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

Thursday, June 16th, 2016

Thursday, June 16th, 2016
Columbus, Ohio

Three Night Review

The last three evenings have been memorable.  On Tuesday Gopal and I were invited to ‘Krishna House’ located in Chicago, at IIT, where today students of mostly Indian origin crammed into a modest apartment to hear a story from the epic 'Mahabharat.'  I also detailed some of the pilgrimage experiences.  A question then arose.

"Why are you walking across America?"

"To make America great again!" (I stole that line).

On Wednesday there was an engagement in a home in Calumet City.  Some Mexican fellows came to listen to the basics of eastern thought.  One of them, Donovan, asked, "What is the purpose of life?"

"To learn and to love!"  (An explanation was then given).

Finally, last night we drove to Columbus, to the ISKCON Centre situated near Ohio State University.  There, an eager group that routinely come together on Thursday nights lent their ears to the words of Saint Prahlad.  I was reciting his famous verse, "kaumara acaret..."

"Start spiritual life as early as you can," is his message, "before you become entangled."

We are lost but we can be found.  So begin the search and make life worth living.  Someone had also asked when I took to the life of a monk.

"Twenty-three years ago.  I have no regrets."

May the Source be with you!

0 miles

Wednesday, June 15th, 2016

Wednesday, June 15th, 2016
East Chicago, Illinois

To the Windy City

Cottonwood fluffs move in space.  I try to catch one as it's heading towards me.  I find them hard to grasp.  A light gust maneuvers it in another direction.

Why do I do it?

I suppose I'm testing my flexibility.  You walk a straight line and keep to that 'straight and narrow' trajectory in order to make steady progress, but it's also good to break that pattern and relieve yourself from the robotic movement.  You just have to make sure you don't step into traffic.

One thing I did run into was some drama.  While walking in East Chicago-- residential territory-- two police officers pulled up to the call of emergency.  By the time I reached the apartment building, where police had gathered, a woman in tight and provocative attire shouted, "He touched me!" while pointing to the accused.  The accuser shrugged his shoulders.

I wasn't going to stay around.  I kept trekking.  She continued on in accusing with raised voice.  The drama wore on.  Her voice grew faint as I stepped on.

Ahhh!  Another milestone!  I came upon the state of Illinois.  It dawned on me.  Uttama, who was by my side for a stretch, and I had the joint companionship of Lake Michigan to our right.  The sun is bright but the waters are cooling - offering a breeze.  Ticks and biting flies disturb our rest on the grass.  I braved the lake, pristine and cool.  The swim was on my list of needs.

May the Source be with you!

8 miles

Tuesday, June 14th, 2016

Tuesday, June 14th, 2016
Gary, Indiana

Down A Mulberry Trail

When I see a ripened mulberry tree, which is frequent enough, I do what my siblings and I did throught our orchard summer days.  I pluck at the fruit.  Some of the sweetened morsels stain my kurta (shirt).  Add that to the swirling formations of body-salt coming through from the sweat, and you come up with the copy of a cheap tie-dye job.  Despite all, I manage to, or try to, look neat and fresh on the job.  It’s always the reputation of your guru that’s at stake.  Never act or dress like a slob.

Incidentally, when I left the mulberry tree and beach, residential territory behind, I came closer to Gary, Indiana’s neighbourhoods.  I found it easy to befriend people.  One area, which was particularly socially-challenged, expressed its disposition like this:

I stepped over to a man, who was sitting in front of a barber shop.  We shook hands and I told him I’m walking to San Francisco.  Jim was his name.  I told Jim that this “hood” has a lot of people who walk.

“Hey, man,” says Jim, “when you’re on an overdose you won’t be driving a car.”

“Yeah, I know what you mean.”  It hearkened a sad laughter.

I also came upon a police officer, a woman, who was parked at a boarded-up, old gas station, which was adjacent to an abandoned shop, at the intersection where a stop light is no longer functional.  I wanted to let her know what I’m doing and why I’m here.  I stood right by her squad car with her in it, forever.  She ignored me and kept at her computer.  I left.  I asked myself, “Is everything dysfunctional?”

May the Source be with you!

20 miles

Monday, June 13th, 2016

Monday, June 13th, 2016
Dunes at Lake Michigan, Indiana

Walk, Don’t Run!

There were an array of trails I did sojourn-- on the lakeshore of Michigan City, along dunes of some magnitude, then along the Calumet Trail, populated by puddles, and finally a stretch alongside Highway 12.

However, ZIP! Off we go to South Bend, back to Notre Dame University to meet Father Jim Bracke.  Our discussion was both light and grave.  I asked him about Martin Luther, the defected priest.

“That the Ecumenical Council II addressed this and admitted mistakes were made.”

I also asked him about the letter of the law, or going literal on scriptures but not on the spirit.  He confirmed that the spirit was more important.

I was also happy to hear that a men’s movement, of sorts, had arisen among the Catholics, concerning men taking more responsibility.

He had seen our style of beads (japa) before.  I was not there to preach, of course.  What was our team to tell him?  We were there to share, and in that light we offered him a copy of “Bhagavad-Gita As It Is.”

Now on my way to a massage appointment in Chicago, a woman at an intersection where I had crossed stopped her car and asked,

“Hey, honey, do me a favour.  Give me $2.50”

I could not share, because I hadn’t anything on me.

“You see, I’m a monk. I have nothing on me!”

“Really?”  She drove off.

Now Tony, who’s 62, did a good massage.  Once in a while he comes around to the Hare Krishna Temple to wash pots. When clients ask him about the best work-out, he shares a few things as follows:

1)    Walk, don’t run!
2)    Clean the house!
3)    Do some gardening!
4)    Eat veggies and greens

He was elated to work on my cross-country body.

“Ankle bones are perfect. That’s rare!”

And lastly, he remarked, “Your bones are dense, strong. That’s because you’re walking.”

May the Source be with you!

14 miles

Sunday, June 12th, 2016

Sunday, June 12th, 2016
Michigan City, Indiana


Catching our initial glimpse of Lake Michigan, one of those grandiose great lakes, put an acceleration in our step speed.  Uttama and I had trekked through the last of serene-form country before entering into this-- a world of cottages and their big draw-- the lake itself.

Going west was our route.  Once we came upon the lake, it was our determination to follow the shoreline as much as possible.  Who wouldn’t?

When navigation was switched over, between Uttama and Gopal, it was Gopal who became my walking companion.  One cyclist told us, “You’ve got the lake’s wind on your back.”  And so it was, a rather breezy, dynamic, and a not-too-hot amigo, in the form of wind, giving us blessings.

Now, before that experience, Gopal and I were puttering around, searching for a safe passage way to a more favourable trail.  While dodging the poison ivy, I noticed a poisonous copperhead snake we were about to accidentally step on.  It was a baby snake, and was conveniently camouflaged by its natural colourings.  Because he was small in size we didn’t take him too seriously, but he did expand his hood in defense, resembling a small cobra.

Personally, I found the whole affair exhausting, so I was pleased to find a “poison ivy free” path to a nicely shaded bike trail that seemed to stretch on for miles-- because it did.

May the Source be with you!

18 miles

Saturday, June 11th, 2016

Saturday, June 11th, 2016
Elm Valley Road, Michigan

Sketches by Sitting Bull

It was a long haul, back-tracking to Ohio, Toledo to be specific, by mode of van transportation.  It was worth it, as we had a pre-arranged speaking engagement at a healing centre called “Ananya-Kai,”

People were transfixed, if not transported to the world of sacred walking, as I detailed my personal “Tales to Trails.”  There were a number of people who were already affiliated with the technique and tradition of kirtan, which was a component to my presentation.  These were also firm believers in past-life experiences, including a mother who was convinced her young boy was a victim of the Titanic.

Who knows?  Such things are possible!

As I said, it was a long drive there and back, but worth every minute of it.  The trip, however, cut into today’s walking, which amounted to a mere two hours.  We were off to nearby Niles (population 12,000) to see Debra Haight, of the town’s newspaper.  The interview was a few minutes shy of two hours, perhaps a record, and mutually we were enjoying every minute of that query and answer session.  She was very good at digging up background information.

Speaking of the past, in Nile you can stop by their quaint museum.  We heard that some original sketches are permanently on display by Chief Sitting Bull, and we found them awesome.  One of them I will feature on the walking monk instagram.

As written by Ernie LaPointe, about the grand warrior, “Sitting Bull: Tatanka Iyotake was a special person who cared for his people.  He suffered for them in the Sun Dance, fought for their survival, and gave everything he had for them.”

May the Source be with you!

5 miles

Monday, 13 June 2016

Friday, June 10th, 2016

Friday, June 10th, 2016
West of South Bend, Indiana

In Around South Bend

Dave is a teacher from Buchanan, Michigan.  He teaches science in middle school.  We met while he was on his run, and me on my walk.

“Tell me about Hare Krishna.  I remember you guys in the movies at airports.”

“Well, we’re on the road now,” I said jokingly.

Motorists were responding to today’s article in the South Bend Tribune.  Under the heading “Monk Crossing USA on Foot” and sub-heading, “He touts meditative lifestyle by walking.”

The article is by Selena Ponio, and here we have it:

A distance of about 3,000 miles lies between New York City and San Francisco. People tackle this distance daily with planes or cars, but one man's goal is to savor every mile and meticulously chip away at it by using a different method of transportation — his Crocs.

Bhaktimarga Swami, fondly known as "The Walking Monk," passed through Mishawaka and South Bend on Thursday on his journey from New York City to San Francisco. Swami is completing this trip over two summers and is currently in its second phase. He walks 20 miles a day, all with the purpose of promoting a more introspective and ecologically friendly lifestyle.

Garnered in bright orange robes, Swami, a Hare Krishna monk, was anything but subtle as he walked west along Jefferson Boulevard, having departed from Elkhart earlier in the day. He said he believes walking solves a multitude of problems related to both physical and mental health and provides vital down-time dedicated to introspection.

"Your appreciation is enhanced and you're humbled by what you see because you're going through the elements," Swami said. "You develop a tougher skin when you're walking and at the same time your heart softens."

Born in Ontario, Canada, Swami has walked the entire length of Canada four times. He has also walked through other countries such as Ireland, Trinidad and Israel.

Swami occasionally has a support person with him or followers who join him briefly, but for the most part he walks alone. However, he said, from a spiritual perspective he never feels alone.

Swami said walking is important for its meditative qualities and also to allow time for an individual to reprocess a day's information. Speaking in front of the Basilica of the Sacred Heart at the University of Notre Dame, he related his advice to students, and said that learning should not just be an absorption of information, but a reiteration of it.

"Take a little time for exhalation, and that comes best in the form of walk," Swami said. "Before you're put in the world of action, before you lay it all before you ... reiterate what you've learned."

May the Source be with you!

21 miles

Thursday, June 9th, 2016

Thursday, June 9th, 2016
Mishawaka, Indiana

Johnny, the Mechanic and Others

We met Johnny, the mechanic.  I couldn’t hear what he was saying over the traffic noise.  He was definitely addressing myself so I and Gopal decided to cross the street in order to make things audible.  While working on a vehicle he repeated himself, “That’s an interesting dress you got on!”

“They’re actually robes.  I’m a monk.”

“Oh, yeah!?  Are you on your way to the monastery?”

“Not really,” and then we explained.  He broke away from his work and we shook hands as best as we could through a meshed metal gate.  Uttama was near.  He parked the van and came over with two publications, one of them was “Chant and Be Happy,” he passed them over the fence to Johnny. Elated to receive them, he gave a $20 bill and said, “Get some water with that!”  He chuckled.

At the university campus of Notre Dame we paid a visit to the Basilica if the Sacred Heart.  The interior is awe-inspiring.  There we arranged to meet Selena Ponio of the “South Bend Tribune” for an interview.  She asked for the purpose behind the walk and that opened up to a deeper explanation than we presented to Johnny.  We had the time to do so.

“I’m doing this to encourage introspective walking and, when the opportunity arises, to speak about the secret combat,” the battle within-- with the demons inside: lust, anger, and greed.

Gopal and I ventured on for the last leg of today’s trek.  We left the sidewalk to enter a pub, but only to get some fluid-- water-- and to discharge. Otherwise I have no business being there.  Sure enough, we made friends.  Sitting at the bar was Dave.  He knew the protocol.

“Namaste!”  He said and put together his palms spontaneously.

May the Source be with you!

21 miles

Wednesday, June 8th, 2016

Wednesday, June 8th, 2016
Bristol, Indiana

Slow Down!

The theme of the day was like the lines from Simon and Garfunkel's song which goes, "Slow down, you move too fast.  You've got to make the mornin' last...Hello, lamp-post, whatcha knowin'..."

As Uttama and I approached the area of Bristol we witnessed quite the frenzy and frequency of cars zipping by.  The sudden drench of rain didn't slow down traffic, nor did it slow me down.  Uttama vied for standing under a tree but I know from experience that you're better to keep going because that means keeping warm.  Fortunately Gopal came with the van to fetch Uttama.  I stayed on and I witnessed, once again, the fast pace of life.

One man, with that corporate appearance, pulled over and asked if I could share some wisdom.  My response, "We're human and we're meant for walking and being spiritual."

The fellow said, "In this area, where there are the Amish, they insist on a slower pace of life."  And that is so because in the madness of traffic the Amish of the old order passed by me with horse and buggy.  It is totally accepted by the big truck people and the young guys in Cameros - they slow down.  I might also add, that the Amish ride in style.

Later I met a sweet young woman in her middle-age who was walking, and we converged at the same juncture on highway 120.  She spoke about her philosophy, "I walk every day because I want to be fit to serve the Lord and others."

"Good girl!" I thought.  She hit it, spot on.  She was going at the speed of 3 miles per hour - my speed.  It is a pace that’s more calm than all the traffic.  Keep singin' it, Simon and Garfunkel.

May the Source be with you!

20 miles

Tuesday, June 7th, 2016

Tuesday, June 7th, 2016
Howe, Indiana

We Were Proud

We were proud of the fact that Uttama and I, with Gopal's driving help, were able to kickstart today's trek before 4 AM.  A chill set in overnight, but that's what compels one to walk faster.  We moved at a desirable clip.  When there is a cool snap throughout the day, your bodily intake changes.  You get hungry, as opposed to thirsty.

Lightly salted peanuts has always been a favourite snack on these long treks.  They are cheap, delicious, protein-powered, and they make you feel grounded.  If organic – that’s the best.

I share delectable items with those who travel with me.  For lunch it is left-over items - today we had avocado/olive sandwiches.  I gave Uttama my thumbs-up on his creation.  It goes down so well in as much as the spaghetti did at supper-time, prepared by the same chef. 

It is Chandrashekar, 64, my godbrother from the area that gave us a family summer cottage for three days as our rendezvous and rest stop at night.  We relax at this Harrison Lake State Park; read, write, check emails, and take a leg massage.

Massage, stretch, rest, and swim (or shower) are what the legs and feet crave after a full day on the road.  Walking is a rhythmic routine, whose glamour has been obscured by machinery.

Ah, yes, the machinery.  Gopal and I trekked along the 120 and were dwarfed by the irrigation machines.  We might criticize farmers for being too high-tech and letting machines do everything for them, but I see they are not lazy in the least.

Come to think of it, Krishna grew up on a farm.  Life was more simple then.

May the Source be with you!

20 miles