It's been 15 years since I walked to the sweet lake in Arambol. Back then I was not even sure if I'd found it....hours climbing and bouncing over rooks in a half dry, half wet river bed, fear of leeches teasing my mind, mosquitos pricking my skin...as soon as there was enough sacred mud to smear on my skin pooled out from a pool clearer then others I was content. I never did reach anything resembling a lake or the much spoke of sacred banyan tree.
Now I see it all so differently. Seeing with my physical eyes, clarity and with my third eye intuition.
Maybe having not rejoiced Lord Shiva on route continously also makes it a diffrent clearer.
Or maybe 15 years on the way is simpler.
A path is clearly worn through the forest, rocks shiny and slippery with the constant pilgrimage, was this path ever here before I wonder as I look down at the trickle of a river passing through muddy pools below. (Which is still not that alluring.)
Strolling with ease I stop constantly in awe of mother nature. The mango tree must be 100 years old. I am unable to take a picture of it as it extends so mightily my lens won't capture it. But actually no lens can capture the eseense, energy, beauty, magnificence and strength of this tree or any of them. I inhale taking in as much prana as I can. Feeling my body drink the life force. I grow a couple of centimeters as I absorb it.
I take time to touch, really touch the bark, feeling it beneath my hands, I place my cheek on it, it's strength and wisdom unmistakable beneath my palms and face. How many stories had this tree heard, how many illicit romances had it witnessed, how many babus, guru's, saddhus, seekers, explorers had shared their journey with it. How many had noticed it, felt it like I am in this moment? It is so easy to walk absorbed in our thoughts and the dialogue in our head and to not notice the present moment.
I think about each of us on this dance of life. Always seeking outside for answers, scared to go in. Seeking stimulation, distraction and conversation from others and missing the stillness, solitude, love and peace that are inside.
I continue my walk the path crosses the now dry river, I jump from bolder to bolder and then there it is in front of me. The revered banyan tree. It is mesmerising, it's roots old, gnarly and white hanging all around me like streamers on a Christmas tree. Sat on a grass mat is the baba. We look into each others eyes and I bring my hands together in prayer and lower my head. He acknowledges me. On grass mats surrounding him are other pilgrims, who like me have made this journey. A chillum is passed between friends and the heavy smell of charas permeates my nostrils. Thick smoke billows up to the sky.
Behind the baba is a beautiful painting of a goddess. Russian dolls are neatly lined up, dream catchers float in the full summer breeze, offerings of fruit sit at his feet. He then converses with the pilgrims in Russian. I can't help but feel a little cynical like I have stepped into the babas money making initiative. Something inauthentic. When did saddhus and babas learn Russian? Of course they can do as they like, who am I to judge them or to expect them to be meditating in a cave, taking a vow of silence or to spend life with one arm raised forever. Maybe the world needs holy people to become more accessible, to speak more languages, to share more fully. I wonder whether if I had ever found the tree 15 years ago it would have been the same...maybe then the baba would have spoken Hebrew, there were certainly more Israel s traveling then.
I realise I felt more connected in the forest so I move to leave an offering for the baba. Stepping gently I kneel before him and place some rupees in his hand. I hold his hand and look into his eyes. I want to feel his message, sense his story. I want him to hold contact, to not be afraid of looking into my soul. He does, I am happy.
I walk back through the forest, the path trod by myself a few hours earlier already more familiar. I notice a small offering to shiva tucked into a tree trunk. I sit and meditate. Peace envelopes me along with a sense of returning home, to my true nature. I feel conscious and alive.
I feel more magic in the woods then at the babas feet but 15 years on I am an older version of myself. I enjoy the maturity and peace that my years have given me but also enjoy the memories of me 15 years ago as they spin through my mind.
In the end your journey is your own, maybe it takes a while to get there, maybe when you get there it is different to what you expected. ".......all is coming." Jois