Thursday, April 26, 2018

Day 14: My series of unfortunate events

image from

Everything that could go wrong did go wrong but I held on tightly to my happiness. 

The 2 day journey back home was a series of unfortunate events.  Good thing I brought the spiritual tools I accumulated during the retreat with me.     

Leg 1: Ahmedabad to Delhi

We agreed to meet at the lobby at 4:30am.  It was already 4:45am and the brother who's supposed to bring us to the airport was still nowhere in sight.  He came at 5:00am and was very apologetic.

"It's ok, Brother. No worries.", I said calmly.  He relaxed.

"Sisters from Philippines, Vietnam, Thailand all very sweet.", he said in his broken English once we got in the car.

I wonder what kind of reactions he get from the other students if he's late (particularly the non-Asian countries).  

"No sleep, Brother?", I asked

"No good sleep in 6 months", he said.

The university allows foreigners from 110 countries to have a retreat at Mount Abu from October to April.  

Almost everyone passes Ahmedabad before going up the mountain and on the way back.  This particular brother has been arranging the transportation of over 6,000 people in the last 6 months.  Most of us have been coming and going at wee hours in the night or very early in the morning.  He must have been tired.

When one looks at things from a bigger perspective, it's easy to accommodate the other person.  There's really no reason to make a scene.

Sister Nory and me in front of the Shiva Temple with a sculpture of Ravan's head as entrance

Leg 2: A day in Delhi

We got to the airport on time.  From Ahmedabad we flew to Delhi.  

In the evening, we will take another plane to Kuala Lumpur.  Since we  have a whole day in Delhi, I arrange a tour before the next flight.    

Sister Nory (my travel companion) and I had to run for the exit though.  We were seated at the far back of the plane and ˜90% of the passengers were Indians.  

If you've been to India at least once, you know that they are masters in queueing- which means it will take us forever to get off the plane and we might not be able to go to the tour after all.

After intense preparation (I had to orient and cue my 63 year old companion to get up fast) and bionic speed, we made it out of the airport in a jiffy and bested the other Indians.  We were so proud of ourselves.  

However, no one was there to pick us up.  We waited for 15 minutes, and then 30 minutes before I called our contacts.  There was a mistake and they were not expecting us.  We had to wait another hour to be picked up.

The funny thing here was, I had the intuition that this would happen.  So, I wasn't surprised.  What I wasn't prepared for was the disorganized driver who kept on watching on his phone while he's driving on a highway! (Usually, the organization gives us good drivers for our trips.  They weren't expecting us today though so they must have asked whoever is available at that time.) 

Sister Nory told me to let it go.  I can't- our lives were in danger.  So, just before we collided with another car I told him to stop and cued him to look at the road.   

At that particular instance, I had to use the power to face and tell him what he needs to hear.  

Leg 3: Flight back to Manila

It's now midnight, we were back at the airport and at our gate for boarding.  There was an announcement that our flight will be 30 minutes delayed, then 45 minutes delayed, an hour delayed, and then an hour and 30 minutes delayed.

It would have been ok if we didn't have a connecting flight to Manila.  But we did. 

To make matters worse, the flight stewards couldn't tell us what will happen to our connecting flight (we only have ˜30 minutes to run to our boarding gate given their delay).

It was a 5 hour journey.  No one could give me answers.  There was nothing else I could do.  So, I told myself, "It is what it is, Karen.  You just have to tolerate this for now."

So, I slept.  

In the end, we missed our plane to Manila but our airline booked us to the next flight (same day).  

photo by Nory San Juan

All these situations just emphasized why I need to take time to  nurture my spirit.  It is because it gives me power to face the many uncertainties in life.

meditation by Release Your Wings

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Day 13: How to save the world one glass of milk at a time

image from

We were having breakfast at the patio basking in the soft rays of the early morning sun and enjoying a view of the mountain side when Sister Pilar asked me, "Why are you vegan?".

"Uhmm...cause I want to save the world.", was my short reply.

"How?", she questioned.

"Simply put, if we remove all the cows 
in the planet, we can reverse global warming 
in 10 years.  If we eliminate all the cars, 
we hardly feel any effect even after 100 years.",
 I clarified.


That was my short answer.  What I really wanted to say is ...

"According to Cowspiracy movie, UN News Center reports that the meat and the dairy industry produces more greenhouse gases than the exhaust of all trucks, trains, boats and planes combined.

The movie explains that cows release a large amount of methane from their digestive process.  Methane gas from cows is 86 times more toxic than carbon dioxide from vehicles.

As such, if we decrease methane emission, the level of the greenhouse gases in the atmosphere goes down fairly quickly within decades.  On the other hand, if we decrease carbon dioxide emissions, we don't really see a signal in the atmosphere for 100 years or so.       

Therefore, even free range grass-fed cows are not sustainable."

I've been hearing bits and pieces about this since last year but I wasn't ready to give up my milk tea and pastries yet.  So, I didn't watch the movie until January 2018.

I know that when I fully understand the why, I will give up milk  cold turkey.

I was wrong.  

On January 14 this year, I was served paneer, a fresh unsalted homemade white cheese at the retreat center in Tagaytay and I broke my resolution.

I restarted my vegan journey on January 19th- quite unsure of myself this time.  I felt that the real test is if I can say no to milk (and chai, ice cream, cakes, paneer) in Madhuban also known as the forest of milk and honey.

True to its name, you can get unlimited chai (milk tea) in the campus as early as 4:00 am.  Then, every single day, after the early morning meditation class, you get a toli (sweet made with milk, honey, or butter).  When you meet with seniors personally, you get a toli again.  Also, if you know your way around the kitchen, you can just ask for paneer. 

Madhuban is literally overflowing with milk and honey!

Today, is my last day in Madhuban and I still haven't gotten a chai (or ice cream, cake, and paneer) for myself.  

Sister Ann, who's part of our send off party is dangling a bottle of milk tea in front of me.

"Here, it's yummy.", she jests.

I smile back at her and say, "Never." 


Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Day 12: On Yogic Farming

It is interesting how things shift here in Madhuban.

Sister Nory at the yogic farm in Manesar, India.  

Today, my social enterprise partner and I met with Bro. Sumanth from yogic agriculture and he facilitated that shift.  (To be honest, I'm just a chuwariwap in this endeavor.  Sister Nory's the lead.)   

Sister Nory showed him pictures of the farm’s yield and he asked calmly, “Is it really your produce?”. 

She didn't reply instead she looked at him quizzically, her eyebrows creased and her face surprised that this brother is asking an obvious question. 


"Sister, the only thing you did 
is sow the seeds.  
Did you pull the leaves 
out from the seed? 
Did you color the leaves green? 
Did you make branches for the plant?  
Did you create the flowers or fruits?", 
he gently communicated.


Sister Nory's face relaxed and she flashed a knowing smile while she shakes her head. "No, I really didn't do any of that."  

"You are simply an instrument then.  The rest of the work is the Divine’s and nature’s.", he explained. 

"And what is your work?", he asked her. 

"I farm.", was her quick reply. 

"Actually, in yogic agriculture you work with and meditate on the elements: water, earth, soil, fire and ether.", he shared.

"For the longest time, I'm thinking of food security, farm yield and how to help the other farmers.", she told him.  

"I didn’t see it as serving nature. Now, I do.", she disclosed.


meditation by Release Your Wings