Mike and Petra’s 2015 Christmas letter from India

Hi Everyone,

We wish you a very merry Christmas, Chanukah, Kwanza, or whatever holiday you celebrate this time of year. [Oops! Petra said I cannot start the same as I started last year’s letter.] So, have a great holiday season, however you celebrate it, under whatever name. Ours will be Christmas. And have a great 2016. We hope the season finds you well. We are doing quite well ourselves though we are a bit soggy with the rain here in southern India.

Petra has a new lens in her left eye. She had cataract surgery a week ago and is progressing well. She is amazed at how clear and colorful things are. She had been battling with ever increasing grayness and fog to the point that she could not see out of the center of her eye for a few years. There is a great eye hospital here in Pondicherry and we have the time so she took the opportunity to do the surgery. It went well. Recovery is going well.

2015 has been a year of continuing spiritual exploration. To that end we spent over five months in the Himalayas and Rishikesh mainly doing spiritual exercises. Three months and three weeks of that was in the Sadhana Mandir Ashram of Swami Rama in Rishikesh, a place specifically to do one's spiritual exercises. The pictures in other parts of this site of our times there speak nothing of our real and important activities in Sadhana Mandir and in the mountains. My May 8 posting on our India blog gives about the best description of our time there as I can give (the “I” in this letter is Mike, your writer). It begins with describing a typical day but gets around to telling what we do at an ashram. The time was for internal development and personal expansion, not something that can be easily reduced to words one could report in a forum like this.

Have just finished (we hope) the south-east Indian monsoon season. Where we are in Auroville, this season it has rained more than 1,743 mm, mostly since the beginning of November. Do you realize that, that is over 68 and a half inches in a bit more than one month?! It's wet. But now the sun is reappearing. For comparison, average rainfall for the whole year in northeastern Illinois is a bit over 37 inches (940 mm). On the other end of the scale, several years ago a friend lived in the rain forests of Cameroon where they got over 200 inches (5080 mm) a year. To be a bit fairer, the rain only falls in October to December in this part if India. The rest of the year (accept for a little rain in July and August) is dry.

Everything is damp. And now the mildew is starting to catch up. I took my sleeping off the wardrobe door in the middle of the night a few nights ago and put it over me. It had an odd smell; but I was half asleep. When I woke up an hour later, my throat was raw from breathing mildew. I have been drying it out as much as I can since. I pulled out my camera yesterday and the bag was white with mildew—more drying when the sun peeks out for a few minutes. It is difficult to wash clothes—when will there be enough sun to dry them?

I enjoyed reading a lot of Swami Vivekananda the first year here and some more this year (See Bibliography). Among many other things, Swami Vivekananda says, “The world is a gymnasium in which we play; our life is an eternal holiday.” I like this better than Shakespeare’s, “All the world is a stage….” On a stage we play before others. In the gymnasium, others are only incidental to our playing, though they can be there as witnesses. But they do not have to be there. We are not only the players; we are also the play writers, stage hands, the equipment crew, cleanup crew, and curtain pullers. It is our show, all of it. Though all of this begs for an audience, it is not always there. Just go to the gym and do your thing! That seems to be what our life is. Swami Anubhavananda (The Happy Swami) puts it this way: “Nothing to do and nowhere to go.” …Look closely at “nowhere.” It is really “now-here.” … we have nothing to do and “now here” to do it. All is now.

We wandered through and stayed in several places this year, mainly, Panaji (Goa), Sri Sailam, Sri Lanka, Omkarishwar, Rishikesh, Gangotri, Germany, Rishikesh (a second time), and Auroville. We are starting our third year in India and returning to some places that are already familiar. Some parts of India are beginning to feel like home. We have been here a bit under 600 days since arriving in October, 2013.

In other places on Pilgrimage Creations, I already have written about and published pictures of many of the places we visited and people we met this year. So rather than repeat myself, I invite you to go to our India page and browse through the pictures beginning with “Panaji with Swami Anubhavananva”, January 2015. The pictures include much text detail of the places and people we met along the way. The picture links end with June. From there we had repeat stays in Germany, Rishikesh, and Auroville with no pictures. You can also read much about our year on our India Blog, though I was a bit amiss at keeping the blog up to date much of this year.

While in Germany this year, we visited Petra's mother in Gütersloh and friends in Aachen, the Netherlands, and near Köln (Colone). We also walked and read a lot. I put together an hour-long slide show, complete with music, of our walk across America and Europe to Jerusalem in 2009-10. It was a relaxing three months though we were ready to get back to India when the time to leave arrived.

Next year’s wanderings are looking like this: Goa in January, Kaivalyadhama again in February to Mar 10, then back to the States in March to stay until????. Will we continue our wanderings, our life as nomads? We are still toying with the idea of living in the north (US or somewhere in Europe) for six months during the summer and in India for the other six months. It is quite doable and in fact likely would prove to be fun and challenging. It would keep us from getting stagnant staying in the same place all the time. More and more it is clear that place is not important. Our lives are really internal and only incidental to the people and places around us. We can live well in many environments, with many different people. From a practical standpoint, states and their visas are the great inconveniences. I cannot stay in most of Europe for longer that three months in every six. Neither of us cannot stay in India for longer than six months without leaving the country for a day before coming back.

Lest I forget, I wrote another book this year, Mike's Morgans a coin-by-coin photographic record of my Morgan dollar collection that I sold mainly in 2013. The pictures I used to sell them on eBay were too nice to just pitch them so I made this picture book. It was a fun project.

We just had a big day, 12/12. We said Yes to each other 12 years ago on 12/12 in Santiago de Compostela, Spain.

Have a great holiday season and a wonderful 2016.

Peace and Joy,

Petra and Mike

Mike and Petra
Petra and Mike (Gaia’s Garden, Auroville, 13 December 2015)

P. S.
Mike and Petra
Petra says she is too tame in the above picture and asked me to put this one of her on 12/12 enjoying our conversation at our anniversary dinner.

Added: December 2015.
Copyright © 2015 Mike Metras, www.PilgrimageCreations.com