I grew up in a religiously, culturally and gastronomically Jewish home in Willingboro, NJ which is a suburb of Philadelphia. Our family went to synagogue weekly, practiced holiday rituals, lit the candles on Friday night, but kept kosher only when my paternal grandmother lived with us. I attended Hebrew school until I was 16. […]
I am nestled in my bed as I am writing these words. Thousands of miles and seemingly worlds away from the peace-drenched place in which I spent the past five days. Sivananda Yoga Ashram in the Bahamas drew me there by divine invitation when my friend Joan Borysenko sent an email announcing her workshop called Writing Down the Light. The absolute affirmation jolted me into action as I registered and arranged for transportation that day. I am not usually as decisive, as this Libra normally weighs and measures each decision carefully. This was a no-brainer. As a writing workshop, it would open the door to new possibilities to another way of looking at my life and re-scripting it. Up for that, since even though my daily existence is pretty amazing, I welcome all kinds of new delights. The setting was gorgeous, even in the rain (two days of it made the grounds even more lush and green) and the canopy of trees offered a pitter patter sound as the drops fell on them.
Arrival day had us crossing the expanse of water from the mainland to the island in a torrential downpour and the captain of the little putt-putt boat had taken the spiritual name Ganesha who is part of the Hindu pantheon. The elephant headed emanation of God is known as the remover of obstacles. Sputtering the water out of his mouth and wiping it from his eyes, he was able to safely maneuver the expanse from one place to the next. When we arrived on the other side, wringing wet and laughing hysterically, I realized that it is how I get through mostly everything in my life. Complaining is not in my nature. Finding a way to resiliently get through challenges is, or at least, has become a learned attitude. It wouldn’t make the rain stop and actually make me feel wetter than I was. Besides, it was a ‘first world problem,’ since here I was on retreat in the Bahamas. How could that in any way be a bad thing? It continued for another full day, as some of the grief and anger, frustration and desire for some aspects of my life to be different, were washed away with the rain, winds and my own tears. I stood on the beach in the howling wind on the second day, watching the waves crash on the sand and did a ritual in which I offered my overwhelming emotions to the sea and asked that they be carried away and transmuted to beauty. Later that night, while sitting in Satsang and immersing myself in chanting the words and sounds that are the ‘liturgy’ of worship there. I felt a dramatic shift and a sense of relief wash over me, like the now calmer waves on the shore.
The next morning brought the sun peeking through the passing clouds. As I was lying on the outside deck on my mat in yoga class, I had a revelation that each relationship in my life and every experience I have are no less beautiful as they morph into various forms. None looks the same from moment to moment. As much as I want consistency in all areas, I know that change is inevitable and desirable.
In the writing class portion of the retreat, I was pulled into the heights and depths of emotion and was willing to courageously explore what had lay dormant previously. Old fears, wounds and loss arose for healing. Past glories melded into present day joys. All that I had seed planted for, worked for, believed in, desired, was coming to be. I could feel butterflies dancing in my stomach, as they are doing now. Flapping their metaphorical wings, creating that ‘butterfly effect’ in which an action in one part of the world impacts something elsewhere, a gazillion miles away. Who knows what love mischief was stirred up by my actions.
One of many things I loved about this experience was being surrounded by people from all over the world, who spoke different languages and who had various spiritual beliefs…and we all got along. Images of Hindu deities, the gurus who created and sustained the ashram, along with a statue of Mother Mary and prayers from all traditions in the prayer book enriched my time there.
At several points, I gazed at the beatific image of Sivananda and felt a kinship to this man who had passed into Eternity many decades ago. He had a quizzical look on his face, as if he was asking me to go deeper and touch the Divine in ways I had been fearful of doing previously. A familiarity, a welcoming. I am willing. I am ready. I am able.
Crossing the water again was a peaceful experience as the waves and my emotions were calmer, the sun was shining and I was beaming from the inside out.
When I left yesterday, I carried in my heart, the people who touched my life there. I listened to the chants on youtube last night and this morning, as a way of grounding my time there and embodying it daily, even though I am back in chilly Philly.
Om Shanti, Shanti, Shanti….Peace, Peace, Peace~