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Vrindavan Journal photo IMG_3314_zpsdgx3ubnc.jpgI have been living in Vrindavan for the last 5 weeks of an eleven month stay doing a very intense Ayurvedic/Homeopathic treatment. I had to set up a household as I cook for myself and have to deal with the cold and terrible air quality, some mornings near 500 (0-50 is considered good air quality). If the air was this bad in the US they would likely close everything and tell people to go out as little as possible.

I wear a surgical mask when I go out, which people think is amusing. However, according Government statics, over 150,000 people died last year from the polluted air--and the air quality here is almost as bad as Delhi. I wrote this and another blog during the beginning of my treatment, but then found that took too much time. Thus I have been posting video blogs of about 10 minutes, which I'll post after the second written journal. Today I am working Volume 9, and plan on posting them all gradually, so you can see them in real time. I hope you find them as interesting as I do in posting them. I speak and about my treatment, challenges and reflection on living in Vrindavan, and still facing the possibility of death which has been with me for the 3 years since I have known about my throat cancer. Living in Vrindavan has intensified this, due to both the outer environment, and the spiritual feeling here. The cancer was kept at bay for nearly 3 years with alternative treatment, but has just begun getting worse, and thus my treatment here.

We often find pairs of opposites combined in the Gita, Bhagavatam, and other scriptures, in verses that recommend us to be equipoised in the face of all dualities. In the combination of attachment and aversion, attachment has in the past seemed to me to be the greater problem. However, after my first day in Vrindavan, and on my drive from Delhi to here, aversion is my bigger challenge, and is a significant “in my face” opportunity to miss the dhama or inner Vrindavan. Additionally, it takes some days to make the adjustment to living in India because flying here is like being dropped from one world into another practically overnight. Thus, I have been advised to be patient as some people can’t handle it and leave.

There is much in India (I already have my list!), and especially in Vrindavan, where we have so many idealized conceptions and hopes, that can be very off putting or disgusting—even shocking and appalling to our Western sensibilities. Externally this is not a place for the faint of heart, and while we ideally won’t become indifferent and angry, we also need to be very tolerant and accepting of what we can’t change, even though we may not like so many aspects of what we observe, feel, and smell. The negative can accost our senses in profound ways. In the face of this, can I hear the holy name, remember Krishna, and worship Vrindavan, here and now? From my perspective, the negative aspects of the environment is such a thick covering to hide a holy place!

In such a polluted environment, accented by much human deprivation and misery, spiced with a harsh struggle for living, and the cheating mentalities of some desperate people based on a conception of survive at any cost, I am called to be spiritually present, inwardly directed, and compassionate. Otherwise, my time here will be more difficult than it has to be and I will miss being able to access the real Vrindavan. I knew this would be one of the many challenges I would face, and what to speak of just doing the treatment and seeing it through till the end.
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I was also aware before I came that it is ironic that I have come here for healing when Delhi is the most polluted place in the world and it seems Vrindavan isn’t far behind, at least in terms of the air quality. The air always smells like smoke and the shy is hazy. Regardless, I will be spending most of my time indoors, and wear a mask when I go outside. Your prayers are appreciated, though please know, I am doing the best I can, and have devotees here helping me navigate getting clean food and water and getting set up to cook and make some of the medicines. There is a long list of things I have to acquire in terms of cooking and just living, as I couldn’t bring everything in one suitcase and a carry-on, AND everything works here on India or slow time, so that is another call for patience and tolerance.

Another factor I am observing is how being an unknown, invisible among throngs of devotees tends to bring out my critical nature. I am observing myself looking at others; my mind focuses on what are insignificant shortcomings or defects in others—they might not even be so—but that is how my mind is working, at least in this early stay of my being here. Yes, we are recommending to be humble, but also confident in Krishna’s grace and kindness upon us.

Hopefully, after I establish more friendships with the devotees here, especially with those who are doing the same healing protocol, this tendency will diminish. We all have a critical side, and it is good to observe ourselves and know we aren’t that negative voice. I also need to have Vaishnava association during this time, as being by myself and having to do the treatment by myself will also create a more negative and critical mentality. People tend to be increasingly critical when they don’t accept themselves, or are under a lot of stress and challenges. Thus, I am called to be able relax and not be overly stressed. Will I be successful? Stay tuned! Hare Krishna!