A new ritual has developed between my soul sister and me. Once family by paper, we are now family by heart … but with our busy lives and my location free living for the past few years, our connection was often relegated to shorthand Whatsapp messages, a gulped cup of coffee when our paths crossed in CT or JHB, or if lucky, a more extended lunch every now and then. Speaking on the phone never quite cuts it, you know? So in 2018, we decided, in our 50’s, to carve out a new annual ritual of dedicated time together.
Even when we attended our first Yoga Spirit Fest (um, to be honest, it was more of a dance fest just no booze or meat), we were already calling it annual!
Precious time for the two of us to connect – lingering conversations over cups of chai tea and coffee, no rush to cover big headlines only, time to slow down and be with each other. All relationships and friendships need this to feed each other. My recent lifestyle in the past few years have felt like a conundrum – loving the gallivanting and adventures but also skating on the surface of many things in my personal quest to live location free. Some of the insights from our conversations that unfolded in between yoga in 2018 have since transpired and come to fruition in my life. New steps were taken, new business decisions put into action and deeper emotions processed. That’s the unbelievable power when someone who cares, just sits and listens without judgment. Simply lets your words land on their heart. Most times, I can find the solution or feel the next step emerging, just in the speaking and the hearing of it land softly. Do you have that person in your life?
Travel takes an inordinate amount of time and energy for me now. I am never in one place long enough to settle into a routine and BE, to immerse or to rest. Some things have definitely suffered –like knowing that I am not always truly present and patient as a partner or friend when truly needed. Also my lack of deeper connection into a community other than fleetingly popping in before waving goodbye again; or never knowing where my next hair cut might turn out (come on gals, you know the stress of that one right?), The lonely downside of gallivanting globally and another plane to catch. Sounds glamorous when I say I live #locationfree, but it is honestly taking its toll where it really counts.
What if what I really want is the thing that is eluding me? How do I make sure I take the right steps to fulfillment and a way forward that is aligned, and not just skip on to the next place that beckons my gypsy soul?
For our annual connection time, “let’s go to India” we said. Soul Sister has been there many times, but this was a bit different for us, my virgin trip. Our ritual for 2019 was to be a Yoga Teachers Training in Rishikesh, even though neither of us is necessarily rushing out to become a full-on teacher, we wanted a deep IMMERSION and better yoga instruction, more than a pampering retreat experience. “Let’s be bold,” we said, “Let’s aim high,” we said. “Dive right in.” Deeply unprepared, just saying yes and showing up, not really knowing what was in store for us as most of the girls and guys were less than half our age. 8 hours of instruction every day in 33-degree humidity. I sweated half my body away. (darn ….I wish)
Here are some personal insights from 7 short nights in Rishikesh, India…
Get Up and Get Out
On our very first morning, we both jolted naturally awake at 6 am, like little kids on Divali. Knowing we only started our training at ten am on the first day, we could not resist the pull of the mighty River Ganga a few u-bends below us. The most revered, sacred river in India was just at the bottom of our hill. Flowing like a river in flood, even though the monsoon season is over, this immense gushing river speeds past mountains and villages spreading hope, purification and faith to all. Albeit highly polluted to a western brain, it is the pure liquid that is celebrated in full by everyone. Everything centers around it – and the energy from it was honestly joyous and mesmerizing!
We just pulled on clothes, started walking down the hill, jumped in a tuk-tuk, instinctively negotiated the price to a local rate, and followed our nose down the hill. A few kilometers later we realized we were heading away from the bridge we wanted to walk across, so we just jumped out and started walking back, in the morning cacophony of the streets.
In a country where folk are so compassionate and treat each other with the utmost respect, I felt unbelievably safe. Walking with my bag and camera and not one iota of fear or threat. Just huge smiles were greeting us at every turn – and a few amused looks at my mop of silver hair. All Indian women (unless about 80) have thick black, coconut smelling hair. Even the older men dye their silver hair all sorts of colors. Oh well, best I own my silver dowry proudly as it was fun being asked to have my picture taken with locals.
Before most people on our course were even awake, we had already experienced the colorful context of the sacred Mama Ganga in Rishikesh and where we were spending the week.
Do you just get up and out and are you brave and bold when you travel, or shrink away from the experience?
Witness the Synchronicities
While mindfulness is becoming the trendy buzz in the western world, the East just LIVES within this philosophy. It’s in the water, the rivers, the food, the air. Nothing to think about – it just seeps out every pore of the locals. It’s why I have always been drawn to it, I guess. But for Westerners, we often have to force ourselves to be wide-awake, mindful, and in gratitude mode to see what’s unfolding in the magic of each moment.
From screeching with laughter at magically appearing bananas in airports, to a profound 45-second sighting of the Dalai Lama floating past us in Delhi domestic airport, to a loved Ashram literally just down the road from our yoga school, to closed doors being unlocked and opened for us in sacred spaces, To caves of profound silence, to intense conversations from all the teachers we experienced that just kept saying the right thing at the right time for me (offering several objective teachings for me personally) ….we just kept noticing and laughing at all the love and life that showed up for us.
Do you witness all the little wonders of synchronicity in life that show up in each moment? Sometimes you just have to lift your eyes and look, deeply look, with soft eyes. Soft eyes will laugh! Soft bellies will laugh. We shouldn’t have a six-pack, just one pack that knows how to live, love, and laugh!
Take it as it Comes
You either love it, or you hate it – there is just NO grey in India
India is honestly hot, smelly, chaotic, dirty, and everything else in between. Loud, colorful, generous, poor and sacred. You can either embrace it all, inhale deeply and let it seep into your bones for the full experience, or you can be precious and tiptoe through your time there and hate every minute. And you can never know that until you go! Reading about a place, dreaming about a place, making plans to visit a place, watching movies about a place do not do anything to replace BEING in a place. No short cuts – not even with high definition movies or virtual reality. The power is in the experience of it. Always. We attempt to pre-empt too much with our western brains.
India will likely push your buttons – it pushed mine. But I chose to sink into the experience and surrender. The true art of letting go right? The very darn thing I teach with my de-cluttering and concept of #livelightlivelarge. We cannot control everything in life, but I can do my best to control how much I squirm or delight in response to life and just be ok with it all. That’s within my realm of control. Living in our little haven of Swiss Cottage above Rishikesh was humid, hard, loud and dirty – yet utterly delightful, sacred and filled with unbounded love and respect for life, each other and yoga. 33-degree rooms have no aircon – we’ll still breathe, and I love Bikram, right?
No shoe policy indoors means kinda dirty feet all the time. Who cares. I and my grubby clothes literally smelled all week, no matter what I tried. You know it’s bad when you catch a whiff of yourself! Banknotes than probably have ten diseases present – well bless the money and just pass it on. Weak instant coffee for my daily fix was like gold – until I see a gleaming coffee machine on day 5! The delight in my eyes lit up the whole village! Bikes, cars, tuk-tuks, buses, cows, monkeys, dogs and people all one trail – just keep your wits about you!
Can you honestly allow yourself to immerse fully? If not, then perhaps regroup and get the heck out!
Impact of gratitude
Gratitude in India appears a different concept – they see everything they do as an act of service, of love, of serving their faith. With no expectation other than to serve and help. No gratitude needed. I have so much to learn here – I am far more Westernised in my thinking of in and out, give and receive, thank you and showing appreciation. Maybe I need to surrender into service more, to do for the joy of doing, give for the joy of giving. The selflessness oozes out of their pores and shows me up to me!
Our yoga philosophy teacher says when a family makes chapattis, they offer up the first three: one to the gods, one to the cows and one to nature. If very poor, they will split one into three to give the first “three” away, and only then feed the family. Sacred ritual. So often when we as westerners show our thanks by “tipping,” we feel we have helped the other person. But actually, they have allowed us to serve and help them. We are the lucky ones in being able to give, not them for receiving!
This is such a personal test for me – when I saw the look on our teachers’ faces when gifting them something for the week– not even knowing what was in the envelope money wise- it was humbling to see the honest gratitude of being appreciated when no expectation is present. It’s filled with pure love. No airs and graces, zero expectation. I witnessed such a transition of the ego into the spirit. What we all aim for, right?
These are powerful, dedicated teachers who devote their lives to healing and teaching – and within them runs a deep humbleness that was profound to witness. A small thank you brings so much joy mostly I feel because they see the joy in our giving too. The cycle of life?
So the question I ask is am I honestly being grateful for everything I have and can I do more in service, without expectation of return, or is the western way of always wanting ‘more’ detrimental to inner peace? Seeking more love, more fun, more attention, more sharing. More peace. What about acceptance of what is? I need to understand the balance of giving with no need for anything in return and balance that with seeking and living with joy and passion. Going where energy flows and spirit is free. I’m finding this is my lesson at the moment.
What’s your current lesson in life?
The amount of money, number of houses, or jewels on our fingers does not a happier, more peaceful person make. That comes from within. I have really attempted to be more satisfied with less, to be living without a home, without too many possessions and needing less generally. Living mostly from a suitcase in the last 3.5 years, ever moving, ever restless, ever traveling, I have been trying my best to tread lightly as I go. Leaving somewhere a little better than when I arrived.
But I still seek lots of experiences in the world. Always wanting more, India taught me about being grateful for every little thing that IS, not what could be.
Who can you give to today, who can you be thankful for, who can you acknowledge – whether by saying something or offering a token of your thanks? It’s all about the smile – make people smile and let yourself laugh from your belly!
Different Teachers, Different Strengths
Everyone I came across had something to teach, prod, nudge, or remind me about. There was no getting out of it when 8 hours of every day were immersed in some aspect of the training. The power of ego and how it shows up, the power of purification in the morning even when I was apprehensive of the neti pot, the anticipation of a hard class that landed up being delightful, the blessing of hearing that looking after your own passion and walking away when something doesn’t bring you deep joy, is ok. Truly ok. Everything is perfect just as it is, and you must follow your heart and try to do no harm in the process.
And often it was about how to find the JUICINESS in your hamstrings! Can you imagine – juicy hamstrings? My legs just light up at the thought of being juicy. Learning how going back the most basics of basic yoga positions is often harder than doing the complicated asanas. But all spoke the same thread – it’s all about preparation and purification for meditating, in order to reach enlightenment and compassion. Simple.
My overall take away is that everything and everyone counts – each and every perspective make up the matrix of the whole, and we have to choose what we need at each step along the way. I was left with the conundrum of understanding and knowing in my soul where I am, juxtaposed with how to remain patient, kind and trusting that we each have to walk our own journey. My eternal dilemma in life.
I also remember that we don’t have to be all things to all people – we each resonated and gelled with different teachers during the week. Just like we resonate with different people in our line of work – yet often we take it so personally if we feel like we aren’t reaching enough people, or getting enough business. I am in charge of MY life, and if I can help you change yours because we resonate, fantastic. If not, there is someone better to support your journey professionally.
Do you live your life with this knowing – that the right people will find their way to you and vice versa?
How can I have such tolerance in some areas and zero in others?
I realized with a revolting jolt that I can feel 200% patience with strangers, and yet complete intolerance for my near and dear. No matter how many times people might tell me that I am impatient, and too fast, I still have to internalise the lesson. What’s that about, hey? I think that when any of us humans are feeling un-appreciated, un-seen, and un-loved, every part of our small-minded pettiness, aka the ego, comes up for grabs. Well, mine does! As impatience and intolerance. Mostly for myself, then for others. So my more in-depth attempt is to find a way to be more graceful and a little less ego-driven. Yikes, that’s a blooming tough one! My personal double-edged sword!
How often in life that my / your energy, action, and kickass-ness translates in the very next breath to impatience, intolerance, and judgment, for myself and those closest to me. Knowing how to walk that fine line takes wisdom. The whole week in India, all I felt from our teachers was grace, patience, and compassion. What a joy to behold, and I realize how much I have to learn from their presence in my life.
India was a transitional gift to my soul, and a time where CHAI CHATS with Nats are forever etched in my heart.
I simply have taken the next step on my journey, trusting I am truly where I need to be, no matter what. Because there is simultaneously also deep joy – the essence of both that life requires!
I trust in the bigger picture that …
…if something is meant to be, nothing can stop it, and if something is not meant to be, nothing can make it so.