Newsletter August 2013
You could say I was guided by the NZ air force, who dropped me out of a helicopter in the wrong part of the Abel Tasman National park which borders Anahata. I was part of a Search & Rescue team, looking for a lost hunter. Walking out, the first civilization we came across 3 days later was Anahata. I didn’t think much of it at the time, all a bit weird actually, me coming from a science and traditional kiwi farming background, but 18 months later I felt a strong calling to go back. If someone would have told me back then I would have a spiritual name myself, be wearing orange and singing mantras I would have laughed and gone, yeah right!!
What I found when I went back to Anahata 10 years ago changed my life, there and then. I had been searching for ways to improve my health for a number of years and finally found some real insights and answers to why I was how I was back then. I could relate to the very practical methods taught and connect with the science behind these wonderful practices of yoga. I was told that if I wanted to heal my life, I needed to stay for a while. My intention was to stay 2 weeks and I had no idea what was in store for me over the next decade.
When I arrived at Anahata, the place had only been up and running six years with a couple simple buildings and had only just begun to be 100% focused on yoga and ashram life. It was a transitional time, with only a few residents to hold the energy of the place. Sometimes there were just one or two of us and it was very quiet in winter. Lots of hard work and no day off back then. We had to be on duty seven days a week since there was no one else to do the work. There was little choice, but with that came great freedom. Those days were some of the most transformational, because I forgot about myself; my whole thought process was absorbed in Anahata activities. Having said that, the first six months was very challenging as I resisted the process, holding on to what I identified with. Many times it was too confronting and I wanted to leave, but I was there to heal myself and until that mission was accomplished I knew I needed to stay. Nothing I was doing there was familiar, but I trusted the teachers and the teachings!
It was very satisfying seeing the place slowly taking shape over time with systems being fine-tuned, facilities upgraded, grounds landscaped etc. Even more satisfying was seeing the shifts within me, the dissolving of my own negative habits, patterns, and conditionings and watching this new person growing and evolving. The more I gave to Anahata, the more I started to get back in return, which motivated me to continue this journey. For the first time in my life something made sense.
One of the greatest qualities to come from my time at Anahata is the experience of selflessness, realizing we share a connection to each other and that helping others is one of the best ways to find joy and purpose in life. I used to be very self-oriented - me first, you second. Society conditions us this way. Slowly I began to become more compassionate and patient towards others. I started seeing the joy in others as my joy and the suffering of others as my suffering, which is the meaning of my spiritual name, Atmabhava.
What has inspired me most about this journey is seeing the transformation of those that drift through, even if only for a few days, but enough to see something within awakened. This was always my inspiration to continue this journey as long as I have, what has helped during the more difficult and challenging periods. Yes, it’s not all peace, tranquillity and relaxation, which is what most people think when I say I live in a yoga retreat. There are many challenges residents face on many levels. It might be learning a new skill we don’t want to, or an insecurity, fear or aspect of ego that we have to confront, a person we don’t get on with or even the weather. It’s through these challenges that we transform and grow. That is the beauty of this place and the path of yoga. The tools I have learnt have helped immensely with the process. We all know the things that are most challenging in life are often the most rewarding, yet we all like to stay in our comfortable bubbles as much as we can. We are drawn to what’s familiar and easy. What if our natural attraction was to be fearless, like the little children we once were? Who could we become? What could we achieve?
We have a very limited perception of who we are, what we like, what we don’t like, what we are good at, what we are not good at. This perception comes from our mind, our upbringing, our environment, our society etc, and it’s through spending time at places like Anahata and doing the yoga practices that we begin to challenge these perceptions and to discover more about ourselves that we didn’t know existed. A lot of aspects of our lives are unconscious and habitual. As we begin to see these patterns more clearly, we can work with them to bring more conscious awareness to our actions.
Anahata is a place where we can switch off the world and its distractions and immerse ourselves in a positive energy supportive of transformation. This can be hard to find outside of an ashram - a group of people all living together with the same purpose: to improve their lives and become better human beings. Bombarded by this energy we can then begin to see life with different spectacles and discover more about life, who we are and why we are here. It’s a place to learn these powerful tools of transformation which can then be integrated into our daily life. That is one of the most important things this place has to offer – the tools people take from their experiences here which then begin to influence their lives in a positive way. And by transforming ourselves, step by step we begin to influence those around us to bring positive change without trying to change anyone. I’ve seen this in my own family who don’t practice yoga.
In the last ten years I have had a total re-boot on all levels. I perceive life in a totally different way with different goals and a different outlook. The biggest transformation in me is my understanding of who I am. I connect on a much deeper level with myself and this has become my foundation, giving me an inner confidence and the ability to witness and confront life with a bit more balance. I observe my mind and listen less to it - it still talks to me but doesn’t have the same influence on my experience of life as it did before. The ups and downs of life are there but they don’t have the same importance.
My journey with yoga continues, with every layer peeled off there seems to be another waiting, the next lesson to be learnt. But with each lesson comes greater strength, greater understanding. I used to be obsessed about healing myself. Now I’m more accepting of where I am at, without judgment, and learning to enjoy the ride more. Life is a beautiful gift and the greatest of all teachers.
The most important lesson I have been given through my journey is to be present. There is only this moment and I am very grateful for all that I have learnt through my time at Anahata. The journey of transformation is a lifelong one and it is a blessing for anyone’s life to spend some time in a place like Anahata connecting with the depth we all have within us.
Finnian came to stay with us a for a month of exploring back in November. It was amazing to see the evolution from just another stressed person to seeing the personality of the individual emerging as the tensions began to drop away, and finding out that we had a poet in our midst! A reminder of the transformative effect that Anahata can have for people and why we all continue to support this place to be here for the people who come.
Poem, From Darkness into light
By Finnian O’Connor
I wandered into a dark room
thoughts of fear were dancing in my head.
I was blinded as my heart was dark,
full of speculation and doubt.
Then in the midst of it all I joined in and chanted along with the yogis
became one with,
not only with the sound but the energy within the crowd.
There is a path for everyone here at Anahata
Big and small, Long and short.
When I started to observe the fear and darkness,
I found light in places where I never wandered before.
Tools is what you walk away with and by practicing you can build a beautiful path
where you will never lose yourself again.
Just Listen, observe and Love.