Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Meditating, at Sunrise

I came upon this photograph while searching for something else on the Internet yesterday morning and couldn't stop looking at it.  I wanted to be there, on that wall with those people, meditating, watching the sun rise.  Where was it taken, in what country, and who were these people?

I tracked down the photographer, who was apparently not only an observer but a participant. This photo was taken in early 2008 at Neyur Dam in Kerala, India not far from the Sivananda Ashram.  The photographer, Rishi O., said he used to swim in that lake, "maybe an hour a day."  Rishi blogs from San Francisco (when he's not out taking photos in his photomobile or trekking about India, on projects). 

My armchair travel yesterday morning took me then--thanks to Rishi--to India, where I  watched--through a musically enhanced photographic slideshow on my computer screen--a yoga group in session.  Check it out, it's incredibly enervating, you'll be a 'young soul' again.  Though I am thoroughly unused to such muscle-stretching, body bending exercises, I know and practice a few poses, such as the Salute to the Sun, which I would like to start doing regularly to replace the coffee-and-croissant-first-thing-in-the-morning-while-reading-the-news routine, as a way to start the day. 

Here are some more of Rishi's photos:

Walking into the Ocean

Man wearing one sandal, one shoe.

Two Dancers

Click here for photos of life at the ashram, and here to see a photographic slide show of Indian dancers to the music of  "Dheem Ta Dare".

I also perused some of Rishi's infrequent text postings (the blog is mostly to highlight his splendid photographs).  "I never ask a kid to smile," he says re: taking commissioned pictures of children.  "I like them the way they are."  The photographs he treasures are ones that "capture who you are and not who you want to be."

In one such posting he shares a letter from someone named "Otto" dispensing information about, among other things, healthy eating.  I was amazed to discover that many of Otto's recommendations were things I had already discovered elsewhere, time and again, from numerous sources dating back decades, and in some cases, centuries.  So there must be something to it. 

For example:

The beneficial effect of turmeric; ginger as an anti-carcinogenic [I first learned of this from an African healer from the Congo]; that Type II diabetes has been linked to processed meat and lack of omega-3, severe periodontal disease, lack of exercise, and (of course) being overweight.

My favorite of Otto's suggestions: "Spinach and blueberries preserve the brain." (Likely someone will someday come up with the idea of combining them as an 'energy smoothie', or adding them to tea, as a 'health drink'.  (But as practitioners of food combining will remind you, ha ha,  fruit should be eaten alone.)

Meditating on a wall at sunrise--or at sunset, or at any other time of the day or night--on a beach, on a park bench, sitting crosslegged on a pillow in your living room, or out on the porch before bedtime standing in the night air underneath the stars:  not everyone who meditates joins an ashram or practices yoga or necessarily ascribes to the mindset commonly perceived as associated with the word 'meditation.' 

Sometimes you just fall into it, accidentally.  You're in a doctor's office waiting your turn, you're on a bus stuck in traffic, you're at your kitchen table looking out the window, and you shut your eyes, get very still, block out everything around you.  You begin to become aware of your breathing, you sense the 'self' emptying out of you, and that you're slowly entering into ... nothingness.  This was my introduction to meditation, before I had a name for it, before I learned that millions of people all over the world do this exact same thing, not just accidentally but intentionally; and not just occasionally, but routinely, and reap enormous benefits from it.  I have to thank Rishi O., again, for reminding me, through his photograph of those people on that wall, just how universal is this need to connect with the life forces of the universe.

Images that ... draw you like a magnet, that elicit forgotten memories, that hold you, just for a moment, frozen in time and space.  This photograph did that for me.  As did the one with the woman walking "into" the ocean.  (Notice it's not walking "to" the ocean--Rishi labeled it walking "into" the ocean, as if she's intending to become one with it.)

Well, glad to have met you, Rishi, if only thru the Internets [sic intended].  :)  And thank you for allowing me to share your photographs on this blog.  And for reminding me what it feels like to be on a stone wall in the wee, early hours of the morning, waiting for the sun to pop up behind the mountains, breathing in the fresh, brisk air, meditating (in this case it was Vermont, many years ago, and there was only one other person on the wall, instead of 20).

One of the tangible benefits I neglected to mention, of such endeavors:  unexplained ... happiness.

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