The Land of the Yogis

We’re going to Rishikesh! We just found out yesterday, and we fly out tomorrow – for ten enormous days. We are beset with laundry and packing pandemonium, interspersed with incredulous laughter and open-mouthed amazement at our good fortune. Some fairy godmother must be in charge around here.

I mentioned in a recent post that Vaidyagrama’s parent organization is organizing a conference in Rishikesh next week, and here at the last minute they have bent over backwards to make it possible for us to join them. The conference is five days long, and we are going to arrive about three days early for some sightseeing and to help set up. We’ll get to participate in the conference sessions as well as help out behind the scenes as needed. As one of the doctors here put it, “It is a golden opportunity.” Dr. Ramdas will not be coming but has given us recommendations on which speakers to hear – “You’ll have to come back and explain it all to me,” he laughed. I had no expectation of getting to the north of India at all during these six months, and now, with hardly a moment’s notice we are off to dive into yet another community of Ayurvedic scholarship. There is an air of magic to it all.

What I know about Rishikesh could fit in a thimble – or a blog post, as the case may be. Located near the northern border of India in the foothills of the Himalayas, Rishikesh is home to a number of ashrams with deep spiritual roots and history, a mecca for yoga and meditation. Rishikesh itself is only about 1500 feet in elevation – not too high but enough to require a different wardrobe than we have acquired here in the south with our 90 degree afternoons. In Rishikesh, the highs will be in the 70s and it will get down to the 50s at night. We’ll need to make an early shopping excursion to purchase warmer clothes.

We will be staying at the Parmarth Niketan Ashram, which would be a tremendous experience in itself even if there wasn’t a pool of Ayurvedic inspiration swirling around us. The five day conference is jam-packed with lectures, yoga classes, and roundtable discussions, with about 350 attendees, mostly Indian students, scholars and practitioners. Aside from hearing Dr. Robert Svoboda’s last lecture before his retirement from public life, I am also looking forward to being with Mother Maya, previously known as Maya Tiwari. She has written several books on Ayurveda and women, a rare focus in this ancient science, and I am eager to feel her presence and hear what she has to share.

Even with all of that, the most thrilling thing to me is that I will get to see the Ganges River. Such a central focus of Indian devotion, considered an actual goddess incarnate, I am eager to stand next to the mighty Ganga as she throws herself down from her source in the Himalayas, flowing right in front of the ashram. There are nightly aarti ceremonies in which candles are floated down the river, spreading the light. I can scarcely wait.

I will not be taking my computer with me, so there will be silence from my direction for the next twelve days or so. I have been ruminating on the effect of remaining tied to the internet while I am here – holding on to the familiar through email and websites – and have been wondering what it would be like to take yet a further step away in mental space, so this time in Rishikesh is an unexpected opportunity to take a technology sabbatical. I will write again once I am back and have had a chance to digest a bit.

Here at Vaidyagrama, it was announced this morning that, in light of our eminent departure, tonight there will be a “cultural entertainment” party. All are invited – patients, students, and staff – and all are encouraged to perform in some way, such as singing a song that represents your home country’s culture. I plan to sing “Amazing Grace,” with thoughts of my late grandmother Naomi, as it was one of her favorite songs. The gathering will be a sweet send-off and an apt reflection of the grace that is so palpable here. Sometimes it’s too easy to forget it surrounds us all.

11 thoughts on “The Land of the Yogis

  1. Sally says:

    Breathing, trusting, practicing patience. YEP! That’s what we’re doing as we anxiously await your return to Vaidyagrama – and us. I admit to my own luddite tendencies, questioning the extent to which our connections through technology get in the way of “real” (or at least, different) relationships. But I embrace and celebrate that same technology when it provides us with such sweet connections with you across so many miles, mountains, oceans, rivers and time zones. Hoping you are safe, rested and restored and looking forward to hearing about what I am sure has been a wonderful experience for you.

  2. Melissa MIllard says:

    I think it is amazing grace that has brought all these threads together to make the beauty we now see in all of you. Flo, many thanks for sharing the history that so explains pieces of the talented and lovely Ivy and Ian Ingram. With those genes and the others from others, is it any wonder that these two are what they are? I personally don’t have the vocabulary necessary to describe these two luminous souls but when I count my blessings, knowing them comes early on the list. And now we have Koruna and the bebechild. Amazing. Grace.

    Go with God,

  3. ian says:

    Oh, you ALL got me this time. In solidarity with goddess Ganga, me too with the flowing rivers from the eye balls. I didn’t know about our great-great-grandmother. Thank you Flo, thank you Sister, I’m feeling rather radiant right now (I’m checking my pulse). wow.

    • Flo says:

      “I didn’t know about our great-great-grandmother.”

      Heck, Ian, while we’ve got a genealogy moment going here, let me introduce you to your paternal great-great-Grandpa Bisbee via his distinguished cv:

      Born in Maine, educated Tufts U, fought for North in Civil War, moved to Chicago to study law, moved to reconstruction-land-of-opportunity Jacksonville FL to found law firm Bisbee & Bedell [known today locally as ‘the Bedell firm,’ the oldest law firm in the State of Florida], was a member of U. S Congress FL, FL Attorney General, US Attorney for N. FL.

      Meanwhile, across town, your other paternal great-great-grandfather established himself as well. That’s for another day and another installment but I will close by saying the sparks FLEW when Grandpa Bisbee’s daughter Florence Katharine Bisbee [your great grandmother, Naomi’s mother] brought home a serious democrat suitor [your great grandfather Edgar Rogers, builder of “Twin Springs”] to meet her republican father.

  4. Flo says:

    Probably not going to “recover” from this post, my Dear Heart, but these eyes full of tears can still see the beautiful arc you’ve drawn connecting you and Naomi on this trip, I feel so honored to be snuggled between the two of you, but I suddenly see a missing piece, another curve of information, let me introduce you to your great-great-grandmother, you would have heard her spoken of as Grandma Bisbee, Naomi’s beloved grandmother, Naomi’s mother’s mother, her name was Charlotte, I never met her but I see her visage in the narrative of your heart and your mission.

    Grandma Bisbee is where this side of your arc begins, I now see it! She loved to travel [which eliminates Flo 1, Flo 2, and Flo 3], she was an exotic woman of Spanish and French descent, born on the island of St. Thomas to a French mother [who died when she was 3]. Her father was a physician who, at the outbreak of the Civil War, brought her with him to the US to assist him in treatment of the wounded in the South, literally of course, on the ground. She continued to act as his assistant into adulthood until he died. Alone, she traveled the US offering her tropical-disease-specialty services during the yellow fever epidemic.

    I think you’re one of the kindest, most charitable, loving people I’ve had the pleasure to know in this lifetime. Everyone here adores you, you can see it in the messages. You are a very rare combination of qualities and traits, and you’ve been my hero since you were 2 years old.

    And allll this gloppy verbiage is what you get for making me cry this morning, sob sob! I love you SO!

  5. virginia ellenberg says:

    good lord, i have got to stop tearing up reading these posts!~ amazing grace sung by you would be toooooooooooo beautiful! i’ll be thinking about you at the foot of the goddess, ivy, and i’ll be lovin’ you. mom

  6. Sally says:

    Amazing grace, indeed!! All of this and the Ganges too! I have spent my waking moments with you this morning, toggling back and forth between wanting to know more, more, more (gratitude for all the links in this post) and feeling such love and warmth. I know that I was hearing Naomi’s sweet voice as yours rang clear last night (whenever night is where you are) with the words of amazing grace. Safe travels, dear Ivy. We will hold you in our hearts on this amazing journey and look forward to hearing so much when you return.

  7. Sunny says:

    Beautifully enchanting to hear of all your news and now this wonderful adventure. I’m smiling ear to ear for all of you.
    Love, Sunny

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