Newsletter November 2011
I came to New Zealand on an outer journey in search of ‘something’. Instead I discovered Satyananda Yoga and arrived at an inner journey. I think it actually started quite early in my life, without me really knowing that I was travelling on a path that had somehow been designed for me to walk upon.
Before I began travelling, I had successfully finished my studies as a social worker, but did not feel at all satisfied or at peace with myself and my situation in life. I held my degree in my hands, but I had no feeling of fullness or contentment. Rather, I felt quite empty and all those questions of what to do with my life appeared.
So I started a journey, travelling for months through New Zealand, working here and there, and finally visiting Golden Bay, where I found myself one night at a kirtan session at Anahata. I knew I had to come back, so I returned intending to stay for a week. Since then I haven’t left the ashram environment in over a year. In the beginning I found myself wanting to leave again and again, but now I am sure that staying and enduring what was happening to me, especially on an internal level, was one of the best decisions I have made in my life.
In the last year I have spent three months participating in a yogic studies course at the Bihar School of Yoga in India, founded by Swami Satyananda. Exposure to the energy and intensity of ashram life in India inspired and moved me deeply, and made me decide that I wanted to dedicate my life to this spiritual journey, where I could grow and gain a sense of joy in life by serving a higher purpose.
When I returned to Anahata after those three months in India, I wasn’t holding a degree in my hands, but instead of the emptiness and insecurity that I experienced after gaining my degree, this time I held a sense of inner abundance and joy. I was mentally, emotionally and spiritually stronger than before.
I realized that I had gained something from my time there, which is not just temporary. I gained a new understanding of the opportunities that a place like Anahata offers me, such as to face myself and look deeper within to discover those dormant aspects that lie within. Seeing those aspects of myself is sometimes pleasant, and sometimes unpleasant. However, this process allows me to become more whole, more aware, more human, and to develop a greater understanding of myself and others. It is a process of purification and feels very liberating. Step-by-step I release those things that limit me to see the greater potential in life. It seems almost a paradox that a highly disciplined and simplified life can bring about much more freedom and happiness.
After living at Anahata it’s sometimes hard to tell what has changed in me, but going “down the hill” to Nelson or Takaka every now and then, I realize that over time my desires and aims in life have changed. Outside of the ashram, I still enjoy a good cup of coffee or an ice cream, and I might buy some clothes or hang out on the beach. But very soon, a certain saturation sets in, and it feels as if I’m being pulled back to the top of the mountain with the ambition to go inside, to enjoy good company again, to spend my time growing in a spiritual environment, and to dedicate my time to something meaningful, and something which nourishes me on a much deeper level.
Then again, I’ve also learned that it doesn’t matter where I am. It’s my state of mind that determines everything, and it is up to me whether I see situations in life as a struggle or a chance to gain more clarity. Words can’t really express the internal process that starts to happen in a place like this. It is a living experience. I think the essence of yoga and its related process is, for me, simply to drop all that is not needed and to become more and more myself. I feel very blessed for this opportunity that life has brought me, and the longer I stay the more I notice how this way of living is transforming my life into something for which I am highly grateful. I realize that when a chance like this comes to us in life, we should not miss it!
It is interesting for me to reflect on this theme of sustainability as I put together the articles for this newsletter, because it seems that this yogic lifestyle that I am living is all about creating sustainability in our lives, and putting in place a life that serves us well, and will carry us strongly into the future. It appears to me that by being here at Anahata I am laying seeds down for more abundant growth in the future, just like we do when we plant a new crop at the beginning of the season to harvest later. I look at how my actions today lay the foundation for what I will live in the future (which seems really to be about the principle of karma).
Practicing karma yoga at Anahata through the day has definitely woken my ideas up to this. It is clear to me that when I act with good intentions and share what I have to offer with those around me, I am rewarded with a feeling of fulfillment and contentment. When I give the best of myself, I realize more of my own qualities and strengths and develop a greater appreciation for life. However when I don’t give the best of myself and get caught up in mind dramas and negativity then that is what perpetuates. In a place like this you get to witness this cause and effect relationship quite clearly in your daily activities. It is a perfect learning ground for life.
The daily practices offered at Anahata give you a chance to create greater internal sustainability. Every time I walk to Atma Mandir during the day for a morning chanting or asana class, midday yoga nidra practice, meditation class, a havan or satsang I feel that I am giving myself some more sustenance to carry on with the different tasks of life. I feel that as well as feeding the body with simple vegetarian food here, I am also feeding the spirit with these yogic practices.
The practices I feel the greatest sustenance from are morning chanting and weekly kirtan sessions. They bring me to a place of real peace and contentment. Morning chanting is an amazing way to set the day up in the right way. Mantra are said to be sounds of very high frequency, and it seems to set a vibration in me that aligns my mind and heart and carries me through the day. I recently wrote a dissertation using my own and others experiences of participating in these daily practices to explore how the singing and chanting practices of yoga work as a therapeutic art. An extract from this that I will share with you here is about my experiences chanting the Hanuman Chalisa every morning:
“This chant is said to be for opening the heart. When I sing this chant I connect with the space of the heart and I feel more whole. I touch a piece of what I am inside, without all the external things that shape us and it is a beautiful space to be. My mind is bypassed, the clever thinking mind goes and I am left in a pure space. When we are able to bypass the rational mind for a time we open to more of what we have inside, and our defenses and inhibitions are released. I am learning that it is here, in this space, that true transformation occurs – when we really allow ourselves to open and let in whatever wants to run through us”.
I find being at Anahata a very inspiring way to live. I get to be around inspiring people, and just by doing simple things for others with care and awareness I can pass on a little inspiration myself. I have learnt it really doesn’t take that much in life to make us happy. Simplicity in our actions and thoughts allows much more to be felt on a daily basis. I find myself sitting on the deck of the main house during meal times staring out at the skyscapes and being amazed by all the shades of colours and patterns I see. Beauty appears all around when we look with the right eyes.