During the night from Tuesday going into Wednesday, there was a celebration called Mahashivratri in the Tapovan center in Loenen. During this night, so the Hindus believe, did Shiva, one of the three great gods in Hinduism, marry his wife, Parvati. It is seen as the coming together of the male and female power in the universe. In India, this is paired with fasting and a lot of rituals. Shiva is seen as the most powerful god by his followers, the Shaivas. He is the one responsible for the destructive aspect of nature, one to really fear. The day before the night is typically spend in temples where a lot of rituals are performed by skilled and learned pandits.
Wanna see how offering to the Lingam is done in India? Check this video.
In the Western world these rituals are mostly lost. Shiva is seen not so much as an angry, dangerous god, but as the destroyer of evil and darkness. Where the day before is as important as the night itself in India, here in Holland, or more specifically in Tapovan, it is all about the night. The celebration is stripped of all the cultural and ritual decorations and is only about singing and turning ones attention inwardly. Trying to make Shiva burn the bad karmic fruits one is carrying. There is much to be said about this interpretation and transformation of ancient Hindu rituals, where everything has to be exactly as it has been done for thousands of years, into a loosely and above all cozy evening in a small hall somewhere in the Dutch forests. But this website is about the transformation one undergoes while hiking.
I decided to participate in this night, and figured I could walk from Nijmegen to Loenen in two days, having myself a short pilgrimage of some sort. The sky was clear and the sun was shining brightly as I made myself a tourist in my own town. I swung my bag on my back and took my old familiar pole with me. As I set out in the direction of Arnhem to spend the night at my brothers’ place, I felt pulled back in times already long ago. The easy pace of walking, the wondering faces of passersby, the occasional greetings and the ‘a-bit-too-cold-but-still-nice’ nap in the sun on a bench along the road, it was all there, as if I never stopped.
Somewhere in the fields between the two major cities of today’s walk, Nijmegen and Arnhem, two ladies on electric bikes overtook me. They stopped to have a look at sign telling us something about WWII and somehow seemed to wait a bit for me. I joined them and soon we were having a nice conversation about Fancis of Assisi. ‘’You look like him, with you pole.’’ One of them told me. ‘’Do you know him, Francis?’’ she asked me. ‘’Well, I did religious studies, and I just applied for a job at a certain organization which does a lot with his legacy.’’ Turned out they both worked in a Franciscan monastery close to Nijmegen and knew this organization very well. One of them was even the mother-superior of the monastery. If god wills, maybe this encounter could be a sign of some sort.
A couple of hours later I crossed the John Frost bridge in Arnhem and walked towards the Airborne square (yes, WWII was some kind of a theme today). A boy with black curly hair passed me by on his bike and looked at me with curiosity. He reminded my vaguely of John Snow from the Game of Thrones tv-series. Just a couple of minutes later he called me. ‘’Sir, where are you going?’’ I told him about my two day walk, and about my four month trip. He was inspired and wants the same. He was happy I took the time to talk for a while, and I was happy someone asked me. It felt good to inspire someone once again.
Watch this BBC movie about the area I walked through today.
Tuesday was ‘nature day’. After leaving Arnhem I walked straight through the forests to Loenen. The weather changed and a thick, cold fog was covering the heath. It added greatly to the mystery of the place. I felt a great rush to make it to Loenen as quick as possible for I felt great excitement of what awaited me there. At the same time I realized these moments alone, outside, in freedom are scarce. So I decided to take it easy and enjoy every step of the way, for I would be in Loenen the whole night. Just when everything around me fell away, and my thoughts receded, and I felt just pure happiness, I got a call. It was from the company I had a job interview with last week. Back then they told me they did not have place for me in the team. But now they changed their minds and decided they wanted to take me through some tests. Now my happiness was not just happiness anymore. I had a reason to be happy. It greatly improved my feeling for I had some perspective on a job again. But now I was not just happy, I was happy because of something. And I knew this happiness would die down at some point. So I pushed away this superficial happiness and focused on the real, lasting happiness coming from the core of my being.
So, instead of spending my day behind my computer trying to find job opportunities or doing random stuff in order to get my welfare, I took the pole, walked towards the freedom I so well know and everything fell into place. I do believe in the magic of my walking pole. As do I believe in the magic I felt during the long night.
Try to break away every now and then.