Sunday, 24 July 2016

Thursday, July 21st, 2016

Thursday, July 21st, 2016
Newton, Iowa

Cold Water Please!

Ice water and Gatorade were coming my way all day.  It was a response by the public to the radio, newspaper, and facebook articles which were being circulated.

Rajasuya and I took to a pretty, shaded, residential street and, as we did so, we encountered Wally, Diana, and grandson, Braden.  Diana’s sister had just passed away.  She asked for my prayers and I was happy to oblige.  Diana kept replenishing our cups with ice water.  We all got quite comfortable being in each other’s company in their front yard.  We even broke out into song with George Harrison’s, “My Sweet Lord,” Simon and Garfunkel’s, “Slow Down,” as well as Roy Rogers and Dale Evans, “Happy Trails.”  Braden, who’s about eight, didn’t have a clue about these songs from the 50’s and the 60’s.

Our meeting went from grave feelings to happy ones.  That’s just what the walking does, even in the midst of steaming heat and fatigue.

Were we ever relieved to enter the cooling AC’d Newton Library.  The weather was unforgiving at times, as we reached high noon.  Some of the water donated to us was taken as head-shower fluid.  At 107 degrees Fahrenheit, who wouldn’t employ H2O in that format? I’ve even found the umbrella as a shield to be effective as the heat rose.

I imagine the desire for water rose in just about everyone in the State of Iowa.  This is all relative to the need within the season.  Had we been in frigid conditions, the element of fire would be most desirable.  Needs change in relation to the body.

In connection to the soul, there is a constant contentment.

May the Source be with you!

20 miles.

Wednesday, July 20th, 2016

Wednesday, July 20th, 2016
Grinnell, Iowa

His Eyes

His eye was fully open but the other was closed, and just as the closed eye-lid began to open, the open eye began to move in a slow blink.

This was pretty much how I viewed the full moon and its counterpart, the sun, as these heavenly bodies presented themselves in the early morning sky.  It was purely magical, and while I had the moon before me in the westerly sky, the sun naturally arose behind me.  I was being looked at by God, one eye at a time.

This dynamic occurred yesterday and repeated itself again today.  Yet today, the sun began to be in a relentless mode as the hours moved on.  Water in the air (humidity) was thick in suspension.  It was taxing and dehydrating.

Relief arrived  merely with the visitation of people.  Rajasuya and Mandala came to join me on Hwy. 6.  Then Dan Hayes appeared from the Iowa County Market Newspaper.  A fellow by the name of Rich, a local organic farmer, stopped out of interest.  I was also whisked away to KGRN radio with Chris Johnson as the interviewer. 

Back on the road again, and a woman from nowhere delivered lemonade.  A second one, Lisa, pulled over to hand out some refreshments—ice water and fruit.

“I’ve been following you on the internet.  I drove around knowing you were in town,” said Lisa.  She is very much the big-hearted type of person and it was a pleasure meeting her at the last step of the day’s walk.

These were all lovely people whose paths I crossed today, and it alleviated the physical strain felt initially.

What really stuck in my mind were Dan’s questions. “What prompted you to do this walk? Does it have anything to do with the current political situation?  Isis and so forth?”

“Much to do with it,” I said, and went on to explain that the message from our scripture, the  Bhagavad-gita, is much about taking firm stands when gentleness is taken advantage of.

This is a big topic in and of itself.

May the Source be with you!

19 miles

Tuesday, July 19th, 2016

Tuesday, July 19th, 2016
Deep River, Iowa

Walk More, Rush Less

Two papers in the local area, “The Journal Tribune” and “The Pioneer Republican,” carried the story with the above title, by Melinda Wichmann:

“We’re designed for walking but we’re not doing enough of it.”

That is the message Bhaktimarga Swami wants to share as he walks from New York, N.Y. to San Francisco, Calif.

“The Walking Monk,” as he is called, passed through Williamsburg, Tuesday morning, July 12, during his travels.  He left Iowa City before the sun rose that morning and walked along the IWV Road, arriving in Williamsburg about 10 a.m.

The purpose of his cross-country trek is two-fold: first, to encourage people to slow down the pace of their existence, to become more introspective, and to find their spirituality, and second, to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Hare Krishna movement.

Bhaktimarga is breaking his journey into three parts.  Last year, he walked from New York to Butler, Pa.  This year, he resumed walking in Butler and hopes to complete the middle portion of his journey in mid-Nebraska by August.  He plans to reach San Francisco next year.

Long-distance walking is nothing new.  Canadian-born, he has walked across his home country, four times, as well as  Ireland, Israel and a number of other foreign countries.  He averages about 20 miles a day, logging mostly morning hours to beat the summer heat.  He believes walking enables people to find their spirituality, slow down and become a little more introspective, rather than rushing through the day in a frantic hurry.  No one walks anywhere anymore, he said, they all drive. “We are consumed by the automobile and as a species, it is making us very hard and cold.”  Walking provides a way to connect with one another as well as oneself.

“This part of the country already has a slower pace of life,” he said, by comparison with larger cities and urban areas.  When he told friends he was going to walk across the United States, their reaction was a little skewed, based on American television shows.

“But everyone has a gun there,” his friends told him.

“Clearly, that is not true,” he said.

“The reception has been great,” he says, with the people he passes offering friendly waves or stopping to talk to him.

He is enjoying his trek across the heartland, especially the spacious fields and pastures.

“You have an opulence of space here,” he said.

For more information, visit

May the Source be with you!

20 miles

Monday, July 18th, 2016

Monday, July 18th, 2016
Williamsburg, Iowa

1100 Kilometres

We did 1100 kilometres of driving to make it back to the spot where we left off last week.  My walking mission is met with many interruptions; happy ones, of course.  It was a six-day leave of absence from the trail.

Now on our way, before entering the States and in particular the state of Michigan, my driver, for the next four days of companionship, is Rajasuya from Brampton, Canada. Also with us are Mandala, an assistant to replace Uttamanada.  They are in for a treat.  I wanted to bring them down memory lane.  Off the major 401 Highway, we veered onto the Tecumseh Parkway.  This was the road I roamed to go back and forth to elementary school;  a humble, red-brick school house that enrolled rural kids, accommodating eight grades, and with only one teacher.

That’s a miracle in itself!

When you see this structure, boarded-up, and closed down since the sixties, it’s remarkable it is still standing.  The size leads you to believe that this 25 x 30 ft. place could not possibly hold the group of us.  Eight grades in one room!  One teacher!  Imagine that!

We thrived in this type of environment.  The older kids looked after the younger ones.  We lined up outside for drinking water from the pump.  We had little or practically no facility for sports.  Somehow we were happy in this minimalistic life-style.  I won’t forget the wooden desks with holes for the ink jars.  You used pencils in the younger grades.  The use of ink was for the older kids.  Yes, the simplicity was the thing.

May the Source be with you!

0 miles

Sunday, July 17th, 2016

Sunday, July 17th, 2016
Toronto, Ontario

Some of What Happened

A couple flew in from Hawaii to attend the Chariot fest and I was given the honour to award them diksha (initiation) into the Vaishnava tradition.  Three couples also took second or brahminical initiation.  The new initiates are Guru das, an attorney, and his fantastic wife, Amala.

The ritual, which had quite the appeal for the public (as it was held outdoors on Centre Island), was colourful, and was positioned in front of the mystical temple under a marquis.

On the second day of the festival, like the first, I was scheduled to conduct an aerobics class to the sound of drum and mantra.  Held at the youth tent called the Bhakti Cloud, within no time, volunteers who wanted to loosen-up and shake-it-out filled the space.

For my own record, I thought to document  the one hour talk which I gave at the Govardhan Farm tent.  The topic was “Spiritual Ecology and the Age of Machinery.”  As you might imagine, I underscored the culture of “Hands On” and expressed the superiority of manually working with soil and animals, over the use of machines.

We certainly need to have a hard look at what is favourable for mankind and the environment.  The future is in our hands, especially when we plan and act in the present for an improved world which is based on the balance of the physical and the spiritual.

A last point to raise on the outcome of the fest, is that it was record-breaking for spiritual book sales, devotional items, and food.  Also, there were splendid presentations made on the stage.

May the Source be with you!

2 km

Saturday July 16th 2016

Saturday July 16th 2016
Toronto, Ontario

Happy Faces

While last week's Montreal Chariot Fest was drenched with the pouring of cats and dogs (strange saying), the event in Toronto enjoyed perfect weather today. I cannot make any remarks relating to Karma in this regard.  Who's to say who deserves what, right?  Whatever comes to you that is seemingly bad does not always need to be met with an "it's my karma" attitude.  The wind blows as it may.  Accept it and adjust your sails. 

What's important is how you cope with or handle a challenge.  That is the real test of the devotee. 

But what of the event today on Yonge St. and Centre Island, in Toronto? 

I saw happy faces with loud singing, and bodies moving at a good clip, southbound on Yonge St. for a 4 to 5 kilometre stretch to the Waterfront.  Three 50 foot chariots were hand-pulled by ropes, and onlookers viewed with awe, this unique, exotic, and ancient Festival.  It is a re-enactment of a ride that Lord Krishna once took millennia ago, and it is enlivening to those who get involved, and even those who choose to just watch.

Procession is part one of the program.  A carnival of sorts is part two, held on Centre Island in Lake Ontario.  The procession covers 5 kilometres.  The return is the same, so I managed to double the distance while taking time to reflect on the day's joy of devotion.  This pensive time was at the darkening hour--dusk.  "Yes, joy comes from within," I thought, as I was noticing the party-goings-on, on the street that I walked. 

May the Source be with you!

12 km

Friday, July 15th, 2016

Friday, July 15th, 2016
Toronto, Ontario

Move and Not Move

The day constituted more of a sit-down than stand-up or walkabout one.

It was the normal 12 hour kirtan program preceding the next day's Chariot procession, which became a highlight for those of us living in the area and those who had come from far and wide.

As is usual, I had the Good Fortune to kick-start the chanting event by leading the chanting while all others responded. A half-hour time slot allows for little time to build a crescendo of sound and energy, which would inspire dancing.  We normally start slow and easy with the mantra and the support of mrdanga drum, harmonium, and kartals (hand symbols).

My body is habituated to a good walk each day, but today, at least in the morning, I was confined to the "lotus" sitting position.  It was only in the evening, when B.B. Govinda Swami took the lead, singing and gradually building up the tempo, that quite a number of us took to the flight of our feet and moved about in some devotional style of dance.

Yes it was sweet, this use of the voice and other body parts.  For me, I came to moving as if in a walk-dance, and so it fulfilled my passion for trekking and dancing. Indeed in my high school years at the dances, I used to show off a trifle with whatever skills I could conjure up.  If I was in my teens now, I'm not sure I could muster up and execute the dance steps of the contemporary approach. 

The event, the 12-hour kirtan was sublime.

May the Source be with you!

2 km

Thursday July 14th, 2016

Thursday July 14th, 2016
Toronto, Ontario

Some Reflections

I got fairly busy--much to do with the weekend Fest, The Festival of Chariots, perhaps the largest in North America.  So little time for walking.  I did, however, compile some thoughts on the art:

#1) Walking through the countryside at normal speed allows you the time and space to absorb all that's around you.  It enhances appreciation for nature, people, and the Creator.

#2) Rain came down for hours and I was holding up the umbrella while trekking.  After some point, I gave up on the umbrella and just let the rain and wind do what they wanted. Instead of resisting, I chose to accept and free myself from those elements.  You can get to a point where you realize, "I'm not this body.  I'm actually a spirit--a spirit in motion."

#3) I enjoy walking and I enjoy the mantra meditation, but I will admit I'm not ecstatic about either at this point.  It's not a major stimulation or adrenaline rush, but I do see and feel the power they wield and how they wear away at the mind, which channels the ego.

#4) Regarding pain or fatigue: It's better to have a physical ache or pain with a peaceful mind, than have a pampered life style with an agitated mind.

#5) God created us with half of our body made of legs, so I believe in using them for Him.  I find there is no better or more personal way to meet people than with the low-tech, highly organic approach of using the legs.  The legs were made for walking, and the mouth for speaking about the absolute.  Perfect combination!

May the Source be with you!

0 km

Wednesday, July 13th, 2016

Wednesday, July 13th, 2016

What the Gazette Said

In yesterday's "Iowa Gazette" under the "Faith and Values" section, we have an article.

"Canadian monk walks across U.S. to spread the message of simple living" by Madison Arnold:

On Monday morning, a driver called the police after spotting Bhaktimarga Swami, dressed in his traditional orange garments, as he walked along the highway.  The man thought the monk was an escaped convict.

And more than once, people, spotting him coming from a distance, mistake him at first for an orange traffic cone, Bhaktimarga said.

Bhaktimarga Swami, a monk from Ontario, Canada, is walking from New York City to San Francisco, mostly along the Lincoln Highway, in an effort to encourage people to embrace a lifestyle of "simple living and high thinking."  He stopped Monday in Iowa City.

"I'm trying to say, ‘You know, folks, let's slow-down a little bit.  Let's take a little time to connect with the world around us,’ the Swami said.  ‘My message is universal.  It's non-denominational and, it's trying to encourage people to realize their inner potential.’”

Walking out in the open is a very public way to deliver this message and as he believes cars are a sign of consumer culture, he wants to reject that mentality.   Swami said spiritual, long walks are a tradition dating back to the origins of Buddhism and beyond.  He also has completed walks across Ireland and Israel, and four across Canada.  His goal is to travel about 20 miles per day and he usually camps at night, unless a temple or resident offers him a place to stay indoors.  People generally interact with him, especially after they learn what he's doing, Bhaktimarga said.  The Swami said he expects to walk another month before taking a break and finishing the final leg of his walk next year.

May the Source be with you!

9 km

Tuesday, 19 July 2016

Tuesday, July 12th, 2016

Tuesday, July 12th, 2016
Williamsburg, Iowa

The Rain Came

The rain came down quite enthusiastically, like bullets in speed, but not penetrating like bullets.  It was the contact with corn leaves on both sides of me that made a constant sound, at least for three hours.  At 3:45AM I could see hardly a thing and it took an hour and a quarter, from the point of my first footstep, before a vehicle of any sort passed by, it was quiet.

I decided upon wearing sweat pants and a T-shirt over my robes, that way when the rain subsided I would have dry clothes available.  Despite my civilian clothes, someone called the police.  The officer who responded came to see me.  By now, rain retreated.  Some wind also had picked up.

Rather apologetically, the officer who did receive a dispatch of message from yesterday’s police, said, Hi!  I got a call that someone’s walking!”

“It’s not a sin to walk!  I said, restraining some frustration while in my wet civies.

“I know.  People!!!” he said with arms outstretched.

The officer was really nice, like the police from the former county that I tread through yesterday.  I was startled to hear the remark from him when he said, “I don’t follow the news, it’s too depressing.”

I did take the liberty to express that driving is a sin, that 1.25 million die from auto accidents each year, and that the automobile causes major polluting effects, if not by gas emissions, then through creating heaps of trash.  We parted totally as comrades would.

I made it to Williamsburg (pop. 3200), met Melinda from the news.  Motorists and pedestrians saw a monk.  I changed then changed to dry, devotional attire.  All is well.

May the source be with you!

15 miles

Monday, July 11th, 2016

Monday, July 11th, 2016
Iowa City, Iowa

Instant Everything

When I explained to the officer I met today, the purpose of my walking, which is to encourage “the slowing-down culture,” he was right on board.

“Yes, of course, people are so accustomed to instant everything.  I have to have this and that and I have to have it now,” he remarked.  He was implying that there’s little patience.

He was nice.

When I think about the consistent professions or vocations that I meet, it’s got to be cops and journalists.  They’re great people to have as part of your day.  Both professions help to “keep me on my toes,” so to speak.

To the journalist from the Gazette, Madison was her name, I told of the historical significance of this year, 2016, and what it means for followers of the Hare Krishna leader, Srila Prabhupada.  On July 13th, 1966, his unique community, ISKCON, became a legal entity.  It’s been 50 years.

“We are an ancient tradition with roots from India, but we are newly packaged, done in such a way that our lifestyle can be relevant to a western world as well.”  I did, in fact, let her know that I’m hoping to inspire a slower pace of life through walking.  I also mentioned to her what the police told me earlier on.

“Someone phoned in after seeing me in my exotic garb and figured out that I’m not necessarily from the prison, but perhaps someone who escaped from the local mental institution.”

May the Source be with you!

19 miles

Sunday, July 10th, 2016

Sunday, July 10th, 2016
Minneapolis, Minnesota
What Hurts the Heart…
I was asked to deliver a message from the book Bhagavatam as a component to the morning sadhana (spiritual work-out).  Families came to listen from the First Canto of the book.  The verse had much to say about heart-cleansing.  Our hearts have blockages that are described as knots.  Then the purport to the verse, explained by our guru, Srila Prabhupada, addressed what the one major knot is.  In Sanskrit it is referred to as ahankara.  Ahankara means ego.

Most of us are aware of ego.  We all have it and we are all rather good at holding it in place.

In any event, the ego hurts the heart.  It is like some illness that you have.  You cannot understand the source of the malady, only the symptoms.

We had a beautiful discussion on this subject.  Then I got to thinking “That’s what I’m doing almost every day while walking and chanting.”   These two functions alone help towards eradicating ego.  Although I enjoy both activities, I will admit that they don’t necessarily offer adrenalin effects.  No rush.  I do, however, see and feel the power they wield, and how it’s all good for taming the mind through which the ego channels itself.

This is one of those unfortunate days where I did not walk, but some funds were raised over the last two days, for promoting our walking (and chanting) cause.

May the Source be with you!

0 miles

Saturday, July 9th, 2016

Saturday, July 9th, 2016
Minneapolis, Minnesota

More News

Taking another one of those breaks became another reality today, as my trusted team, including Gopal and Uttama, drove north to Minneapolis for a speaking engagement on “Tales from Trails.”  Seventy to eighty people showed up.  These talks also assist us financially towards the walking cause.  Donations came our way.

Before it becomes forgotten, I will happily report another newspaper reporting, this time from the Chicago Tribune News, author Urvashi Verma.

Chicago, Il: Bhaktimarga Swami, a 63 year old Canadian born monk has embarked on a transnational walk of 3,000 miles across the United States from New York City to San Francisco to commemorate the 50th Anniversary of the coming of the Hare Krishna Tradition to the West and to promote a more green style of living in America.

Swami who has arrived in Chicago, IL on June 11 has traversed open plains, highways, and landmarks. For the general public, Bhaktimarga Swami is best known as "the walking monk".  To share his message of peace and gratitude he has already crossed Canada four times covering over 17,000 miles on foot.

The Swami is walking to draw attention to the contributions of his own spiritual teacher, or guru, A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Srila Prabhupada.  Prabhupada arrived in the USA 50 years ago, on September 17, 1965.  He came practically penniless from India at the age of 70 on the order of his teacher to promote God consciousness, or devotional bhakti-yoga, to the English-speaking world.

"In the broader sense I'm walking to honor all our teachers," Swami says.  "Our teachers open the doors to the world for us, and to other worlds as well.  I hope to remind us all how grateful we should be to those who give us knowledge, especially knowledge about our inner potential,” he says.

Each day Swami, donned in monastic orange garb and his favorite crocs he walks 20 miles each day along path chartered by his companion assistant Gopala and returns to the same spot where he left the next day to complete another 20 miles.

"Generally it takes about 10 to 12 hours to complete the days walk, because often we have to start from the same spot where we left last day, and many times we get up by 3:30 AM to be able to back to the location where we left off.  On the way we find accommodation is spiritual places and often have meetings with others on the path of spirituality.  The time it takes to complete the 20 miles is not important what is important is make sure that you take every step," shared Swami in an interview with Desi Talk Chicago.

(Bhaktimarga) Swami, whose name coincidentally means the "path of devotion," took up the monastic lifestyle at the young age of 20 and since then has dedicated his life to teaching of spiritual knowledge and devotional arts and theater.

“I knew was meant for sanyaas, (monastic life) even at a very young age, and I always knew deep inside that I had already fulfilled my worldly commitments in my past life and that for me this life was supposed to spiritual," said Swami.

Swami who has traversed more than 1,000 miles in the US so far made his first walk across Canada in 1996.  Since then he has walked across the world's second largest country four times going both east to west, and west to east and has also trekked across Ireland, the Fiji Islands, Mauritius, Trinidad, Guyana, Israel, and other countries.

"More relevant that the distances covered are the people I encountered," Swami says.  He reflects on his experiences and adventures in his daily blog, which he calls "Tales from Trails."  Sometimes we meet the kindest people who provide us food and shelter, we have enlightening conversations about Krishna consciousness, and most are very intrigued for the reasons of the walk."

Traveling on foot is a common practice in various spiritual traditions, and the walking monk believes that it's an effective way to reach out and communicate the importance of morality and ethical priorities.

Swami says that when you walk, "You learn to take it all in.  The heat, the wind, the rain, the traffic, the cold, the black flies, the mosquitoes, the public attention or none.  With all of that you learn detachment from externals and how to go within to be happy."

Thank you, Urvashi, for the article.

May the Source be with you!

0 miles

Friday, July 8th, 2016

Friday, July 8th, 2016
Hills, Iowa

Motorists Respond

The public is responding to today’s article in The Muscatine Journal, entitled “The Walking Monk,” and subtitled “Traversing the U.S. on foot.” It was written by Emily Wenger.

MUSCATINE, Iowa— Bhaktimarga Swami, also known as "The Walking Monk," passed through Muscatine on Thursday as part of his walk across the U.S.

The 63-year-old Swami hopes to encourage people to connect with their spirituality through walking.

He began his trek in New York City and plans to finish his journey in San Francisco in the summer of 2017 after taking a break during the winter months.  He timed the end of the walk to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the Summer of Love.

Although his entry into Muscatine Thursday was greeted with rain, everything around him, Bhaktimarga Swami said, reminds him of his spirituality.

"So when you're outside walking seven hours a day on average you can't help but see the spiritual things that creep up around you, the rain has a message to tell you," he said, "Davenport to Muscatine has been one of the most beautiful days."

While walking to Muscatine on Highway 22, Bhaktimarga Swami said he encountered a curious police officer, and people who have offered him rides along the way.  In those interactions, he said, he has seen the kindness the Midwest has to offer.

"The people have been very kind, mostly I would say, with offering rides.  And then I have to disappoint them and say I can't cheat," he said.

The Swami became a monk in 1973, and said the introspective walks he has been taking for 20 years are a way to raise spiritual awareness.

"It's my calling," he said.

What Bhaktimarga Swami has noticed most is the kindness from people along the way.  While traversing the U.S., he said he has had a place to sleep every night.

"The people are phenomenal, they have been really kind," he said.

Every day Bhaktimarga Swami walks around 20 miles, sometimes beginning as early as 3 a.m. to avoid the worst heat of the day.  He has friends who follow him, and occasionally check in.

"He checks in sometimes just to make sure I'm still alive," Swami laughed.

He also takes occasional detours from his walks, to drive to a nearby temple to speak, but he always begins where he left off.

The Swami has crossed his home country of Canada three times (actually it’s four), and he said the Iowa cornfields remind him of home.

"The cornfields are what I grew up with," he said.

Cars have caused a disconnect among people, Swami said.  Returning to walking allows personal connections to form.

"The automobile is cold, you don't really see each other," he said.

He hopes that the universal understanding about walking will help raise people's spiritual awareness.

"It is a kind of non-denominational approach to spirituality," he said.

The Swami is an instructor of bhakti yoga.  Bhakti means "devotion," and he said the objective of yoga is connection with the divine.

"It's a very old traditional practice that has roots in India and like the Mississippi it flows through all people, countries, nations, and races," he said.

He is also a director and playwright of "morality stories" based on ancient Indian epics, which he said are a spiritual outlet for his creativity.  Bhaktimarga Swami said walking across countries sometimes reminds him of these plays.

"When you put your feet right on the ground and you meet everybody and you see the way their hair blows, you see the skin color, you see the face of the individual whatever it may be, grumpy or cheerful, that's like having a drama in itself," he said.

That drama crosses boundaries of religion, and Bhaktimarga Swami said that while appreciating differences, the unity of people is most important.

"The diversity is beautiful but we really have to look at is the oneness factor," he said.

While moving across the country, Bhaktimarga Swami hopes to remind people of the need for human connection.

"The intent is to try to encourage people to slow down the pace of life and get connected to their soul," he said.

Beth Van Zandt took a photo whose caption reads. “It’s not every day you see a monk walking down the street of Muscatine, but, Bhaktimarga Swami of Chatham, Ontario, Canada, walks along Cedar Street Thursday in Muscatine as he treks across the United States, walking from New York City to San Francisco.  He is a member of The International Society for Krishna Consciousness and has walked across Canada three times.”

May the Source be with you!

16 miles

Saturday, 16 July 2016

Thursday, July 7th, 2016

Thursday, July 7th, 2016
Muscatine, Iowa

Wrinkly Shirt

I started off the day with a wrinkly shirt, or what we call a kurta, but one hour after the walk began perspiration took all creases out.  Problem solved.

I took shelter of our support van today, when another substantial downpour came.  After the rainfall, moisture just hung in the air like a possum hangs from a tree branch.  It’s ‘sticky’ conditions.  Except for construction workers doing extensions to the “Hon” office-chair company, most people prefer to be indoors.  I recommend walking and noticing a vibrancy about the place.  These days it’s rare to find manufacturing going on in North America.

Muscatine was also known world-wide for its production of pearl buttons.  Plastic put that out of business.  I was learning as much about the town from Emily Winger, the reporter from The Muscatine Journal, as she was learning about my walking project.  Actually she was equally keen on knowing about life in the moderate lane, as a monk.

The interview went well, and longer than usual.

I am a little saddened to see the Mississippi leave me.  It makes an acute turn towards the south, and I’m going west.  Some magical moments did happen here, like in almost any place.  I met Alijandro, who hails from Mexico, who greeted me with the mantra “Namah om Vishnu padaya…” This is a mantra which honours our guru Srila Prabhupada.

Alijandro said, from his works pick-up truck, that he was once ready to shave off his hair and be a full-fledged monk when his family stopped him.  That was years ago.

Later on, an officer of Hispanic origin offered to give me a ride to the next town.

“I’m walking to San Francisco.  I can’t cheat,” I said.

“Oh!  I gotcha!”

May the Source be with you!

16 miles

Wednesday, July 6th, 2016

Wednesday, July 6th, 2016
Fairport, Iowa

Cool Mississippi Folk

“There aren’t too many monks around here,” remarked the officer.  I was really enjoying the route along the east/west flow of the Mississippi, on Concord St., and then on Hwy 22, headed for the town of Muscatine, where I met the police officer.  To my left, the muddy waters would carry massive barges of cargo.  It is a river that has perhaps as much folklore and social value in America as the Ganges has been to India.  The only feature about the Ganges that distinguishes it from other rivers, is the spiritual power attached to its name.

In any event, people along the Mississippi have been real “cool,” including the police.  There have been so many ride offers.  I have to decline, of course.  People give me water.  This compensates for the loss of it, by way of my sweat.

It’s humid, but over-cast.

Young fellows ask about life as a monk.  A woman asks for a picture of me, which she wants to send on the internet.  There are also questions, “Where did you start?  Why the walking?”  No challenges!  Just interested people asking questions.  Perhaps the most intriguing interaction was with someone named Johnny.

I met Johnny at the side of the river.  He had parked there overnight, tucked amidst the trees and onto the sand.  He has his life’s belongings in his car.  It was a rough night with strong wind gusts, thunder, lightning, and heavy rain; enough to make a sheep rather restless.

I take it that he’s about 40.  He’s from one of the Carolinas and is trying to get to Colorado to start up an existence again.  He’s super friendly, but kind of lost.  I shared with him the maha (great) mantra.  It was his first time meeting a monk.

May the Source be with you!

16 miles

Tuesday, July 5th, 2016

Tuesday, July 5th, 2016
Davenport, Illinois

Mississippi Milestone

“Just think of those five toes on each foot as being like a team of horses.  They have been working hard and now that it’s rest time, squeeze each one lightly, like you would pat each horse, by the neck, to thank them for their wonderful service.”

Such is what I explained to Uttama as he gave me a massage last evening as I suggested he encourage giving attention to the fine mechanics of the feet.

Well, this paid off, and, with the help of the new kyboots footwear, I felt like I was flying this morning.  I was also childish with anticipation of reaching the Mississippi River today.  That was accomplished.

I was on a conference call, a break to my walking, and one that consumed time.  Badrinarayan Swami, a monk from the west coast who was on the call, remarked, “I think you’re now clearly in the west (having stepped over that line).”

It was at a park by Union Station and near a casino (an actual riverboat), that I made a call, met Kevin Schmidt from the local “Times” for photos, and where I made friends with a black dude.  I offered to show him a hand shake that puzzled him.

Excitedly he said, “Hey, man, that’s new!  Yah learn somethin’ every day. If yah don’t learn somethin’ new every day yah ain’t nothin’ but dead, man!”

May the Source be with you!

15 miles

Wednesday, 13 July 2016

Monday, July 4th, 2016

Monday, July 4th, 2016
East Moline, Illinois

Illinois by Way of Canal

The trek on the Hannepin Canal Trail wraps up today at Cologna, a town just a few miles shy of the Mississippi River.

The solitude is unbeatable.  Even fishermen along the canal are quiet, like focused yogis.  They do give a greeting.  Also serene are the snake, the turtle, the otter, the rabbit, and the cricket-- though loud, his sound adds to the calmness.  Voiceless is the coyote.  As is the coyote scat.  It is always something to dodge and it’s interesting that coyotes eat grasses, roots, and berries.  You can tell by their stool samples.  Apparently that’s their easy-to-acquire menu.

After two and a half days by the canal you almost forget what traffic sounds like.  The canal did come to an end near Rock River and so back I went to the noisier side of life.

People are out and about.  U.S. flags are plentiful, set in front of businesses and residences alike.  No, they don’t flap.  The air is still.  It’s humid.  Yes, weather changes and it’s wet in the air.  The canal had been like a mirror.  Only the tiniest of ripples had appeared during a five-minute drizzle-- hardly noticeable.

My mantra never changes.  It’s the regular sound that I shelter myself in each morning, which is the time of my walk-- the best time.

May the Source be with you!

20 miles

Sunday, July 3rd, 2016

Sunday, July 3rd, 2016
Atkinson, Illinois

He’s A Trip Monk

From the News Tribune an article appeared, authored by Ben Hohenstatt in the city of La Salle, Illinois.

He’s a Trip Monk

If you saw a man with a shaved head in orange robes in the Illinois Valley Thursday that wasn’t an oddly dressed flagger.

A walking journey from New York to San Francisco took Bhaktimarga Swami “The Walking Monk”, a Hare Krishna monk originally from Canada, through Ottawa, Peru and La Salle Friday.

“I’ve been to Chicago, but I’ve never been here,” he said. “We’ve met a lot of nice people…There’s a lot of sweet people…People in the Midwest carry some good values”

In the past, he has crossed Canada four times and walked across Guyana, Ireland, Israel, the Fiji islands and Trinidad and featured in documentaries.

Swami said this walk was to promote physical and spiritual health as well as to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada incorporating the International Society for Krishna Consciousness.

“The walk is to encourage people to have a workout and a work-in,” the 63-year-old monk said.

Around 11 a.m. Thursday, he stopped to eat mangoes and cherries in Pulaski Park in La Salle. Swami said his day’s walk began in Ottawa around 5 a.m.

Despite covering dozens of miles a day in weather that is “almost never perfect”, encountering bears and schlepping through the Appalachians and downtown Gary, Ind., Swami said sometimes it can be tough to pause his journey.

“It gets to the point sometimes where it’s hard to stop,” he said.

Swami said he would follow U.S. 6 toward Peru before continuing west toward Davenport, Iowa, and he will be excited to continue westward and cross the Mississippi River.

“I might swim it,” he said. “We’ll see if I can swim it.”

He said he thinks he will be able to make it to the middle of Nebraska before other commitments will cause him to put his walk on hold before being resumed next year.

“Next year, I’m hoping to finish walking to San Francisco

Swami said during his cross-country trek he expects to wear out about four pairs of shoes and several robes, which become faded from sunlight.

While marathon walking, he said he encounters people, wildlife and all manner of weather and tries to engage with his surroundings.

However, the rhythm and repetition of walking also makes it easy to get lost in thought.

“It’s an everyday experience,” he said. “You are very much present, but you’re also someplace else; it’s a great time to dream. Your feet are on the ground, and you’re head definitely isn’t in the clouds.”

Thanks Ben!

May the Source be with you!

18 miles