The Offering

The halfway mark coming quickly approaching for my time at the ashram. Time is clocked differently here. At times it seems to stand still at others it disappears in seconds. I have learned so much about myself, about co-existing with others, about living in a dorm like dwelling. If I ever was regretting going away to school and living sorority style then I can check that epic moment off my bucket list…lol.

Some mornings the karma yogis get together for chanting and discussion. There, a question or exercise is posed to carry throughout your day. This morning the discussion was around “What is an offering?” Is there a difference between helping and an offering? What defines the difference?

So what is the difference?

When I look back at my life and think of when I have helped others I had to really ponder whether what I was doing was selfless or self-serving. As I pondered the question during my day of cleaning bathrooms, mopping floors, then doing dishes I began to get a glimpse of what I think is the true meaning of the words “offering”.

In the past, I have looked for a form of recognition when I help others. A thankyou,  a word or two about being grateful or recognizing that I did something for them. It didn’t matter what it was from borrowing money, to helping them move, or even taking on the task of caring for a parent or relative in life and then in death. All that time I could have alleviated my resentment for any lack of acknowledgment from others that I did something they should take notice of. As I think about it now I can’t believe my behavior. I have had many opportunities to offer up service to others in need in a form of less self and more service. I can now let go of my self-serving attitude towards doing things for others. It opens my heart to genuine kindness and pure light.

Many may call my “ah ha” moment non-attachment. I am starting to get the meaning of this and what a profound difference it has made in my feelings towards compassion and empathy.

If the next half of my stay here is as life changing as the first I am indeed lucky to have made this shift. Change is hard for many of us. Some of us let fear and the pain of potential loss over power the desire for something more. Change happens whether we participate or self medicate with our heads tucked firmly in the dark corners of our minds. I am loving the light. The warm divine light that sustains me here. The muscle memories are finding new poses. I have unlearned almost as much as I have learned.I know it’s a fraction of what the potential for enlightment can hold space for me. My cleared space has expanded and now reached into the cosmos. 

I am sharing this blog with you today as an offering. May you be healthy. May you be whole.

Om

Patience

Last day of quarantine

It doesn’t take long to become conditioned to a routine. At 6pm every night, I check a website to find out what I will be doing tomorrow. I knew that today was probably going to be my last day of isolation so I had a mixed of anxiety and excitement to see what the website would tell me was planned for me, my last day of quaratine. I checked at 6:05pm, nothing, 8:00pm still nothing hmmm. My night was restless knowing that I was the last to arrive in my cycle of Karma Yogis so I would be the last one out of quarantine. I didn’t sleep well. The wind howled all night, it rained and the hill side gushed with water towards the lake all through the dark hours. I woke up at 4:00am and tried to go back to sleep. I drifted in and out and then finally got up at 5:30am. I decided to recite my new mantra and then meditate for a while. I felt better after and eased into a morning yoga flow. I like the idea of setting an intention for the day. I decided that “Patience” was going to be needed. So patience it was. I got a call at 9:30am wondering why I hadn’t shown up for karma yoga…lol. I had been waiting with patience for further instructions. Now I put my jacket on and hiked up the hill to help with more wood cutting and stacking.

Transitions make us ansy, even for someone like me who likes change, changing bunkhouses, assigned duties, new group of people takes a few minutes to adjust. Luckily, the ashram gives you a day to move, understand the new pace and rest before you begin, again. The girl staying in the side house of the cabin moved yesterday. You can tell when someone has done this before. They gave her a day to move and she took the whole day. I asked her whether there was a time she needed to be done by through the closed door. She said she just needed to sleep in her new place, other than that there wasn’t a specific hour. Now there was patience. Squeezing every moment of peace and solitude that comes from having your own space and not giving up a second of it.

I shake my head at myself. I mopped the floors yesterday and cleaned up the kitchen. Today I sorted my laundry and organized what I was going to wear tomorrow. I am so used to deadlines whether at work or when traveling that the organizing starts a day or two before my vacation is over. Why do we robbed ourselves of those final hours of bliss before we need to immerse back into the chaos?

Patience. Tomorrow I will slowly make my way over to my new lodgings. Maybe take a few things and go check it out after breakfast. I have one of the only tubs that is available at the ashram. The other bathrooms are showers only. So I plan to take a bubblebath before doing the final cleaning. I have a few pages left of my book to read and some contemplations to record in my diary. Maybe even sit and soak in this wonderful little cabin of paradise for one more day. I hope I remember this if travel ever becomes a resonable option again as we all could use a little patience.

Dishes and Berries Equal Food On The Plate

Day 4 at the Ashram Karma Yoga

Day 4 at the Ashram and on the agenda was, for me, a reintroduction to Karma Yoga. My first practice of this type of yoga can be enjoyed in another blog post called “The Karmic Carrot”.

The agenda for each day pops up on a website at 6 pm the previous evening for a reason. It doesn’t give you too much information and whole lot of time to decide if you are going to like doing the task or not. Don’t think too much about it, is the advice given by the yogi. Good advice.

Before we suited up in our winter wear to battle the balmy -9 degrees outside, which is necessary for most activities while we are still in quarantine (I came from Lethbridge which is -32 right now) we were instructed to watch a video by Swami Radhananda. The Swami talks about many things in the video but focuses mostly on Karma Yoga and why the Ashram began to incorporate it as part of their practice over 45 years ago. She muses that people pay to come here and do service in this way. The practice is built on the principles of light, social action, compassion, evolution, health, surrender and love. It’s believed that if “something needs to be done, you should do it!” I especially love the example she gives of no job is too small or insignificant to complete. You pick the berries and wash the plates which leads to something to eat and a vessel to enjoy it. It’s pretty simple right? Another interesting point she makes is around work and what we value. Most of us go to work from 9 to 5 then go home and do our personal work for the rest of our awake hours. Here at the Ashram, you see more of a connection between the work that gets done during the day and the immediate consumption or usefulness of that task.

A trendy label these days is something called “an essential worker”. Everyone at the Ashram is essential to it’s sustainment. We could learn a thing or two about how the world functions and what is actually essential to do and what is not.

Ok, back to the Karma Yoga. After I watched the video I was to come up with an intention to ponder while I practiced being in service. There was a ton of great nuggets to ponder and yet the one that stuck out for me was this “limitations cause us to rethink and change”. The Swami was referring to the necessity to constantly adapt. Not very many people are permanent residence at the Ashram, therefore as beings are switched out, the ecosystem has had to learn to rethink, adapt and change over and over again. Some folks have been invited to stay for a longer term and a few are here to stay. Can you imagine a life where everything changes all time? Practicing non-attachment would be easier I would like to think. The same theme as yesterday came back up today in the video “you learn to trust”. No wonder, in a place where you rely on that next helpful resource to pop up out of nowhere you have to “let go” and “trust”.

There is a desire for action and it’s moving the place toward a strong commitment to a connected community.

The Karma Yoga ended up being putting sand on ice covered trails. Good use of time. I am forever falling on ice and I am amazed that I don’t have a cracked skull or brain damage from hitting my head. Ouch! Normally I would have went off on my own and meticulously covered all the trails I could find with a nice coating of sand. I rethought my actions today and changed up my practice. Another newbie was on a trail and I joined her a few feet apart. We chatted and poured sand. We learned what we had in common and what made us unique. I realized another intentions as we walked. I miss people, other human beings that I can stare into their faces in real life instead of a webcam. It was overwhelming to realize the depth of loneliness that this pandemic and working from home had caused in my existence.

Karma Yoga has migrated me towards a community who are embedded in a shift towards Ideals, Intentions, Goals and Focus and it’s feel wonderful.

“I want to be who I want to be…I want to help”

Namaste Swami Radhananda, may you rest in peace, divine light and love

The Healing Springs of Bali

The healing powers of Bali

Unpacking space: Past, Present and Future

I am forever grateful I have this gift of past travels. To bask in my adventures through memories, meditation and photos is priceless. To give gratitude everyday for having the presence of mind to soak up every minute of it helps me now to cope with our current present. To know that you are part of something greater than yourself and to be open to the customs and healing rituals of other cultures and beliefs enriches our humanity. It’s an amazing world and we are lucky to have it! You don’t have to travel to exotic places to enjoy and take part of wellness( I know that’s easy for me to say as I have done that many times). The wilderness by my house is full of medicine for my soul. It’s the intention to create a space for healing that counts in the long run to what we put in our “spaces”.

In a time when the world is in turmoil, the need to open a sanctuary of comfort and kindness is desperately welcomed. I was lucky to have experienced such a place in 2019. Accompanied by my neice and a mutual friend, we traveled for three glorious weeks throughout Bali. As was our way in Bali, the guide found us at the entrance to the springs. He then proceeded to spend the day giving us guidance, history and acted as our personal photographer (didn’t expect that but now I am grateful for the wonderful photos). It was an opportunity for us to reflect on our past, be fully aware of our present and to create an inviting space for our futures.

The Titra Empul Healing Springs in Bali has a rich history, sense of sacredness and truly a wonder of nature. The temple was built in 926 AD during the rule of Warmadewa. The location was chosen because of the presence of a sacred spring. The legend tells a tale of an epic battle between a magical king named Mayadenawa and a god called Indra.

Mayadenawa possessed great spiritual powers of transformation. As with any great power the temptation to exploit it caused him to use it for evil instead of good. The god, Indra, took exception to this practice and planned an attack on the king. Mayadenawa caught wind of the plan and snuck into Indra’s camp as the army slept one night. He decided to create an enticing pond where the army would drink from when they awoke in the morning.

Indra discovered many of his men had perished and many more were sick or dying. Indra, with his almighty power, pierced the ground with his staff and converted the water to a sacred spring that was thought to be holy.

Today the spring still flows and many locals, countrymen and seekers of healing line the pathways eager to immerse themselves or fill their water bottles in the ponds.There is an interesting property about how the water bubbles up to the surface. The earth in which it emerges is a combination of sand and gravel. One would think it would be cloudy or discoloured. Any yet, it comes up crystal clear. I watched as many visitors fill their jugs, canteens and water bottles. I was curious so asked the guide what the purpose of doing this is? Since the water is believed to be sacred and full of healing properties, many use it in ceremonies, blessings and personal rituals.

Before we got to the temple we had stopped at a local market to purchase a sarong as the dress code was very strict in the pools and on the grounds. The guide was very helpful in showing us the right way to tie a sarong. I was skeptical that it would cover my bits but he was an expert and in no time we were ready to make our way to the gates of the first set of pools. We purchased a small bamboo container and some flowers and incense to make an offering then made our way to the entrance.

Opening space…

Centering your being with intent and focus is part of the protocol and practice. We found a space to sit on the stone benches facing the water. Ah the energy in a place like that is mystical, thick with culture, history and balm for your soul. In silent meditation we drew on our own desires and needs. We opened our hearts and mind to the knowing support was available from these ancient spirit guides.

Saying “goodbye” to the past…

The guide instructed us that there were 3 sets of fountains in the maze of pools. They represented the past, the present and the future. As you approach each flowing tap, meditate on what you want most then fullfill the actions as directed. 

My heart was beating out of my chest as I worried about remembering all of the instructions. I wanted to do it right! It was my turn. The past, what wrong doings did I want to let go of? Who did I need to forgive, forget and release? I cupped the water as instructed and with a downward motion washed away my past three times in quick succession. To seal the deal, I then dunked my head under the spigot to get rid of any lingering negative energy. Even as I write this now, I still feel the release and a sense of being lighter somehow.

Bring awareness to the present…

We navigated out of the first pool and made our way to the second set.

In this meditative labyrinth we contemplated the present and future. Invited positive energy to fill our hearts and minds. I cupped the water and let it flow from the back of my head this time to the front. Welcoming the exchange of energy instead of pushing it away. An invitation to heal within my being.

By this time I am feeling pretty wonderful. Almost like the water is full of happy juice. I start to notice the people around us clearer. I can see the generations of families that are here together from newborn babies to great grandmas. I am in awe and a bit jealous of the bond they must be feeling. As we make our way to the stairs, one of the families is right in front of me. Great grandma is making her way up the stairs to rise up out of the water. I reach to help and all of the sudden there are numerous relatives surrounding us. She smiles at me, my heart clenches. Can she see into my soul? I think she can as the joy is reflected back at me through her generational eyes.

A drink to the future…

Our final wade leads us towards the future. The ritual changes slightly. We dip our heads three times under the fountain and then take a sip from the spring. This will ensure any lingering negative energy or toxins are released and we ingest positive energy for our future.

We came away from the springs refreshed. Each of us wanting to find a quiet space to savor and take in all we had been blessed to be part of. 

My heart was full. My mind was sharp and clear and my soul? It was soaring!!