I’ve been thinking a lot about the set of circumstances that brought me down this path of living a year of Ayurvedic-Yogic lifestyle in an Ashram.
I’ve mentioned in prior blogs that I felt compelled in a very strong way to propose to KP Khalsa, my Ayurvedic medical guide, this year of living as a guinea pig, documenting the experience and writing about it. I felt and still do feel strongly that this lifestyle will have many health benefits and bring me into better balance.
A common saying in the West, ‘living a straight and narrow path’, usually describes a righteous, efficient and good path. Personally, I’ve found adhering to a narrow and straight path, while achievable, feels limiting. Throughout my life, I’ve wanted to explore the outer edges and beyond.
I used to think of this deviation from the straight and narrow as being my ‘wild side’. I now wonder about that.
My actions throughout much of my life would put me in the non - risk taker category. This doesn’t mean I didn’t take on challenges and shoot for difficult goals. I did, and I succeeded most of the time, with lots of lessons learned along the way.
I developed an understanding of calculated risk, and that became my guide post. I did my share of ‘wild side’ behavior and have done some things I’m not proud of, and that were not my ‘best self’ by a long shot.
Yet, inside me there has been an ever present curiosity about what I don’t know or haven’t experienced. A strong curiosity coupled with a perfectionist personality and cautious nature created ever present feelings of fear. Not that I recognized or thought about any of this much, but fear was there nonetheless.
I’ve also been very lucky numerous times, with divine intervention watching over and protecting me somehow.
Why I bring all this up is to attempt to explain that the biggest change from living an Ayurvedic-Yogic lifestyle that I have seen in me over the past one month has been a spiritual one.
My disenchantment over the years with organized religion relegated any spiritual practice to a low level of priority for me. I grew up Catholic, and the past 15 years, I’ve attended mass on holidays and for special occasions.
Further, our society’s shunning of public spiritual practices and lumping spiritual practitioners into the categories of extremists, bible thumpers or radicals solidified my own separation from such groups and people. I’m about as mainstream America as can be, and being considered an extremist or religious zealot was very unappealing to me.
So, how is it that I’ve come to this place where I now pray to God in song-like chants throughout the day? I find myself unconsciously chanting and pass others softly chanting as we walk to and fro around the Ashram. It is as commonplace and natural as singing any catchy tune that has captured our attention.
Six months ago, this would have been inconceivable to me. I could not have pictured myself participating, let alone enjoying immensely this raised consciousness of God. I have always believed in God, but my quiet inner devotions were not evident. And I’ve always had so many questions that I now realize concerned man organized religion rather than my belief in God.
Yoga is not a religion and yogis respect all religions and all names and incarnations of God.
Yoga is not a straight and narrow path. It is a philosophy and way of life that respects and values discipline, but the path is an expansive way of thinking, not a narrow and closed path. Unity in Diversity is one of the guiding principles.
In this Ashram, God's presence is noticeable in everything. Whether it is the beauty and care given to the environment, the gentleness of the spiritual and yoga leaders here, the sounds of the ocean or the cooking of meals in an Ayurvedic kitchen with a special chant dedicated to the food - there is a spiritual energy here unlike anything I’ve ever experienced.
There are plenty of challenges for me here, and I am not minimizing those. I continue to face the challenges of this lifestyle transition daily. I don't pretend to know and understand the philosophies and teachings of Yoga and Ayurveda fully, but little by little I am learning. I continue to be fascinated by what I am learning and excited about this adventure.
What is so unique is the blanket of support that is felt. Love and spirituality are somehow intertwined in such a way that welcomes everyone and encourages expansive paths of learning about ourselves.
It is a place that radiates love and beauty and peacefulness. What will be fascinating to see is how that translates, for my main question on the this journey, ‘What is Possible?’.
I am grateful to my guide, the highly esteemed KP Khalsa, and I continue to daily take herbs from the high quality, best organic provider of herbs in the U.S., Banyan Botanicals. And last, but certainly not least, I am grateful to be immersed in the beautiful and spiritually rich Ayurvedic life that is lived at the Sivananda Yoga Retreat and Ashram in the Bahamas.
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Sending you Love from the Bahamas