Surrounded by endless mountains in a quaint lush valley of North East India, I observe the prepossessing view and think, “Here I rest in majestic Manali!” Heeding the advice of several fellow travelers who conveyed to me that Manali is well worth the arduous over night bus ride; the view in itself confirmed that I had made the right decision. I only had 3 days and 2 nights to make the most of my visit, so expeditiously I embraced the hugely vast area that pillows the cutest little villages and chose Old Manali as my resting point. I instantly found that this natural gem of a place was in its perfection, at this off season point in time. I had all the shops, cafe’s, treks and waterfalls all to my self! There is no way to be confused in Old Manali, with what seems like one paved road and its side spillings, one is left to feel safe and snug, especially with the cool temperatures and the extra layers you’re forced into wearing. What is most notable in this area is the unique architecture. The houses are built with a high solid foundation and a strong standing wooden top heavy balcony type formation.
I am assuming this specific housing structure has come from necessity. This beautiful land maybe conducive to flooding, as they are situated pretty close to the base of the mountains. It could also be just a stylistic approach unique as those who live there. Many of the eyes I gazed into had the facial features of what seemed more Nepalese than those familiar Indian features I have been accustomed to seeing. What I was delighted in most was the tiny temple in Old Manali. So far it has been the most personally appealing temple I have visually seen in India. The wooden temple there is auspicious to a miracle at that exact location. It is said that many miracles still occur there, truly I am not the least bit surprised, the serenity in itself feels saturated in absolute peace which is the natural state of all that is. The vibration is humble and peaceful yet fully charged. The aesthetic is so endearing inside, like a cottage loft made spiritual. Unfortunately I was not permitted to take photos inside the temple and the exterior doesn’t quite capture its adorable essence.
Manali is abundant in natural allure. At the right type of year it is said that you can reach your hand out and literally pick a bush of wild cannabis, I wasn’t that lucky! Maybe that’s why it’s such a popular destination for young hippy travelers, especially Israelis! I had no clue why India, especially this region attracted SO many Israeli tourists. Don’t get me wrong… I love everyone and every culture, but I will admit that personally in the past I held a bit of sadness and disappointment towards Israel. I felt that they should know better than to be hypocrites as they too were once oppressed by the Germans. It bothers me to see in the world news that they engage in the same occupation just at a different level! It seems their oppression towards Palestine and their incestuous relationship with the US Administration proves to be vile for the greater good. Well, with serendipity’s fortune and a much needed life lesson, I connected with a very special couple Karin and Idan. Two very positive wise and spiritually aware Israelis. Our time together and conversations gave me solace and a deeper understanding of where they are coming from and what its like to be a youth in Israel. I wasn’t aware in Israel it is compulsory for all men (3 years) and women (2 years unless she is married) to have military training and join the army right after high school. There, youth from 18 to 22 must comply, once they serve their term, missing such precious hormonal years to let loose and find themselves, many rebel and come to India to escape and engage in anything they want to with minimal rules or any militant commands. Many but not all of them, so stressed they seek the medicinal, escapist tendencies that the blessed marijuana plant offers. I got to understand more of the political interests perpetuating this war also that not everyone is in favour of war or animosity towards Palestinians and that awareness is spreading. I learned a lot and have a more positive outlook, a new found hope for this global issue and two new friends I would have missed out on had I chosen to judge them because of their country’s ill reputation. A great moment was enjoying a chai masala with them on a beautiful roof top taking in the regions beauty, sharing together as different people. We are all apart of this grand vast amazing planet. We all want peace and love and we all can’t be judged by our native country’s political actions. Thank God, because I don’t want to be judged based on Stephen Harper’s agenda or actions either! I am so grateful for this new paradigm and such wonderful new friends.
My most captivating beautiful moments commenced once crossing the bridge leaving New Manali to Vishisht. What a soulful sight looking out off the bridge through the flapping prayer flags that seem to welcome, as if they use the wind to wave specifically to you. A magical sight and feeling!
The quick rickshaw ride from that bridge to Vishisht is the prettiest most majestic kilometer drive I have ever witnessed. The rocks, river bends, green mountains and huge snow covered mountains in the far distance make it a sight of reverence! Once entering Vishisht one realizes, “this is where I should be spending my time.” Similarly, I would say the village of Vishisht consists of again one main barely paved road with quant locally owned shops to cater to passing travelers mostly. Vishisht is very quiet with not much entertainment or things to do, making it a perfect place for inner reflection and rejuvenation. The word spread of 2 existing hot springs, one for males and a separate one for females to bath in. I am not sure what I was expecting but they were not the least bit tempting to enter, so I passed on that experience and went for a beautiful trek about 1.5km to the waterfall. It felt so good to follow a dusty path of uncertainty, no signs but you trust it will lead you to the right place. Just before arriving there is the most darling little “Shanti Cafe” where you can grab a chai and absorb the magnitude of such a grand sight. I caught that chai on the way back, I was happily anticipating meditating at the waterfall, and the expectancy was precisely accurate, just spectacular! What was really riveting was the ruins of an old temple at the waterfall. This anciently made, outdoor stone shrine looked abandoned but held its presence as people still took off their shoes before entering!
Courageously a friend Hannah, (who I met at the Vipassana) and I decided to cross the waterfall and climb as high as we could, I am so glad we did! Sitting that high in altitude on the edge of that cliff, a few steps away from sudden death, I felt this rush of life intensity. I meditated with my eyes at half gaze, looking into this almost scary viewpoint where I knew I was safe sitting but it felt like I was on the edge of the highest roller coaster about to crescendo. It was a feeling of subtle exhilaration, knowing that ‘yes, I could die’ if I didn’t use my head, but I trusted myself and used that thrilling energy to be fully aware of the moment and BE in it. Just as really every day holds the possibility of being one’s last, there is just something about being face to face with death that brings gratitude and perspective like nothing else! I love experimenting with feelings as entry ways into new avenues of meditation. Then another mystical moment followed suit. Sitting by the waterfall a farmer and his 2 cows came for a drink of water. As I took the photo to capture the moment, surprisingly the photo caught the mauve coloured rays of light that glistened like the serenity of the special moment that it was.
Ending the energy charged day, we sat for a while at the “Shanti Cafe” a small shack in what seems like no where in the mountainous wilderness. I got to chat with a Baba and share in exchange over chai. My entire time spent here in this special valley had such an all peacefulness sense, time literally doesn’t exist there. It’s as if I am now completely unaware of time or what day it is. This tranquil stop over has increased my experience of practicing being fully in the moment, second by second, decision by decision. Not in the past, not thinking of the future, just literally immersed in the inner connectivity of now. Such a simple yet profound and challenging thing to do, it really is a practice. I find myself almost 2 months into this amazing journey now settling my awareness in my inner world and far off in the distance now is my material obligations no longer taking priority. They just are what they are, obligations to attend to while maintaining conscious awareness… it’s so freeing! Personally now I don’t even remember what I was so in a hurry for or what the intensity of chasing money was all about. The West and its clutches seem very distant now. I can only explain it as feeling like I am truly now on purpose. I guess it’s easy to do when getting away and out of routine and the regular daily work grind. Although on all levels, creatively, physically, mentally and spiritually I feel like I am lost yet found, wondering on the right path in the right direction. I don’t know where I am headed, but I know I am exactly where I am suppose to be, right here, right now in my own awareness, practicing the art of living… wondering and simply… lost on the right path!