Tuesday, July 26, 2011

The Two Holy Journies

I have seen/heard many people undertake holy journies in their life. Some visit holy sites, holy shrines, temples or even places. Many times the whole idea behind this journey is a search. Some search for supreme or higher power. Some search for a way to purify themselves and to rid things that hold us back in life. Some realize the impermanence of life and search for that which is eternal.

I too took two such journeys this year in 2011 and I'd like to share my experience in this blog.

Journey I - A Trip from Bay Area to Berlin, Germany

Ever since, Guruji, His Holiness Sri Sri Ravi Shankar said, we'll celebrate 30 years of Art of Living in Berlin, I know I wanted to be there. But we just had returned from India. Already had spent a lot for the India trip and the tickets to Berlin were costly too. It all made me hesitate a bit.

One day, a friend of mine, Vivek Gulati (an Art of Living Teacher) called me and asked, "Yo, Are you coming to Berlin?". I replied, "No, It's too costly for me". He repeated, "But, do you want to come?". I said "I want to come. I very much want to come. But money is a little tight". Vivek said "Forget about money. It's not your problem. Put an application to the Master and let's see what happens". I just thought "If only I had $1700/- more, I'll go to Berlin". I don't know how I came up with that number, but that's what I thought.

Life went on. I filed my taxes and the tax consultant told me that I have a refund. And the amount was exactly what I thought I needed to go to Berlin. I was shaken. How can it be the exact amount? I thought it was time for me to stop saying excuses for not going to Berling and just go register. And I did.

I had never been to Europe (except for flight transfer on our way to India). Have no idea what it takes to get there, what the culture there is, where to stay, what kind of food will we get, how to get to the Olympic stadium (where we had our Celebrations). I knew nothing about the place and the more I thought about it, the more butterflies flew in my stomach. Ramiya and Niranjan also decided to come to Berlin

Just two days before going to the German Embassy for getting German Visa, I found that they do not accept Passports that are more than 10 years old and mine is already more than 11 years old. For a second everything stopped for me. I couldn't find out what to do next. There are only 2 days for the interview at the german embassy which can not be postponed and I have a passport that won't be accepted by them. I took my chances and applied for my passport renewal at the Indian Consulate in SFO. Guess what. I got a new passport the very next day. I still can not believe how fast things happened just on time.

We completed all the requirements like getting the visa, travel insurance, booking our flight, getting international driver license, booking the hotel, book a car, took print outs of the local transportation in Berlin, etc.,

When we landed in Berlin on July 1st 2011, my mind was filled with anxiety, I need to find out the car rental place, need to drive in a foreign country, go to the hotel, what if i get lost some where. That is when we met another Art of Living friend, Tara. Her friend who is supposed to pick her up from the airport and take her to the hotel got delayed. And Tara couldn't contact her. She has been waiting in the airport. Without thinking anything, I just told her you come with us. You can stay with us until you locate your friend. I think it was that moment when things totally got changed.

We got the address of the hotel where Guruji is staying. Picked up the car from the Rental place, Drove to the Hotel, Checked in the Hotel, Had a nice shower, Did our Kriya and we were on our way driving around the City. They had given a very good GPS in the car, so we were very confident in driving around. The city was beautiful. We actually passed by several landmark places in Berlin while trying to locate the Hotel where Guruji was staying and when trying to locate the Hotel where we had to drop Tara. It was a big getting out of the comfort zone for me driving in Berlin, just because I have not driven anywhere other than US.

The next day we drove to a near by City called Magdeburg. There was a stretch in the free way where there was no speed limit and people were just zooming past our car. I just stick to a safe speed. Magdeburg was on a river bank, so beautiful, so relaxed and had a very passive life style. Just when we got used to driving and the convenience of having a car, it was time to return it and rely on the Public Transport system. Berlin has excellent public transport. The city is well connected with buses and subway trains. The local people were so friendly and helping. The trick is to find someone who speaks English :-)

We really enjoyed travelling in the subway, particularly Niranjan. He used to see the map and track the stations we passed through. Reached the Olympic Stadium on time. Enjoyed the World Cultural Festival Celebrations in the rain. Enjoyed being there in the presence of Guruji. Guruji spoke a lot in German at the Cultural Festival. We just forgot that we have come to another country. It was like being in the neighborhood with all the Art of Living Friends and Family. A wonderful feeling.

There were more than 50,000 people in the stadium who have come from various different countries like India, Pakistan, Prague, France, Spain, Japan, Canada, China, Taiwan, US, Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Italy, Norway, Bulgaria, Denmark, Germany, Poland and so so many other countries. The celebration was top notch. It was like watching a professional Open Ceremony of Olympic Games. The only difference was that this was put together mostly by Volunteers and Teachers of Art of Living Foundation, inspired by His Holiness Sri Sri. There were also participants, dignitaries, policians from so many different countries. Guruji, His Holiness Sri Sri had brought the whole world together for World Peace and to celebrate the Diversity. I felt so fortunate to be part of such a gathering. Guruji also led us through few beautiful Meditations. I should say the Meditation took care of all the travel tiredness and fatigue in the body that it felt so much better after that.

We returned very late that night. I forgot to note down the subway stop where we need to get down and we got down two stops past the one close to our hotel. Even at that late night, we enquired around and there were people who showed us the way to our hotel. We had to walk 20 minutes to the hotel. Everyone whom we asked were so polite, so helping and so friendly. This trip really helped me change my ideas and opinions I had about the people in Germany.

The next day also we enjoyed the rest of the Celebrations. Heard that there is a public satsang with Guruji, went there in the evening and returned to US the next day.

This trip made me stretch so much, break so many barriers and boundaries, come out of my small tiny shell and at the end realize that every thing is taken care of. The trip also made me so humble and grateful to my Guru for giving this wonderful opportunity to be part of the Celebration. Events like this don't come that often in our lives. Niranjan enjoyed the trip all through. Co-operated very well and this is a trip that will stay in our Memory for ever.

Journey II - Guru Purnima Celebrations - Check out the next blog.

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