If I had to describe my time at Yasodhara ashram in 5 words or phrases, I’d choose:
- finding my power
- opened up my heart and letting it sing
But my 7 day trip definitely didn’t start out this way.
I spent Thursday evening in Cranbrook at a lovely Bed & Breakfast, then did my fair share of sightseeing, laying on the beach, and driving around before I headed to the ashram late Friday afternoon.
I was feeling confident, excited, and ready to rock my retreat… until I pulled into the parking lot.
I was met with a flood of emotions and fears
- guilt – will Kevin be okay at home without me?
- fear of rejection – will I get along with everyone?
- scared – what if I connect with myself and I don’t like what I see?
- doubtful – what if I hate it here?
I managed to pace back and forth between my car and the main office for over 30 minutes, misplace my credit card, drop the entire contents of my change purse across the front atrium, and have a complete melt down on the side of the road.
I was scared, alone, and totally confused. I asked myself…
“Why am I feeling all of these things?”
I didn’t get a response. In fact, I got nothing. I was a ball of unstable emotions. It was so unnerving!
Once I was settled in my room, I grabbed my camera and went on a little adventure to calm myself.
We started the retreat with a 1 hour meet and greet session where we were asked to explore what it meant to us to be a woman. The first thoughts that came to my mind were guilt, challenge, balancing, over exertion, light, and ability to create.
Honestly, I’d never thought about this before… and that surprised me.
We finished the day off with a great dinner of greens, salmon cakes [very similar to these ones] and an evening satsang.
Satsang is a time that the community sets aside each evening where they chant in the Temple, pray for those who have asked to be on their prayer list, and reflect on the day. Besides karma yoga, this was my very favorite activity!
Satsangs were held here, in the Temple of Divine Light.
Friday and Saturday came and went and I just wasn’t feeling connected. I didn’t know if it was my mind, my heart, or my soul, but something was resisting everything about the experience.
I remember thinking…
“If this is part of the process than so be it, but I feel like it’s larger than that for me. Maybe doing this now is a bad time? Maybe I’m more fragile than I thought? I’m unsure of what my next steps should be.”
But nothing came to me.
In an effort to try to connect somehow, I decided to go back to my meditative roots in hopes of weeding out the white noise that filled my head.
I spent Sunday morning in the Beach Prayer room, a couple minutes walk from our dorm. It quickly became my favorite place out of all of the buildings on site.
I couldn’t get into my meditation, I was easily distracted and highly irritated. I felt like my entire body was vibrating and I just couldn’t get it to slow down.
After an hour in the room, I headed for my first Karma Yoga session.
Karma Yoga – selfless service in action – is the foundation of life at Yasodhara. It is said that practicing Karma Yoga brings light and joy to everyday tasks. And that we can easily work from devotion while uncovering a deep sense of freedom and contentment.
I wasn’t sure how weeding a garden was going to enlighten me, but I was pretty desperate at this point.
I found a patch of weeds and got to work. 5 minutes in I was thinking…
“I’m going to be the best weeder. All the people at the ashram are going to announce that I was the best, that I found the most weeds and removed them with the most efficiency.”
“Wait, what’s that about?”
This lead me to ask myself, “why do I feel the need to compete with others?”
The answer quickly came… “because I feel the need to prove myself to others so that they’ll like me”
Then I asked “why?” [logical question, right?]
And was met with “because I fear rejection“
That marked the end of karma yoga for the day and I sat with my findings for 24 hours before we were assigned to our next task… weeding for a second day.
I stopped myself from being competitive this go around and instead, tried to figure out why I had a fear of rejection.
I got to work quickly and with each weed I pulled I asked my heart a question.
“Was it the time my Mom went to my sister’s gymnastic class over my dance recitle?” and I stared at the weed. Nope, that didn’t resonate.
“Was it the time that my best friend didn’t invite me for a sleepover but all of our other friends went?” Nope.
Then there was this big weed. This big one that I could tell had long roots and would be a pain to get out. So I grabbed my butter knife, got down on the ground and went to work. I poked, I prodded, I manuvered, then the weed came out in my hand, root and all. At that very moment my heart said…
“It wasn’t another person who did this to you, or who made you this way. The day you started to reject yourself and fill your heart with hatred, loathing and resistance for the woman you were becoming was the day it all began“
I stared at that weed in my hand for a long while. It’s roots were thick and hearty. I knew I had hit the spot.
The karma yoga experience was the turning point for me during my time at the ashram. Sadly it was on my last day that all the pieces started to come together. I sat in silence for 4 hours and wrote pages upon pages in my journal about what pulling out that big weed had meant to me.
Here are some excerpts from my journal, a constant reminder of just how important accepting and loving ourselves is to our overall happiness.
- In order for me to move forward , I need to accept myself, forgive myself for years of hatred and resistance, and feel one with myself and what I’ve been put on this earth to do.
- I have to acknowledge the positive qualities within myself.
- I will search for happiness from within, allowing my strengths to shine.
- I will drop my constant worry of rejection from others because in reality, that fear has been created by me. I will accept myself and the entire universe will too.
At the end of our retreat we were asked to write down what being a women means to us. I chose strength, power, connected, and nurture.
I left a completely different woman.
And with that, I leave you with some of the dialogue that I had with my heart. I encourage you to open up that space, ask the tough questions, and see what you get back. It’s truly a life changing experience!
We decide the person we want to be. By exposing ourselves to the divine [whatever that may be for you] we can choose what we accept into our consciousness and ensure that it’s positive. What kind of person do I want to be?
To give yourself and the best you have, you give with your heart.
Speak from your heat, act from your heart and sing from your heart to grow love for yourself and those around you.
I have all the answers inside of me. I just have to ask the questions and sit with them. Be silent, and love.
I must love, live, and sing with my soul. Because I am the apitamy of beauty.
Have a fantastic Thursday