Tales from India
‘Give up the love of power for the power of love’
In February 2017 I took off to Rishikesh in the north of India for a 50 hour ‘Bhakti’ Yoga Teacher Training with a crew from a New York yoga studio called Laughing Lotus. I was the only Aussie along with two awesome leaders, Deborah Langley and Felipé Gonzalez, and eight other Americans. Happy to go with the flow and embrace everything I was ready for an adventure.
Bhakti Yoga is known as the yoga of devotion. It has has been called “love for love’s sake” and “union through love and devotion.” Basically you throw yourself into all their spiritual practices and rituals through chanting to experience a oneness with everything. Not everyone’s cup of tea but if you’re a yogi this is definitely on the bucket list. And it didn’t disappoint!
Every morning at 7am we would start our day down on the banks of Mama Ganga (Ganges river) adorned with our blankets and mala beads for a one hour meditation.
We would then leave feeling totally ‘bah-lissed’ out on our way to hot chai totally oblivious to the motorbikes and cars almost cleaning us up.
Walking back to our hotel we would pass cows wandering by, loads of cow shit, rubbish everywhere, homeless saints, a goat, stray dogs, lots of monkeys and beggars. It was an assault on the senses and not once did I ever feel unsafe. Just peaceful and strangely at home.
Our training started officially at 9am until 5pm when the daily ‘Artea’ fire ceremony would take place down at Ganga. Following this was my most favourite time of the day. The 6:30pm evening Satsang (wisdom talk). A Satsang usually involves speaking to a topic for the evening and is open to questions by the audience at the end. It happened to be led my an American lady teacher called Sadhvi Bhagawati Saraswati (wise woman), however, in my mind I had pictured sitting at the feet of an ancient looking Indian Guru (man) wearing his turban. Perhaps due to my own ignorance I was surprised to say the least when Sadhvi entered the Ashram room. She was wearing the customary orange-robes of a sunyassin (a renunciate) with a long mane of wavy brown hair, and a sweet and gentle smile that lit up the room. Simply being in her presence was enough for me to feel that everything is going to be ok.
For the last twenty years, she has lived in service to humanity as the spiritual leader of Parmarth Niketan Ashram. The thing that impressed me the most about her was that she had a science background and a PHd in Psychology so her knowledge, logic and insights from the west would blend beautifully with the spirituality and wisdom of the Hindu culture. Occaisonally a question would surface that would knock the socks off anyone, such as, ‘Can you tell me how to forgive someone?’, and she would always answer effortlessly with such grace and intelligence. Needless to say I wanted her to be my friend immediately (and take her home with me!).
She speaks at lots of UN and important International events and writes for the Huffington Post so I thought you may be interested in reading about her experience in India the last 20 years from a westerner’s perspective. http://www.sadhviji.org/6-incredible-lessons-ive-learned-in-my-20-years-in-india/
Lastly, I would have to say the other highlights were on our last day. These were taking a refreshing dip in Ma Ganga (holy water blessing), and chanting at the Maharishi Ashram where the Beatles lived for some time and wrote famous songs such as ‘Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds’. We all sat in a circle on the edge of a cliff overlooking The Himalayas and Ganga singing our hearts out. It was for the love of Bhakti and although I don’t consider myself a singer as such, it didn’t matter. ‘Strong and wrong’ was our motto. Just like with life, as long as you belt it out with your soul who cares what anyone else thinks!