The past month has been a whirlwind of sound, color, emotion, missed flights, new friendships, spiritual inquiry, an impromptu trip to a foreign capital on the U.S. Department of State travel warning list, a warm welcome back to my beloved India and a heartfelt sense of belonging in Nepal.
When I set out to return to the International Yoga Festival in Rishikesh, where everything seemed to culminate internally last year, I knew to rid myself of expectations. At IYF 2016, I experienced a deep shift regarding the way I saw myself and my place in the world, and I just wanted to share all of what I was “discovering.” I would go to Mooji satsung and return to write endlessly about philosophical topics and self-inquiry, feeling like an explosion of stored up energy was flowing out into writing.
This year, the experience was quieter, not less profound, but more peaceful in a sense. Not better or worse. I was able to look back on the past year and laugh about times when I had felt a bit off, able to observe my lack of presence and internal conflict over how I “should” be – finding it interesting that it sometimes slipped my mind to just be and use the techniques I learned to find stillness in the moment.
An incredible talk by Dr. Bruce Lipton and Sadhvi Bhagawati Saraswati spoke to this need to program our subconscious behaviors with our conscious desires and attitudes. We can “learn” everything, understand what’s truly important to us and set out to live a life of compassion and gratitude but it won’t be worth anything if we let ourselves slip back into old subconscious programming (where 95% of our lives takes place.) Acting out of self-sabotaging subconscious behaviors is what sparks us to lash out and later feel shame when consciously thinking, “who was that person?” To rewrite the “programming” we can spend more time meditating, practicing mindfulness (whether that’s truly listening to others, slowly enjoying food, spending time doing things that bring us into the moment – surfing, skiing, trekking, yoga-ing etc.), and offering service or seva, by selflessly helping others and volunteering our time.
Overall, I felt much more confident in myself and my independence returning to India, where “welcome home” wasn’t just a cute thing said to tourists but something I felt as truth. Much of what I had come to know last year via solo travel, attending Mooji and experiencing Eastern culture, has been reiterated and built upon. In satsung for example, a girl in her mid-twenties asked about her problems with relationships, as they always seemed to conflict with her sense of freedom. Mooji’s response indicated that it wasn’t the relationship getting in the way of her freedom, but her idea of what her life should be, or how another person should be, getting in the way of her happiness. Plus, how can one expect a fruitful relationship, whether it be familial, friendly or romantic, when asking another person to give up their freedom in order to fit the mold of what the other wants them to be?
I took away a sense of remembering that the best thing I can do in this world, and the most effective way to contribute to positive change, is to work on myself and let my light shine so that it hopefully inspires others to seek it within themselves. It’s also much clearer to me that I have so so much to learn – and I look forward to continuing this path of searching and connecting through self-inquiry, yoga, meditation, volunteering etc. 🙂
Which brings me to beautiful Nepal. I had Skyped with Nicole, who had taken over things at Happy Kids Center in Bhaktapur, while in Indonesia in January of 2016. After over a year of wandering, I’ve finally made it to the incredible center for underserved children, where kids of the divided social classes can come together and experience what it’s like to be kids for just a few hours a day.
After a couple days in Kathmandu, Bhaktapur’s charm and peacefulness seeped into my being. Everyone from the owner of my quaint guest house to the street vendors and lovely Nepalese woman who works at the center welcomed me with open arms.
I was told multiple times on my first day that I seemed extremely high – which was the truth. I’m still vibrating with a sense of lightness and unshakable positivity resultant from the joy emanating from so many young children, hugging me and yelling “NEW GAME!” We played relay races I made up on the fly, did a quick yoga session, played the “I’m going on a picnic…” game, Z-Up, Coke and Pepsi (a barmitzah favorite), duck duck goose, “copy” game, the Sorry board game (which the kids had just received and were beaming about), and lots of others. The indoor space is lovely, although a bit small to play some games recommended to me by friends such as man hunt and capture the flag, but the kids maintain such an enthusiasm for playing in whatever the circumstances they have. The past volunteers, Nicole, and the founders at the center have done such a remarkable job and have a clear dedication and love for the place that I already see myself forming. I’m looking forward to helping out in any way I can and facilitating others to do the same.
In the background of all of this, I’ve been able to keep my “day job” (which is actually a night job with the time change!) and work a solid 25+ hours a week as an online journalist. Every day I take time to appreciate this opportunity and thank whatever and whoever it was that guided me to trust that the “normal” path, a well-paying job at a well-respected firm in Manhattan (60+ hours/wk), wasn’t my only option and surely wasn’t right for me. I am thinking regularly of my supportive family and network of friends.
As life moves, I’m also building faith in a greater sense of universal guidance, intuition, and need to “follow the heart.” It seems I’ve been deliberately pointed to see that when we do, everything falls into place just the way it should.