We, as human beings, have this extraordinary ability to be both rooted and flowing at the same time. On this journey of life, we are gifted all the happenings we require to allow us to experience the high highs, low lows and everything in between. And I suppose we need it all; the moments of fear to motivate, the sadness to appreciate the happy, the second chances to create new beginnings, and the feelings of unexplainable bliss to remind us of what we aim to be. For me, the real beauty lies in learning to accept every last one of these moments; valuing the pleasant and the uncomfortable all the same. It’s about seeing the blessing in our unique capacity as human beings to feel everything so deeply, and to never stop allowing life to be our greatest teacher.
The more I surrender to the ebb and flow of this beautiful journey, the more ease I feel in knowing that everything will always unfold exactly as it should; there really is no other way. As I reflect back, it becomes so obvious that within every instance of suffering was a tiny seed planted to cultivate an inner strength that I, myself, would never have believed existed. I can appreciate that my plethora of past regrets (most of which took place in the twelve months before I left Canada) were actually part of a process to make me softer and wiser. And how, even the most intense heartache of my life, one that at the time felt like the worst torture on earth, was somehow exactly what I needed to help me understand the joy of what it means to truly love myself first. In all it’s irony, I believe that I was destined to hit ‘rock bottom’; that there were a whole host of things down there I that I didn’t even know I needed to find.
Like so many of the spiritual seekers I’ve met along my journey, I too, initially travelled to India with an intention to discover more about Who I Am. I can’t or won’t say that I created an expectation to have this one profound or life-altering spiritual experience, but I did have an extremely open-mind to it all. A degree of openness that graciously placed me in coffee shops for hours conversing with complete strangers about the most intimate details of my time on this planet. A receptivity that encouraged me to partake in ten days of silence, meditation and Buddhism in a remote mountain village. A freedom and curiosity within that caused me to challenge, question, and reflect on all the little parts of myself through hours of intense daily yoga practice. And a willingness to remove the veils of protection I had built up around my heart so that I could feel – really feel– the magic that I somehow always knew existed within my being.
I’m not exactly sure when it happened, but sometime between my first date with India, our two month summer break-up, and amidst the reconciliation that brought us back together, I lost some of my yoga inspiration. I still made my way to my mat daily, but something felt different – maybe even forced. For me, I can only relate it to my previous relationship; the one thing I’ve committed to with as much dedication as my practice. In much the same way, with no ability to identify the exact instance of the shift, there came a point when things lost their freshness. When love, although never disappearing completely, took on a sort of mundane, lackluster existence. However, unlike my personal relationship, my yoga practice had the potential to be saved. And in the exact moment I needed it, an exceptional yogi entered my world and shared with me all the teachings my body and mind required to not only fall in love with yoga again, but also with myself.
I’ll never forget my first class with Him. From the large open windows of the fourth floor shala, I stared down at the gray-blue Ganges river below; fiercely flowing in and around majestic, forested mountains. I distinctly remember the whole scene feeling bit surreal; the setting sun had painted the sky coral pink and caused the (normally uncomfortably humid, thick air) to feel cool and fresh.
From the moment this beautiful soul opened his mouth to start the class with an opening mantra, my eyes filled with tears and my skin covered with goosebumps. Every word he sung radiated peace and vibrated deep within my heart. His gentle presence cultivated an overwhelmingly soft and peaceful energy in the room that evening. For me, the next two hours proved to be beautifully transformative; and I walked away from that Hatha class filled with inspiration and bliss. I had felt every posture in my soul. I whole-heartedly believed in the power of what I was creating. It was as though every breath was for purpose, and every movement was an expression of pure love. That night something inside me changed. Until this point, I had been somewhat mindlessly going through the motions in an effort to practice love – only now did I realize that I Am Love.
The remainder of my life in Rishikesh became a balance of acting both student and teacher; collecting all the feelings of enchantment from my gurus, allowing them to inspire my own yoga practice, and then sharing this immeasurable gift with everyone I knew and admired.
And in giving, I received. Beautiful friendships blossomed, adventures ensued, and a creativity I never knew existed awakened. I spent unforgettable nights stargazing on our home’s rooftop terrace, drank copious amounts of chia tea with people who’s hearts I will hold dearly close to mine forever, and immersed myself in a culture I find to be so multi-dimensional that after six months I haven’t even begun to understand.
One of my most memorable days in India was spent dancing, laughing and getting colorful in the streets alongside hundreds of other devotees of the elephant God, Ganesha (remover of obstacles). I’ve been to EDC in Las Vegas twice, partied all night amongst twenty thousand ‘chemically enhanced’ festival-goers, and still never have I experienced a celebration so full of life, love and happiness. I had spent the previous nine days of Ganesh Chaturthi chanting and indulging in Indian sweets twice a day in an effort to praise the beautifully decorated statue in the Rishikul Yogshala lobby. The tenth day of celebration involved dipping (sinking) that very statue in the Ganges river, and getting it the to the holy banks proved to be the best part of the whole experience.I paraded down the crowded roads of Rishikesh with a beaming smile, a loud brass band leading the way ahead of me. It was just as impossible not to move and groove to the music, as it was to avoid getting completely coated in the monsoon of rainbow powder that flew from all directions.
By the end of the afternoon, I was caked with colour; weeks later my hair still glowing red. For me, the crimson do’ was just a pleasant reminder of how much joy can be created around colour, movement and music.
Each day as I ventured from my loving home into the streets of Rishikesh, I admired the womens’ dress. Whether they were working on the farm or cooking in the kitchen, their intricate saris made them appear as royalty; reminding me of my days in Kelowna when I truly believed that there was no such thing as being ‘overdressed’. A lovely Canadian woman graced me with her presence one afternoon in a cafe; captivating me with an inspiring tale about her recent fashion-business endeavor alongside a local Indian seamstress. My curiosity got the best of me, and it was only a matter of time before I had rich, vibrant fabrics draped across my skin.
I never did have that “this is the one” moment as I was wedding dress shopping years earlier. In fact, I did, but I suppose I just had too many of these moments for it to feel real; loving literally every white dress that I allowed to envelope my body. Much the same, I swooned over each sari I modeled; twirling and spinning like a real life Indian Barbie. However, there was something about the deep rich pink fabric, the gold embroidered accents, the delicate lace skirt and the open-back crop top that made me glow with excitement as I placed one particular sari on my skin. If ever there was a moment in my life when I felt like a total princess, this was it. . . and in a moment of sheer impulse, I bought the gorgeous gown without any forethought as to where I would showcase it, or how I anticipated traveling with it in my backpack.
Travel packing logistics aside, that sari ended up being very well used over the remainder of my weeks in India. My beautiful friends threw fancy dress-up parties, dances and improve plays (allowing me to act regal characters so I could wear my stunning new dress).
I’ll look back on my time in the sacred city of Rishikesh and feel an overwhelming sense of belonging in a place where I most definitely was an alien. For me, it felt as though I became a part of an integral network of ‘do gooders’; people who’s sheer presence encouraged me to want to be the best version of myself and attract the highest good into my life. I never once doubted that I was in the exact right place, surrounded by exactly the right people. And as I taxied away from town, my beautiful family waving farewell in the rear view, I was filled with happiness and hope. Hope that I would one day be invited back into their captivating world. Hope that I could somehow maintain this high vibration once I left their inspiring presence. And hope that, by continuing to surround myself with all the things I love so dearly, I too can live such a peaceful, happy, effortless life.