JOURNEY TO YOURSELF
Writer: Duygu Ozmekik
Proofreading credit: Steph Smithson
Everything happens for a reason…
“This world is your best teacher. There is a lesson in everything. There is a lesson in each experience. Learn it and become wise. Every failure is a stepping stone to success. Every difficulty or disappointment is a trial of your faith. Every unpleasant incident or temptation is a test of your inner strength. Therefore nil desperandum. March forward hero! “ SWAMI SIVANANDA
4 years ago, I took a big step towards starting a new life: I went through a divorce. It was a very hard time for me — I was emotionally and mentally confused and I struggled financially and even just to survive. Fortunately, despite all the clouds blurring my mind and all the fear repressing my inner voice, I had enough courage to stay on my feet in the middle of the storm and ask myself the essential question: who am I?”. Questioning yourself is never easy, but it’s even harder when you’re about to leave a long and overwhelming relationship behind.
I also shared my questioning with my good friends. The very same day, one of them invited me to a conference and guided meditation session entitled “Who am I?”, which would take place at L’Émergence Meditation Center in Montréal, where I first discovered Raja Yoga.
L’Émergence Meditation Center in Montréal: http://montreal.brahmakumaris.ca/
Another good friend suggested that I visit the Sivananda Ashram Yoga Retreat in the Bahamas, but I had neither enough money nor enough energy at the time to follow this advice. I felt the need for such a retreat deeply; however, I sensed that I wasn’t yet ready for this journey.
Thanks to my regular visits to the L’Émergence Meditation Center in Montreal, not only did surviving that very hard time start to seem easier, but my life was also getting better — I passed my master thesis presentation on creative writing with success, I found a small apartment in my favourite neighbourhood, I got a part-time job that pays well, and the right people were everywhere and we met at the right time. My parents also encouraged me immensely. Amazed, I stopped resisting the unknown. I followed the flow and let the miracles happen.
It took four years, full of enriching and delightful life experiences, until I finally felt ready for an ashram where I could experience all aspects of Yogi life and be completely healed from my bad experiences, both physically and spiritually. I also thought that listening to ocean waves and smelling the wind would certainly help to open my heart, so I decided to live one of my dreams and take a trip to the Sivananda Ashram Yoga Retreat in the Bahamas. As if the Universe was waiting for my decision, everything lined up so that I could make that dream come true at the end of November in 2017.
After looking into several workshops at the ashram, I found that a wonderful healing workshop would be given by Reiki master Brett Bevell during my stay. As for my cat, a friend was looking for a place to stay in Montreal, and she agreed to cat-sit for me. I found even cheaper flights for the Bahamas. Hard to believe, but I organized my ten-day “journey to myself” in twenty-four hours.
AWAKENING OF THE SENSES
“Life is a series of awakenings.” SWAMI SIVANANDA
First of all, the Nassau International Airport in the Bahamas smelled like flowers after the dry, cold air of Montreal.
The temperature was around 25°C at the end of November — neither too hot nor too chilly, but warm as a delicate blanket or a warm shower, and very welcoming.
I called the ashram from the airport and informed them of my arrival. They sent their little boat to take me to Paradise Island from the dock in Nassau. During my short five-minute boat trip, I met the ocean for the first time…such a hypnotizing blue…
Once I set foot in the ashram and started walking barefoot on its narrow paths surrounded by green healthy and happy plants, I felt like I was in wonderland.
My senses were awakened by the serene beauty all around.
I listened to the birds’ grateful chorus in the morning and to continuous ocean waves during my daily meditation sessions in the afternoon while warm, friendly Bahamian sand touched my feet and legs. The sun was gentle on my skin, and the beach offered the best setting for my yoga sun salutations. The abundance of colours — every hue of green, blue, yellow and white — filled me with joy, whereas the intense odour of incense coming from the temples gently lulled my mind.
And sense of taste awakening in joy: delicious and healthy food
In the ashram, we followed the yogic diet, which is lacto-vegetarian and prepared with love by the people in the Karma Yoga program. Based on the ancient science of Ayurveda, which contributes to the practice of yoga and progress in spiritual life, our diet was geared towards health, balance, vitality, energy, and joy.
Our buffet-style meals were served daily at 10:00am and 6:00pm after our yoga sessions.
Here’s what our plates looked like:
A smorgasbord of vegetables, legumes, fruits, whole grains, nuts and seeds in both raw and cooked forms, delicious bean dishes and soups. Also, homemade granola and baked bread with freshly made yogourt…
I really enjoyed having my brunches by the ocean and my dinners in the main dining area among other yogis, socializing, sharing spiritual experiences and exchanging knowledge with them while sipping my herbal tea.
During the first days of my stay, I ate a lot, but the amount decreased with time. I believe that with daily and regular yoga practice and satisfying healthy food, I was eventually able to taste the balance in my life.
In this realm of prosperity, my five senses were in absolute joy. I already felt deeply relaxed and free of fears, concerns and anxieties of urban life, after two days at the ashram.
Still, it was only the beginning of a deeper awakening, called sixth sense or intuition — the sense beyond the five senses, where no time, gravity, thought or pain is accessible, but only the pure joy of existence.
AWAKENING TO REALITY (Intuition): importance of the rituals
In order to be able to hear your peaceful and resourceful inner voice and to let it guide your life, it’s essential to relax and nurture your five senses. You love your body inside out, you honour it and you offer your gratitude to the Universe, so you become more receptive to what the Universe generously offers you every second.
“Patient and regular practice is the whole secret of spiritual realization. Do not be in a hurry in spiritual life. Do your utmost, and leave the rest to God.” SWAMI SIVANANDA
Being receptive requires some conditions: you must prioritize personal discipline, follow the daily rituals in and be consistent in your effort.
That’s why we had a Daily Schedule in the ashram which applied to the whole community and helped us to improve these skills:
|6:00 am||Satsang: meditation, chanting, and lecture or silent walk Satsang means being together with the truth and it is the heart of the yoga practice. Every morning, a big gong woke us up at 5:30 am. After half an hour of silent morning meditation, which started at 6:00 am, we had devotional and meditative chanting of mantras and kirtan. The spiritual lectures about yoga philosophy and psychology after chanting were very helpful for finding peace. We also did two silent walks on the beach and watched the sunrise; it was unforgettable!|
|8:00 am||Yoga Class (asana, pranayama, and relaxation) My uncle introduced me to traditional Yoga when I was 10 years old. I often saw him practicing headstands and I started asking him questions. Fortunately, he took the time to explain Yoga and satisfy my curiosity. Since then, I try to follow the Yogi lifestyle, not always regularly, but I already knew asanas and pranamaya. However, I decided to do my daily yoga practices in the beginner class during my stay in the ashram. First of all, I loved the teacher, Arjuna, and also I learned more about the asanas and the right way to practice them thanks to him.” Yoga aims to remove the root cause of all diseases, not to treat its symptoms as medical science generally attempts to do.” VISHNUDEVANANDA SARASWATI|
|10:00 am||Brunch Delicious! Delicious! Delicious!|
|10:30 am-4:00 pm||Workshop and course time I chose my reservation dates for the Yoga Vacation program carefully, especially these dates since I wished to join Brett Bevell’s energy healing workshops during my stay. These sessions were amazing. Consequently, I decided to take more healing sessions and to take Reiki lessons after coming back to Montreal. I also had the chance to join Sacred Painting sessions with Mavis Gewant. The rest of the time, I enjoyed swimming, taking long walks on the beach and practicing asanas on the beach platform.|
|4:00 pm||Yoga Class (asana, pranayama, and relaxation) These yoga sessions gave us the opportunity to meet the different yoga teachers who adopt authentic approaches. One thing is indisputable; they were all remarkable.|
|6:00 pm||Dinner I mostly preferred having my dinner in main dining area since I needed some socializing in order to exchange with other yogis. Discussions around spiritual knowledge and personal experiences were very precious and unforgettable. Memories of the generosity of these dear souls still encourage and motivate me after my return to urban life.|
|8:00 pm||Satsang: meditation, chanting, and talk or performance In the evening Sansang sessions, we also listened to very good musical performances. I miss collective evening meditation while feeling the gentle evening breeze on my shoulders and contemplating smiling faces.|
LEARNING TO WELCOME TRANSFORMATION IN YOUR LIFE
Among the accommodation options, I chose the Tent Hut, which was en excellent idea. My tent was clean, quiet, and comfortable. It allowed me to rest and be ready for the next busy day. Also, I managed to read three books at night, using the bedtime light.
I mostly strolled outside; on the long beach, on several yoga platforms, around the dining area, or I meditated in temples.
However, this small sweet orange tent offered me such a cozy personal space that it helped me to sense the transformation in me.
Thanks to my deeply relaxed state, I was able to contact my real self in silence and experience the joy of this reunion.
“Silence is the language of God; it is also the language of the heart.” SWAMI SIVANANDA
My writing was fearless. I forgot my thoughts about the past and the future — they were useless. I had everything to be happy in the present, nothing to look for nor to miss. My heart spread out of its room and expanded in every breath filled with rich, Bahamian air. Accordingly, I met admirable people around; we had real connections in concise meetings.
It seemed there was no better place to be.
While we talked about going back to our lives, as one of my yogi friends told me; “ The hard part is not living a disciplined yogi life here. The hard part is going back to the urban life. Leaving behind this reality, and trying to be satisfied with some reflections.”
And it was so true!
“Peace is the most covetable possession on the earth. It is the greatest treasure in all the universe. Peace is the most important and indispensable factor for all growth and development. It is in the tranquility and quiet of the night that the seed slowly sprouts from under the soil. The bud opens in the depth of the most silent hours. So also, in a state of peace and love, people evolve, grow in their distinctive culture, and develop perfect civilisation.” SWAMI SIVANANDA
“The more we sweat in peace the less we bleed in war.” VISHNUDEVANANDA SARASWATI
“If you do not peace in within, you will not find it anywhere else. The Goal of life is the attainment of Peace and not the achievement of power, name, fame and wealth.” SWAMI SIVANANDA
“Individual Peace paves the world peace. The attainment of inner calm is the greatest work you can do for humanity.” SWAMI SIVANANDA
If you believe Peace is your mission in life like me, let’s meet there!
Miscellaneous important details:
-Your flip-flops are your friends in the ashram. However, I enjoyed mostly being barefoot during my stay. Some ugly blisters on my feet could not prevent this joy!
-Don’t forget that you are in an ashram, but not in a beach party concept vacation nor in a fancy yoga meeting, which means that you should pay attention to not to wear short or small clothing exposing your body, nor flashy colours causing distraction. Light colours like white and orange are appreciated.
-2 shawls that I put in my luggage were most helpful for morning and evening meditation sessions.
-Insect repellent is essential, especially in the evening in yoga platforms and for your night sleep. I forgot to put it on once, and a sneaky mosquito gave itself a treat which caused some allergic reactions upon my return to Montreal. Don’t worry; insect repellent is provided by the ashram to all guests.
-Please note that no coffee, alcohol or drug is allowed in the premises. Also, you should be able to sleep around 10 PM in the evening even though you are a night owl, since the silence reigns after this hour and you have to wake up at 05:30 AM next morning.
“Real peace comes only to those who control the body and mind with self-discipline.” VISHNUDEVANANDA SARASWATI