And so, I begin another blog post with an apology for my absence. Or is that rather British of me? Did you notice? Did you miss me?! The world keeps on spinning, right? ;) I’m sure my often-niggling anxiety about not updating this blog is a dialogue that plays out in my head alone. Anyway, here I am, finally back on my computer and with some words I would like to share with you, my loyal readers, and anyone else who may happen to stumble across my ramblings to the ether.
My motivation to get back to writing has been fuelled in the past week by the gentle yet powerful energy I’m surrounded by: I write this while sitting in a café overlooking the breathtaking holy river Ganges in Rishikesh, having returned to this incredible city in the foothills of the Himalayas eight months on from my first visit here in May last year. Coming then from Thailand, the trip was unplanned – a spur of the moment decision driven by a desire deep in my heart to return to the country that had stirred my senses and opened my heart, first in January and again in March 2014. (This marks the fourth time I have set foot on Indian soil.) It was a decision that was to change my life irrevocably, and for the better, and it is for that reason that I am back – to be nurtured once again by the divine Shakti energy that pulsates through this beautiful, chaotic and intensely spiritual land.
In a way I have come full circle. Having recently left again my place of birth (London, England), I return to my spiritual home – the place where my healing journey began just over one year ago, again in search of nurture, peace and fulfillment. Instead of a cyclical journey however, I would rather liken mine to a spiral, as while it may appear repetitive, regressive even from the outside, I know in my heart that I am following an upward trajectory. The past few months in London were tough, re-opening past wounds, revealing unhealthy habits and attachments, and fuelling negative thoughts and patterns of behviour. But, without a doubt, I am stronger now than I ever was before I first set foot on this holy soil.
Boy am I grateful to be back!
Aside from the energy this country gives me in general, I am here in Rishikesh more specifically to take part in a Tantra yoga immersion course led by amazing Brazilian teacher Pedro Franco and guest taught by “my” wonderful teacher Sophia La Pastina (also Brazilian), who I met in Dharamkot, Dharamsala, a few hours north of here, back in May last year. It was with wholehearted, trusting faith that I signed up for this course almost immediately after seeing Sophia share it on Facebook, as despite it being more than my bank balance can afford right now the self-inquiry, healing, knowledge and guidance that I am gaining will pay back the money tenfold, I am sure.
When you find your teacher, you just know, as was the case when I met Sophia (or Surya) at the acro yoga immersion day she was teaching in Dharamkot last May. From the minute I heard her voice and felt her powerful presence the hairs on my arms stood on end, and when the session finished I walked away with tears of gratitude and love streaming down my face. Although I only practised with Sophia a handful of times the impression she made was immeasurable, not least because with her fierce yet graceful fire energy she opened my heart and propelled me upwards on an explosive and life-changing spiritual journey. For that I will be forever grateful.
This journey – my spiritual awakening to be more specific – is something I have written little about on Healing Beauty, perhaps foolishly out of coyness and the fear of being judged. I did, rather ironically though, share it with Elephant Journal’s 10 million visitors a couple of months ago, the response to which was truly overwhelming. (It’s had nearly 20,000 views to date.) If you are interested, the article is here.
Without going too much into that now, I will say that while my initial awakening took me to a (natural) high I could never have imagined possible, coming back to the ‘real world’ (or more accurately, the physical realm) was extremely challenging, and at times, painful. A big part of that, for which I must take responsibility, was the lack of support I had during a highly confusing and life-altering time. Having just experienced enormous energetic shifts and seen and felt things far beyond the capacity of my mind to comprehend, I was left rather dazed and confused, to put it bluntly! Had I sought the proper support and guidance (had I had the courage to share my experience and ask for help) perhaps the past few months would have been easier.
Nevertheless, I survived (!) and everything happens for a reason. On further research I have learnt that Kundalini awakening is often turbulent, especially if it happens fast and un-expectantly, as was the case for me. As this life force energy awakens and attempts to flow freely through the energetic body (up the central Sushumna channel) it follows that any blockages – physical, mental and emotional – must be cleared along the way. Facing my shadows (the subconscious elements of the Self) is all part of the process. It is this journey of purification and realisation that I am enduring, or rather, embracing now and there is no better place for it than Rishikesh.
One of the holiest places in the world, Rishikesh attracts countless revered spiritual teachers, gurus and yogis from East and West, whom I find myself in close proximity to now, as well as of course with my beloved teacher, guru and friend, Sophia. I’m just over half way through the course and already my mind is calmer, my heart more peaceful and the fire in my belly is returning.
Our days start early – at 5.30am for morning sadhana, an intense yoga practice with Pedro that incorporates asana (postures), pranayama (breathing techniques) and bandha (energy lock) work with mantra singing and chanting, the ultimate aim of which is to connect us deeper with our true selves and raise our energetic vibrations. After practice we enjoy a delicious breakfast at one of the organic cafes nearby that serve fresh juices, fruit salads and porridge at a ludicrously affordable prices (50p for a juice packed full of fresh fruits and vegetables, £1 for a full meal). Then we stroll along the beautiful Gagnes riverbank to another ashram for satsang (a spiritual teaching / lecture) led by gurus Prem Baba or Shanti Mayi. In the afternoon we gather back at our ashram, Parmath Niketan, for a lecture on Tantric yoga philosophy, followed by puja (a sacred fire ceremony) on the steps overlooking the river Ganga outside. Dinner is followed by another practice varying from yoga to mindfulness to Thai massage.
It’s been a tiring and at times highly emotional journey so far, as the deep and challenging practices are slowly but surely peeling back layers of the onion and taking me to the places I most need to go. I can’t tell you how much relief I feel to be here, exactly where I need be to find again my centre and continue on my path of healing and awakening. With each day, with each breath, I am becoming fuller and richer with prana, with love, and with gratitude.