The Rabbit

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 This is a story that happened a few days ago in the Mercantour. The Mercantour is a place in the Alps that I particularly love and where I have spent quite some time over the last 2 decades. North from Nice and the French Riviera and bordering Italy, it is very wild and high altitude, and the winters are extreme. Four legged animals are the marmots who hibernate during the whole winter, and the chamois and bouquetins who are uniquely designed to survive on high, rocky and barren lands. Over the years I have seen hundreds of those and never ever seen any other mammals there.

Last may I went up there on a beautiful clear day and set up to do an 8 hours walk I had done numerous times. Not a cloud as I started early morning. By noon I reached a plateau at 2600 m and decided to have lunch by one of the magnificent lake. A few clouds started to gather. By 1 pm the sky was getting dark and I moved further up. Within minutes I was in the midst of a snowstorm, unable to see one meter ahead, and reaching the top of the mountain from where I thought I would walk 700 meters downhill in less than 2 hours. I realized that this north face was thick with a few meters of snow and plenty of ice and that walking down blindly was a risk I had not taken in a very long time. Walking all the way back instead, not seeing what was ahead was equally risky. Those few minutes where I weighed my obviously thin options smelled of death; the 2 hours that followed certainly contain the essence of living.

At 5.30 pm I was on a beach between Antibes and Cannes, still shocked at the miracle that had just happened and at how it could have unfolded so differently, but I enjoyed a memorable swim in the big blue.

Not many places on earth offer that possibility, and this is one of the many ways the Mercantour is so magical.

I just took my Japanese friend Toshan there again and we spent an extraordinary week walking all day and sleeping under the stars every night. Day 2 had been so magnificent; we had walked up 900 meters, swam in 2 different lakes and saw so many marmots and chamois.

Exhausted and deeply fulfilled we laid down looking out for shooting stars as soon as the night set in.

I decided to make up a bedtime story. It was about a little Japanese girl who found herself alone in the wilderness of the Mercantour, and with whose only inhabitants – the marmots, the chamois and the bouquetins- she had nothing in common. But by miracle she met a little fox…and then a little rabbit…both also foreigners in those high barren lands.

My eyes felt heavy as I caught a last shooting star, and I started to fall asleep. I quickly wrapped up the story: “the little Japanese girl, the fox and the rabbit became best friends and lived happily ever after”. Good night beautiful. “Oh, really, wao, that is a sudden ending…”

And we both woke up 9 hours later with the first morning light.

After a swim in the ice cold river and some food we set up for day 3. A long day was ahead as we started across a wild raspberry field; we were headed for a lake at 3300 meters and it would be a hot steep climb. After about an hour we had a little break and I reminded my friend about last night’s story. She smiled. And then I asked “if you had to spend the rest of your life with one of them, who would it be? The fox or the rabbit?” The answer was clear and instant, “the rabbit!”

And off we were again. After about 20 minutes Toshan says “Nirav, look behind you! “

Ok I thought, probably a chamois, or a bouquetin, or maybe a marmot.

I turned around, and there just behind me, starring at Toshan, was a grey rabbit!

Never in my long life in those mountains had I seen a Rabbit.

Before I could grab my camera, the rabbit run away, and astonished I asked Toshan if I had just been dreaming. She said that no I had not, that the rabbit had indeed been starring at her and that to her it made complete sense and that she got the message.

My eyes are closing as I recall and write this story, so please excuse the spelling mistakes.

The rising of the Full Moon over Arunachala

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As the Full Moon is about to rise, half a million people are arriving in Tiruvannamalai; they will walk around Arunachala all night, stopping at every temple. Most of them will be barefoot, in silence, and in deep communion with the Mountain and the Moon.

It is a unique gathering that takes place every single month; an auspicious time when the energy of Arunachala gets multiplied.

I usually like my space and avoid crowds and noise, but this is something that always blows my mind. I love to see all those people walking together, yet alone. I love the incessant movement that spreads thick over 14 km, while Arunachala stands still and majestic under the Full Moon. I love the energy of devotion that is just unescapable in the midst of hundreds of thousands of devotees. I love feeling home and at ease, high and connected, in touch with the stillness of my heart and the mystery of life. I love to smell the divine and sense the depth of the unknowable in so many eyes. I love all those contrasts. I love watching those old men in orange, some of them with only one leg, struggling to make it around, but obviously more contented and at peace than most human Beings. I love seeing those women dressed in a festival of colours, walking with such grace and dignity. I love looking into the crowd and see individuals, everyone so unique, everyone such an indescribable miracle, everyone such a different story. And YET consciousness is so obviously all there is, shining through all and everyone and everything.

Sometimes I walk alone, sometimes with friends, and mostly it is in silence. The walk can take just 3 hours, but it often takes double that, especially when I stop at every chai shop to gaze at the full moon and at the incredible happening all around.

We all share what we are made of.

Arunachala standing still and majestic under the rising Full Moon is an expression of that.

Pradakshina is the meditative act of walking around Arunachala. It is an act of worship. It is a meeting with God.

Tomorrow I will walk around the mountain in the midst of thousands and thousands of people.

Where else do so many Human Beings gather together in peace and meditation, walking in silence around a sacred hill, in search for Oneness, ready to give up their little “me” at the feet of something far greater and far more real?

I feel blessed. Have a beautiful day.

In the fire of Arunachala- my latest encounter

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A few months ago I had been riding a beautiful and smooth wave for a while. Life was easy and generous. Not much drama or frustration, and I could feel myself sinking deeper inside. Maybe that was it. Maybe I was at last letting go. Each time I would contemplate on life or death I would find no fear nearby. Maybe I was finally at peace.

I went to Tiruvanamalai at the feet of the sacred mountain Arunachala, where I love to spend a few months every year. I soon started to get quite sick, and after about 3 weeks of severe headaches, high fevers and chills I one morning decided to go to the local hospital and give my blood. I ordered it checked for Malaria, Typhoid and Dengue fever, hoping they would find me positive for one of those and treat me.

The next morning when I went to collect the result I was pulled aside. The 2 doctors looked concerned. I was testing positive for everything!  Yes I could be cured and yes they could help me. I had however to stay here as my platelet count was well within the danger zone. I was given the choice to either go to a high end Hospital in the big City of Chennai 5 hours ride from here, or get hospitalized here and then. The risk of internal bleeding was high and going home on my own was no option.

From that moment onward, death had me by the neck and never let go of it for another week. It was a constant 24/7 connection. The overdose of Chloroquine they gave me in order to treat the malaria gave me petrifying hallucinations. I started to lose my eyesight. Death was once again knocking, checking where I was REALLY at, and scaring the shit out of me. Not only was I facing the possibility of dying here, but I was clearly going to go mad first. I spent those first two nights wide awake, terrified, convinced that those drugs were destroying my brain.

In my experience Arunachala acts like a mirror and will expose and burn whatever bullshit and illusions are still there.

I ended up healing completely, and the experience of those days and the weeks that followed is still with me today.

Those days were not only scary and on the edge. I was living completely moment to moment, breath after breath. In magical and strange ways really I was once again in touch with the divine. The biggest shock was probably to face the fact that death was still scaring me to the core. How could the only certainty in this fleeting life be such a terrifying prospect? How free was I really if a mild taste of death was still affecting my wellbeing and inner peace? So many questions got hold of my deepest beliefs and left me in state of inner chaos.

I am not sure if it burned to ashes, but the spiritual ego definitely suffered a major blow.  This experience connected me in the rawest way possible with my vulnerability as a human Being and brought precious humility into my heart. Although I would not wish that experience to anyone or to myself again, I feel deeply grateful for the disguised gift that it was.

Sometimes nothing works out

Sometimes nothing works out and I feel hurt, pissed, sad, angry, frustrated. I just want to sulk and hide under the blanket.

In those moments, I wonder where the joy in my heart has gone, what has happened with the ease and flow I was experiencing just a while ago?

Where is my connection with the divine, that space of total acceptance, that embracing of all there is?

I feel the dark side of the moon showing itself, the shadows of my inner world knocking on my door. I feel drawn into a space of discomfort, a space I had wished extinct, a space that challenges to the core who I believe I should now be.

Attempts to move out of that space and look for the light seem so futile; trying and change the situation seems utterly old fashioned, overdone, exhausted.

I feel trapped. I can smell the depth of the discontent, the darkness of the night, the helplessness I am in.

There is no way out. And now the way in too has been taken away.

Knowing that “this too shall pass” doesn’t help; understanding that in the world of duality everything has a shadow side doesn’t soothe the pain.

This pain is the yearning of the soul, the tearing apart of all the beliefs, the un- and rewiring of the mind. In those moments this pain is all there is, all there need be- it is all and nothing both. This pain is the remembrance that life is an eternal unfolding, a mystery to be lived, a mystery to die into, and a mystery to be celebrated in all its glory.

 

 

 

JOY

Joy is a feeling of oneness in my heart. Joy is trust, Joy is love, Joy is total acceptance of what is.

Joy is what’s left when the false sense of separation disappears, for a moment or forever. Joy is the unhindered movement of life, the beat of the universe going wild in complete freedom.

As I write about my inner journey through life and recall all those stories, as I notice with amazement how dangerous a journey it has been and how death has been so close on so many occasions, there is constant Joy outpouring.

This Joy has nothing to do with some kind of light or happy life; it is about presence, about connectedness, and about the complete embracing of everything. What is being embraced is in that respect irrelevant. Accepting and welcoming your darkness will bring Joy. Living a so called happy life without presence or gratitude won’t bring any.

When Love and Freedom meet there is a spark. That spark is called Joy. It is the stuff the Universe is made of. Joy is your innermost nature, and it is closer to yourself than any thought originating in your mind; it is what connects you with everything you think you are. Joy is your very heart.

Jungle of stories

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I never knew that I had so many stories to tell.

Yesterday after I had decided to write one a day for 3 months, hundreds of them literally jumped on me in the middle of the night. They came up with more and more details, more and more colours, as if they were all competing to get my attention.

I even had a flashback of a day sometimes in the late 80’s in Kerala, India, when I went off to the jungle near Kumily in the Periyar wildlife sanctuary, alone and against the advice of my Guest House owner. I was smoking lots of oil those days, and although I would not know exactly what it is anymore, I still remember the feelings and how strong it was. Certainly I was high and in touch with nature. Those days I was barefoot wearing a black sarong around my waist, I had long natural dreadlocks and I always carried water. I got lost and dusk started to descend. I wasn’t that far from the village and if I moved in the right direction I would see the first house in less than 20 minutes. In that moment when I was contemplating what could happen if I didn’t move in the right direction, just then, as I turned around I was face to face with an Elephant. I had never seen an Elephant in the wild before; it was my first time, and it was a direct encounter.

One moment, one in millions of moments in a rich and colourful life. An incident that I kind of remembered, but also kind of forgot and very rarely talk about. But here I was yesterday, lying in my bed, face to face with this situation that happened almost 30 years ago, seeing every detail, noticing every shade, and in contacts with all those incredible sounds from the jungle. I probably could write a few chapters about what happened then and about the unbelievable night that was to follow. I may.

Those who know me are aware that the best way to annoy me is to tell stories. My passion for the truth seems insatiable; my longing for depth and my love for what is real are always running the show.

With so many stories coming up I feel confronted to find in this what is really burning in my heart- because in truth very little else interests me. It is a stretching challenge, one that tickles my juice and creativity at new depths, and I love that.

It seems that all stories lead to one place and one place only. Here I am, feeling myself unburdened, light, and just perfectly okay with the unfolding of life.