Wind In My Sails…

On the way to Vimy Ridge just outside Waterton Park May 2021

One thing that is a guarantee about living in Southern Alberta is that there will be wind involved when planning any outside activity. You would think after living here for over 50 plus years, I would be used to it by now. Ugh! Living at the ashram taught me that weather should be secondary to keeping yourself in motion outside. I walked trails in snow, mud, rain and didn’t let it get me down. So what’s a little wind in my sails then? Well, to be honest, it’s more than a little it can get up 70km/hr easily before you know it. The gang has decided we should focus on “adventure” this month and I am up for many as the month progresses. I bought an inflatable kayak and have been delighted in testing it’s ability to stay a float on some pretty easy local lakes. It was on a calm day I have to admit and I will probably stick to calm days while kayaking. My husband and I decided once to take our canoe out on St Mary’s reservoir. It was calm when we started out and not a cloud in the sky. We paddled around the lake and were really enjoying the day when we noticed in the distance some ominous black clouds building. We knew we wouldn’t make it back to our original starting spot so decided to go a shore by the East bank. This part of the lake has big boulders and not much else. I clammbered up the rocks and huddled by the canoe while my husband went to get the truck.

When it rains it pours. The universe loves to make the most when it catches me out in nature without anywhere to go but to stay put and grit it out. Boy did it down pour. The wind whipped around me and the rain felt like nasty pellets stinging my bare arms. I held onto the canoe which at some points wanted to fly away. It seemed like hours before hubby came with the truck but it was only probably minutes. So you would think that maybe I had had enough of that type of boating? Nope, I decided to go even more adventurous and trade my sturdy, hard bodied canoe in for an inflatable kayak. I hope to try it out soon on some rivers and lakes in the local mountain area. I need to go shopping first for a good life jacket and longer kayak paddle.

Wind or no wind, I am determined to get out there this summer and enjoy this amazing playground I have been blessed to live in. I hope to see you on the river or lake or on a mountain trail. Either way, if nothing else, this crazy time has proven how lucky we are to be alive. Why not get the heart pumping!

What’s The Rush?

Our inner garden needs weeding and refinement as much as our outter one.

The balance between action and refinement

I have been enjoying reading and contemplating the Kundalini philosophy and practices. I strongly believe there is a lot I can learn from action and refinement in this area. The more I explore the more it becomes apparent that action without refinement is something I have mastered. I have always been a “jump in and get started” kind of personality. I believed I could pivot and adjust as I went but it was important to get going before I got side tracked doing something else or lost my motivation to continue down a path. It has served me pretty good in the past with work getting done and the quality being “ok”.

Now? I find myself wanting more quality over quantity. 

I have spent years building my external gardens. My yard is bursting with a variety of plant life and areas of interest. I push the growing season by planting early and extending out harvest as much as the weather will permit. This year was no different and yet it was. In the past, I would have taken the chance that it may or may not snow in my zone at the end of May. Zone 6 is notorious for being unpredictable or predictable in doing the opposite of what you expect. The weather over the past few weeks has been wonderful with highs in the mid twenties even as high as twenty-seven(80 degrees for us old timers) for a few days. Then a hint of cold weather appeared on the horizon and as is common the white stuff appeared out of nowhere. 

So why did I plant early and take the chance that everything might freezeTake the chance that I may have to start over later? I think it’s about taking calculated risks and refining goals as you go. For instance, through the years I have come to understand which plants are more likely to survive a snow fall late in the season and which aren’t. I have researched how to compensate for the low temps by covering plants and providing protection for those vulnerable. I have begun to filter my desire to have a longer growing season with a realistic expectation of what that might entail.

So what’s the rush? This exploration of balance and refinement relates to my desire for making the most of our short growing season (seems Southern Alberta’s growing season is getting shorter and shorter) and finding ways to expand what is possible to accomplish in the time given.

Can we transfer this exploration to our lives? The crystal ball that magically tells us how life will go is flawed. Most often, it doesn’t account for what happens when we are on autopilot. I find myself daily having to reset and find renewed motivation to get projects done or surrender to the knowledge that some things weren’t meant to be. I am working with a mind that has a desire to time travel through the past and leap into the future at any given moment, it takes discipline and resilience to keep it in check. To function from my centre while not giving into the flood of narratives that escape with a variety of emotion is a constant battle of will and surrender of control to a higher power. The garden that dwells within me is still being refined. The habitual paths(patterns) are well worn and maybe too comfortable to keep accessible. As I try to trench out new and healthier routes I become aware that rushing is not the answer. Don’t get me wrong, it’s important to start and continue to chip away at obstacles that constantly show up to distract us from our goals and purpose. What I am learning though, is refinement and checking in often with my inner guru helps me make sure I am awake and aware . It helps me to find a pace to live my life that keeps me healthy and whole while focused on what’s important for me to see to fruition at any given moment.

Namaste

Save Your Breath

Pranayama-The practice of breath control

If it’s true what yogis say “You only have so many breaths in each lifetime” then isn’t it worth paying attention to each inhalation and exhalation for maximum effect?

How do you consciously control your breaths?

Once you explore the wonder of something that seems to happen without any effort on our part you start to wonder if there isn’t more you can bring within your control.

We use breathing exercises for so many things: 

Just breath(calm from stressful situation)

Don’t hold your breath (release tension) or hold your breath(stop hiccups, absorb intentions)

Deep breaths (build up oxygen levels)

Count your breaths ( to help with sleep, to meditate, to focus)

These are just a few reminders of how we already use our most basic instincts to help us daily.

I have been reading about the Fourth Cakra-Anahata and the practice of pranayama. I hadn’t, in the past, got very specific about the process when meditating with breath control. In the book, Kundalini Yoga For The West, Swami Radha talks about the “Triple Process”: the inhalation, suspension and exhalation. The practice is recommended to awaken the dormancy of the Kundalini energy. You are encouraged to contemplate that you only have so many breaths in a lifetime. Using those breaths on emotional outbursts or trivial endeavors could shorten your lifespan.

So next time you become aware of your breath stop and contemplate the value it has. It’s not like you can stop and save your breath for another time or opportunity. I realize I can, however, gain control over the maximum benefits of each inhalation and exhalation. Take advantage in the pauses between each to absorb the positive energy and release back into the cosmos an excess I may have stored up.

Namaste

 

White Blood Cells

May’s theme is to “Follow Your Dreams”

Laying in Savasana (Corpse Pose)

There is a body. It’s laying on a carpet of green grass in what appears to be a room in a house. It’s face up, hands with palms up and at its side. I can’t see the face clearly.The cavity of the body is open and I can see the internal organs. On the right mid abdomen side I see what I think is the kidneys but it is made up of white milky egg-like objects. They are translucent and bunched together like grapes.

The view shifts and I am in another room talking to someone. I am frustrated and angry that I had to go pick up the body from somewhere else. The person says that the body has lost its memory. I don’t understand the comment as I saw the white egg-like objects. I understood that they were its memories.

I woke up at that moment confused. I wanted more dreams and here is a doozy. Not really clear as usual but interesting enough to want to pick apart.

I just happen to still be my dream yoga class. Yesterday, we used the Kundalini system to analyze our latest dream edition.Using the method the first thing I did was write down as much as I could remember of the dream, date it and sign it. The next step is to describe what was going on prior to having the dream.

A couple of things have been coming up for me lately. One, I have been thinking about my relationship with my dad. It wasn’t a great one. He was loud and a lot of the time it was embarrassing to be with him in public. You tended to try and distance yourself and hide when you were with him. He put himself first most of the time. That made it difficult to grow any feelings of being supported or safe when you were with him. Since I had rescued him several times throughout the years I could easily understand if the corpse was his and I resented having to go get it. 

I have also been struggling with getting the COVID vaccine. I do want to travel, I want this pandemic to go away and I want some sense of being free to connect with others to return. The type of vaccine available for someone like me in my area is controversial. There have been some reported cases of people dying from getting it. I am reluctant to put myself in that scenario.I am not an expert here. I can only make decision on the type of vaccine for me and no one else.

Conscious Concerns- The body is frozen in place at the moment, corpse like in pose. The memory of something seems to be missing. The lack of “motion” has become “emotional”.I have been worried about getting the wrong type of vaccine and having negative consequences. Being pressured into it and regretting the outcome. I have been frozen in fear,reluctance and lack of trust.

Picking of three symbols- Memory loss, White Cells, The Corpse Pose

Memory Loss-

What had I forgotten? During the class exercises it hit me clear as day. For the first 4 years of my life I was isolated in doors. I was born with low white blood cells and had low immunity to childhood diseases. I haven’t had any normal childhood infections like chicken pox or measles. I have lived this type of pandemic existence before as a child. I had forgotten. I required outside medical intervention to grow more white blood cells and increase my ability to be immune. Being closed off from others had triggered this experience to come up for me.

White Cells

Through the class I started to understand what the white milky like eggs were. White Blood Cells are essential to fighting off bacteria and infections. They rush in to help fight off illness. The dream reminded me that I have had a history of needing help to fight off infections in the past and that this time was no different. Whoa right?

The Corpse

If you are a yoga type you know this pose and enjoy the Savasanas. What I have been missing is the connection to the pose and what it does for you. Lying in corpse pose and practicing savasanas helps to calm you. Induces relaxation and peace to help distance yourself from your emotions. Think about the circumstances in a clear and rational way. The body wasn’t my dads, it was mine. I should know this by now as every time I am more than one person in the dream I can’t make out faces or gender of the “mystery person”.

Putting it into action

It’s ok to be frightened and cautious of the type of vaccine you get. Do your homework and decide what is best for you by yourself. Be informed and choose what feels right. Remember you have tools and practices that have become life changing. My husband mentioned to me that I have started to chant or hum in my sleep. My inner guru must be working overtime to keep me on the right track. I was bummed that he didn’t recognize the melody or that he didn’t tape it. I said next time to please record it as I would love to know which mantra is being repeated when I am unconscious. 

Surrender control and trust that you are making the right choice by getting vaccinated. You will be able to reduce isolation sooner and start building the community you crave. I want to stay open and willing. I have been given the opportunity before. I am a walking example of being born without immunity and by the gift of science and medicine being given a second chance.

My dreams have become essential gifts of wisdom and knowledge. I eagerly await the opportunities to learn and grow from them. We, at midlifearieses.ca have dedicated the month of May to following our dreams. I hope you will join us in this adventure!

Namaste.

Begin Where You Are

Not where you think you should be…

I have been home from the ashram now for about a month. I knew it would be a struggle to keep up with all my new found practices. Everyday I am determined to make the habits stick. I have been trying to connect in with the ashram to keep volunteering but meetings get cancelled or rescheduled as everyone is planning what’s next. I have kept busy with yard work, creating sacred spaces in my house and doing some paintings. I have a list of things that need to be done and things that I want to do. I have kept up with morning chants, yoga and stretching. I eat in silence for breakfast and lunch at regular times. So, yes, some of the habits have stuck.

What I have realized is this…I am not doing everything I thought I would when I left the ashram. I have had to take stock of this fact and come to terms with what it means. The little girl in my dream about the stairwell is shaking her head and looking at me like “I told you so”. I could chastise myself and agree with her then make a new list and try harder to make it fit or I could surrender and accept that I am not there yet. I may never be there. 

Acceptance takes courage. It takes being honest with yourself, what’s important to you and how you manage your time.

Some of the practices I have kept doing daily is reading the books I brought back with me.  In the Kundalini For The West, Swami Radha talks about liberation from all limitations. Beginning your journey where you are at instead of where you think you should be. Unclear thoughts and expectations can become focused if you change your thought patterns. Instead of me adopting the narrative of reasons why I am not keeping up on all I thought I would, I can focus on what I am doing and go from there. Instead of trying to swallow the elephant in one bite, take a breath, then a step and see how that feels. A breath and a step everyday is a path to acceptance. Being kind to yourself isn’t weak. It takes bravery to move forward.Knowing that things happen for a reason is reassuring. I am a firm believer in serendipity as I have seen it unfold in my life over and over again. I wouldn’t have gone to the ashram at all if I hadn’t got a Facebook reminder of my first blog about my experience there several years ago. Now, I am grateful for that reminder of steps taken without conscious effort. My unconscious “Inner Guru” is always 3 steps ahead of me carving out the path before I even know what’s what. All I need to do is take a breath then a step. Acknowledge where I am and give myself space to grow my inner garden perhaps slower than I thought was necessary in the past. Each breath and step moves me forward and I am “ok” with that approach.

What Is Enough?

Thoughts on lifestyle through retirement years

I am about half way through my “66 weeks to find myself” adventure. In January I have to choose to “officially” retire or find a job. I have been exploring how I could maybe manage both scenarios at once.  In my previous life, I used to give advice about budgeting, investments and living within your means and now I find myself in a place of decision.

How much monthly income do I need to be comfortable?

That’s a tricky question. I use the  word “comfortable” on purpose. You can get by with minimum funds. I see seniors whose only source of money is Canada Pension and Old Age Security. They get by and if they are resourceful they can manage with some support.

I have a philosophy on this topic I want to share with you. Have you ever tried one of those “How much do I need to retire” calculators? The outcomes are usually very depressing and, in most cases, out of reach for people. It usually tells you that you will need to invest thousands of dollars a month to keep up your current lifestyle into retirement. What it doesn’t tell you is to think about how you see yourself aging. I am active at age 56. I do some lite hiking, I went on 2 (pre-COVID) trips a year most years. Our house is paid for, my kids are grown and moved on with no financial support from us, except for gifts. I spend money on plants, garden things, my spiritual practices (classes and tools). I have saved a bit, not as much as I probably should have but I have some funds put aside. I have a pension to look forward to which I am grateful for.

The literature I have read says you should plan for about 70% of your pre-retirement income to ensure you can still maintain your quality of life. Most articles don’t talk about how long you should look at sustaining the 70%. I think the key is that while you are in good health, young enough to want to explore and travel you should plan to have a larger amount of available funds. I am pretty sure that if I am lucky enough to live into my 80s or 90s that I won’t need the same amount of excess cash that I might in my 50s or 60s. The high pressure sales that exist saying that you need to support a lifestyle that you don’t have now doesn’t make sense to me. I found that when working with seniors and discussing their finances they did in retirement  the same things they did in earlier years. If you saved most of your life you were unlikely to start spending all your money when you stopped working. If you spent thriftly you didn’t start going on shopping sprees in your 80s. We are creatures of habits and we tend to stay consistent no matter what age we are. I would rather maintain a healthy balance of starting to draw from my income resources in my late 50s. Use up my retirement funds to give me the best scenario of quality of life while I can. Then in my late 60s and through til my late 70s I can start to reduce my spending. I believe I won’t require as much to live on then as I do now. I know you think there are some holes in this plan. Also, I should mention that I am a two income family and my husband does plan to work until 65. If the place where he works is still around until then we will have health benefits that are not “out of pocket”.

So, the question remains: How much money is enough to sustain a comfortable existence in retirement?

If you have been lucky enough to have saved for retirement in your younger years and you have a pension to look forward to, I say retire as early as you can. Use the 70% of your income as a guideline but remember you probably will only use that amount for the first maybe 10 years of retirement then slowly reduce it as you get older. When that magic factor (80 in my case) is reached, push the button. I am going to take the maximum allowed annual withdrawals and then reduce them as I get older. Supplement my income with my registered funds and then take early CPP (Canada Pension Plan) at age 60, then activate OAC (Old Age Security) at 65. Even if my husband’s plant shuts down before he is 65 there are many insurance plans we can explore for health benefits. 

My parents passed away in their 80s, my sister passed away at 62. Mortality puts things in perspective. I am not saying working is like dying because that’s not true. What I am saying is that by setting myself up with enough income to sustain my lifestyle I can choose when and how to work. Look for projects and work that brings me fulfillment. I know many seniors that are working into their late 70s even early 80s. The world has changed in this regard. As long as you are productive and have a sense of contribution to a community or company then why not enjoy it.

There are so many scenarios and options available when it comes to finding a mix that works best. I wish I would have started to explore it more in my 20s. I know that the options are greater now though when it comes to working virtual or online as opposed to when I was 20(there wasn’t an internet for the regular population when I was 20).

Next time you look at the retirement calculator and the result says you need to invest 10K a month to meet your goals, remember that it is not taking into account your resourcefulness. Plug in the worst case scenario for yourself then explore how you can supplement that amount through other means. It helps to calm the anxiety attached to not having enough. 

Maybe the commercial is true? You are richer than you think. The more you think the richer you become as an active mind has the ability to create the best possible outcomes.

Namaste.

PS-These thoughts are my own on retirement and may not be your scenario. Find a financial advisor that can give you good advice based on your circumstances.

Community

Beach at Yasodhara ashram.

Community Support

What’s next for me? I have been thinking about what I want to do and how I plan to contribute. 

My husband and I had an interesting conversation the other day. His thinking is that you contribute to society by going to work,don’t complain to outsiders, pay your taxes, obey the rules and mind your own business if you can. He isn’t wrong. 

I have had a chance in my life to see a variety of communities as I travel, work, live in and explore different cultures. I would be curious to see how this pandemic has influenced the communities I adored.

What does it mean to be part of a community? What does it mean to support or be supported by those within a community? Where are you going with this you might be asking?

Here are two examples to help me explain what I mean:

Scenario One:

You have many projects on the go and numerous obligations/commitments that you are currently juggling.Your mom passes away. You are devastated. You contact work and they agree to let you take a couple of weeks off. You are reminded that there are services available to help you and even are sent a link to conveniently take advantage of them. You are also reminded to input your time off in the HR system and if you can make notes on your current projects so that someone else can pick them up if time permits. Sorry for your loss, we are here for you. We have noticed a slip in your productivity lately but we can talk about that when you come back. 

Scenario Two:

I have just come out of a class at the ashram and looked at my phone. My husband texted me that he has been admitted to the hospital with COVID and shows an image of his wrist with a hospital band on it. I don’t have a vehicle with me and no means of leaving the ashram. I am upset. The teacher of the class comes out of the building at that moment and sees me upset. She asked what’s wrong and I told her. She insisted we sit on the steps. She asked me if I have phoned the hospital yet? I haven’t so I do that first. The hospital says my husband was discharged earlier. I phoned home and got no answer. The whole time the teacher is silently sitting beside me with her hand on my shoulder. I turn to her and say that I will be “ok” and she can go. She insists that she will stay until we have a resolution. After contacting my kids and relatives that can go check on my husband, I find out that he was admitted but not for COVID. He had cut himself while trimming a tree and got stitches. I finally got of hold of him and he apologized for the joke. He was making a joke. During the whole ordeal I was experiencing I felt supported by the teacher. She didn’t leave and kept prompting me as to what to do next. Offering encouragement and suggestions and even reminding that even If I did have a means of transportation I couldn’t see him as he would be isolated. She helped me to realize and work through the situation. I had two weeks left in my stay which was good. At home, I would have been isolated from my husband for 14 days. She followed up later and texted me the next day to make sure I was still ok. She let others know that I needed extra support and connected me with them. I was in crisis mode not able to help myself or think through the most practical ways to cope with the stress. I didn’t need to as I had community support to help me.

I realized for the first time in my life what community support entails. I am very independent to a fault and asked very little of others to help me. It’s a learned behavior which has really not been very helpful to say the least. Can you see the difference in what it means to be supported by a community here? I know the scenarios are not the same. Work is work and you really shouldn’t expect anyone to offer that kind of experience in a professional setting. I am curious then, why do we have slogans like “We are in this together?” We are a company that supports mental health? Our foundation is built on trust, empathy and compassion. Hmmmmmmm.

My mother was the 5th person to die in my life in under 4 years. The trauma built up in my mind, body and spirit was overwhelming. Some days it still is. How long does it take to stop griefing? How much time should one take off of work to work through the pain? There isn’t a right answer here. What I have noticed is that it takes time. The more you try to suppress your grief the more time it will take to unravel the impact. You can store it in dark places or “cracks” in your foundation. Just know that It won’t go away permanently. It will probably reappear when you least want it to.

I find myself gathering pockets of community support now that I understand the value it can offer me. I can find it by staying connected to the ashram. I can find it by reaching out to friends and family. I find it often in this community of bloggers, the wonderful ladies I blog with and comments from strangers that I have helped them in some way.  It doesn’t have to be work related though I would challenge you to question the next co-worker or leader that says to you “ I/we am/are here for you”. What do they mean by “here”?

I am reminded of day 2 in quarantine at the ashram. I was told “You have to learn how to trust” and with that “You have to ask for what you need”. Words of wisdom when it comes to understanding of community and being immersed in warmth of genuine support. I don’t blame the corporation for not understanding my state of mental health nor have any expectations of companys to build a genuine state of community support. It would be hard to juggle productivity, profits and being human feelings.

PS. It has taken 7 months to get this far in unravelling my emotions and how much the death of loved ones has contributed to my “coma” state of existence over the last several years. We live in a society of instant resolution to our pain. We numb up with substances and mindless stimulation. It takes courage and discipline to feel raw emotions and work through them until they no longer paralyze you. It’s worth it though. The work is worth it and community support is worth finding and cultivating.

Namaste

Can You Read The Signs?

Photo of night sky at Yasodhara ashram

Dream Yoga

I have been home for a few days now and trying to settle. If I am honest, which I think is a good thing to be, I am a little freaked out and worried. I feel pressure to make sure I don’t lose all the progress I have gained from being at the ashram. Friends and family are looking at me. I can see them assessing if they notice any changes. Physically, I have lost about 20 pounds, mentally? I feel I have lost extra baggage that no longer is helpful in my life. It’s easier being in a place where your meals are prepared for you, you go to a board and it has the day planned for you. Not much stress about thinking how to make the most of your day. You are contributing to the welfare of the community, have chores, yoga first thing in the morning, opportunities to chant with others or meditate alone. Now, I am the program director and the days contributions are up to me to decide. I can see why many people just put their head down and go to work. In a lot of ways it’s easier. You have many distractions to keep you from delving too deeply into your psyche.  I am finding that patience with myself will be key to making this work outside of the “box”.

I had a dream a couple of days before I left Yasodhara. There was a little blonde haired girl trudging up and down the concrete stairwells of a big stadium. I followed her and asked if I could help? She said she lost her parents and was looking for them. I followed her up and down the stairs. She told me that she didn’t trust me to keep her safe. I protested that I was an adult and more than capable to keep us both safe. She said I didn’t know the dangers out there. She didn’t have confidence in me. We tried a couple of off shoots from the stairs but ended up back on the stairs going up and down. I woke up with no resolution in the dream.

I wondered what had gone on that I missed? When I tried the dream yoga method I had learned at the ashram I started to understand. I picked 3 symbols from the dream. The little girl, the stairwell and the absent parents.

The little girl. Well she is me or at least she is my “inner child” and my desire to hold onto what I have learned. She is young, maybe a bit naive and yet aware enough to know that I can get distracted enough to lose my way sometimes. She is beautiful inside and out and glows with inner light. When I looked at her I was saddened that any parent would leave her there alone.

The absent parents. Where are they and why have they not come to claim the child? I can see myself here also and my parents. Getting busy and caught up in other things, other interests or other desires. Opportunities to nurture and maintain all that I have gained comes with discipline and constant awareness. I mourn for the loss of those moments where I could have been there for myself, for my children or for anyone who needed a parent with unconditional love. I could easily blame my parents for being absent most of my life. They were physically there often but very emotionally absent. I understand how it can happen. My compassionate unconscious is warning me that I need to stay diligent in guarding that child or I will lose that aspect of me that is very precious.

The stairwell.

I reflect on the stairwell and what it could symbolize. I think back to the dream. Did I miss the signs that were usually so clearly displayed in stairwells? Where was the exit sign? The directions to seating areas or the stage? I know I was looking down lots or at the back of the child’s figure. Why didn’t I look up and read the signs? Do I do that in life? Miss the signs, get lost because I am too stubborn to watch for help or ask for directions when I need them? I am guilty of this for sure. The child saying she doesn’t trust me hits home. If I can’t trust others to help lead me out of my self induced wanderings, can I be trusted with the safety of this child?

The dream packed a good wallop for me to ensure I understand that I am a “work in progress”. That’s ok, the child in me knows that already. I am hoping she will have patience and empathy for me. She did stay with me as we wandered up and down, so that’s a good “sign”. I know I can lead us out of the stadium If I look up and read the directions. I have the map, I have the desire and I have the responsibility of caring for this little girl and her well being.

Namaste

If you are interested in learning more about dream yoga, the Yasodhara ashram has virtual life classes being offered on the website. I am finding this type of inner work very beneficial.

Coming Home

Kootenay Lake at sunset

Love surrounds us, peace surrounds us ,anyday, all the time…

I am back home now in Alberta. It was emotional to say “goodbye” to the “humans of the Yasodhara Ashram”. The last couple of days there, I kept getting the question asked “how do you feel?”. I wasn’t sure. The old me would have responded quickly with “I am fine” or “I am good” now?

I am that and I am more.

One of the traditions on your last day is to get up and say a few words at satsang. I don’t recall all I said though I do remember this part. I came as a guest to the ashram. In my interview I stated that I was looking for community. I had no real idea of how much I had missed belonging to a group of some sort. The drum circle hadn’t meant for over a year nor had I attended any meditations. Even work hadn’t had an in-person event for quite some time. Humans are meant to be together. We thrive when we feel like we belong, we matter. I left the ashram with a sense of leaving home. As the karma yogis helped me to pack my stuff into my sisters vehicle, I was overwhelmed with gratitude, love and support. 

I take with me the timeless teachings, the tools and the knowledge that I can sustain my practice anywhere and at any time. The wisdom is meant to be used every day, all the time it surrounds us in light.

Would I go back? Yes, no hesitation there. I know I have a life here at home and a husband and family who need me. I also know that, in order to help others, you have to put the oxygen mask on yourself first. 2 months seems like a drop in the bucket for time. It goes by too quickly. You barely start to learn who you have been before you understand who you are.

I intend to stay in contact with those that still live there and continue my karma yoga virtually at home. As someone said to me while I was there “you can check out anytime but you can never leave…lol”

If you are exploring the possibility of this type of experience. Do it! I know we all are hesitant to go anywhere or do anything during this pandemic world we live in now. I also know that we are all craving community and human interactions.

Check out Yasodhara programs at yasodhara.org or email me or comment here if you want to ask me questions about my stay or what I took away from the experience.

Time Machine

Time is a subjective thing. If you are like me, you measure it in milestones and experiences that happen, are happening or will happen in your life. My time at the ashram is coming to conclusion next Friday. As I reflect, I try to stay present without looking to far into the future.

The ashram has a constant ebb and flow of people coming in, existing here and leaving all at once. I can see myself in each situation and marvel at the opportunity to travel with others in time both backward and forward as we navigate our collective and individual journeys.

Traveling Backward

One of the offerings you take part of is to become part of the food delivery service for the “newbies”. It’s an opportunity to welcome them and reassure that they made the right decision to come here. Being isolated with limited contact to those living here can be a source of anxiety and a test of resilience. You emerge from isolation to an active community. It can be quite the adjustment to be bombarded with multiple types of personalities, work ethics and behaviors. You quickly learn how you relate to others and how they relate to you. I recall those early days when the previous group of yogis was delivering food to me. I have a better appreciation for their interactions and willingness to pause in their busy days to reassure me that it’s worth the wait. Living in a dorm with 7 other females has its trials and yet has its wonderful moments too. I have learned that there are a variety of types of mechanisms in which to turn on a shower. Some are well hidden and the secret has to be passed on from one who knows to one who needs to know. Preferably before you are naked in the tub trying to figure it out. Thank you ladies of Buddha Loka for showing me the way. I am grateful to be able to observe the progression of those coming out and compare it to my own experiences as I progress.

Watching the present…

I am in my body and spirit as closely engaged as I can possibly get. Aware of my surroundings, my place and actions and the nuances and moods of others around me. I have never experienced anything like this before. Even living with my family that consisted of 9 of us in a 4 bedroom home, didn’t seem this intimate. I can sense the moods around me here. When some are stressed, content, agitated or distant thinking about other things. I find myself questioning why it’s easier to tune in so deeply here compared to my “other”life? I guess I will find out when I go back to that world.

The sense of accomplishment is mind boggling here. What can be done with limited resources, manpower and funds is amazing. A chicken coop for 50 chickens is being constructed where once stood a big pile of dirt, debrie, rocks and bramble bushes. Trust me, digging out boulders and cutting back thorns isn’t that much fun but seeing the ground being leveled is rewarding. The logs for the outside run were cut, shaved and shaped from trees on the property. The building is made out of wood from other projects. The paint, which is pest resistant, is made from a mixture of limestone and water. It looks like a whitewash. The coop is almost done and the chickens are coming this weekend. I am excited that I will be here to celebrate not only Easter but their arrival after contributing to their new home. I have used my video skills numerous times to create videos of traditional dances, interviews of Humans of the Ashram and documenting the many experiences. It’s been a pleasure to serve here.

The Future

The future is wide open. I like that. I have the basics and I am eager to put the knowledge and practices into play in my life back home. I have been invited to join the local group that will start connecting again in the fall. One lady has mentioned that she has been asking the divine for someone with musical skills. I laughed and replied that she must have some pretty powerful connections as here I am and I am very willing to share anything musical I can. I haven’t quite figured out how to predict what the future will bring and yet, I am more than content to not know what’s around the corner. I have interviewed Karma Yogis as they are leaving the ashram and added their learnings to my index for later processing. I am excited to get my hands dirty in my own gardens and enjoy the coming spring and summer with renewed energy and light. My husband is waiting for my return, I am not sure how that reunion will play out. I am hopeful we can find common ground and mutual understanding of how to “be” together and how to “be” apart. I would encourage anyone who has ever thought to experience the ashram life to “do it!” The accelerated learning about yourself, about what’s important and what you can let go of is one of the most selfless things you can do for you.

Thank you to all of those who have traveled with me through this incredible journey of the past, present and into the future. Thank you to the wonderful beings who reside at Yasodhara Ashram.

Light