I always forget about my intense fear of heights. Right up until the moment I am staring fear square in the eye.
Today I find myself on the famous Lakshman Jhula Bridge. It is 138 metres long. As soon as I take my first step, my stomach knots. My hands start sweating. I feel weak in the knees. But I press on. I start doing deep belly breaths in order to bring my body in to the parasympathetic nervous system (rest and digest). I am bordering on a panic attack. As I keep walking straight down the middle of the narrow (6ft wide) bridge I feel it bounce and sway. I hear a beep behind me and if all of the people on this thing are not enough...a scooter comes zooming up behind me. I hold my breath and take a step to the left to let him pass. Then straight back to the middle. I pick up my pace. A few more steps and I run in to a cow. A real life cow taking a stroll right over the top of the Ganges River. Only in India. I dodge the cow and continue with one step after the other. Clinging to my bag for dear life. For some reason holding on to something makes me feel marginally more safe. Ok I am three quarters of the way down now. The end is in sight. After a few more run ins with scooters and a couple of pesky monkeys I am finally back on solid ground. Exhale. Wipe my sweaty palms. Carry on.
Rishikesh is so beautiful. Everywhere you look there are mountains. Cows roam the streets. Monkeys hang in the trees. Temples and offerings at every turn. You can feel something special in the air. There is a palpable energy here. My sense of awe was high today as I explored the streets that line the Ganges River. It is easy to be present today. It is easy to be 100% in the moment. Smelling the smells. Hearing the sounds. Seeing the colours. Feeling the energy.
As I walk along I see a street vendor selling fresh popcorn. 10 rupees (20c) later and I have a snack for my walk. I am not the only who likes popcorn. The monkey in the tree right above does too. As he launches for me, Ravi from across the Street screams out at me and runs at the monkey with a stick. I hold my popcorn for dear life and run across the road to his chai stand. I quickly shove my popcorn in my bag. Heart rate back up. Palms sweating once more. Panic attack pending. Ravi and I wait it out for said monkey to get bored of waiting. Ravi may have saved my life today. I carry on.
I am heading to the next town to meet my friend Nicole. I have the name of a cafe and the Yoga school she is studying at. My phone is dead so am completely winging it here. I come to a cross roads and it is either veer left or right. I look confused. A local swami (a Hindu religious Guru) asks me where I am going. He tells me I can take either way. They lead to the same place. A group of young school boys start to gather and want to take my picture. He shoo's them away and tells me to take the road on the left as to avoid the boys. I thank him. Obstacle number 3 overcome thanks to friendly swami.
It is about 2kms to the town I am looking for. I press on. After a little while I hear a beep. It is the friendly swami in a jeep. He tells me to get in and he is going to the next town. There are a few local women in the car so I jump in. Once we arrive he ushers me to follow him. We start chatting. He is funny and his english is very good. He tells me he was once a business man but since retiring, has chosen the spiritual path and spent all of his time looking inside himself and sharing love with the world. He has no possessions. He got rid of everything. His name is Ladu Baba (he is pictured above). He ushers me to sit down with him for a moment when I ask him more about what he does. He looks me in the eyes and tells me that he shares love. He tells me that I need to bring my attention from the distractions of the world and direct it inward. That I need to love myself. Before I love anyone else. He tells me to protect myself. To protect myself from people telling me they love me when they only love my body. He tells me that I need to wake up from the distractions of the world. That I need to feel with my heart. That I need to connect with God. Not God as in a figure. But as in love. As in the energy of the entire Universe.
I am a strong believer in manifestation. I am strong believer that if you are in line with your hearts true desires they will present themselves to you in a way far wilder than you could imagine on your own. In this moment when Ladu Baba told me to love myself and wake up. Something stirred within my soul. In spiritual texts I have read it says that when you hear something that is true. True to the soul. The soul recognises it. The heart feels it. It is like a recognition of something that you once knew. Something you once knew before you were you.
A guy I met last night asked me what drew me to India. To Rishikesh in particular. I couldn't tell him. I am not sure. I woke up crying in my bed. Something in my heart told me to come to India. So the next day. I did. My intuition led me here. Spontaneously. In a single moment. I have a strong feeling that I am going to get more out of this adventure than I could have dreamed up myself.