Great practitioners of various yogic disciplines have been born and practiced here.
These words are flowing from my fingertips from an ashram in Tapovan, India which lies in the holy city of Rishikesh. The air swoops over the Ganges River and kisses the foothills of the mighty Himalayas before washing over the ashram.
This is a magical place.
It is a place of yogis, sadhus with dreadlocks to their knees and seekers on a quest for spiritual knowledge. There is an undeniable calm that pulses in this town—very different from the rest of India.
I have committed 45 days to ashram living to deepen my spiritual practice and understanding. I am busy from 5:20 a.m. until lights out, and there is little time to intellectually process the teachings presented to me.
I have had meaningful experiential lessons day after day, simply by watching my habitual reactions to a variety of stimuli. I am here to recognize the patterns of my thoughts, my actions, my judgments and to see where I need to change or stop those habits, so to become a more loving, compassionate and peaceful human being.
Today, with about 30 other practitioners, I visited a secluded beach on the Ganges.
A priest was present and we performed a ceremony to connect to and heal our ancestors. As the priest was offering the beautiful Sanskrit prayer, I held my offering close, thinking of my ancestors on both my father’s and mother’s sides.
“I thank you for giving my life. I acknowledged your pain as humans and I pray for your ability to surrender this pain.”
With tears rolling down my cheeks, I tossed my offering into the Ganges, whilst chanting the mantra of healing. I and a couple of other students followed my teacher to a nearby cave. A man was sweeping the entrance, chanting to Krishna.
We entered the cave to see what appeared to be living quarters on the left, and headed another 10 feet in. The floor was covered for comfortable seating, and there were a variety of candles and sacred art pieces set up at the altar. We sat and we meditated.
I was able to sink in very deeply, and I got the feeling of being in a womb.
I was covered on all sides by Mother Earth. I was there to heal. One by one, the other practitioners got up and left—I stayed.
As the last yogi left the space, I took my forehead to the floor as an expression of devotion. I began to pray. I prayed to my grandmothers and my grandfathers that have left this earth. I prayed that they were at peace. I prayed to see them with light and love and to not allow thoughts of them to bring me sadness or grief. I slowly got up, and with a final bow to the altar, I left the space.
Am I fully healed?
Not quite yet. But having this practice allows me to see the light at the end of the tunnel. With an intention and a ceremony to fulfill that intention, it is amazing what can begin to unfold in our hearts. I continue to learn every minute in my time here in India, and I am full of gratitude to have the time to peel away these deeper layers of myself and have a look.
Take the time to sit. Take time to listen to your body. Notice where the sensations of your emotions and reactions occur in your body. See if you can send your breath to those areas of tightness and begin to soften those knots. Be active in releasing things in your life that do not serve you.
There is so much joy and lightness to be felt on the other side.
Addison Demaree is a yogi, humanitarian and world traveler. She was classically trained in holistic yoga and yoga lifestyle coaching in Rishikesh, India, and leads socially responsible humanitarian trips all over the developing world. To talk yoga, service or travel, contact Addison. For more of her philosophical rants and travel blogs, visit her at WordPress.
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Assistant ed: Catherine Monkman[Photo: Addison Demaree]