|Entrance to the Ashram|
Some of you may know that this past weekend I stayed at the Yoga Shakti ashram in Palm Bay, Florida for about three days. My experience can be described as spiritual, eye-opening and unforgettable. Although even those words will not do it justice. Sometimes it's hard to put a spiritual type of experience into words because you are dealing with feelings, energy and higher levels of living. What I can say though that as soon as I left to come back home my energy levels immediately dropped very low and I honestly didn't realize how high my energy level was while there.
I arrived on Friday afternoon and was greeted by the lovely family that runs the ashram. The ashram is seated in the middle of a forest on about 20 acres of land. There were different cottage-like houses on the property along with the screened pavilion where yoga was done any many of us slept. It was not glamorous living by any stretch of the imagination and even though I love that, it's not for everybody. I slept on my yoga mat on the floor of the pavilion with a lite blanket. Showers in the morning had to be quick as we were all sharing and we only had about 45 minutes to get ready in the morning. No shaving my legs or styling my hair and of course no makeup! :) The days were hot and the only place that had A/C was the temple which thankfully we were in much of the time. Surprisingly the nights cooled up quite a bit and I was grateful for that since I was sleeping in the screened pavilion.
|Statue of Ganesha in the Pavilion|
Each morning we were woken up at 5:00am for morning meditation and prayer. The first morning we were awoken by someone playing a flute and the second morning the guru walked around the ashram reciting a chant that we had all learned the previous night. If any of you know the morning and evening Hindu prayers, they are very long and they're in Sanskrit so it was hard to follow along in the beginning. After that we had an hour yoga class taught by the guru. Throughout the day the guru taught us some of the Upanishads which are a collection of Vedic texts. Basically Hindu philosophy.
The philosophy behind what Hindus believe and practice rings the most true for me. Even though I do consider myself to be Pagan, Hindu philosophy is the most correct in my opinion. They believe that God (or Goddess for some of us) lives inside you and we all have the ability to connect with our higher selves through meditation and basic self awareness. To
understand and fully accept who you really are and to love yourself. I have always been of this mindset but didn't truly understand it until now. Many of us (myself included) search for external sources to satisfy us like material things or new careers or even love. What we need to understand is that what will fulfill us the most is looking on the inside to satisfy our needs. If you feel full and happy on the inside you will no longer need to keep searching for all the many external factors to satisfy yourself.
|Statue of Krishna and Radha in the Temple|
After lunch sometimes we had free time for a bit so I either walked the property or wrote in my journal. In the evening we had another session of the Upanishads and we learned some chanting as well as other meditation type exercises. We were sent to bed at 9:30 and lights were out. On my second night there after our nightly lecture from the guru, we were all given an exercise in silence and from 9:30 that night until we arrived for morning meditation the next day we were not supposed to talk at all. Even though I'm naturally a quite person, this was a little harder than I expected!
|Statue of the Goddess Durga in the Temple|
I had never encountered a guru in my life so this was quite a different experience for me. They are strict so as to teach you discipline but you have to understand that it's nothing personal. I had a hard time with this at first but I understood why and now I totally respect it. They are there to teach you and they are highly respected, revered and even worshiped people. Guru's are filled with knowledge and experience and they can literally see right thru you with no problem. They can be seen as being psychic even but I think it's just an extreme awareness to be able to see people for who they really are, and they will not hesitate to call you out on it.
I enjoyed my time at the ashram immensely and I can honestly say that this experience has changed my life in ways I still don't understand. All I know for sure is that this is something I will be experiencing more as it's left it's mark on my soul.