A note on my three blogs

A note on my blogs

(1) vio; in love with india - this one is the main blog about my Indian adventures, which started in 2005. I don't write much on this blog these days because I prefer to write privately in the confidential blog. But check out the categories and the index to figure out your way. I have kept some older posts not about India but which I still find interesting or relevant in Old words. Also check out my new, fun category Only in India in which I post photos of funny, unique, Indian situations...

(2) vio; sounds of india - this is my blog of sounds, because India wouldn't be as incredible if it was not so vibrant and just so full of incredible sounds!

(3) vio; confidential - this an extension of my main blog in which I post entries I do not want to reveal to the entire webspace for privacy or sensitivity reasons. You must receive an invitation from me and then accept the invitation to be able to read it. You may email me if you are interested in receiving an invitation.


Sunday, 23 September 2012

My first encounters with India...

The first introduction I had with India was during my year of study in Leeds University in England, in 1998-1999. The Indo-Pakistani population is considerable in the UK, and there were many Indians on my course. Perhaps some were Pakistani but I couldn't make the difference at the time. I don't remember a lot about them except that I didn't have much in common and never knew what to talk about with them. I also didn't like the girls' style of dress because I thought it was very uncool and far too colourful - I was a “goth” back then and only wore black clothing... But most of all, it was their English accent that used to get on my nerves! I was madly in love with England at the time, and especially I loved the subtle round curls of British English, while the Indians' English to me sounded harsh, ugly and irritating.

My following encounter with India happened through N., whom I met in the summer of 1999, still in England, and who would become my longest boyfriend. We went out for almost five years and lived together for three. His paternal grandmother, who was Indian, had fallen in love with the British man who would later become his grandfather. She had left India to move the UK with him after converting to Christianity. N.'s father had left India in his teens, never to return, and N. had never been to India and really knew nothing of its culture. But he'd sometimes tell me he'd love to take me to India one day with his parents, and he absolutely loved going to Indian restaurants and cooking spicy food which we would eat with naan bread. I enjoyed the food, but it irritated me that his cooking was always far too spicy for my soft taste buds and I never seemed to get used to it. I know now that the “Indian” food we used to eat together didn't really have anything to do with the Indian food of India. By the way, the word “curry” in England is a generic term for “Indian” food whereas in India (or at least in the northern part of India that I know) “curry” - more precisely “kud̩i” - is a very specific dish made of yoghurt, chickpea flour and turmeric! When I think about N. today I think he would actually have a hard time in India, especially in dirty Varanasi...

Finally, my most significant introduction to India of course was to be yoga, although it took me a few years to even realise that yoga came from India, and later to develop a deep interest in visiting the country. At first I “kind of” knew yoga came from India but I didn't really care, because from what I knew of it (i.e. unfashionable clothing, a terrible English accent and food far too spicy for me) I wasn't interested! So I started learning yoga in 2001 at the age of 24. I decided to take classes after an inspiring friend, who had been going to yoga classes for a year, told me I should do it because I'd really like it. It struck a chord because I had always wanted to find the right form of exercising for me but had tried various disciplines and never managed to keep them up for long – dance, swimming, jogging, or doing gymnastic-type movements alone in my bedroom one day telling myself I'll just do that every morning for now on, but then feeling stupid doing silly movements alone in my bedroom the next day I'd stop until the next time I'd try again.

Before my friend told me about yoga in 2001, all I 'd had in my mind when thinking about this obscure discipline, I guess like many in the West, was not even an idea but just the typical image of a person sat in lotus position. Really I had no idea what yoga was, yet I, too, had that mocking stigma attached to it – kind of like “yoga is for weirdos”. So when my friend told me about yoga I realised I knew nothing of it and felt stupid for my conditioned value judgement.

At my very first yoga class the teacher told us to stand straight and to feel our feet – the contact of our feet with the floor. All I remember today is that I absolutely loved it and I felt silly for not having even thought of feeling my feet ever before! The yoga centre was five minutes walk from work so I'd go to class on the way home, once a week. For the first three years yoga was only exercise for me, but it made me feel good. It was a very new feeling: after each class I felt kind of light, more free in my body.

But it was only after I split up with N. that I started digging into the depth of Yoga – Yoga with a “Y”. I'd met a new friend then, G., who too was starting yoga, practising it everyday, and he was also learning meditation. He really woke me up. Clearly, I had never looked into the deep meaning of Yoga because N., my boyfriend, would never have understood it. When I left him I started my quest; I was so thirsty for knowledge! This came just before the summer of 2004, and at my job (I was working as a secretary at university) every summer was a torture because I rarely had anything to do so I had to sit at my desk 9-5 everyday trying to pretend I was working. So that summer of 2004, I spent all my time on the Internet quenching my thirst for Yoga philosophy and Buddhism. I learnt so much and loved so much what I learnt. It struck a deep chord in my heart, putting into words what I had always known but never been able to clearly express. I started practising yoga at home, I started breath awareness meditation followed by vipassana meditation, and devoured tons of books on Buddhism, zen Buddhism, Yoga, Yoga philosophy, Ayurveda... Finally, in August 2005 I decided to take my first trip to India with that friend who had introduced me to yoga in 2001.

But there was an even older encounter with India. Amazingly, it came back to my memory in a flash only about a few months ago. It is but a very faint image in my mind. I must have been about 10; I am pretty sure it was in the magazine I was subscribed to to help me learn reading, “J'aime Lire” (“I like reading”). It might have been in one of their short sections at the end, one small cartoon or perhaps a short cultural section. All I remember is learning that Indian women wrap a very long piece of fabric round their bodies for clothes, the saree. I think I even remember the double “e” in the word “saree”. And I very much liked the simple idea of it: wrapping fabric round the body for clothes. That very first glimpse must have lasted a few minutes before getting lost into a tiny drawer of my memory, and I was amazed to discover some 25 years later that it had not completely vanished... Isn't the human brain amazing?!

Sunday, 16 September 2012

In Michael Brown's beautiful words...

"Remember that the eyes of the heart are weak because we live upon a planet that does not consciously develop them or appreciate what they are able to show us. The eyes of the heart develop organically through our consistent use of them."


"[W]hen we consistently allow the past to physically, mentally, and emotionally die through us, we organically reawaken into (...) the fullness of the present moment. Then, we discover that these waves of death sharing the ocean of life with us are a blessing; that they come to show us "we must die consistently and consciously so that we may live fully". They come to strip us of the past so that each moment we step into is born anew."



It is up to us to give ourselves the experience of the consequences of consciously gardening our heart. If we require "understanding" before we are willing to take on this responsibility, it is only because we are trying to comprehend what is being offered here from our seat within the maze of the mental plane.

The heart cannot be understood; it can only be engaged. Only when we engage our heart do we enter a marriage made in heaven.

The following simple practice, when engaged consistently, shows us, through personal experience, that it is the garden of the heart from which all the fruits of a joyful, healthy, and abundant life experience are seeded, cultivated, and harvested. It is also from within the garden of the heart that we consciously awaken to the experience of the conscious death that fruits eternal rebirth. By tending to the garden of the heart consistently each day, we experience the miraculous. It reveals to us what it really means to "love and take care of ourselves"; to stand by ourselves no matter what. To initiate this encounter with the heart it is recommended we tend to our garden for a few minutes at the beginning and the end of each day, and also in the midst of any unexpected upset.This is how simple it is:

We sit comfortably in a quiet place where we will not be interrupted. (If we truly seek to be authentic when entering this practice, we switch our cell phone to "off". Otherwise, we are just doing this because nothing else is currently stealing our attention.)

We recall an upset, whether it is something that happened recently, or something currently festering within our physical, mental, and emotional experience.

We drop the story and the details of the physical events surrounding it, and instead place our attention fully on "how we feel about it".

Where seek out where we feel this discomfort within our body? We place our attention within this location and "cradle it".

While keeping the eyes of our heart upon the uncomfortable feeling within our body, we simultaneously keep our physical eyes open, and in a relaxed manner, we observe the world before us.

We observe how the inner feeling moves, and how, as it does, the outer world simultaneously increases in presence.

When we stray off into the mental again, we gently bring our attention back into the inner feeling within our body and simultaneously upon the presence of the outer world.

We cradle this experience for as long as we feel necessary.

NOTE: If we do not have an upset to consciously work with, we enter the practice by consciously placing our attention within the center of our chest and hold it there, following the above instructions, until we feel complete. The practice of consistently placing of our attention within the center of our chest is equally powerful in initiating "the death experience" that invites the blessing of rebirth within all unintegrated aspects of our life experience.

Eventually, through this practice, we discover that the feelings of discomfort underlying our unintegrated upsets are gradually integrated and replaced by stillness, silence, and a sense of balance and peace within our heart. Over time these feelings of balance and peace organically radiate into our thoughts and are reflected back through our outer physical circumstances."


"It’s not about feeling better – it’s about getting better at feeling."

Read the full text.
Le même texte en français.
Link to The Presence Portal.

Wednesday, 5 September 2012

"Feeling" classes with a new teacher

I've generally been feeling quite confused about my practice recently. Indian classical music can be so overwhelming sometimes; having to improvise on a raag full of rules whilst having to forget about those rules enough so you can let go and play with your heart. On top comes the cyclic rhythm system inside which you'll also have to improvise, faster and faster as you progress on your musical journey - alternating parts of a fixed composition with your own improvisation. In the process of course you must care to listen to the rhythm cycle so you'll start your improvisation on the right beat of the cycle, and end on time to start the composition again (say in a 16-beat rhythm you must start or finish on beat no.1, or no.9, or no.12 etc.). Add to that those evil (for me anyway) "tihais" (the repetition of a phrase three times) which you must sprinkle here and there at the end of your improvisation cycles before starting the composition. Yes, that's a maths exercise within your improvisation - and yes that makes a lot of things to care for whilst having to let go so you can play with your heart!

Each raag you have to internalise, practise exercises within it so your fingers and ears and heart will internalise it, its feeling and colour, its typical phrases, its forbidden notes etc. In order to achieve this you listen to your teacher and play, everyday for months or years, and at home you try and improvise yourself for hours or days or months or years so you'll get the raag down from your head to your heart.

Exercises have always been my strength because I'm geeky and whenever I feel too emotional about practising improvisation or working on my weakness (rhythm!) I take refuge in practising familiar, risk-free exercises. I guess it's not all bad, because I've practised exercises and scales so much that I'm good at sliding on the violin strings to produce meends and gamaks. However I know that I cannot just work on that, and generally what has bothered me most recently is that - forgetting about rhythm for a bit - I've been feeling very confused about raags. I know many compositions in quite a few raags, but when it comes to slow (rhythm-free) improvisation, I can play but I don't really like what I play, and mostly I feel like a copy of my teacher stripped of the feelings. Alone, I just can't seem to create the feeling of a raag. Things take time and I've made huge progress in four years, but. but, but BUT, feeling is the most important, that what moves me the most anyway, and ignorant people may not know when you're not respecting the raag's rules or when you miss a beat but they'll tell if you play like shit.

FEELINGS. PLAYING WITH MY HEART. I want it desperately, and I know I'm good at it, I have an AMAZING ear for melody, but it seems I need something else that will help diving into raags... I came to realise that "copying Guruji's violin" prevents me from diving into Indian notes, because when I hear his violin notes come to me in French, and it also prevents me to listen fully with my ears because I can look where his fingers press the strings and do the same. Seeing prevents me from listening deeply. So I also needed to learn with a singer, a singer who'd sing Indian notes and whose voice my fingers couldn't just copy; a singer whose voice I, myself, me, would listen to and interpret through the violin.

I started singing classes at the end of last year which helped me in many ways, but after a while I found the teacher disappointing, so I stopped the classes. A good friend of mine, however has a great teacher who is a sitar player and singer. His soul is so pure and his love for music is so deep, he makes people shiver and cry. My friend has been studying with him for four years - and boy, how she feels when she plays. I met her teacher a while ago through her, and it was the first time after meeting Guruji that someone else truly tickled my heart to learn with him.

And so finally I did. Guruji came back last week from Europe and I came back from Khajuraho especially to start classes again with him, but the very next day he was off again on tour for another two weeks. There was no way I'd sit on my bum doing nothing for two weeks so it was a good opportunity for me to try out my friend's teacher. The next day I took my first class with him. I have to cycle 30 minutes to get to his place so to avoid the traffic (but at this time of year I can't avoid sweat) I'm taking classes at 8am, every two days. The next day I also (at long last!) bought myself a sound recorder to record the classes.

And wow, how refreshing. A totally new approach to dive into the intricacies of a raag... a new person, a new approach, forget about the rhythm for now, just take "feeling classes". How to approach the note, to touch onto it in different ways, and to feel them more directly through the body and voice... and relax, forget about everything, unlearn for now and be, just listen and enjoy, listen and feel, listen and play. Be you, play what you hear, and dig, dig into the beauty...

This morning I had my second class with him, I came home and listened over and over again the class, singing, playing it, one, two, three times. Then I put the headphones down and played; there was a lot more feeling in my heart... I feel and hope that learning with another teacher for a while and in the future from time to time, through voice - and new instrument, will help me take my practice from a new angle, deepen and colour it...