I had a few unforgettable experiences in Rishikesh. As much as I enjoyed all of the yoga and the training, some of my best experiences were outside of the ashram. The people of Rishikesh are very happy, friendly and loving. They are extremely generous and it seems the less they have, the more they want to give you and it brings them great happiness to see you accept their gifts.
I had the opportunity to attend satsangs with two spiritual gurus, Sri Prem Baba, and ShantiMayi. Although they come from the same lineage, they were very different experiences. Sri Prem Baba is from Brazil but spends a few months a year in Rishikesh and speaks at an ashram every single day. I attended two of his satsangs and it was an incredible experience. The energy and vibration in the room is very intense, but full of love and emotion. People sang beautiful chants and mantras before and after he spoke and people lined up for blessings and gifts. After Prem Baba came into the room and sat down, he took the time to make eye contact and smile at every single soul in the room, and he has a pretty good size group of students and followers. He is a happy man with a warm smile and beautiful loving messages. ShantiMayi is from Oregon and has a smaller and more intimate group of followers and a very different approach. There was singing and chanting, but she does not do the blessings. She is very down to Earth and upfront with her messages and the energy in her satsang was lighter and less intense. I am so happy to have had the privilege of these experiences and definitely will never forget them.
I was also invited into Samarpan Yoga Ashram by Swami Samarpanananda Saraswati who owns the ashram and after doing some research I found that he is pretty well known, well-educated and well-traveled. My friend Melissa and I were on a walk one afternoon and he was doing some work outside his ashram preparing for a group of Iranian women to come and complete his course. He showed us around the ashram, gave us tea and sweets, and even gave us a couple books that he has published. He has devoted his entire life to yoga and spreading spiritual love, and is living as a monk. He only charges a small fee for his course but does not make a profit. He only advertises by word of mouth and invites anyone to stay in his ashram for a small fee and a small commitment of time and work at the ashram. This is a perfect example of true, authentic yoga at its best, and was very inspiring.
On one of my final days in Rishikesh, a small group of us went on a hike with a guide and one of our teachers. It was incredibly beautiful with breathtaking views. During our hike, we ran into three school girls walking home. Our teacher knew them so we hiked with them up to their house, which was at least an hour uphill from the town of Rishikesh. We stopped to do some meditation and pranayama breathing before walking up to the home where four generations of families live with their two cows. While we were meditating, the children ran down from the house and quietly sat down and meditated with us. The family invited us in for tea and snacks and were very warm, welcoming, and generous. One of the little girls was playing with a fake flower which she gave to me and wouldn’t take no for an answer. It’s incredible how generous and giving this culture is, and the entire experience made me really appreciate the life that I have.