Friday, 1 July 2016

Tuesday, June 28th, 2016

Tuesday, June 28th, 2016
Venables Valley, B.C.

The Body

“These bodies are embarrassing,” I said to these young guys, Jacob, Hari and Nikunja.  It was hard to sell, their average age being 10 and trying to convince them of this concept.  It sounded foreign to them when I made the statement as they sat, restful, for a moment on the couch across the room from me.

“Alright then, how about you wake up in the morning and you have white things in the corners of your eyes, you’re groggy and your hair is all over the place?  Isn’t it embarrassing?”

That didn’t seem to register with them.

“How about when you have to deal with the call of nature?  Isn’t that embarrassing, during the process?”

Hari shrugged his shoulders.  Jacob nodded.  Nikunja was just blank.  Maybe they didn’t understand the phrase.

“How about when you pass gas?”

Now the responses came.  Smiles.  Laughter.

“Don’t you find that embarrassing?”  This clicked.

“Now, wouldn’t it be nice to not have a body, but to be liberated?”

That, they also had to think about.  In any event, we agreed to koin other residents for a swim in Venables Lake.  That, the body will like.  So there we swam, amidst the birds known as coots.

One thing that the body doesn’t like is getting bit by a rattle snake.  One of our women accidentally stepped on one here in the village of Saranagati.  Her name is Mahatma and she was rushed to the hospital, immediately.  Rattlesnakes reside in the valley, but this was the first time ever that one of the villagers got stung.

As long as you have a body you will be stung by something.  I wish Mahatma well.

May the Source be with you!

1 km of swimming

Wednesday, 29 June 2016

Monday, June 27th, 2016

Monday, June 27th, 2016
Venables Valley, British Columbia

New Shoes

One of the nicest gifts that ever landed my way was a pair of Ky boots.  While en route to the farm retreat at Saranagati, Ned, Nitai Priya, and I stopped at Langley for a session with Trish, who runs ‘The Core Store.’  I was not allowed to inquire into the price of these remarkable shoes, which I picked up and placed on my ailing feet-- well, at least the left leg has been aggravating me. 

The donor, Abhidheya, whom I've known from Ontario since the eighties, projected the power of her heart by this kind gift.  When doing marathon walking the whole body is precious, especially the feet.

Trish, the salesperson, was not really out to sell me the shoes.  The company, Ky Boot, born from a 'genius' (as Trish put it), is putting out a product that is about caring for the consumer.  What can I say?  I stepped into these shoes, walked around in them and they gave the sensation of moving on air.  It is a kind of magic carpet. 

Trish, also confirmed for me something I'd believed in for so many years.  Footwear with major arch support is not advantageous.  It weakens parts of the sole, hence it may even weaken your soul if your walking is for spiritual purposes.

My initial response to this new acquisition is most favourable and I thank Abhidheya, Trish, and especially Karl Muller of Switzerland, the inventor of an amazing piece of technological wear: for the feet.  When you read the books of our guru, Prabhupada, feet are referenced thousands of times.  Feet are important.

May the Source be with you!

3 miles/5 km

Sunday, June 26th, 2016

Sunday, June 26th, 2016
Vancouver, British Columbia

By the Fraser

Walking took shape along the Fraser, again; this time with some of the people from last night's program.  Yes, we were set in nature and spontaneously the trail allows you to gawk at, pick at, and speak about the green friends around us.  It was bushes and trees that stood still, that so generously permitted our admiration. 

I pulled off of one tree something that resembled and unripe apple.  Anirudha sampled it and became our taste tester for this, and other curiosities along the way.  You should have seen his sour face after his teeth dug into the apple-look-alike.  It was the free form of the walnut-to-be.

I also pulled off some salmon berries, for Anirudha and other dare devils to try.  Nothing sour there.  There were also wild cherries on the trail-- another delight.  Then I pointed to the burdock and horse tail plants, both incredible cleansers known to help the kidneys and bladder.  In reality the stroll turned into an herbal walk, which put an extra shine to our picnic of less-wild food preps that we laid out on Indian mattresses.

One fellow, Tony, a massage therapist from Chicago, who recently did some work on my legs, told me, "People don't sing in America."  He was implying that life is complete when you sit and sing.  He also implied that, in order to overcome depression, you should sit down and sing with others. 

Our group took to Tony's prescription.  We sang mantras by the Fraser, after all the tasting.

May the Source be with you!

2 miles/3 km

Saturday, June 25th, 2016

Saturday, June 25th, 2016
Vancouver, British Columbia

Making Saturday Perfect

It was great to meet Ned again.  With his pic he was plucking away at his unplugged guitar, something he's likely to master-- as he has the saxophone.  Ned was born in Pittsburgh, now resides in New York, and has a fabulous career of music sharing, including having played for Harry Connick, Jr.  He's travelled the world. 

What an honour it was to have him join in with our bhakti (devotion) team players at kirtan this evening.  It was the guitar playing that embellished our kirtan, which serenaded the evening at ‘Karma Teachers,’ a venue off of Hastings Street in Vancouver.

This location in an old four story shack-like warehouse, with a charm of its own, is a haven spot in a very challenged neighbourhood.  It's not the first time I've been at ‘Karma Teachers,’ where a form of aerobics with mantras is taught. 

An old buddy of mine, Toshan, had taken me for a stride along a trail by the Frozen River before coming to an enthusiastic group of youthful folks at ‘Karma Teachers.’  Really this group loves kirtan, which is all about sacred sound.  Accompanied by vocals, where I took the lead, we had Anirudha on harmonium, Damodara on mridganga drum, Nitai on kartals, Nitai Priya on djembe, all while Ned was on guitar, giving it all a special treat. 

If you want to threaten a "Saturday Night Fever" of sorts, the recipe is: kirtan, sacred food, dance, and some words of inspiration.  That's all!

May the Source be with you!

3 miles/5 km

Friday, June 24th, 2016

Friday, June 24th, 2016
Vancouver, British Colombia

Obligations to the Guru

From time to time I must jump off the trail and leave it to tend to the obligations of the guru.  One of my responsibilities is to visit centres of Krishna Consciousness and provide a small inspiration.  It goes both ways.  I also become inspired, seeing various acts of devotion being expressed by communities attempting to raise the consciousness amongst themselves.

In my humble efforts to share this higher consciousness I like to greet people along the way, while walking.  Any small encouragement goes a long way.

Today I did no walking, but went to a community pool to swim and take a massage from a professional therapist.  I did reflect on the previous day’s walk with the monks from Chicago.  One of them, Mitch, asked me a question, noticing that I like to greet people in the park by saying, “Hello!”

“Why?” he asked.

Coincidentally I had read, that very day, about a pastime involving our guru, Prabhupada, who interacted with public while walking.  One student of his, Aniruddha, recalls:

“We went on many walks with Srila Prabhupada in San Francisco.  One of his favourite places was Stowe Lake.  Every morning, the same woman would come with her dog and Prabhupada would always say, ‘Hello, good morning, how are you?’  And she’d smile.  Prabhupada never said, ‘Hare Krishna.’  One of our godbrothers said, ‘Swami-ji, why don’t you say Hare Krishna to her?’  Prabhupada said, ‘She would not say Hare Krishna back, but this way she gets the benefit of giving respect to a saintly person.”

May the Source be with you!

0 miles

Saturday, 25 June 2016

Thursday, June 23rd, 2016

Thursday, June 23rd, 2016
Chicago, Illinois

Two Groups

This was a pre-planned trip, to back-track to Chicago in order to give an experience to two groups of youth.  After a sacred half-hour of song at the 4:30 AM mangal arati, young monks from the Lunt Avenue temple and I took to the streets, and then to the northern end of the water-front trail.  Joey, Jordan, Igor, Mitch and Marcel, all dressed in novice white dhotis and tops, accompanied Uttama and myself.

We walked.  We chanted.  They questioned.  I answered.

“I noticed you are very expressive in your speaking presentations.  How does this play into a humble devotional life?” asked one of the boys, meekly.

“I was once a very shy, insecure guy.  Still am, but I gained confidence through bhakti yoga, devotional service.  In any event, you should be who you are.  Be yourself.  Whether introvert or extrovert, maintain RESPECT.  You know the song?  (Implying Aretha Franklin’s song)”

My second batch of walkers was a group from a youth bus tour, originating from Florida.  Unfortunately we only covered a mile together.  It was a slow-but-sure stroll along the beach, and then up along the end of a pier.  They, like the first group, felt honoured to be part of a historic walk, one that goes from the east-coast to the west-coast.  Even though time allowed only one mile before my flight to Vancouver, Canada it was one mile with twenty youths that mean a lot to me.

“Try to absorb the power of the waves in the water, the smells in the air, as well as the temperature and feel of the wind.  What you perceive is the Krishna factor (God).”

So that, in brief, was my message to them.

May the Source be with you!

10 miles

Wednesday, June 22nd, 2016

Wednesday, June 22nd, 2016
Ottawa, Illinois

The Soul is Nomadic

We knew it would be a soaker today; so the weather report revealed.  Indeed, the rain came down quite evenly and consistently as Gopal drove me to the spot from where I left off the day before.

Was I prepared for the wetness?  Well, sort of!  I learned from my walk in Ireland that the dhoti (a monk’s lower garment) is prone to rip when you make a stride while the material is drenched.  It can be embarrassing.  I had little to worry about “being seen” on this Canal Trail, but I could not afford to have any torn clothing to worry about.

The solution?

I’ll go at it with merely my swimming trunks on, have sandals on my feet and an umbrella over my head.  The rain was warm.  Cold was not an issue.  I cautioned Gopal, “Don’t take any photos, please!”

He concurred-- and laughed.

There I roamed, down a leafy trail with trees on both sides, thunder and lightning occupying the skies.  Millions of fire-flies lit up the dark, early morning.  I then met with so-called civilization (humans) some hours later, upon entry of a small city called Ottawa.  The rain lulled. I changed back into my robes.  At Washington Park I met Rick Koshko from the local radio station.

He came equipped with umbrella and mic.  The rain poured like crazy, but he asked questions despite.  It was an in-depth interview.  He even caught me saying, “I’m an oddball.  I’m a monk for life.  Somewhere in a previous life I was married and had a family.”  I implied that I got desire (for family, sex) out of my system.

During the interview a representative from “The Times” popped over to get a photo for his story.  He wasn’t about to stay.  The rain came down like Noah had ever seen.

This evening I spoke to a group of Krishna devotees in Naperville.  The theme was “The soul is nomadic.”  It always moves. 

May the Source be with you!

14 miles

Tuesday, June 21st, 2016

Tuesday, June 21st, 2016
Seneca, Illinois

'Walking Monk' Makes Stop During Journey Across America

I walked the I&M Canal Trail, and came upon a narrow river to cross.  I fell, slid and landed by the river.  No scrapes or scratches.  I got muddied-up.  My cell was displaced for hours and so was I, displaced from my support person.  Call it a piece of adventure perhaps. 

Mike Mallory put out an article in 'The Herald News.' 

JOLIET – Bhaktimarga Swami sat calmly Monday morning as he rested in the grass of Joliet’s West Park with a water bottle at his side.

Known as the “Walking Monk,” Swami covers about 20 miles a day with only a pair of sandals separating his feet from the ground. He’s in the middle of the second leg of his journey from New York City to San Francisco.

“I started walking in Joliet today,” Swami said. “I found out the Illinois & Michigan Canal State Trail is here. That’s a piece of paradise. You see a heron every few minutes.”

Swami hopes to promote a “greener,” healthier lifestyle in America – one that emphasizes strong morals and ethics. Through outreach efforts along his path, he spreads his message.

“My purpose is to make the statement that we need to simplify life,” Swami said. “In many ways this walk reaffirms what we should be doing. Our bodies were made for walking. The question is, are we doing enough of it?”

He began this portion of the trip in May in Pennsylvania and plans to finish in early August in Nebraska. Next year, he will make his way to California.

Swami has walked across Canada four times, and isn’t opposed to battling heat waves and severe weather all summer if it accomplishes his goal. He said it helps develop a sense of austerity.

“Being exposed [to the elements] is part of it,” Swami said. “Every day it’s a new plan. If it’s going to be very hot, I might get on the road at 2 or 3 a.m., or walk in the evening if I have to.”

Swami, 63, also is walking to honor the contributions of his own spiritual teacher, A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Srila Prabhupada, who arrived 50 years ago in America. At 70 years old, Prabhupada moved from India on the order of his teacher to promote God consciousness, or devotional bhakti yoga, to the English-speaking world.

When not walking, Swami flies to other continents to teach and spread the message. He is an instructor in bhakti, mantra meditation and interactive dance. He’s also scripted and directed dozens of performances based on sacred Hindu texts.

Next, he will travel along the Lake Michigan shoreline with others to a temple in Evanston before heading west to the Great Plains.

A caption of a photo reads: 'Bhaktimarga Swami a Canadian-born Hare Krishna monk stopped Monday in Joliet on his walk from New York City to San Francisco to promote a strong spiritual foundation.

May the Source be with you!

20 miles

Monday, June 20th, 2016

Monday, June 20th, 2016
Jolist, Illinois

I got Wet

It seemed a big decision in the beginning.  Should I or shouldn't I?

I had been walking along a piece of paradise for the first stretch with Uttama, along the Illinois and Michigan Canal State Trail (I&M Trail) and loving it.  We were shielded from the sun.  Trees were lined along the trail.  The Great Blue Heron was ever present.  You never see them in a flock, but every so many meters you can spot a single one in solitude.  It would be perched on old drift wood in the canal.  An egert, also, like a lone yogi, would be there contemplating-- on fish.

The canal boasts a rich history.  Dug mostly by Irish settlers, it became a major system of water locks (15 to be exact) that moved boats of cargo such as grain, lumber, coal, limestone, and even people.  Maybe thirty boats a day would ply through, a distance just shy of 70 miles, tethered and towed by a team of mules; until the steamboat was introduced in 1870.

Now the canal has transformed to mainly a still-watered swamp dynamic, teaming with energy of a different kind.  The bull frogs leap and plop into the waters as you walk along.  It’s their defense.

The beautiful aspect of the trail can be explained as a piece of peace - no traffic - only runners, walkers, and cyclists.  And we came upon it like an accident.

Now the question was, should I cool down by taking a dip in the Illinois River next to me?  It looks a lot more inviting than the canal water.  Yes, I will.  And I did.

May the Source be with you!

21 miles

Sunday, June 19th, 2016

Sunday, June 19th, 2016
Chicago, Illinois

Retreat Complete

Our retreat was complete in West Virginia, culminating with a crescendo at the final kirtan led by our dear friend Agnidev.  Of course there were the endearing farewells and goodbyes from all organizers and amigos of all kinds, as well as thank-you to God.

Gopal, Uttama, and I were set for a drive to Chicago, to re-convene our US walk.  The time passed by quickly.  My legs had a much needed rest.  But now the heart is craving to be out there on the road again.  Feet are eager too.

Hmmmm!  That phrase, "On the Road Again."  It is constantly a principle of my life.  It brings to mind a song by the group 'Canned Heat.'  Willie Nelson popularized the term with his lyrics, but I prefer the blues group 'Canned Heat,' with their song-- released in 1968.  Oh well!  We chanted 'Hare Krishna.'

After the eight hour drive and Gopal's masterful cognizance of routes-- evading those where you pay a ridiculously large number of road tolls near Chicago-- we made it to Chicago’s Iskcon Centre on Lunt Avenue.  It was a fairly relaxed sleep for me.  The other two were confronted with congested, humid, stuffiness during the night.

It's mid-June.  Summer solstice is around the corner.  The moon was strong and it will be a 'hot one' as one person expressed about the coming day.  It’s all God's mercy.

May the Source be with you!

2 miles

Saturday, June 18th, 2016

Saturday, June 18th, 2016
Moundsville, West Virginia

Up We Go

I did a two mile walk at the beautiful grounds in New Vrindavan and then I was tempted.  I was offered a free ride on a hot-air balloon, one of the fun features at the weekend retreat.  Some words on this experience came to mind, and then to paper.

Up we go
In a hot air balloon
I feel big and tall
Down there, they are small
To be above it all
Closer to the sun
Closer to the One
The mist is all about
Hanging in the air
Will someone cut the rope?
We'll view a greater scope
Be carried by the wind
And land who knows where?
Fuel will run dry
It might make us cry
One thing that's for sure
We'll not reach the dham
Where life is eternal
And nothing's nocturnal
We'll come back down
Right where we began
The ego's like a balloon
If not, a real buffoon
It's full of hot air
And if we really care
It really should descend
Before you reach your end.

May the Source be with you!

2 miles

Friday, June 17th, 2016

Friday, June 17th, 2016
Beverley, Ohio

In Beverley, On A Hill

We have left the road and hung walking shoes for the weekend.  Our small crew of three comprised of Gopal, Uttama, and I.  We were off to a promised, eventful alumnus of sorts.  Young followers of bhakti-yoga, a second-generation, are converging at a retreat in the hills of West Virginia.  I don't have to walk there to be part of it.  Gopal is driving, and on the way we opted for a slight detour to see his mum.

I mildly chastised Gopal for not coming to visit her at least once a month.  Just because you are on a spiritual program doesn't mean you can't be grateful.  Of course everyone is busy, but let us all put attention to prioritizing.  Parents are important, especially if there is cultural congeniality.  What then prevents us from being personal?

Gopal's mum is a gem.  She took this gutted house and put her elbow-grease into it.  She did the walls, ceilings, and floors.  She led us to her garden.  Wow!  If there is anything that makes a person more down-to-earth, it is developing your garden - a fast-growing hobby in America.  Her name is Dayna, a lovable personality.

By mid-day we had arrived at New Vrindavan, the retreat place.  Reconnecting with people, advising, taking advice – all of these activities consumed my day.  To my sadness, I could not even put in a mile.

May the Source be with you!

0 miles