You have given me so much healing and filled my heart with joy and happiness, giving me this glow from the inside
My mom sent me a message last night saying how she thought I’ve always been pretty, but now I am glowing…
Spending the last year in India has given me this glow.
Before I left the UK in March 2020, there was a lot of fear and doubt especially in her mind about me travelling to India on my own. I mean, technically I wasn’t on my own, because I came here on a 2 week group tour with a bunch of amazing women from the US and New Zealand and we had a blast.
But the point is, India as a holiday destination for a single woman doesn’t have the best reputation. Stories of girls getting mugged and raped by taxi drivers who are picking people up from airports to counts of litter everywhere, cow dung on the road, poor hygiene overall etc.
I can of course only speak based on my own experience and based on the places I’ve visited in the last 12 months, but I want to share with you some of the things I’ve come to love in this country.
There are noticeable differences between South and North India, bilkul, and it is very fair to say that although South India has some beautiful beaches and scenery, my heart belongs to the North.
Especially places like Rishikesh and Haridwar, where Ganga Ma bestows her blessings to all, just thinking about it brings me a feeling of deep gratitude and joy to have had the chance to live there for so many months. Hearing the sounds of Ganga Aarti and the many Poojas, mantras sounding in the air, offering such an easy way to connect with higher energies.
When I arrived here, I knew nothing about mantras or Hindu deities. My first encounter with various Shiva and Krishna mantras was during my stay at Phool Chatti Ashram and the daily Pooja and Kirtan became my favourite parts of the day pretty quickly.
When lockdown rules eased a little and I finally made my way to Tapovan to start my first Yoga Teacher Training, I was so pleased to learn more mantras to incorporate in my own Yoga practice and teachings and was so happy to recognise a few from my time in the Ashram.
Learning about the different deities and what they promise to their worshippers has also given me a lot of joy and happiness. I absolutely love the fact that Hinduism is so open and tolerant in this area. You are free to follow your own heart and worship the God with whom you feel most connected or who promises to solve your problem at hand. In yoga philosophy, there is a clear understanding that all Gods are ‘merely’ different forms (Saguna Ishvara) of the same Universal God or Universal Consciousness (Nirguna Ishvara) from which everything originates.
This is a brilliant way to make the Higher Energies more easily accessible to a large number of people. Different things work for different individuals, but at the end of the day, whichever God you worship, the feeling of deep faith and trust that you get when you worship and voice your wishes, that is what is important.
That is how manifestation works. That is how you create the life of your dreams. You are clear about what you want, you formulate what you want in a positive, present tense statement, as if you already have it, and you really feel the joy and happiness that you will feel when you have whatever it is that you want. Address your wishes to Shiva, Ganga, Ganesha, Lakshmi, Krishna, Hanuman, any other deity or directly to Nirguna Ishvara and show your gratitude and this creates a vibration from your own heart, that will make the universe set wheels in motion to give you what you asked for. A deep trust and believe that everything will be well must radiate from your very core.
I can’t actually wait to set foot at Ganga’s shores again to connect with Her energy. There are some places on Earth, where the Higher Energy can be felt more easily than elsewhere: Rishikesh, Haridwar, Kedarnath and Amritsar definitely were like this for me.
I didn’t experience the same sense of connectedness in the South of India and there were a few cultural customs that I found very hard to accept, most noticeably the inability of male Indians working in Hospitality to speak to a female, especially when she is travelling with a man. I’ve had multiple instances where I ordered something or asked a waiter a question and instead of answering me, they would turn around to my partner and give the answer to my question to him. It would infuriate me to be honest, but what can you do.
On the other hand I have experienced the warmest welcomes in the North of India. People in Rajasthan and Uttarakhand are amongst the most helpful and welcoming I have met. And the majority of the time, they offer their help just for the sake of it without expectations. Of course if you express your gratitude for their services with a little tip, they will be happy. But I am not only talking about people who work in the service industry.
On the contrary, I am talking about people offering sincere help to strangers, like the owner of a cafe or shop you frequent, offering help with any personal problems you might have. And of course the unconditional help and support you can witness in Indian families. Indian families usually, often out of necessity, live in smaller places with more people on less room, and while this certainly brings challenges, it also brings family members much closer together and this bond is there for life. This wasn’t easy for me to grasp initially as asking for help or accepting help that is so willingly offered was not something that I was used to. And I am not at all referring to my own family, because my parents have supported me all my life in everything I wanted to do. I am referring to a, for whatever reason, deeply routed belief I had, that asking for help is a sign of weakness and I should be able to solve all my problems on my own.
India has helped me to find my voice and ask for help when I need it, but also ask for the things I want in life. Nowhere else than Rishikesh have I experienced answers to my prayers as quickly as they have manifested there. I believe that everything happens for a reason and so everyone I’ve met here, people from all over the world and different walks of life, all had something to offer me in terms of learning and opportunities for personal growth, whether they knew it or not, and whether I realised it at the time or not. But I certainly do now.
The character of the Indian people and culture I’ve witnessed overall is one of strong belief, love, joy, gratitude and contentment. This might be different for people who live in big cities, where there is a higher focus on consumerism and people are more concerned with chasing monetary goals and achievements in life, but having said that, we are all products of our environments and heavily influenced by the people and beliefs around us, so all we can do is just try to accept people for how they are and trust that they are doing the best they know how to do.
Just as we are trying to do the best we can every day.
India, you have given me so much healing, filled my heart with joy, answered my prayers and shown me what unconditional love is. Allowed me to follow my dreams, learning not only yoga asanas, but understanding the philosophy and instantaneously connecting with it. You have brought me closer to Source than I’ve ever felt before.
You will always have a special place in my heart.
With love and gratitude to you and your people,