December 2, 2013

Rafting through the Highs & Lows of the River Ganga. ~ Janet Vella

Taking a break from my yoga practice and philosophy studies in India, I joined my fellow practitioners on a rafting trip to celebrate our only day off, someone’s birthday and my utmost fear of being on water.

Now, before I tell you the whole story, I need to explain that no matter how many hours of yoga, neck twisting, leg-bending soul shifting I was in India to absorb, nothing came as close to this day to teach me one of the most life changing lessons ever!

We know that most of our precious moments are spent stuck in the past or fearing the future.

The drive to the River Ganga was already enough to get my nerves going.

I mean these people seem to be on a suicide call on a daily basis. They drive like absolute maniacs, close to the edge, totally oblivious to any other vehicle present on their journey.

So, to my utmost surprise, I found myself still alive-and-kicking upon arriving at our destination, so off to our next trip, this time on the raft.

The river seemed happy and very calm. From what I remembered on my daily bridge crossings to the Ashram, the waters always seemed welcoming and gentle, so there was nothing to fear.

But my gut seemed to have made a Cirque du Soleil flip when the guide loudly announced that life jackets should be tested before departure. Tested? Why? Calm waters, yet we needed life jackets? Something was up here; and, I wasn’t liking it!

So I put my life jacket on, but I watched everyone jump in the river.

Of course, I didn’t need to test mine as my little ego said, “Nah, why go through the dreadful cold water when you can sit comfortable watching others.” The guide looked at me strangely, and sighed.

My friends knew I wasn’t a water expert, despite being the sea lover that I am, but one episode of slight suffocation under water seemed to have traumatized me for good. I could barely to come to the surface.

So apart from having had all my past emotions and old injuries stored in my head and muscles creep up on me daily as I yinned and yanged myself into the asanas; now, it was time for my ultimate phobia to shine out of hiding.

Off we went on this very gentle journey on the River Ganga. We were divided into two groups. A few faces turned round to me to reassure me and wish me well.

And I thought, “What on earth are they on about.” Then, I saw the waves!

Waves and foam and the Goddess in this river getting very cross at us.

The guide nonchalantly explained how we would be slammed to the right, and then swayed to the left. He told stories of how many rafts overturned in the past and how many bodies flew out to the river.

My heart jumped in my throat for good!

Everyone’s eyes were down and they were on duty. We had to oar our way according to the guide’s instruction because his instructions would get us out of this little foamy bit of river safely.

But my eyes were on the massive waves, tears were in the departure lounge, I wanted to call ‘Mummy’ but no voice emerged.

I felt small. I saw myself drowning and never seeing my son again. My body froze; the fear took over, mastering every thought and move. I wasn’t even participating in the group duty.

My mind was poisoned. In my vision, I was already drowning until I woke up from this wicked vision with a harsh tug of an oar from my guide.

He was right behind me and he couldn’t have slammed me harder than he did. My body was so hardened with fear I didn’t even feel pain, but his sharp words pierced my ears: Put your eyes on the water and use your oar!

I had no choice, as this guy meant business. I don’t think an attitude would have gone down well here, so I took my eyes away from the raging river ahead to the waters beneath me. I joined in the duty of veering this raft through the highs-and-lows of the River Ganga.

And then, just like the blink of an eye, the fear left me.

My tears dried up and there was no more anticipation. My thoughts were fixed right there in that very moment. I was serene.

The foamy waves and the angry river clearly represented the future. We waste our precious present through fearing, anticipating, over-thinking, analyzing and judging.

The oar and the waters beneath me belonged to the present moment.

It was palpable how serene I felt when I got the jolt from the guide prompting me to pay attention. He represented life lessons! The way they show up harshly when we are losing time and breathe.

Then came the ultimate.

We arrived at our destination; and, we were all asked to jump in the raging waters! I mean, wasn’t it enough that I conquered one massive piece of fear. Now this!

Tears prepared to launch again, as I waited my turn to jump in. As I was about to leap in, my friend called out to me, “Shut your eyes, seal your legs, cross your arms and let the river take you.” And I did. It was the most beautiful experience ever.

I felt the river’s strength. She pushed hard, but my flexibility allowed me to let her do just that. I allowed my body to sway along her tide; I surrendered enough, so she took me to land.

The River Ganga is Life itself.

She asked me to embrace the journey and be grateful for arriving at my destination. The less I resisted her the more she flowed in me. The more I bent with her tide, the more graceful the journey became.

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Assistant Editor: Jes Wright / Editor: Catherine Monkman

Photo Credit: Pixoto

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