I’ve been home from India a little over a week now, and with every day that I’m home, I realize more and more how much this experience has changed my life and my perspective.
Tuesday, January 5th was the day that I left for India and it feels like years ago. I woke up that morning in my husband’s arms with a strong feeling of love and calm, despite the anxious energy I was feeling about my trip. Going to India was a big deal. I’m not much of a world traveler so the thought of getting on an airplane and traveling across the world was terrifying. Plus, I heard story after story about the ins/outs of traveling to a place like India—poverty, sickness, jet lag, culture shock, etc. I was prepared for anything and everything but I was still terrified. However, this all changed that morning when I woke up; being in my husbands arms and experiencing that feeling of love and calm, I knew this trip was destiny and it would change my life.
This same feeling came over me when I arrived at my gate at the airport and met two of my classmates. Our program, SuperSoul Yoga 500 hour Advanced Teacher Training, had established a Facebook group and even though I was “friends” with everyone in my program prior to going to India, I had no idea what to expect. Our group consisted of people from all around the world—Australia, Sweden and Austria. However, once I met my classmates, I knew that I would be spending time with some amazing and inspiring people. I felt a sense of comfort and home just a couple minutes into our conversation.
Arriving in Mumbai late the next night, however, was a little less comforting. You can feel and see the pollution in the air; it’s this thick foggy haze. There’s constant beeping, everyone feels the need to use their horn all the time, and they also never drive in their own lane. And there’s extreme poverty.
I woke up that Thursday morning to singing. I looked out my window and down below and I saw this.
At first, I thought there was construction going on next to our hotel and the construction workers were blaring a radio. Then as I got closer, I realized that those were homes and the singing wasn’t coming from a radio, but were voices from those living below. As I listened closer, I was able to make out the words and it was the same phrase repeated over and over again. They were chanting the maha mantra, called the “great” mantra;
“Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna,
Hare Rama, Hare Rama,
Which translates to, “Oh Lord, let me be of service today.” Little did I know that this chant would be something that I would chant everyday during my stay in India and also something I would bring home with me.
Our stay in Mumbai was short, as we left for the Govardhan Eco Village later that day to officially kick-off the start of our teacher training program. My Eco Village experience was much different than Mumbai. Everything was quiet, peaceful, and simple. We were welcomed with a candlelit dinner and this is how and where we ate every meal; outside under the cover of trees under the sun or under the star filled night sky.
Everything we ate came right from the farm and all the farm labor came right from the cows that lived there. Every product that came from the Eco Village was a sustainable product—soap, shampoo, etc.
In addition to 21 people that were part of our teacher training program, we shared this home with the great Radhanath Swami, monks, an orphanage and other visitors from around the world. Even though each community of people were so culturally different from one another, there was a special sense of oneness among everyone.
Our days at the Eco Village were full days—6am yoga practice which included meditation, chanting, pranayama and asana till about 8:30am. Then breakfast and a little bit of free time. Class time from 10am to 1pm. Lunch from 1 to 2pm. Sometimes a break from 2 to 3pm. Then class from 3 to 5pm. Satsang (songs and stories) from 5:30 to 7:30pm or so. Dinner till about 8:30pm and then some of us would gather before bed to play harmonium under the stars. We called ourselves the Radharani orchestra.
As hard as it was to get out of bed at 5:30am every morning, once I walked outside into the beauty of the morning, I was grateful for it. The stars were incredible—so big and bright and the light from the moon was so vibrant. Walking to yoga every morning reminded me why I had come so far from home to complete this advanced 500 hour teacher training certification; to reconnect with myself.
The attraction of completing my 500 hour teacher training certification with my favorite teacher, Raghunath Cappo, is what lured me into signing up for the program. Traveling to India was an added bonus since I knew I would most likely never have the opportunity to travel this far ever again. Yet deep down, I also knew I needed some major me time. Every morning that I walked to that yoga shula under that star filled sky, I allowed myself to remain open to whatever that day had to teach me and offer me. And each day had so many offerings and learnings.
We immersed ourselves into the Bhagavada Gita, the Yoga Sutras, autonomy, sequencing, assisting, advanced asana/transitions, meditation, pranayama and had the honor of hearing from Radhanath Swami almost on a daily basis during our satsangs in the evening. This immersion into yoga and our disconnection from my day to day and regular stimulation—tv, radio, phone, traffic, daily hussle, etc.—allowed my mind to actually be clear for one of the first times in a very long time and I actually felt present. I felt like a sponge; taking it every piece of information and wanting to learn everything. I also felt a strong connection with the world around me.
The simpliness of living in the Eco Village was the most beautiful thing. You felt connected to everything around you—the night sky, the moon, the stars, the mountain views, the cows—the peace and stillness allowed you to magically open. One of the memories I will always take with me is the night of the full moon. We had our evening satsang on the roof deck of the building where we were staying, and as the full moon rose over the mountains, we sang and we chanted,
“Hare Krisha, hare Krishna,
hare rama, hare rama,
rama, rama, hare.”
As we chanted those words I just kept reminding myself to keep disconnecting to connect. To trust that whatever is meant to be, will be. To never forget the power of finding stillness in the self to exist in a higher state of mind.
This higher state followed me right through the course of my training and even back to Mumbai where I spent my last day in India. Part of our graduation was participating in the annual flower festival hosted at the Radha Gopinath temple by Radhanath Swami. We spent the morning of festival plucking the pedals off of more than 3,000 pounds of flowers as Radhanath Swami spoke about the power of oneness and the power of love. Then that night, we headed back to the temple for kirtan as thousands of pounds of flowers were showered on us. It was such an incredible experience. The beauty of the flowers and the music, and being in the presence of a diverse community of people all united together, left me completely speechless at times with tears in my eyes and then at other times made me giddy and full of laughter. The energy in the room was indescribable. And that was my last night in India.
The next morning everyone met for breakfast and we all said our goodbyes. It was such a tough day. To have spent over three and half weeks with each of these individuals for more than 13 hours per day and then to say goodbye was devastating. I truly met the most incredible people and it was so sad to think that we would most likely not all be together again.
This thought still gets me so sad as I write this blog post. The people that we surround ourselves with is so important—they can either bring out the best in us or the worst in us—and to have had such an incredible experience with these people that inspired me to be the best I can be, I’m forever grateful.
I might not still be in India in the magical place of Govardhan Village with my amazing SuperSoul yogi’s but every time I play my harmonium and sing,
“hare Krishna, hare Krishna,
hare, hare, hare rama,
I’m able to go right back to that place in those moments—chanting before the sunrise, sitting and listening to satsang in the evening, playing harmonium under the moon light with the Radharani orchestra, or dancing at the flower festival. It will forever remind me to stay open, to be authentic and to trust whatever will be, will be.
Namaste yogis 🙂