Author Archives: Ben

Empty Roads, Quiet Mind

With little but the wind, the sound of my tires on the asphalt, and an occasional tumbleweed for company, I drove on empty highways across America’s high deserts, mountain ranges, forests, plains and valleys, experiencing a freedom and openness that … Continue reading

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In the Canyons

Zion felt to me like a national park administered by Disneyland, with its $25 entrance fee, sprawling visitor center, and buses waiting to shuttle the summer throngs up the canyon. While I was at Zion, I hiked a six-mile trail … Continue reading

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Moving Lightly

When I left San Francisco for East Africa and Oxford nearly three years ago I rented a storage unit to keep some of my stuff. I had returned to the unit several times while passing through the Bay Area to … Continue reading

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Dhamma

On the first day of my Vipassana Meditation course, while we were still allowed to speak to our fellow meditators, I met two students who had already completed the course and were returning to refresh and deepen their practice. They … Continue reading

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Silence and Meditation

Snow and fallen fir boughs from a winter storm the week before still covered the forest floor when I turned into the Northern California Vipassana Center, on a quiet bend in a mountain road in Lake County. I parked and … Continue reading

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Three Years over the Open Ocean

When I am running on the trail near our house in Kauai I have to be careful not to get distracted by the Humpback Whales breaching off-shore so I don’t trip over one of the endangered species lounging on the … Continue reading

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Hari Om, I’m Home

You were probably beginning to worry that you’d heard the last from the Ganga Benjamin-ji Express. Please forgive my silence. I’ve been distracted since returning to America, catching up on all the steak-eating, TV-watching and boozing I missed while in … Continue reading

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An Elephant-Sized Farewell

I was promised that there would be fifty-one elephants at the Keralan Festival near Kollam on Friday. When I arrived I was too overwhelmed by all of the gold-bedecked pachyderms, the banging drums, clashing cymbals, dancing men and smiling faces … Continue reading

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Feel Embraced

At least ten other passengers – mostly foreigners and a few Indians – were already crossing the bridge to Amma a.k.a “The Hugging Mother’s” ashram, when I stepped off the Backwater ferry. I shouldered my backpack and followed them toward … Continue reading

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Kerala

I have been waiting to comment on Kerala until I’d been here at least a week – the minimum in my experience to get a feel for a place. People told me before I came to India that I would … Continue reading

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Oh, Sweatered Goats of Varanasi

A team of internet marketing consultants in Bangalore, using sophisticated, proprietary analytic software, has confirmed that the single overwhelming force driving traffic to my blog – indeed, the main trend powering all commerce and entertainment on the interweb today – … Continue reading

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The Neelachal Not-So-Express

I think the Ganga Benjamin-ji Express has delivered relatively well on the Ganga and the Benjamin-ji, but I haven’t said anything yet about an actual train. I’ve taken three train journeys in India so far: the Dehradun Shtbdi Express from … Continue reading

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The Way of the Bodhisattva: Working Calmly for the Happiness of Others

I hesitate to comment on the Dalai Lama’s teaching this week in Sarnath. I was under the impression that supreme enlightenment would be granted to me as part of the price of admission and was bitterly disappointed to find that … Continue reading

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Sweet, Sweatered Momma Goat

You couldn’t get enough of my well clad goat mistresses last week so here is another installment, featuring the latest in goat maternity wear. I think I know what to get this hungry mother-of-two for Valentine’s Day. You weren’t expecting … Continue reading

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Holy River of Shit

It remains freezing cold in Varanasi and the city feels subdued today with most people wisely hibernating inside. But life must go on – including daily ablutions in the river. Two sets of chills run down my spine when I … Continue reading

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Sexy Satyresses of the Ganga

It is suddenly winter in Varanasi.  Freezing temperatures descended on the city last night and it has remained Himalayan throughout the day.  I don’t think the mercury is actually that low, but with fog hanging over the river and no … Continue reading

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Closer to the Truth

On Monday, after a month in Rishikish, I took the night train southeast to Varanasi, another holy city further down the River Ganga. The river here lies brown and still between muddy banks, a contrast to the torrent of its … Continue reading

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A Year in Reflection

I have covered a lot of ground in the past year: traveled over 60,000 miles, visited eleven countries and slept in countless beds. As I reflect on the places I’ve been, the adventures I’ve had, and the contented days I’ve … Continue reading

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Happy Christmas from India

This is my first Christmas in a very non-Christmas country, yet somehow it feels to me as much like Christmas here in India as anywhere. Occasionally in the last few days I’ve passed a foreigner on the street humming a … Continue reading

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Science of the Soul

I’ve spent the past ten days practicing yoga with Surinder Singh, whom you may recall from my previous post about “subtle eyes.” Surinder is a great yoga teacher, though he prefers to think of himself as a yoga “sharer.” His … Continue reading

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Indian Lube Job

I had the most unpleasant massage of my life the other day so I am going to suspend my recent efforts at non-judgment for a moment now to tell you about it in oily detail. I love massages. When I … Continue reading

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Walking Yogi

I hiked to a Hindu temple five miles up a mountain path from Rishikesh yesterday. The temple, Neelkantha Mahadev, is a shrine to Shiva. Hindu pilgrims take water from the Ganges and hike up and over a nearby mountain to … Continue reading

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Trying not to judge you…

“If you are happy, pleasant and unselfish in your behavior toward others, obstacles will shrink. If you are miserly with your emotions and judgmental in your mind, obstacles will grow.” – Patanjali, Yoga Sutras (as translated by B.K.S. Iyengar in … Continue reading

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Shooting from the Hip

I’ve been taking a lot of photographs here in Rishikesh, inspired in part by my new friend Azli Jamil. Azli, a photographer from Malaysia, takes beautiful pictures with his Nikon D300. We met for the first time on the street … Continue reading

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Subtle Eyes

I’ve been fortunate to discover two great yoga teachers already in the short time I’ve been in Rishikesh. The first, Usha Devi, is a well known Iyengar instructor. I actually heard Usha’s story for the first time in Costa Rica … Continue reading

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Bathing in the Holy Ganga

I took my first dip in the Ganges yesterday. Many Hindus believe the Ganges to be the holiest river in India and feel that life is incomplete without bathing in it at least once. So I can check that off … Continue reading

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Rishikesh

I can’t remember the last time I slept so well. I don’t know if it is the cool, clean air here in the hills by the river or the exhaustion I felt yesterday after the train journey, rickshaw ride and … Continue reading

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Gandhiji

I arrived in Delhi on Wednesday night and spent the day on Thursday wandering around Old Delhi and visiting the Gandhi Smriti, a memorial and small museum at the home where Gandhi was assassinated in 1948. The museum includes many … Continue reading

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Bali

First, I want to say thank you to all my new subscribers and for your encouraging, supportive emails. It means a lot to me. I fly from Singapore to New Delhi via Kuala Lumpur later this morning. Almost everyone I … Continue reading

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Thanksgiving in Singapore

I was in Bangkok on Thursday for the official turkey day and went completely birdless, a first for me. Luckily I made it to Singapore in time for the Love family’s delayed Thanksgiving celebration last night. It was a proper … Continue reading

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Yoga and Hinduism

There’s an interesting article in the New York Times today about Indian-American Hindus trying to “Take Back Yoga.” I’m not sure yet how I feel about this but I’m definitely curious to know more about the history. One of the … Continue reading

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Royalty on the River

I had another brush with royalty today in Bangkok. I was taking a river ferry from Saphan Taksin up to Banglamphu. We were about halfway there when the ferry made a normal stop and then, much to my confusion, never … Continue reading

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A Balinese Royal Cremation

I was lucky to be in Ubud, Bali recently for the cremation ceremony of the King of Peliatan. The ceremony required hundreds of men to carry three enormous Balinese bamboo “floats” a mile down narrow roads to the cemetery. The … Continue reading

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