Oh how I’ve missed this blinking cursor, this empty page of white, desirous in its vacancy. Thirsty for my words. Ravenous for my inspiration. My own sacred space, a writer’s sanctuary, this little slice of prose open road.
I just spent eleven days living on an ashram. A few months ago, in the throes of decision making, I set my mind sturdily upon the intention that I wanted to study Ayurveda. I spoke the words and heard them hang in the air, emanating conviction. I might as well’ve stamped them into wet cement. It is happening, I said, it will come to me.
I knew the Universe would deliver me this manifestation, I just didn’t realize that two hours after catapulting my words into cosmic space that my email inbox would hold three Ayurveda training invites. THREE. Within TWO HOURS.
Okay, Universe, I see you. I’m listening.
So I went. I chose the Sivananda Ashram training, as I’d been there on retreat before, and it offered me the most thorough education in the most compact amount of time. 100 hours of study in just shy of two weeks. Boom. I’m there.
I anticipated this trip for two months. I tried to wrap my mind around it. Fortunately for my inherent disposition, of dire curiosity, needing to know what things will look, taste, sound and feel like, it was beneficial to have the ashram layout etched into my memory. Ironically, the last time I visited the ashram on retreat, I was in a funky space in my life. I was in a relationship that I knew was no longer serving me, the subtle laceration to my soul deepening as my heart splintered in the tumultuous waves of denial.
I was not open nor was I aware of my own potential, two years ago. So when I returned to the ashram two weeks ago, eyes bright and spirit soaring, I felt like I’d returned in part for closure. To tell that ghost of myself, it’s okay now. You swam through those waves, you didn’t drown in that swell. Hell, you walked on water and into the sky.
I didn’t give much thought to the emotional state I was in two years ago until midway through my stay, actually. The ghost of the broken me was just too distinctly different from who I’ve become now to ignore, her hurt heart and lost identity illuminated by the full moon and my ascending Consciousness.
So I made peace with that. I made peace with all the hurt and injury I’ve ever been caused, by others, by myself, by this world. I cracked open my own heart and let the love come rushing in. And rush in it did…
We dove headfirst into the ashram’s very regimented schedule. My companion, a sister goddess of Light who eagerly joined in on my adventure and accompanied me on this training, and I attempted to set up our tent without directions in the burning heat of midday. In Grass Valley, CA. I ended up sitting in the shade of my car munching a baked sweet potato and watching Mandy fuss with the tent. Sighing and finding it past time I help, I went to my trunk to discover I’d forgotten my sleeping bag.
I left on a twelve day camping trip without my sleeping bag.
What are you trying to tell me, Universe?
I spotted a man coming up the hill and I bolted to him. He was carrying beams of wood. I mindlessly pounced on him, hands in anjali mudra, for aide. He kindly asked if he could set down the heavy armload before indulging my frazzled state. His presence calmed me. He told me he’d see what he could do. Later, that deeply kind soul, Sukha, came to me with the fortuitous news that he’d left two sleeping bags for me in my tent. The Universe provides us with exactly what, and who, we need exactly when we need it, if we just trust. So trust I do. Later, washing and drying dishes in the kitchen for Karma Yoga, I further bonded with this pleasant soul. Then he rescued us from one of the rogue goats who leapt up onto the picnic bench during dinner. The only fear they had was of the broom. Sukha the broom brandishing goat chaser. Sleeping bags and goat protection? Doubly chivalrous. His is one of several profound connections I made during my stay at Sivananda.
Despite the floppy tent, sleeping bag fiasco and the fact that we perched out camp on a noticeable slant, we happily drug ourselves down to practice. It took a matter of twenty minutes for me to remember why the Sivananda style of classical yoga doesn’t agree with my body. My mind raced back to that morning, images of sweating on my mat to the brilliant sequence and music of my teacher Mel, and my heart cowered a bit at the realization that I’d be without my personal practice for the next eleven days. Gulp. That was a tough one. Enter, TAPAS.
Tapas are one of the niyamas, in Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, acts of purification and internal observance. Tapas are “acts of volunteered suffering.” For me, giving up my dedicated practice for eleven days to practice a style of yoga I already know I don’t care for is sincere, indubitable tapas.
But alas, I survived my Tapas. I even came to enjoy it. I came to a place where I knew I was doing my duty, spiritually, breaking attachments so that, rather than reliance upon my practice, I have nothing but sheer pleasure around it. Rising this morning at 5am to take to the mat in my home studio was beyond worth the twelve days of Tapas (I can’t help but suddenly think of “The Twelve Days of Christmas” after typing that, ha). I relished in my vinyasa today, and then I scampered off to teach my own class at 9am and relished in the passion I have for my style of asana. Sharing it with my students gave my spirit the sensation it got when singing Kirtan on the Ashram, each morning and night. A powerful feeling of this is exactly where I’m supposed to be running through my veins, deep in my bones, to the tips of my toes.
I felt the ancient wisdom and sacred knowledge in which I’ve spent the past couple of weeks bathing just flowing through me. Swami Sita said yesterday that sometimes things come out of her mouth that make her go, “Wow…I didn’t know that! How interesting!” She’s THAT tapped into the Divine, THAT connected to the transient wisdom of her guru. I feel that way in regard to the knowledge, energy and atmosphere I just immersed myself in on the ashram. I found myself teaching my students about the Vital Essences this morning – prana, tejas and ojas – tying them into my theme, as if some Divine hand were reaching in an stirring magic inside my mind, expressing it through my voice. The element Ether correlates to the vocal chords, its organ of action, and I truly did feel an ethereal influence on me this morning, not even 24 hours off the sacred soil of Sivananda Ashram.
Another spirit I connected with is Shambhava, a highly vibrational being whose aura drew me to him from across the ashram. That and he’s very tall, and I am drawn to tall people. It’s a tall person thing.
We sat talking for hours, on my second sleeping bag, which I laid out on the slanted hillside as a space to “chill” between classes, asana, meals (which were scanty but delicious, vegan, Ayurvedic buffet style) and Satsang. Shambhava had spent a year living on the ashram in the past, taken the TTC, made a temporary home there on the sacred grounds. He had only been back three weeks and was heading down to San Diego after his time there. Perfectly Divine that we would connect – true connection of the heart – while there. Not at all surprising; as I had said, when you crack open your center, your anahata chakra, the love and abundance just come rushing in. Have you ever experienced human beings with whom you feel you have an entire conversation with by just holding meaningful eye contact? I feel I’ve been communicating that way more in the past weeks than I have with words. That speaks volumes for a person like me. No pun intended!
My dear, sweet Shambhava sent me off with some precious gifts and some really vibrational thought processes. Indescribable gifts, sun gazing carving new pathways in my consciousness. I love the feeling I get when the Universe takes me by the hand and tilts my chin up to see someone walking towards me, watching their approach and anticipating the crossing of our paths.
Nothing happens by accident. We all meet for a reason. We all meet at particular times for a reason. Sometimes it’s to learn, other times to teach. Occasionally it’s so that we can continue down a shared path together, and now and again it’s to serve as catalysts for change, growth, understanding and coming back to life. Whatever the intention, it is all so Divine, and I recognize that now more than ever. We meet each other not only so that we may know one another, but so that we may know who we are.
Likely one of my favorite parts of ashram living was the morning and evening Satsang. Satsang literally means, “to gather with the wise.” How powerful, right? And gather with the wise I did…each evening began with 20-30 minutes of silent mediation, was broken by a resounding Om, followed by kirtan and then a lecture on yoga philosophy.
From morning Satsang we traipsed off to yoga philosophy with Swami Sita. After that was our brunch, the first meal of the day (though they began feeding us a bit of oatmeal and fruit before each philosophy class which both my energy and my waistline were deeply grateful for!), and then Karma yoga. Karma yoga is selfless service, and my task was the kitchen. My left forearm is sore from all of the ferocious drying I did whilst singing kirtan and bonding with beautiful souls, laughter echoing off the silvery, glistening pots and jars of endless spices. My time in the kitchen was really special, looking back on this experience.
I also met Ananta in the kitchen. A stellar being from Miami, brimming with prana, a total glowing soul. We all shared stories, truths, laughter and song in the kitchen, rebuilding the platform on which our dinner would be divinely prepared, only to be cleaned up all over again. I want to call it cyclical. I love the word cyclical. It’s not cyclical, Swami Sita said to me, though, at one point during philosphy, it’s all one. Ah, yes. It is all One, isn’t it…
I feel there’s a cyclical nature inherent within the Oneness, like the changing of seasons, all suspended in One Divine cosmic realm of space and energy.
So after the Karma yoga came Ayurveda. Hours of training and study in the Radha Krishna Hall. Following that was a brief break before the two hour asana class, from which we went straight to dinner. Another brief break ensued, which was usually spent either hiking up to Siva Temple or showering, whichever felt more pressing at the time. Then it would be time to trek down to evening Satsang, pashmina around my shoulders and bindi on my third eye. Bliss Absolute.
Ten days began to feel like a long time, it’s a third of a month, we began to say. The dirt on our feet began refusing to wash off. The hunger in our bellies began to dull, the Tapas in the slight fasting becoming a welcomed heat. The slant of our beds began to feel normal, the comfort of head hitting pillow too delicious for any complaint. The six and a half hours of sleep began to feel like enough. The souls I was surrounded by began to feel like exactly what they had been all along, brothers and sisters. The ashram began to feel like a heartbeat, synced to the rhythm of mother nature, highly alive with the charged energy of so many beings retreating to the sacred soil, healing ensuing, purging and releasing and cracking open.
It’s powerful how deeply an experience can move us, change us, shape us…it is all One. I think perhaps the best part of it all is that the joy of experience lives within US, the Divine resides within US. It’s not actually the soil we stand upon, the land on which we camp, the places to where we travel, the feet at which we kneel that’s so sacred…the vibration is within US. Anywhere I go can leave me feeling this way, and I trust deeply that this will be one of many workshops, trainings and retreats that I will attend, lead and collaborate on that will leave me feeling this way.
A friend recently turned me onto the glorious song “Wake Me Up” by Avicii.
Feeling my way through the darkness
Guided by a beating heart
I can’t tell where the journey will end
But I know where to start
The sound is what speaks to my soul more than anything else but, I have to admit, those lyrics are Divine. This is where we start. Look down and see your feet planted there, and that is where you start.
As much as I adore the ashram and the Oneness of communal living and peaceful solitude, it is quite serene to be home. I sit here feeling vibrant, so open, so alive. I’m a Certified Wellness Counselor now, an Ayurvedic Therapist, a Holistic Healer and Health Advisor. My heart and mind are arguing playfully over who’s going to overflow with gratitude and love first.
While you may not have been in my yoga class this morning, I am funneling you the same energy that I spoke of to my students. I am radiating my bliss out to you and wishing that may you cultivate your Vital Essences this evening as well, wherever you are. Prana ~ vitality of mind… Tejas ~ clarity of mind… and Ojas ~ peace of mind. Feel it, breathe it in. See, taste, smell and hear the Divine within you. Because it is in you. I see it in you. The Divine is who we are. Thank you for always letting me share my story.
Om shanti loveburst lightsenders! Namaste 💓