Diary of a New Yogini
From Frustration To Blissfulness: My Journey Continues.
–Ma Kripa Anand
Here I am, at the beginning of my spiritual path of traditional yoga at Paramanand Institute of Yoga Science, an authentic ashram in India. Upon arrival, my first thoughts consisted of: “Oh my God, am I really doing this? Will I be able to practice yoga at this intensity? Can my body handle this? I’m not flexible. I am overweight. Do I have the discipline? Will I be able to push through?” My head ran completely wild.
Then, as if to make matters worse, the other classmates started arriving. As we made our introductions, I learned that they all have more experience than me. My mental alarm started ringing and again the doubts began to rise: “Maybe this is not a good idea. Maybe this is not for me. I cannot do this.”
The first class we attended was on the topic of ‘mind’; how it affects us and how it regulates our lives. I learned that our mind, or as I refer to it, our ‘head’ is always full of thoughts; some are constructive but the truth is that most of them are trash and they are lopping in a vicious cycle.
I feel an epiphany while our Guru explains this to the class. This wasn’t the first time I had heard this concept. In fact, I am a therapist working day in and day out helping my clients break free from this cycle. Yet here I am, stuck in the middle of my own vicious cycle.
On top of that, we are referring to our teacher as a Guru. I felt an immediate resistance to this word. Being raised in Belgium, a Western country, we have an entirely different perspective on life and its reality. My mind was telling me, “Guru? This can’t be real”. Hearing the word ‘guru’ made me think of voodoo, magicians, tarot cards, fortune-tellers and every thing else that isn’t grounded in reality. Yet, I slowly started learning quite the opposite: A Guru is someone who guides us to find our reality.
Along with all the doubts I was experiencing, my first week was an emotional roller-coaster. One minute I was experiencing extreme happiness and gratitude and the next minute I was crying like I had no more tears or breath to spare. What was happening to me? This question rapidly ran through my mind. I wanted to go to India to have the full growth, the whole experience, the personal development. I can hear myself saying this to my friends and colleagues and now I’m here living it; feeling it with every breath I take. Now that I’m here, this process is much harder than I had ever imagined.
The meditations are the hardest part for me; physically and mentally. Not only trying to ignore my mind but also sitting in Sukhasana (easy pose) killed my body. Every one was telling me how beautiful the peace and inner experiences are while mediating and all I thought was, “Are you nuts?” I started to think I had joined a cult! I felt a strong resistance growing. It made me nervous, stressed and frustrated. This vicious cycle continued for about a week. We had learned about the five prequalifications of yoga: anushasan (discipline), abhyas (practice), shraddha (trust), samarpan (surrender) and vairagya (detachment, or being present in the moment). Where was my trust? Where was my surrender? Where was my commitment to myself and my practice? Where was the enthusiasm for yoga that I began this journey with? I was rebelling against this process, but ultimately I was fighting myself.
One day I started crying during mediation because I was just not able to reach a meditative state and truly believed I never would. That day, our Guruji, Dr. Omanand, asked me to join him at a health conference in the state of Gujurat, India. My mind was already resistant. I told myself, “No, I don’t have time. I’m overwhelmed with the material I have to study. I need to continue practicing (the course was already half-way over and I still couldn’t sit in sukhasana). Why would I want to waste my time? How will this benefit me?” I was already incredibly anxious and stressed. I had been crying the whole day and when Guruji asked me this question, I began crying some more. Thanks to the warm advice of a fellow yogi, I decided not to listen to my mind and say yes to the experience. It was the best choice I could have made for myself. I got out of my mind and entered the present moment, seeing this as a wonderful opportunity.
When I got in the car I could feel a calmness coming over me. As we drove, I watched the beautiful scenes India had to offer. I felt grateful that I chose to say “yes” to this opportunity. Our road trip was so warm and cozy. We stopped for chai, ate prashad (sweets) and had a whole picnic in the car. I saw a family-side to Guruji and his wife Sunita. Guruji’s old student named Mangala (the one who helped me decide to take this opportunity) joined us as well. I felt so blessed to be in this company and share this moment.
It was a long trip of 9 hours. When we arrived we were well-received. I could see how so many people respect and adore Guruji. We were offered a nice hotel and slept comfortably.
In the morning we went to the conference. Guruji was giving his blessings to the people who attended. They were all so kind and full of enthusiasm as they welcomed him. I sat amidst the locals and tried to follow the yoga workshop which was a little difficult because it was given in Hindi. Nonetheless, I could feel the energy in this place.
My easy pose was becoming easier. My ability to concentrate improved. These simple improvements made me feel great. I finally started having faith that I have it in me to do this. I just needed to give myself time.
After the conference, we visited the Ashram of Gandhi. I had a big smile on my face and a positive attitude from the experience of the morning. I enjoyed the day with all my heart.
In the afternoon, Guruji spoke at a conference for hundreds of children. It was amazing to see how he got their attention and how they also admired him. Children are our future so it was wonderful to see them learning about the importance of yoga and the balance it can bring to your life. He was inspiring them to take the path of yoga.
Suddenly, we were invited to join Guruji on the stage, and we too were given a warm welcome, a lot of clapping and pictures were taken with us. The people were all so kind to us, sometimes too kind. I was overwhelmed with gratitude. So many people wanted to take pictures with us as if we were celebrities. I cannot describe how this made me feel except that I just felt blessed to be a part of this day.
The tears came again. Yet this time, they came out of happiness. Being able to witness how yoga and Gurujis teaching impact the lives of hundreds of people helped me find my trust. I had surrendered a bit more.
I learned to believe in myself and my path; to not give up when it’s hard. If you are willing to look through the darkness you will see the light. I had the expectation that I would be at the destination from the start but the journey, the process, is the path I need to walk.
When the student is ready, the teacher appears. Well, I’m ready! I’m going for this because I want to experience bliss.
I’m not yet where I want to be but I’m thankful for where I am today. I don’t have bliss yet but I am certainly blessed…
Special thanks to Guruji, Sunita, Ma Malaga Anand and Ma Shakti Anand, for helping and inspiring me during this process.
love and Namaste
Chris Vleeschouwers, Ma Kripa Anand