Like an Easy Flowing River
“But of all secrets of the river, he today only saw one, this one touched his soul. He saw: this water ran and ran, incessantly it ran, and was nevertheless always there, was always at all times the same and yet new in every moment! Great be he who would grasp this, understand this! He understood and grasped it not, only felt some idea of it stirring, a distant memory, divine voices.”
–Siddhartha, Herman Hesse
Something about the water is meditative, soothing all the way to the soul. Sitting on the beach, listening to the constant ebb and flow of the waves, you can’t help but be calmed by nature’s lullaby. Similarly, sitting on the edge of a waterfall, watching the water take a leap of faith and collect in frothy magnificence along the rock face below, you can’t help but enter that contemplative state of mind.
One of my favorite locations in India is a three-tiered waterfall set in the forest about an hour inland from Agonda Beach. The drive alone makes the trip worth it. Ascending up small mountains the view becomes more and more expansive, reaching a peak overlooking a grove of palm trees and deciduous forest. I’ve sorely missed that free feeling of an extended ride on the motorbike (even if my motorbike has now been replaced by an automatic scooter, which in comparison kind of feels like sitting down to pee). The onslaught of nature on your senses is pure bliss. There are no worries among the smells of spice plantations, the chatter of birds and the howling of monkeys.
Speaking of spice plantations, there is an organic spice plantation a few kilometers away from the waterfall. Here you can find farmers lovingly taking care of their beehives and taste the difference in the freshly harvested honey. During a pleasant conversation with the owners, they offered to feed us a farm fresh thali on our return from trekking to the waterfall. All natural, all organic Indian thali straight from the farm. It does not get much more delicious or nutritious. It’s no wonder that my very dear friend Sid has chosen to start operating his yoga retreats in this oasis starting at the end of this year.
(If you are interested I cannot recommend the course highly enough. Sid has a way of explaining philosophy that would make Aristotle envious and is an all-around great person. His teaching partner Jenny has a super strong asana practice and is so much fun to be around. Spending a month learning with them, in the embrace of the spice plantation, is sure to be a magical experience. Check it out at http://smritiyoga.com/)
To reach the waterfall, we parked our bikes outside of a series of farms where the path into the forest begins. The hike takes you alongside rice patties with their ingenious natural irrigation systems and has multiple river crossings across rocks of all shapes and sizes. After 25 minutes, the sound of falling water becomes louder and louder, opening up to a beautiful waterfall. The waterfall itself has three layers, descending from its origin to two smaller pools beneath, eventually gathering in the river below. The water is brisk, a refreshing contrast to the warm Arabian Sea. The small ridges in the rocks allow for some challenging bouldering, so long as you avoid the slick patches within striking distance of the water itself.
A trail extends through the forest along the left side of the waterfall, allowing you to reach the second level with relative ease. Here you can lounge in the pool and let the falling water massage your back and sun bathe on the warm rocks. Crossing over to the right side of the waterfall, you can make your way up and over rocks, using huge vines for assistance, eventually reaching the top of the waterfall.
As I sat upon a large rock overlooking the plummeting water, I couldn’t help but smile and start to meditate. A jet black bird, resembling a duck, rode the air currents up the waterfall, pausing for a moment about 5 meters away from me. Here, I felt like the king of the forest upon my throne, watching the flow of the water. It was then that I remembered reading the quote above from Siddhartha, who uses the river as his ultimate teacher. The water really is always running, always changing, even as it appears the same. (As humans we are changing in every moment, and water makes up over 80% of our adult bodies. Perhaps this is why we are affected by the lunar cycles, becoming a little bit more rambunctious during the full moon.) In that moment I felt fully aware of my love for nature, and could feel nature returning my sentiment.
And in this fleeting moment, I thought of another quote from Siddhartha that struck a chord with me when I originally read it.
“Love, oh Govinda, seems to me to be the most important thing of all. To thoroughly understand the world, to explain it, to despise it, may be the thing great thinkers do. But I’m only interested in being able to love the world, not to despise it, not to hate it and me, to be able to look upon it and me and all beings with love and admiration and great respect.”
–Siddhartha, Herman Hesse
I like to imagine that Herman Hesse was sitting by the water, inspired by the water like Siddhartha, as he wrote those loving words.