Back in Tapovan, I once again find myself in the perfect place, surrounded by wonderful people and so much to learn
Another half month has passed since my last post and today I am on Day 10 of Yoga Teacher Training - at last.
In early May, India divided the country into green and red zones and luckily for me, both the ashram and the place where I’m doing the YTT were in adjoining green zones and movement within and between green zones was now allowed. Nevertheless, the journey to get here turned into a saga in which a mere 8km distance took 5 hours to complete.
Given the circumstances, a whole lot of paperwork and signatures was needed to move from one district to the next. Authorities at that time had not yet figured out the process, so one office (A) sent me and my amazing taxi driver Anu to the next office (B) to get a signature and permission to leave my old district. We get to that office B and they in turn sent us to a police station of that same district (C). The police man said ‘why are you here, you should go to that office B’ and Anu replied in Hindi ‘but we just came from there and they sent us here’. And so the story continued. We finally got permission to leave the old district and we went back to office A to obtain permission to enter the new district.
As luck would have it, the man in charge had just left for his lunch... So we grabbed some food and 2 hours later finally the guy returned and we got the stamp and signature and off we went! Back to the bridge that leads over The Ganga and into Tapovan where the officials at the checkpoint waved us through - and just like that, we’re on the other side and 10 minutes later, I’m finally in the place that will help me get closer to achieving what I had set out to accomplish during these travels - 200 hour yoga teacher training.
Now, given that following my heart and following signs from the universe was a topic previously, let me just set the scene about how I ended up in this particular school.
To recap, at the end of March I was contacting a variety of schools in Rishikesh, following recommendations from my teachers back in Edinburgh and nearly started a course with one of the oldest schools in Tapovan at the start of April, Patanjali International Yoga Foundation. I was headed there on the 23rd of March, but of course that was right at the start of lockdown in India and hence I never made it out of the ashram when they cancelled on me because they were shut down by local police.
By that point, given my nature of being a pretty open book and usually telling people about my plans, everyone in the ashram knew that I was determined to complete yoga teacher training as soon as possible. One of the wonderful volunteers at the ashram, Emma from Liverpool, also knew of my intentions and when the lockdown started, she happened to check in with this guy who she met some months ago during her travels in Pushkar, just to see if he was still in India and what he was up to. And guess what?
Driven by a keen interest in yoga and meditation himself, he stumbled upon a place which is a homestay as well as a small yoga school. With only a handful of rooms, they are used to teaching small classes with max 15 students in normal circumstances. So Emma says to him, there is this girl here in the ashram who also wants to do YTT - can she join you? He says, I’m currently the only one here, but I think they would take another 1 or 2 students for the course starting tomorrow. And so Emma reports this back to me just before dinner and I’m like “OMG” how do I get there???
And the answer to that question at the time was: I DON’T. Oh the irony. A brief moment of excitement went up in a puff of smoke like a bad April’s fool joke. To be fair, at the time it didn’t feel quite right. I wasn’t ready for packing up and leaving within the hour to try and get there for the next day and even if I had been ready, given the lockdown, it would have been impossible to get transport. So with a deep breath, I let it go!!
And I stopped looking. Instead I focused on the moment. I read more books such as Healing Mantras by Thomas Ashley-Farrand, spent more time with great people at the ashram during April, and revamped the ashram website and re-launched my own. Clearly there was still stuff for me to do and learn while I was at Phool Chatti and the time wasn’t right yet.
Around about the same time I started daily yoga practice and noticed myself getting stronger too during the month of April. Not just that, but there were also a few learning opportunities of the not so appealing kind with rats and spiders and monkeys - but weirdly you even get used to them. After all, purusha, the Higher Universal Consciousness, lives in each and every being, not just in humans according to yogic philosophy, and that thought creates more compassion towards other living beings and a somewhat more relaxed attitude in shooing them away too.
So April came and went and on the 4th of May (may the force be with you... coincidence?!) some restrictions lifted. On the 6th of May - and according to the palm reader from Jaipur, the number 6 is one of my lucky numbers - I had some good news, and some bad news.
Bad news first: I heard that the alternative 200 hour training that I had eyed up for June in Bali also had to be postponed due to ongoing travel restrictions there.
Good news: India decided to extend all foreigner’s visas for an extra 30 days from the moment that international air travel resumes and I received official confirmation that my visa got extended until 30th of June. Finally that gave me 2 months to plan and enough time to commit to a course here. As fate would have it, another day later, the owner of this school checked in again and informed me that a new course for 3 students only would start in a few days’ time. This was the perfect alignment - enough time for me to complete my Karma Yoga work for the ashram owner, get my paperwork sorted and make a move.
And then my ego started the whole pattern of doubt: should I really go to this small school? What if it’s no good? I don’t know much about the teacher, what if it’s not right? Maybe I should contact the other schools I had been in touch with before the lockdown... blah blah blah. On it went.
So I took a deep breath and a moment to contemplate the situation. I didn’t seek out this school, it found me and after reading The Surrender Experiment not that long ago, I figured that life has her own plans and she has put this school in my path and so I should just trust the process and go with the flow. And I did.
I arrived on a Saturday, the course was going to start two days later. When I got here, three guys from South America, including Emma’s contact, and one of the girls who was joining the course, made me feel super welcome and at ease straight away. The next day the second girl arrived and I couldn’t have hoped for a better bunch of people to be having this experience with.
What amazes me again and again - and perhaps at this point I should be getting used it - is that you meet strangers in these places and the love for yoga and travelling unites instantaneously and less than 24 hours after arriving, you find yourself having a deep conversation with someone you literally just met. And yet you are talking about what brought you to India in the first place: the longing for meaning, an urge to meet your Self, to disconnect from your mind’s patterns and to connect instead with higher consciousness. The desire to live a simple life, experiencing new cultures and living day by day in the moment. Shifting focus from the materialistic, Western world where the majority of people strives to accumulate as many possessions as possible, towards the Eastern philosophy where gratitude and contentment leads to fulfilment and INNER happiness.
This has happened to me last year in Sri Lanka and also in Bali when I went on yoga retreats and people were there for such similar reasons.
A few days later, on our first day off, I’m walking back from a morning on the beach with one of the girls, chatting about our pasts and how we ended up here and once that was out of the way, we are suddenly not just talking about how over the last year we have grown so much spiritually and know ourselves much better than ever before, but we’re suddenly discussing sexual awakening that seemed to have happened simultaneously and the mysteries of female orgasm. This is two girls talking who only just met each other less than a week ago. And it is so liberating and refreshing. Don’t get me wrong, I have a few very close friends back home with whom I talk about these things too, but in the ‘normal’ world, what are the chances of you talking about this with a relative stranger shortly after meeting?
And the next day, I’m chatting with the other girl about experiences we’ve each had during meditation and she says when you reach that moment of bliss during meditation, that feeling of connectedness, of weightlessness, your mind kicks in and says: yessss, I’ve got it. And of course in that split second, you loose it. And then you chase it. You want to have that same experience again during your next meditation. And I - once again - nod knowingly, and I say: it’s like when you have one of these full body orgasms right? Once you had one, you want it again. And then we both just laugh.
I do believe that everyone you meet in life has some lesson for you. They come into your life and maybe they spend 2 weeks with you, maybe 2 years or 20. In this place, not only am I learning tons about yoga and strengthening my asana practice, making my body leaner and stronger, but I’m learning from my fellow yogis. I have some ideas about what lessons I am meant to be learning from each of them (or keep learning) here. Time and hindsight will tell if those ideas were correct and if the set up was enough for me to get there.
Time will tell, but for now I just feel like I am in the perfect place - exactly where I am meant to be, yet again. Surrounded by wonderful people, happy and content, learning from great and funny teachers and growing loads. More on the training itself next time.
Lots of love from Rishikesh and I hope you are all staying safe and sane.