Dance of the Dawn on the Ganges, India


IMG_5272editHe is pleased to see me. From the toothy grin that melts across his weathered face and the way he clasps his hands together in front of his heart before opening his arms to welcome me, that much is clear. I smile back, delighting for the umpteenth time in the so-called language barrier between us, knowing that it functions more as a filter for catching all those forms of communication unnecessary to share truth, to share love. It is just before 7 a.m. in Rishikesh, and a smile from this swami is all I need to feel warm and welcome in the windy November dawn.

I’ve been here before, to this modest room above the Third Eye restaurant in Laxman Jhula. I’d come with friends a couple days ago, curious about the man in the maroon robes who dances with the grace and reckless abandon of a child that not only sees the world as a sphere of swirling magic but seems to breathe and move within it as a naturally integral part. That first afternoon we’d sat with our eyes closed and our thumbs in our ears and hummed like bees for thirty minutes before resting quietly in meditation and finally curling up on our sides and falling asleep on the scratchy green carpet. I’d woken up when laughter bubbled up from spaces inside me I didn’t know were there and my whole body wracked with these foreign guttural sounds of light, of joy. It was then that the Swami insisted I come back, and I knew I must.

I place my bag in the corner and stroll around the room, rolling my head this way and that, clasping my hands behind my back and stretching my arms as long as they can go. I am full of wonder at how deeply I can breathe when my chest is open. When my heart is open. The swami crouches over an old laptop, pecking at the same key over and over as the audio cd he’s placed in the drive refuses to play.

“Can I help?” I ask with an encouraging smile. I crouch beside him, ejecting the CD and inserting it again.

This time the track begins to play: a primal overlay of drums and bells and electronic rhythms. His eyes grow wide and he motions for me to get up and move to the center of the room. I turn to face the windows and the gusts are whipping over the water as the searing orange Indian sun rises over the Ganges. The swami dances a few feet away, slowly at first, closing his eyes and snaking his arms to the sounds, and as the beats grow louder and faster he begins whipping his long-haired head back and forth, losing himself: a bona fide rock star of the soul. I close my eyes then, too, letting my limbs twist and turn with the tempos and the drums beat themselves into my belly as I too lose myself in the bliss of the conscious present. And in the moment before total surrender, I see them: parents, and brothers, and sisters, and lovers, and strangers: laughing, crying, dancing, smiling. And I know on a level much deeper than the intellect that this is the truth, of this place and of all places: that everything is love. Everything is love.

About the Author: Alexa Owen is an avid traveler, writer, photographer, and skier. She enjoys good books, good food, good company and, of course, dancing to good music. She splits her time between Jackson Hole, Wyoming and The World.

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