Travel with SUTRA in 2013

AFFORDABLE  &  EXOTIC  INDIA

The infinite beauty and variety of India is on our itinerary this coming winter…join Kim Hammer, seasoned world traveler and art enthusiast!

Immerse yourself in the culture & the natural world with an emphasis on developing an appreciation for the diverse spirituality of India and its expression in art and architecture.

The Best Exotic Marigolds...

January 25 – February 12   “Ancient India

Tour Old Delhi before going to Orissa in the east (visit Konark Temple, Puri on the ocean and heritage artisan villages near Bubeneshwar).  Visit the oldest living city of Varanasi with a dawn boat ride on the Ganges, and on to the Erotic Temples of Khajurahao.  18 days.  Guide Fee* due November 15:  $500   Group limited to 6 travelers.

The Erotic Temples of Khajuraho at dawn

February 8 – March 4   “Out and About in Rajasthan”

Visit South Delhi and a contemporary design studio before heading to Surajkund Craft Mela and the Keoladeo Bird Sanctuary near Bharatpur.  An overnight camel safari and the 3-day Desert Festival in Jaislamir highlight the trip, but you will also visit Jaipur, Udaipur, Ajmer and Pushkar, experiencing the stunning and unique western Thar Desert region of India.   24 days.  Guide Fee*  due November 30:  $650  Group limited to 6.

Varanasi at Dawn: A Boat Tour on the Ganges

*SUTRA coordinates itinerary, makes hotel and in-country transportation reservations,, and provides a safe container to experience this amazing country (and her food….).  You pay a “guide fee” for Kim’s role as an “escort”.  Your international air fares, food and entrance/guide fees are paid individually, and your hotels and major “land” transport is paid in a single payment to our travel agent once you arrive.

Contacr me for more information ~ including the expected cost of this trip and necessary documents to enter India.

Kim Hammer       “SUTRA  loves INDIA !”   608.792.7641      * sutraglobalbydesign@gmail.com

Come to your Senses

I have now come to expect ubiquitous tears as I depart from each country I visit, and not entirely due to the pain of separation. For me, cleansing tears are always linked with deep gratitude and the experience of receiving utter goodness, from the people, from the culture, from stepping into non-ordinary reality.

I was able to indulge my senses in Bali, perhaps more fully than is possible in the west, though I do give my full effort as a foodie and a practitioner of healing arts!

I savored exquisite Balinese rice and spiced fish roasted within a banana leaf, while gazing upon a emerald rice paddy alive with ducks. Following a luxurious spa massage, I soaked in a pool among floating frangipani and felt the steady, slow release of a former life.

Just the day before, I had gazed up at the Balinese penjors festooning the sky during the festival of Galugan. During our month of March, each family makes this bamboo & palm leaf flag to honor the gods.

Stitched together with tiny bamboo pins, a 3-dimensional palm-leaf “chandelier” hangs from the graceful arch of newly harvested bamboo. These line the roadways, one after another, as living archways, resplendent with the blessings of the gods that protect the Indonesian people from unhappy spirits. They join the community together: a physical task becomes a shared ritual imbued with collective consciousness and healing. On this day, I felt so completely full.

Now, 3 years later, I find solace in rewriting this tale, but also bringing to light another story of wholeness and healing vis a vis our senses. A friend recently purchased a singing bowl, for use at the clinic where she works. A singing bowl is a spiritual tool, with roots in Tibetan Buddhism, where they are used as auditory markers. At the toning of the bowl, attention is easily brought to the present moment. The toning can be a kind of *call to attention*: Leave behind your “monkey mind”, pause, and take a deeper breath. The staff is being introduced to the concept of “mindfulness” through the daily toning of this bowl, but also to the power of shared ritual.

Recently, a staff member at this clinic experienced a death in her family. Her immediate coworkers gathered and toned the singing bowl while holding hands for a moment of silence. They honored not only the mother who had passed, but also the grief process of their co-worker. Again, the power of shared ritual is felt. In Bali, the penjors, created mindfully and collectively; here, the toning of the singing bowl: “sound medicine”, simple and powerful.

Three Tips to Traveling Quite Well!

Traveling is not a one-size-fits-all Balinese sarong, so designing your next trip can help you spend those hard-earned dollars in a way to maximize your pleasure!

KNOW WHY YOU GO:

I have appreciated both trekking in Nepal and lounging on a cruise ship along Mexico’s Baja Peninsula. I have stayed in 5-star Bangkok hotels and hiked the Inca trail to Machu Picchu. I have traveled by local bus and limousine; I have camped in a field of grapes, and celebrated my 50th birthday aboard a floating bed and breakfast. I go because, by and large, I want to experience and appreciate local culture & the natural world. I want to step out of my routine. Sometimes I simply want to wander the streets of a bazaar.

Do you want to fly by zipline through the Amazonian rainforest? Or does heaven appear to you as the Manhattan skyline from a roof-top restaurant?     Escape, explore, engage, appreciate…these are among the many reasons people travel.

Ask yourself: what is the REAL reason for your travels, this time?

TRAVEL LIGHT:

In all ways, leave excess baggage home. There are rules of thumb in all travel guides: pack and then remove 1/3 of your clothing, as an example.

As important is to check your attitude at the end of your driveway. On a recent trip in Asia, due to new visa restrictions I was delayed in an Asian country I knew nothing about. Happily, I had the presence of mind to state: “We don’t know why this is happening, but there’s some greater purpose here. Let’s just let it unfold; likely we will find out later.” And though there were delays and financial repercussions, weeks later, in a long line, we met the man who would arguably create the most profound day in a full month of travel for our tour group of 12.

Travel involves regularly stepping into the unknown, so know that going into the experience. Leave the ugly and loud American home, and open your eyes to the possibility that the unexpected might simply be the universe offering you the perfect alternative to the tightly wound schedule you had planned.

BE KIND:

First of all, to yourself; secondly, to those whose paths you cross. The Dalai Lama says: “My religion is simple: my religion is kindness”. Give yourself a break to take in the sensory pleasure of your journey. What are the sounds, tastes and smells that will nurture your soul and your body during this time out of “your daily rut-tine”? It is both a necessary luxury, but also a luxurious necessity to break out your routine on a regular basis.

Sometimes a massage or a wonderful concert will cost no more than a typical tourist attraction. It might just be that closing your book while lounging on the beach will bring you into balance. How can you take care of yourself so well that you embody gratitude with each breath? Or indeed, that you touch your breath? What might be the greatest act of kindness you could bestow on another, whether a fellow traveler or the maid who cleans your room?

Being nurtured by the natural world is priceless in this wireless, yet very much plugged-in world. Remember… Take heed: if you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always gotten! Journey into and beyond your comfort zone!

Where would you go, to renew your spirit, to gaze upon a breath-taking sight, to share a once-in-a-lifetime journey with someone you love?

So, as you consider this next vacation, ask yourself the question that will make this journey come alive for you!

Why travel?

The trip you take will never be exactly as you had anticipated.  You
will find more friendly people, but in unexpected places.  You will be hungrier, and more satiated.  You will learn to trust yourself in ways unimagined, and learn the depth of your own will and heart.

Never again will you be the same.  Never again will you choose a new lipstick over a  bus ticket.  Never again will you be tempted by the shiny, but instead by what is holy and true.

You will not be stoic, but deep feeling will find its way into every crevice of relating, but mostly to the way you relate to yourself.   You will have found the deepest well of generosity within yourself, but also the will of honest strength.  When you feel you cannot go on, you will discover untapped reserves of something without a name, and with certainty you take the next step, and the one after that.

The way will be difficult, but it is a challenge for all the right reasons.  You will be learning the art of self-sufficiency infused with utter dependence on someone either half your age or education, or both.  There are small
brown-skinned men all over world, waiting to carry your baggage, and I do mean all of it, over steep mountain trails, that you may truly know their home.

From Macchu Pichu to the eastern Himalayan range, you will be humbled again and again, by selfless acts of love.  And without a shared verbal language or culture, your gratitude will be known.  You will have the ability to be grateful with your wallet, but moreover, your humility will be shown.

You will later discover the divine beauty within your own landscape, within your community of believers, within your abode.   You will find a million reasons why life is so precious, so utterly  beautiful, and joy will be your middle name.   You will discover that you must go again, and you will be utterly supported, in every way:  the time, place and c0-conspirator will
appear.  Without striving, without effort, without hesitation.

This is my travel story, the only one worth writing.
This is why I travel, and for whom.
This is why I choose, and will always choose, an airline ticket over a
dishwasher, a daypack over a Gucci bag, a new map over a tried-and-true routine.

The Taj Mahal

I am shamelessly addicted to the open road, and hope to die pursuing this one love (but not soon!).

Humbled…

A spiritual teacher can come in the most unlikely of places.  Picture yourself in India, in the presence of a wise soul, listening to stories that resonate with some deeper truth, words that you receive with gratitude, lessons that come free of shame, guilt and harshness.   You might imagine yourself in an ashram, a yoga hall or in the dark corridors of Nizamuddin, the  Sufi quarter of old Delhi.  You might imagine sitting with spine erect and eyelids lowered, or that chanting is resonating in your heart chakras.

Nizamuddin Market

Instead,  you are in the back seat of the ubiquitous Indian vehicle, the mid-sized Maruti, zigging and zagging along the highway from Delhi to Agra, on your way to the Taj Mahal.   This teacher is in the front seat, a simple driver, married with 2 children, and much younger than his eyes would appear.

Prabhim Mehta wove his way through stories as easily as through India’s schizophrenic traffic, with frequent forays into the  themes of surrender, equanimity and acceptance.  We learned about life, loss, and balance in equal measure with laughter and wonder.  To our amazement, his driving never faltered and his tales never ceased.   We learned about his family, his customers, how he learned to drive, and the all-too-many journeys through Rajasthan.  We encouraged him to write a book, and he simply replied, “but who would read it?”  His humility was unparalleled.

By the third day, my heart was sufficiently opened so that tears copiously fell during my last minutes with him.  Like  any old and wise soul, he was direly concerned but urged me to dry my tears and move on.  All is well, and all was well, and I am glad to be alive, having been in the back seat of one Delhi driver, wise and kind.