So, You Wanna Go To Indiana?
While much of America’s Yoga Community journeys to India to learn lessons from the masters, there are those who realize that enlightenment dwells much closer to home.
I always say “India lies within Indiana”. Considering how truth already lies within each of us, enlightenment doesn’t require going to India. If we need to journey to an exterior location in order to feel spiritual, it only makes sense to journey to the nearest, closest sounding alternative. Indiana.
The first time I went to Indiana I was panic-stricken. For years all I had heard were travel-nightmares. It seems like everyone who ever went to Indiana was getting constipation from the fast food, depression from the pollution and lack of scenery, tire damage from pot holes, and speeding tickets from the state police. I was certain that my yoga practice would suffer from a lack of sacred spaces and conscious-minded individuals. Basically, I thought I’d never make it home without part of my soul dying.
I felt like Indiana was truly a place that would kill me or make me stronger.
But was I ready?
I was at the point in my spiritual development where I was beginning to recognize that a class simply called “Yoga” might vary greatly from another class also called, “Yoga”. I had read enough commentary on ancient texts to realize that there are many different types of yoga, and that was why my “Yoga” classes varied in style. I’m a thinker.
I figured if any of these ancient traditions made their way all the way to the very conservative Indiana, they must be very strong and dynamic. Yoga that tenacious would be like the one genetically superior sperm that manages to fertilize the egg. Those were the teachings I needed. I had been studying yoga with all of the best teachers at my local park district. It was time for me to make the pilgrimage to study with Yoga teachers from Indiana park districts. Whether I was ready or not, I was on my way.
When people around the yoga community heard that I was going to make a journey to Indiana, advice and warnings came flooding in. “You should google, ‘Yoga + Indiana’”. “If you find a health food store, look to see if there is a bulletin board. That’s how you’ll find a yoga class.” “Don’t go through Gary unless you absolutely have to.”
“After preparing for 5 months, I was ready to make the journey. In my case, the journey began in my hometown of Chicago, Illinois”
My main Indiana-coach was my sewing friend Sandy Chesterton. Sandy had been to Indiana 4 times. “Indiana is like the cross-roads of America. That is actually their motto or something like that.” Sandy was very helpful in getting me spiritually prepared for the trip. “Just pretend its like you are sewing, and have faith that the thread will be strong and go in the right place”.
After preparing for 5 months, I was ready to make the journey. In my case, the journey began in my hometown of Chicago, Illinois, and spanned southeast, into the lands of Indiana. According to Mapquest, the Indiana border was 23 miles away from my apartment. The night before my adventure began, I was with my ex-boyfriend. I want to make it really clear that I am not still with the same man that I was with at the time, but that is another story for another time. He helped me decide not to bring extra toilet paper in case of an emergency. Instead I just brought extra socks.
Then, on the way to Indiana, I had to pay like $5 in tolls, while the toxic plumes of Gary loomed ahead. I never had an issue paying quality money to get into scenic Wisconsin. But here I was, paying to enter a monoxide cloud, and feeling attached to the money that I might just be throwing away. And then I learned my first lesson about Indiana that can be phrased like a grand metaphor for life. I realized, in Indiana we can’t be attached to the outcome of what we drive toward.
Below are some essential pointers for those also contemplating making a trip to Indiana to study yoga.
Getting There: There are various ways to attain passage to Indiana. Amtrak and Greyhound are both options, as well as air travel. There are three airports: Indianapolis, Valparaiso, and Terre Haute. If you drive, there are many possible routes: I-74, I-70, I-90, I-69. Warning: If you take I-65 from Chicago, there is a detour that takes an extra 20 minutes. However you get there, remember, take your time and feel the subtle energy of your inner-Indiana. Without feeling your inner-Indiana, there is little value in rushing toward the outer-Indiana.
Another reason not to rush is all of the speed traps. I’m serious. It’s ridiculous. The speed limits waver constantly between 45 mph and 70 mph, with speed traps waiting at the arbitrary boundary lines. On a 20-mile stretch near Gary IN, I counted 22 patrol cars.
Take a tip from me. Every time you see a State Trooper in Indiana, imagine you hear a meditation bell. Take it as a cue to be mindful of your breath and to relax the muscles of your neck and jaw.
Spiritual Things To Do: My pilgrimage was made much quicker when I took everyone’s advice and googled Indiana and Yoga. I quickly honed in on the Indiana Yoga Association. At a glance I could tell they had classes in places as far-reaching and exotic as Plainfield and Greenwood. I also saw that the highest concentration of sacred teachings was Indianapolis. It was to this Mecca that I pointed my little VW Jetta.
“I decided that my main goal was inner peace, once I reached Indiana. I was especially thrilled when my google search for Inner Peace, Indiana yielded 5,814 search results.”
There were many yoga studios and gurus for me to dabble in while I underwent a vision quest of sorts in Indianapolis. The purpose of this article is to bring you safely to Indianapolis where there is fertile growing ground. I am not going to tell you which google search results I choose from, and which studios I attended. I will tell you though, that I had a good experience at a studio in Indianapolis that rhymes with, “Pretty Yoga”, on a street that rhymes with, “Indianapolis Shmulavard.”
Also, there are four spiritual gatherings that occur four times every twelve years and rotate among four locations. The gatherings at these Indiana pilgrimage sites are referred to as Kumba Mela. The sites are: Muncie, Hammond, Carmel and Kokomo. Every twelve years the biggest gathering is held in Muncie, the Muncie Kumba Mela.
I decided that my main goal was inner peace, once I reached Indiana. I was especially thrilled when my google search for Inner Peace, Indiana yielded 5,814 search results.
There were vast stretches of Indiana where I was unable to actually locate any people. When I was in more populated areas it seemed like the natives were either busy doing things and going places, or they were standing around.
In conversation I was able to use modern pop-culture references and have them recognized. American Idol, NASCAR and college football, were all familiar. But a lot of people at Denny’s couldn’t relate to my talk about tongue scrapers and corpse pose. I found that a lot of people, both in urban and rural Indiana, tended to treat me the same as I’m treated anywhere else in the world. Everywhere else I go, people treat me like I’m a few chambers short of a castle.
When I was at the yoga classes and the health food places in Indianapolis, I felt like the people were living, breathing humans with valid concerns and beauty, just like the people at other places around the world. However, there was something about the intensity of the vibration, and the adversity of the surroundings, that made me feel like those people were more special than other people. Just imagine, other holy sites around the world have temples. Indiana has billboards. Like a flower through a concrete crack, the enlightenment-urge of Indiana residents is ever lifting upwards, striving for the source.
The History: Indiana was admitted to the union in 1816 as the 19th state. The earliest traces of human life on this land go back 10,600 years. Indiana was the first state to mobilize troops for the north during the Civil War.
Social Do’s and Don’t:
Do not Om before a meal at a fast food restaurant in Indiana. Avoid being a man and wearing a skirt. If you are a vegetarian and are opting out of a meat meal, say things like, “Oh, no thanks, I had a few steaks for lunch and pork chops for breakfast, I am all good in the protein department.” Never say anything bad about any local sports team in Indiana. Remember, for a lot of these people that is all they have.
What to Pack:
As a rule of thumb, I recommend that you travel as lightly as possible. You never know when you’ll have your car towed and impounded for some ridiculous reason like a “no parking” sign way down the street.
Here are some items that I strongly urge you to bring:
A journal, pens, pencils, eraser, pencil sharpener, a small notepad, envelopes, international stamps, zip-lock bags, glad trash bags, socks, shoes, sandals, slippers, jeans, khakis, dress pants, suit, tie, bandanas, belts, suitcase, backpack, hip sack, pillow, pillow cases, thermarest, nalgene, propane tank, cook stove, spatula, forks, knives, spoons, bowls, coolers, salt, pepper, paprika, oregano, salsa, Tabasco sauce, towels, rain jacket, rain hat, galoshes, lap top, usb internet connect card, Ethernet wire, mouse, candy, pretzels, contact lenses, sunglasses, contact lens fluid, toothbrush, toothpaste, vitamin E oil, Tylenol, dictionary, thesaurus, yoga mat, yoga strap, block, wrist guard, lighter, matches, can opener, Swiss army knife, those holders that stab the ends of hot corn on the cob, those rubber grip things that help open jars of food that are hard to open, Cell phone, cell phone charger, GPS, GPS charger, electric razor and charger, a book to read, a magazine to read, a self-Improvement workbook such as An Artist’s Way, a map, Yoga Sutras, meditation cushion, bath robe, nail clippers, day planner, receipt holder, wallet, change purse, rosary, address book, shampoo, floss, rubber bands, CDs, bipod, headphones, iPod charger, bills, hand lotion, hacky sack, water filter, snow shoes, nail gloss, tampons, scarf, winter hat, neck warmer, baseball cap, safari cap, fishing rod, tackle, worms, bug spray, off, Febreeze, Scrubbing Bubbles, Lysol, Condoms, Confessional guide, lubrication, post-its, sharpies, almonds, pumpkin seeds, underpants, bra, comb, hair ties, blank cds, blank dvds, teddy bear, good luck stone, zip drive, external hard drive, video camera, mp3 recorder, travel scrabble, a Franklin travel scrabble electronic dictionary, Handheld entertainment device, batteries, suntan lotion, chlorine tablets, Spanish dictionary, umbrella, hiking boots, flippers toe-nail polish or directory of Manicure/Pedicure businesses, Manila folders, paring knives, grapefruit seed extract, butane, ouija board, tarot cards, rose water, lucky rabbits foot, megaphone, ironing board, lamp shade, want ads, coffee mug, litter box, twine, toys, velvet Elvis, calculator, banana nut bread, kaleidoscope, caulk, shoe polish, rags, emergency contact information cards, stroganoff, yoga pants, magnifying glass, cuticle shears, sledge hammer, rake, mulch, sod, shovel, brake fluid, hair gel, photo album, comforter, comfort food, tax records, passport, high school year books, marriage certificate (if applicable), toaster cozy, clip board, clogs, statuettes, yard darts, stair master, foreman grill, Velcro, nerf toys, kitchen witch, knocker, chem lawn, croutons, coupon booklet, spandex, fur coat, mix cds, phone records, devil sticks, scrap book, bean bags, wine, cork screw, badminton, Am/FM radio, telescope, binoculars, label maker, Where’s Waldo books, McDonald’s monopoly pieces, Subway Scrabble game pieces, spare tire, tool box, miter, lime, clam juice, mirror, leash and collar, zip line, carafe, empty boxes, sand bags, inflatable raft, digital timer, giardiniera, American express, Visa, MasterCard, Borders Rewards Card, Blockbuster Rewards, Card, Staples Rewards Card, Jewell Osco Rewards Card, extra motor oil, coolant, trail mix, energy bars, Gatorade, Brother’s Grimm Story books, books on tape, Sirius or XM satellite radio, sharpening stone, flannel sheets, blouse, long sleeve t-shirts, camera lens cleaner, cameras, guitar, guitar strap, harmonica, flute, didgeridoo, table, bongos, bird guide, bird cage, skis, wax, chap stick, freeze dried ice cream, dry ice, dice, cards, cranberry sauce, sombrero, guacamole, moleskin, pudding, comedy albums, coffee table, measuring spoons, matches, creamer, aluminum foil, wax paper, white out, stapler, staple remover, rhyming dictionary, Monty Python box set, mustache groomer, tongue scraper, peanuts, bird feed, potato peeler, paper weights, placard, bungee chords, billfold, paper clips, rubber band ball, stress reliever gripping ball, racquet ball, feather cap, candlestick, rolling pin, monitor, DVD player, VCR, mala beads, jumper cables, stretcher, stair master, fleece clothing, silk underwear, nasal spray, neti pot, fire detectors, zinc, roach motels, Bragg Amino Acids, animal crackers fly swatter, bear box, bow, arrows, crossbow, travel yahtzee, argyle socks, ben gay, beer cozies, Frisbee, picnic basket, rubik’s cube, cheesecloth, ginkgo boloba, Emergen-C, Rescue Remedy, travel yoga mat, yoga mat bag, dominos, aloe, hand sanitizer, voice masker, extension chord, coat hangers, iron, ironing board, recycling bags, shoe horn, tie rack, spice rack, spice girls album, baby pictures, chip clip, toothpicks, dry erase board, easel, lint wand, book holders, extra key chains, Tupperware, tipping chart, phrase book, computer restart installation discs, tarp, sleeping bag, Dixie cups, music box, plastic sheet protectors, mosquito net, sparklers, area rug, breath mints, statue of liberty rubber knick-knack, compass, watercolor paints, denim jacket, ant farm, brackets, wet-wipes, rubber spatula, dream catcher, Skin-so-soft, aftershave, deodorant, sculpting gel, switchblade comb, poker visor, pocket protector, floor mats, novelty elephant gearshift cover, conductor wands, neon vest, hazmat detectors, book on colonics, carbon paper, litmus paper, rolling papers, paper plates, sporks, eyeglasses repair kit, angel cards, birthstone, metronome, anything by Shakespeare, Bhagavad-Gita , Ab-master, egg slicer, divining rod, duct tape, masking tape, tape measure, hand towel, Noxzema, mung beans, nylons, extra head gasket, felt, shoe polish, easy button, bib, apron,
“…adz, field guide to North American Shrubs and bushes, walking stick, skipping stones, tire jack, tire air pressure gauge, surgeon general report, vitamins, instant cup of soup, free AOL installation discs, soup patch kids…”
sleeping mask, mud pack, abacus, eclipse viewer, insurance card, list of passwords for your various online programs, flashcards, mad-libs, Russian literature, lozenges, duffel bag, extra duffel bag, duffel bag spray cleaner, dental records, safety deposit box key, checkbook, new car scented spray, dip-stick rags, sulfur, butterfly net, barbicide, Heet gas-line water remover, mini sledge hammer, treasure chest, scuba gear, highlighter, vinegar, apple cider vinegar, mason jars, 5 gallon glass jar, area heater, gloop, gloves, templates, vanity mirror, footstool, blue tooth, scrubs, awl, adz, field guide to North American Shrubs and bushes, walking stick, skipping stones, tire jack, tire air pressure gauge, surgeon general report, vitamins, instant cup of soup, free AOL installation discs, soup patch kids, dinner jacket, patch kit, massage oils, make-up, effigy, Grey’s Anatomy (the book), nylon webbing, guide to tying knots, bible, sunblock, bridge cleaner, mouthwash, conditioner, itinerary, solar shower, arnica, twisty ties, Livestrong bracelets, tripod, laundry bag, spark plug wrench, portable handheld devices, magnate, evening wear, metric conversion chart, pajamas, incense holder, incense, mini-alter, orb, scepter, soduko book, girl scout cookies, wrist sundial, snake bite kit, sari, dhoti, dale, flashlight.
Avoid buffet restaurants and anything restaurant with the word, “family” in the title. Whether you want to or not, get over it because you’ll eat lots of fast foods. While you are buying alka-seltzer for your heartburn, you may as well pick up some Oxy acne medicine.
Indiana-isms: “If you don’t like the weather in Indiana, wait 5 minutes.” “That was as quick as an Indiana minute.”, “I’d rather live in Indiana than die anywhere else.” “Your honor, it was a speed trap.”