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After another “failed” attempt at a long-term relationship, I lay desperately on my couch crying.
Why is this happening?
Have I made the right choices in life?
When are things going to start working out?
One would have thought that walking a different path of life would have brought me more liberation, but all I was feeling was more pain and suffering than ever before. I was looking around at my friends and family who all seemed so happy with their growing families and careers, and here was me: a 32-year-old, heartbroken, struggling entrepreneur, trying to sell joy with not a smile left in the tank.
I needed to switch off.
I needed a break.
So, I turned on the TV and put on the heartbreak movie classic, “Eat.Pray.Love.” And the next thing you know, I was on a plane to India. I wanted to find myself—to find peace, to find happiness, to find my path.
I started off my journey at the Art of Living with the guru Sri Sri Navishka. Maybe he had the answers of a joyful, peaceful life?
All the devotees were so happy, praising him, bowing down at his feet. His presence was so beautiful. He would walk into the room, and you could feel the energy of pure light. I had the opportunity to sit with him one-on-one, and so I asked him for some guidance.
“The more that I seem to learn, the more confused I seem to become. How do I know if I’m walking the right path or just going around in circles?”
He gave me a big smile and said, “Why are you thinking so much? Relax. Meditate. It will all become clear.”
Is that all the advice he had for me? Meditate?
I was frustrated as I muttered under my breath, “All I’ve been doing for three years is meditating, and I feel more lost than ever before.”
Surely that wasn’t the answer?!
I reached out to friends for guidance, and they told me “Visit Amma.” Without looking into any details, I jumped on the next plane and headed to Velore.
In truth, I thought I was visiting Amma “The Hugging Saint.” I had heard about these transformational hugs and wanted a hug to be the cure to my pain and misery, but as it turns out, there are more gurus called Amma than there are taxi drivers in India.
So, this Amma, Sri Sakthi Narayani Amma, was actually the embodiment of the divine feminine. He was an enlightened man believed to be the first known incarnation of the Goddess Narayani—the highest form of feminine energy. I was excited to feel all the things my friends had spoken about and was open for all the healing.
My heart needed it. Badly.
I looked at the devotees who were in awe of his/her presence. I asked one of the devotees about her experience and she shared how Amma had changed her life. She had cured her long-term aches and pains and brought her true happiness. I wanted that level of devotion, that level of faith, that feeling of love. So, in my true spirit, I gave it a go.
I attended puja after puja, chanting mantras, watching the mudras get cleaned and dressed from 4 a.m. to midnight; apparently, watching the statues get cleaned was cleaning my soul. I prayed and chanted, prayed and chanted. Yet still, I felt miserable.
At the conclusion of the evening ceremony, I asked Amma for some guidance: “Please help me cure my bloated Indian belly.”
She gave me a magic potion in a small green bottle. I drank it, hoping it would heal me. Unfortunately, it didn’t.
This didn’t feel like my path to liberation. This didn’t feel right at all. So, the next morning I woke up with my big Indian belly, packed my bags, and decided this guru wasn’t for me.
The search continued.
After all the stresses of traveling India, and eating Indian food, not only was my head spinning, but my belly was also aching. So, I checked into an Ayurvedic Centre to do the biggest detox of all—Panchakarma, the great reset for the mind, body, and spirit. The doctor saw me on arrival, took my pulse, and within an instant she knew my entire life.
How is that even possible?
I was intrigued.
She sent me to the local Indian hospital to do some tests. I sat in the waiting room with 100 Indians, confused at how the system worked. People were yelling, jumping from room to room, the smell of sweat and humidity permeated the unventilated waiting room. It was chaos.
I sat waiting impatiently, watching agitatedly, trying to get used to the Indian way. “Be patient. You are on Indian time,” I thought to myself. After 15 minutes, I began repeating mantras in my head like “Everything is unfolding. Trust. Faith. Trust. Faith…” I kept waiting for them to call my name for what felt like a lifetime. They didn’t.
I got up and walked into a room holding my piece of paper, and asked with an awkward Hindu accent “Me, next?” She waved her head from side to side and gave me a smile. I assumed that meant it was my turn, so, I went inside.
There were 10 women sitting on green plastic chairs watching as an elderly woman lay naked on the light blue bed. When it was my turn, the nurse pointed to a curtain for me to undress behind and before I knew it, I was lying naked on a bed with needles in my arms and gel all over my body. Unfortunately, my mantras didn’t help keep my mind at ease. I was freaking out, feeling more confused, lost, and alone than ever before.
“Your mind is very busy,” the doctor shared with me. “You need to relax.” I wasn’t quite sure how to respond. I was still in shock.
For the following eight days, I had injections of oils and herbs in every orifice in my body. This definitely wasn’t the colorful, delicious India I had envisioned, but apparently, I was on the road to healing.
After my physical body somewhat recovered, I decided it was time to set my mind straight, so I signed up for a Vipassana meditation retreat, or 10 days of silence at the famous Gaya region, the home where the Buddha became enlightened. Freedom and happiness were bound to ensue.
I arrived at the center in 35-degree heat and 100 percent humidity with sweat rolling down my face. I took my jumper off as I filled out my registration form and quickly got scowled at as a woman threw her shawl over my naked arms. She pointed to a sign of a woman wearing long sleeved tops and pants. I was already breaking the rules on day one. This is going to be a very sweaty 10 days, I thought to myself.
I went to my room to put my bag down and take a “shower,” meaning cold water and a bucket. I sat on the rock-hard bed and stared out the window that overlooked the confined residential quarter. I’d come a long way from my parent’s home in Toorak.
I wrapped my arms around myself and took 10 deep breaths—10 days, 10 breaths. The words of my good friend, Leah Simmons, replayed in my mind, “I can do this. I am doing this.”
The next 10 days were possibly the hardest of my life. Sitting in a hall for 10 hours a day, watching my mind as my body ached and sweat trickled down the sides of my nose in the intense humidity.
For the first three days, I tried to observe the sensations of perspiration, but all I could think about was leaving the centre and what else I could be doing with my precious time in India. I was sitting in a hot, smelly hall with 80 women with whom I couldn’t look at, talk to, or engage with. Hours of sitting, no moving, no talking, just watching my thoughts.
All. Day. Long.
They confiscated my yoga mat, my books, and all forms of technology, including my laptop and phone, so there was nothing to distract me from my thoughts. It was time to take a deep look inside.
After six days of the same stories on repeat, eventually, I had enough. How many times could I think the same thoughts? The more that I watched my thoughts, the more frustrated I became.
Why couldn’t I stop my mind?
Why couldn’t I just be present with my breath?
I was going mad about not being able to “do it right.” And then I decided that I was done with doing nothing. I was done with the game of being and observing everything.
What was I trying to prove?
What was I searching for?
The moment I allowed myself to stop trying to be something or do something “right,” I began to laugh. Hysterically. It was like I had been watching a horror movie, so afraid of what the villain would do, and then someone came and switched the channel to a comedy show. I began to see the hilarity of me trying so hard to figure everything out—every story, every thought, every action that had ever happened to me. And in that moment, I chose to stop, breathe, and see life as a big cosmic joke.
And so, it was.
In the hilarious nothingness, my body began to dissolve and I felt like I was floating above the clouds. A smile sprinkled across my face. Was this the feeling I was seeking? Had I finally found inner peace?
It was absolute bliss…for one minute.
Then, the voices were back. But this time, I just giggled. Perhaps it was a futile mission trying to calm my wild mind—a mind that loves to solve, to create, to imagine. And instead of hating it for doing what it does, I wanted to love it instead.
And so, I chose that. I chose to love it for exactly what it was, an amazing computer that analyses everything and rarely shuts down.
I began to reflect on my life and how grateful I was for everything. For the place that I grew up, for my amazing friends, for my supportive family, for every experience I had ever had. Yes, I had made some mistakes, and could have done some things better in hindsight, but I was a good person with a big heart, and I was ready to come home and accept myself for who I truly am.
Nothing more to seek. Nothing more to do. It was time to come home to live and enjoy my one precious life.
So, although I may not have gotten the joyful, adventurous trip I wanted, I definitely got the trip that I needed. It’s been a full circle of coming back to myself, of remembering how much I love my home and my community.
Being back in Melbourne the past two weeks, my nervous system has finally relaxed. I have landed and I feel so grateful to call this place home. I feel grateful for the opportunity to continue again.
And so, it is with this idea that I declare myself unenlightened, yet full of wisdom and lessons to last a lifetime.