Some trips energize you and inspire you to live your life in a moment and to follow your passions, other trips relax and rejuvenate both body & mind, some turn into adventures, and others help to create long-lasting friendships, some even change your life values and outlooks, while others reinforce your long-forgotten promises and commitments to oneself. India can do all of it and much more, if you let it.
Today, a few people from our group trip to India share their experiences and memories from the ashram. The post is long but full of amazing insights so get a cup of chai and enjoy!
Incredible Beauty and Ugliness
Irina Z. a talented music teacher and a romantic at heart:
India, India… It is really incredible country in every way. The beauty and the ugliness. The wonderful smell of all the imaginable spices and the nauseating “aroma” of the products of human and animal existence. The sparkle of the palaces and temples and unimaginable poverty and misery.
And the beauty of their spirituality and philosophy, exposure to which is very beneficiary to the soul, especially young people souls, that are greatly spoiled by our western hectic and demanding lifestyle.
And the markets! Bargaining, bargaining. It was such a tiring fun:) You get so tired of bargaining and at the same time feel almost addicted to it. What is the real price? You will never know:)
It is an amazing country, and both, my friend Maryana and I, had a great time. Even more than that, she is a yoga addict now:)
Discovering Headspace and Freedom From Technology
Gillian B (A Wellness Consultant and a Yoga Instructor from Toronto):
Wow, what an experience this has been so far, full of lectures, devotional songs, pranayama, amazing vegetarian meals and of course yoga!
I spent the entire 8 hour ride to the ashram looking out the window soaking in all that I could. The roadside was scattered with all sorts of little tent vendors selling everything from fruits and jewelry to cell phones and satellite receivers. My favorite part was passing through more rural areas where entire families were working together preparing or harvesting crops and loading them into these huge multi coloured trucks. Life here is so simple compared to the hustle and bustle of city living in North America.
The whole experience has allowed me to take a step back from the life I live and look at it from a fresh new perspective. I have been enjoying time to myself where I am completely disconnected from both phone and internet to contemplate and reflect on things that want and I need to change. My journal has been hearing from me quite a bit…boy does it feel good to have the space to just THINK! In North America, we live in a constant state of stimulation and distraction, too many notifications of this and that, I am way too connected, way to accessible!!! I have realized how very precious my headspace is and will be taking immediate action when I get home, a mental distraction cleansing if you will.
Gillian’s Impressions of Holi:
We were fortunate enough to experience one of India’s major festivals, Holi, the festival of colour. The day of fun and games, running around throwing brilliantly coloured paint and water on anyone and everyone! The meaning behind Holi, is that colour represents love, blessings and prosperity. Following the law of attraction, the more you throw out there to the Universe (or on people) , the more you will get back.
This was an experience like no other… it was more fun than all Halloweens in my life combined. We had scheduled it to begin after our breakfast break, but the fun got started a bit early, as people were surprised with a face full of green powder before oatmeal was served! Normally, this would have really freaked me out and I would have probably steered clear but I embraced the experience and had SO much fun! All of the Sanyasins, who are normally, quite, reserved, proper and respectful, were running around joyfully with funny colored faces, buckets of water and half their clothes on. Holi is a day where people of all ages can let loose and reveal the playful child within all of us.
Standing down on the lawn amongst all of the chaos, I stopped for a moment and watched the pearls of bright purple powder, mixing with water, turning into liquid in the palm of my hand. There was something very beautiful about it all. A bucket of water over my head quickly brought me back from that moment of observation.
I spent a full hour in the ‘shower’ after getting a face full of that same purple paint, scrubbing and scrubbing! This experience was slightly traumatizing, I let out a few tears when I realized the purple stained parts of my hair. Looking at myself in the mirror I told myself that all is well, and from that moment forward I embraced my new tidied look, after all it was evidence of yet another amazing and unique experience on my first Indian adventure.
Afterwards, Surykant asked us what we enjoyed about Holi. Everyone in our group responded with different things like: ‘A new experience’, ‘feeling like a child again’, or ‘interacting with the Indian people and just enjoying their company’. Suryakant shook his head after each reply as if he was looking for a particular answer. Then explained that our responses were the result of us analyzing past events. We enjoyed it so much because we were present in every moment, living in the now. This was very refreshing to hear and opened the gates for a new direction for my mind to contemplate.
Making Friends With Myself
Natalya Nova, an amazing photographer and a movie director with a passion for authentic beauty and touching people’s souls with her work.
I was going to India without any expectations. I was ready to experience fully whatever will come my way and interesting things did happen.
First we went to Haridwar or “ The gate of God”, a city around Delhi where meat and alcohol isn’t allowed. I’m not really a drinker but I love meat so I was curious to experience a fully vegetarian lifestyle. Our fun group stayed in Haridwar’s ashram for a week. Ashram’s teachers planned out a week of daily activities for us starting with a 4am wake up call and a 5am meditation class up to 9pm Q&A session. Besides meditation, we did pranayamas and yoga, listened to the spiritual discourses and spent solo time contemplating.
I tried meditation before I came to ashram and I definitely experienced God’s presence in my life but being in close proximity to the people who could truly guide us to the next level led to some significant breakthroughs for most of us.
Vedanta, an ancient Indian philosophy, was the focus of most lectures but I never felt any pressure to accept it if it didn’t go along with my personal beliefs. I was at a point of my life when I desperately needed answers to some questions and, in a way, a confirmation to the answers I already had. Let me tell you one thing, every time I desperately want something it magically happens! While I went through a lot of physical pain that week (try sitting cross-legged for 10 hours a day!) I had some amazing revelations.
At one point while meditating I had a vision of having a fight with myself. Someone inside of me screamed that I am torturing her and that I don’t love her. I bursted into tears, I tried to tell her that we are friends and that I do love her, that we have to go through that together. It sounds crazy writing about it now but at that moment it made perfect sense. I did have a fight with my physical body and my mental body and the goal was to move beyond them to the soul, to the pure consciousness.
Towards the end of our stay I ashram I reached the level of a complete piece within myself and within the surroundings: no hot water was putting a smile on my face, lack of sleep – big deal! My energy was 100 out at 10, I felt like no matter where I am I can have that feeling inside of me and nobody can take it away from me. I felt like I was set free.
After the ashram, we went to Delhi, Varanassi, Agra and Jaipur for sightseeing. India felt uplifting and charming on one side but rough and cruel on the other. I feel like you have to be mentally prepared to travel to India. It’s not for everyone. Seeing so much poverty around us was very overwhelming and sad. Being in a group where everyone wants different things was a good test of patience for all of us – a test on whether we learned anything from our stay at the ashram.
I’m super happy that I did this trip, that I had the revelations that I was waiting for and I can’t wait for what’s next.
Breathing Your Way To Health and Balance
It was truly amazing to study advanced techniques of pranayama in ashram during our recent trip to India. Prana (life force) and Ayama (control) is control of the flow of the life force. Pranayama is a technique for regulating one’s all emotional and mental states, it induces direct changes in the respiratory system, the autonomic nervous system and endocrine system. Emotions such as anger, depression and fear all have their roots in irregular breathing. As a massage practitioner who focuses on the massage therapy of the abdomen and diaphragm, I highly recommend pranayama techniques to my clients, especially in pre and post surgery cases. They learn to consciously alter their breathing and attain a calm state of mind through smooth, abdominal or diaphragmatic breathing. By inspiration, expiration and retention in pranayama there is a rise and fall of diaphragm and contraction and relaxation of the abdominal muscles which give constant movement and massage to the bowels and digestive organs. I am excited to share newly learned advanced pranayama techniques and will be devoted to further exploration of the science of breath. Our studies in ashram have been extremely valuable in understanding the benefits of pranayama. As our teachers in ashram would say – the breath forms a bridge between the consciousness and the unconsciousness.
There are another 2 incredibly inspiring stories that I will save for tomorrow. If you missed my ramifications on India, you can read them here.
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Live and Learn!