Our boat was actually a chartered bus that picked up three sanghas in Brighton, Toronto, then finally St. Catherine’s, which we had dubbed, “The Love Bus”. The Brighton yogis boarded at 2:30am and made it to Toronto by 4:15am: right on time. I, along with about 9 other Toronto yogis, boarded the bus and we were off by 4:30. So far so good. We picked up the St. Catherine’s crew and headed south towards the border; our plan was to arrive at Sat Nam Fest around noon, just in time for lunch, and for the Mirabai Ceiba class in the afternoon. As my grandmother always says, “You can’t make a plan. You’ll always be disappointed.” This proved to be true in our case during the journey.
We had to wait about an hour at the border crossing, and a stop at Duty Free had cost us almost another hour. So far, two hours off schedule. I slept for a few hours, ate some delicious treats that the Brighton crew had brought, pulled out my guitar and chanted, and read my book. No one is really sure what happened, but someone at the front of the bus noticed that our driver Brian, a good-natured yet inexperienced bus driver, had taken a wrong turn. Not just one wrong turn, but also a turn that put us in the absolute wrong direction. When I opened my eyes after a nap, I heard that we were in Ohio. Oh dear.
The GPS played tricks on Brian, along with too many directors and drivers giving their well-intentioned advice, which lead us to small country roads, more suitable for a motorcycle than a large 45 passenger bus. The beautiful rolling hills of the Blue Ridge Mountains posed a bit of a problem for Brian, who wasn’t quite familiar with the concept of gearing down. It wasn’t long before we all smelled a burning scent and shortly thereafter we were pulled over by the “po-po” (police) who informed us that we had to pull over as our brake pads were smoking. By now, we were about 3 hours off schedule, and the bright eyes, smiles and eager enthusiasm were now replaced with frowns, frustration and an impending feeling of disappointment. I was on the Sound Crew, so I was feeling bad that I would not make my promised noon arrival. However, this was clearly in the hands of the Divine, so I just surrendered to whatever will be, will be.
This laissez-faire attitude quickly changed by the time we were almost 5 hours off schedule, and the odor coming from the bathroom at the back of the bus (where I was sitting) was unbearable. The heat seemed to be turned up on high, so it was somewhat akin to a septic sweat lodge. Not ideal. The other yogis were also getting frustrated by the fact that our driver didn’t pull off to a roadside stop, rather he pulled into a small town for a break, which of course added more time to the already cumbersome journey.
By the time we pulled into the festival, it was after 5pm so we had missed lunch and the class, but luckily made it in time for dinner: Wahe Guru! The next few days seemed to lessen the pain of our journey with some transformative yoga classes by Gurmukh, Krishna Kaur and Mahan Rishi, to name a few, and with the beautiful sweet sounds from all of the musicians. I had the good fortune of working with a talented and lovely sound crew headed up by Krishan, and got to meet a few new kindred spirits. It was worth the perilous drive.
We had assumed (we all know what ass-uming does don’t we?) that Brian would have a few days to study his maps for the way home. Not so much. On Sunday, we reluctantly boarded the bus at 1pm after a beautiful class by Snatam Kaur; it felt like the last day of camp. Nobody wanted to go home. And nobody wanted to get back on the bus with Brian. Sure enough, we took a couple of wrong turns, and our 8 hour journey turned into a flashback of the way there, only this time the bathroom smelled worse. We wondered just what lessons we had to learn from this experience. How can we be graceful in times of frustration and anger? We had to surrender and relinquish control. We chanted some long Ek Ong Kars, pulled out the guitars and sang some other mantras, and once again ate. A lot. The fact that this bus was indeed fueled by love made all the difference in the world. By the time we pulled into Toronto (after missing the exit and adding another hour to the drive) I was almost delirious. I had wanted to get into the driver’s seat myself and take over, and my bossy-boots teacher persona had come out to show Brian which exit to take (the one he missed). Really? For real?!
The next day, I was still aglow with all of the yoga, music and transformation that had taken place in my body and my psyche; when my friends asked how the festival was, my first response was, “Amazing”, and the drive to and fro seemed not to matter as much. Parts of the yoga were extremely challenging. Parts were blissful and beautiful. Part of the drive was breathtaking with the leaves’ autumn splendor. Part of the drive was miserable. Yogi Bhajan taught us about life’s polarities and how to accept and embrace them all with grace. I’m grateful to him of course, and as always, I’m grateful for the journey.
Note: I’ll be driving my car down next year if anyone wants to carpool.