, one of the guys dropped three tickets and 30 rupees change on my lap and disapeared.
"What are those?"
"The tickets and change" (The change we should have gotten for 3 tickets was 320 rupees, not 60)
(Carlos looks at the tickets)
"This means the conductor was in on it man! That guy bought the tickets at regular price from the real conductor, keeping the profit, maybe giving alittle to the driver and conductor for being in on deal, and left!"

So to give alittle background before I continue, Carlos, my new columbian friend, was on the bus with Ryan and I that went to Sunali from Pokhara, Nepal. He overheard that Ryan and I were going to Varanasi and invited himself to come along with us. Carlos is a 57 year old man from Columbdia, who was about my height and same build. He spoke with a rich columbian accent, and wore the attire of a druglord.He reminded me very much of Hunter S. Thompson in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. He is very intelligent man who knows alot of facts about how the world works, how politics work, and how countries work. He has been to India more than 5 times in the past 10 years.

So back to the hold up, Carlos's paranoia started to get me, Ryan was on another seat across from us, so he was able to keep his composure by not hearing Carlos. Carlos loved to talk, and this gave him an even more legitimate reason to belt out everything on his mind, which shouldve been kept to himself. So for the next 4 hours I listened to Carlos whisper through the side of his mouth about anything from not trusting anyone on the bus, to why the driver has missing fingers, to how he is going to "f&*% these guys" when we get off the bus by filing a complaint or talking to a police officer, or anything else his mind thought of. He wouldnt talk to Ryan because Ryan didnt understand the concept of speaking about this matter softly for he would yell to carlos and I, letting the whole bus know what we were all talking about. I kept wanting to move seats so I wouldnt have to listen to the ranting columbian anymore but I didnt want to seem suspicious, the only available seat was right behind the driver and I was not going to be anywhere near that guy. One thing was for certain, Carlos was completely wigged out which made me wigged out.

The driver was constantly looking over his shoulder at ryan, carlos or myself and carlos says
"I dont trust the driver man...Look hes all paranoid because those mafia men are not here man...This is a big deal cody, BIOLENCE (violence)on a government bus man...These workers LOVE their job, it gets handed down from their father and it is an honor for indians to work for the government...Once we get off the bus man, you watch, Im gonna f*^& these guys if there is a cop around, watch cody..."
"I dont think we should do anything, I dont want to get things worse for us, maybe even get folowed to our guest house, we need to just drop it"
"No Cody! Thats the problem, thats why this keeps going on because no one reports these things. If enough reports get in, they will investigate the situation, we need to do something man..."
"Just dont cause a scene, we need to do it discreetly..."

When we get off the bus we were the last 3, of course to get off. The driver and conductor smile at us and you could tell they were silently mocking us for they knew we could do nothing about the situation.
"This is not the bus station, take us to the bus station."
"No no no, bus station THERE! (points across the street)"
They didnt want to pull into the station because police are there and knew we were gonna try to get them in trouble. So we step off the bus and carlos curses the men out in spanish and exits the bus.
"Wait before the bus leaves, we need to write down the license plate"
"Already got it, lets goto the bus station man...Im gonna f*^& these guys man..."
So we walk to the bus station and ask for a manager or someone we can make a complaint to. We get shown to a small room with a desk, no chairs, just a desk and 2 mosquitoes for every square inch of space. I got bit over 15 times just from the time being there.
"Do you have paper cody?"
"Yeah, hold on. (I rip out a page from my journal and hand it to Carlos)
He immediately starts writing, and with each word that he wrote he said it outloud, dictating his own letter as he wrote it. I go to walk out of the door and he says,
"Cody! You need to help me with this come back!"
Carlos didnt listen to any of my grammer corrections for he was in the zone writing this letter. At each part in the story where he talked about the mafia men or the driver/conductor he would pause, and say
"Im gonna f*^& these guys man" and would bend the truth alittle bit making the situation seem more severe. Towards the end of our complaint, the superintendent of the station comes in and Carlos gets up and immediately re-inacts the whole scene.
"They used BIOLENCE (violence), brada (brother) BIOLENCE"
The superintendent was now joined by 4 other indian workers in less than 1 minute. Im sure that it was because they overheard or saw Carlos's performance. They all were looking at Carlos with much admiration, hell we all were, this was entertainment man watching this guy! After hearing our story the man says,
"I am very sorry this happened but we cannot do anything. These are mafia men...The best I can do is send this into the headquarters and hope someone there takes care of it."
"We just hope that the police INVESTIGATE the conductor and driver. BIOLENCE was used on a goverment bus man BIOLENCE do you understand? (the indians look down at the floor and shake their heads that they did understand) The driver on his right hand was missing his middle, pinky, and first finger, we want them to be investigated"
"The best I can do is send this off to the--"
"Ok, if that is the best ok.."
"Would you like some chai?"
"ahaha we would love some! Cody?
"You dont have to ask me twice!"
"Ah good man! Ryan?"
"I dont drink chai"
"Ill have his!"
Within a few minutes a chai walla (someone who fetches chai) comes and delivers 8 steaming cups of chai. Here all the indians even including ryan and myself all were watching carlos talk about india with his columbian charisma. The gleam and smile in the indians eyes were pricless, they were silent, listening and watching Carlos's every word and movement.

Shortly after the tea we left. Carlos roomed with Ryan and I, so we got a room by the train station, set down our bags and went and got some food. The whole night, Carlos wouldnt shut up about the incident. The whole night, even when the lights were out and people were laying in their beds he would go on and on and on.
"They used BIOLENCE man...BIOLENCE"
"I know that guy was going to punch you in the face"
"I know man! He wouldve knocked out my teeth man, he was SOLID man SOLID!!"
"We know Carlos..."
"Did someone lock the door man? I dont want any more suprises man"
Carlos gets up and checks that all the doors and windows are locked and somewhere around this point I was able to drown him out and sleep.
The following morning carlos gets up at 5 to try to hitch a train at 6 to varanasi.
"Goodbye you guys, Ill see you in Varanasi, if I dont, I will never forget you two because of what happened yesterday, together man. Lock the door behind me man, no more suprises man"
Ryan and I mumble something similar and I get up and lock the door behind him and fall back asleep.

Ryan and I hitched a train later that afternoon. It was supposed to be an express train which meant less stops and much faster but the 3 hour train ride turned into 7. There were problems on the train which is why we stopped so much and so frequent.

Immediately from the time stepping off the train into Varanasi, I felt that there is something in the air here. Both literally, and metaphorically. Varanasi is probably the most holy city in India, people come here to be burned at the ganga, just like I was talking about in Kathmandu, but the energy here doesnt compare to any place Ive been in my life. You can actually feel it here, its in the people, its in the air, its in your being, its everywhere. We got into varanasi at 8pm and immediately got an autorickshaw and headed out to a hotel. Nice hotel, cheap, and had an amazing restaurant. The rickshaw drivers were really nice and informative of the town, and best of all NOT AGRESSIVE on the 20 minute drive. He offered to be our guide if we wanted to do the sightseeing one day. He said it was a fixed price, we wouldnt have to pay not even a extra rupee the whole day, so we agreed. We told him the day after the next at 9am to pick us up.

The next day I spent the whole day walking around. Our rickshaw driver said to us,
"If you havnt gotten lost in Varnasi, you have not seen varanasi"
I got lost more times than I could count, I have the worst sense of direction known to mankind. To get to the ganga, you have to walk through a labyrinth of narrow alleys, which can make you feel like you are walking around in a circle, which at many times Im sure I was. Especially at night, it was even worse. I got so turned around so many times and walking around alone in Varanasi at night is not recommended. I was lost one night and one guy says he will show me where to go, so I walk with him and we make small talk about india and he even helps me alittle with my hindi. He asks then,
"Are you married?"
"ME? hahaha no"
"No girlfriend?!"
"Dont need to rub it in.."
Then he mumbles something and all I heard was "penis..penis..."
I stop walking, my heart stops and breath becomes deep...
"Show me your penis.."
"No no no no...(i walk backwards shaking my head)
"Its ok, no its ok"
All I could say was no and shake my head. At this point my adrenaline was pumping like a heroin addict because I didnt know if I was about to get raped by a gay indian. I try to clench my trembling fists but my hands are soaked with sweat I was so scared..
He then turns around and starts to walk the other way. I just sit down on the nearby steps for my legs were about to give out and I try to calm down and center myself before starting to walk again. Once I see he is out sight, I have to find a different way to get to my guest house because I didnt want to get raped while turning a dark corner getting to my guest house. The whole way back to my guest house, I walked with a knife in my hand for I was not in a good state of mind. I made it back safely and just got back to my room and was totally wierded out. I have no problem with gay people, that is their personal choice and right to choose who they love, not mine. But I do have a major problem when people cross the boundaries of another persons comfort level. I felt violated, even though nothing physical happened. I didnt sleep at all that night, I saw the sun rise once again.

The rickshaw driver was on time to the second the following morning. That day Ryan and I at first went and saw all the major temples in varanasi. At each place he had to park, when we returned he looked at me and asked for a few rupees for the parking, he had no money. So much for his promises... After this we wanted to got a near by city because its a nice buddhist town with lots of beautiful temples but he gave us a runaround about how it an exspensive toll road and he wouldnt take us for the fixed price, he wanted more money. Another broken promise, which is typical. At this point I was fed up, I gave him less than half of his rate and we walked to our guest house.

The next few days were ryans last in Varanasi. We ended up splitting into different hotels because he needed to get into a super deluxe place with cable t.v. because there were college basketball playoffs on that he wanted to watch, and I didnt want to pay that much money. We made plans the next few days to meet at the ganga to see the daily aarti ceremony. Upon meeting up, ryan says to me,
"Dude, youll never guess who I ran into..."
"YES! Dude I totally agree, there is something quite magical about this place...I was walking around totally lost in those alleys trying to get to the ganga and just when I think Im forever going to be stuck here, I see Carlos! I told him we would meet him here in a an hour"
We met up with carlos at the ganga and just talked about varanasi and the hold up, or should I say, we listened to Carlos talk about Varnasi and the holdup. After an hour of chit chatting, we split ways from carlos making a time to meet the next day same time and same place for a boat ride, for it will be Ryans last day.

Getting a boat on the ganga was simply amazing. Carlos ended up coming along with Ryan and I, and this truly was the best way to see varanasi. On a peaceful, silent boat ride at dawn or dusk was the real way to see varanasi. It was so peaceful and you get a better view of the tall buildings you walk along, but never really look at. You get to see the whole Varanasi, and it is truly amazing. After seeing the sunset, our driver let me row the boat and we go to the main cremation site. We sat and watched the roaring fires for a good 30 minutes in silence. Here the bodies were alot more revealed, for instance, one of the fires gave a clear view of a human skull, you could even make out the ear on the side of the head...According to the locals here the cremations have been going on for thousands of years, nonstop. There is one fire in specific that has been on going for 4 thousand years some people claim, and you can take alittle bit of ashes for yourself, if you desire to do so. They also claim that Varanasi is the oldest city in the world and that it is the exact center of earth. Once we started to get nauseated from the fumes we head over to see the aarti. Just like in Rishikesh, there is a daily ceremony by the ganga but this aarti is alot better. Here ryan and I buy a boat of flowers with a candle in the center and float this boat of love down the ganges. This will always remain as one of my favorite things to do in India,it never gets old, I love it.

After the majestic boat ride we all went to get some food at a nearby restaurant Carlos recommended. He knows almost everyone by name as we walk through the narrow streets and alleys, sometimes stopping at peoples houses to show us their family and talk to them. Here he would talk about how much the children have grown since the last time he was here a few years ago. Walking in Varanasi, especially at night, you have to watch where you walk. There is so much poop everywhere, literally, so much its ridiculous...I learned my lesson the first day here by not looking where I step, now I am very aware of where my feet go... At the restaurant, Carlos wouldnt shut up again. My energy just gets drained from listening to him pop off on rants without breaking...However, he is a very intelligent man, who knows ALOT about current affairs, polictics, and how the world works. Dont get me wrong I did learn alot from listening to him, its just my brain hurt after awhile...After dinner, Ryan went back with me to my guest house because he missed his train, so he crashed on the extra bed in my room. His new train left at 5am, so that night we said our goodbyes and laughed until we fell asleep again, just like in Nepal.
Ryan says to me laughing,
"Look at the people we get involved with man AHAH First its the miserable frenchman, now its carlos the columbian"
"HAHA CARLOS! That fool loved to talk..."
"That guy was going to punch me in da face man!"
"You know what man?...Im gonna F*^& this guy man"
After all the laughter was out, I decided to write Ryan a letter to get out what I wanted to say but didnt want to be a sobbing mess.
Promptly at 4am the next morning, he left. Grumbling and stumbling around, I find the letter and give it to him and tell him its been fun traveling together and to please keep in touch.
"Cody..Lock that door behind you man...I dont want any more suprises man"
We shook hands, gave each other a hug, then I went back to sleep.

The rest of the days in Varanasi Ive essentially been living here. Up until now, Ive just been traveling around India, but the rest of my time in Varanasi Ive been living in India. My home is a room in a guest house and it has everything I need. There I use a gas stove and have been learning how to cook my own indian dishes. Ive made very good friends with the young manager named Anil, who has been showing me how to cook these indian meals. The deal is Ill buy the ingredients for both of us and he will show me how to make the dish. So every couple of days, I would goto the same vendor for my fruits, same vendor for my veggies, the same chai stand in the morning, the same internet place to take my chai to, and as a result have came to know each of these great people showing me what it feels like to truly be living here.

Outside of this, Ive been taking tabla (indian drums) lessons everyday sometimes twice a day. I initially was going to a older man right down the way from my hotel but he tried robbing me blind for a tabla set so I started looking for a new teacher, one not so focused on money, who is focused solely on teaching and music. Anil asked me after my first lesson,
"How was your tabla lesson?"
"Good except he tried ripping me off buying a tabla, and his lessons are expensive!"
"What you mean?"
"He tried selling me a tabla set for 9000 rupees! It should have cost like 5000! and his lessons are 200 a lesson, where they should be only 100 or at most 150."
"Who you take lessons from?"
"Bagchi over across the way at the--"
"BAGCHI! He is a bad man, only out for money. I bring you two teachers tomorrow, one is my uncle the other is a close friend of mine, a professor teaching tabla at the university, BHU. Lessons are 150 and they come to your room. Good people, you see."
I ended up choosing the professor. His name is Bolanath, and he is a short, skinny indian man, dressed in traditional indian attire, from the neck down, but from the neck up he wears a baseball cap and designer knock off sunglasses. He makes me smile and is the exact kind of teacher I wanted.
"My god, is music. Every morning, I offer incense to my tabla and pray for God to bless me and give me power to play. God also bless me for I am much too happy, Cody, I am." Not only is he sincere, but he truly believes that music is his god. I like this devotion about him. He has been playing tabla since he was a young child and is now 59. After our first lesson he invited me one of his concerts at a nearby temple and at that instant I knew this is my teacher after hearing him play and sing. I am only in Varanasi to learn tabla for the rest of the time I am in India, so I take this very seriously and need a teacher who will treat me as such.

One day my Guruji (hindi work for teacher) took me to meet his family at his house. His wife died a few years ago and he lives with his 3 stunningly beautiful daughters, 1 brother, 1 sister, and his mother and father, all under one roof. Here he showed me the cds he has made with his son (his son plays tabla as well) while one of his beautiful daughters kept putting delicious food on my plate. Sitting on the cool concrete floor with my Guruji listening to his music with his family was a great experience of which I am truly grateful to have had. They were all so hospitable and friendly, after food we took rest. Men went into one room, women in another and took a nap. Indians tend to sleep after they eat.

The next day or so, I ended up buying my own tabla set with Guruji and the next day he brought incense to the lesson,
"Guruji, what is this for?"
"Puja, for your tabla! I give blessing for tabla, and give you blessing for you to have power to play!"
Here he waved incense, chanted a few mantras, touching the top of my head blessing me and my tabla.
"Ok now you can play, dont let anyone touch your tabla. This is your god Cody, only your energy here, understand?"
"Yes Guruji"
"Before you play, offer incense to it and ask god to give you power to play and you will be much too happy."
"Thank you Guruji"
"Your are most welcome Cody"
Shortly after our chai was delivered and the lesson began.

I spend about 6 hours a day practicing and 2 hours a day in lessons with Guruji. The people at the guest house have come to know that as soon as Guruji arrives for my lesson, within 5 minutes, we have 2 cups of steaming hot chai handed to us. When Im not in the tabla zone, Im cooking up some delicious indian meals with Anil, and when Im not cooking, Im working on the blog. When I can squeeze in some mediation, I do, but for the most part, I am focusing only on these three things.

Each day here I feel more and more at home at the guest house. Anil and I play chess, cook together, and he watches me play tabla. Ive even made friends with one of my neighbors. My neighbor to my left is a deathly skinny, tall, japanese man with long black hair and a thick thick accent. Every time I see him he showers me with the warmest smile and says "Namaste". He makes me coffee every once in awhile (always at night never in the morning) and I am constantly borrowing his utensils to cook. He comes to Varanasi just to learn Sitar. He was at the same guest house last year and is here this year for 6 months again, just learning sitar. All he does all day is practice, literally. His only break is on sundays.

It is starting to get unbearably hot here in Varanasi and it is getting worse by the day. I plan to stay and put up with the heat here until I leave to go home. I feel truly blessed to be given this experience, and for the wonderful people that have been placed in my life, this truly has been the highlight of my trip.

After this blog, there will sadly be only one more blog, a conclusion, a recap of my trip on how Ive grown, and what Ive learned on the way. The last blog is taking more energy than anything Ive ever put together. This is part of the reason for me going into silence til the end of my trip. I wanted to focus solely and wholeheartedly on tabla and the blog, nothing else. Ive never focused so hard and spent so much time and effort into something before and I am looking forward to sharing it with all of you.

You are all in my thoughts and prayers. I love you all.
Be HAPPY!!!!