Updated: Oct 13, 2022
“You should always be prepared to meet the love of your life “
Alba Morassutti Vitale
Akin to most people, in the Westphalian world at least, a life devoted to spirituality is not the most sought after. Not because it is not attractive, but rather, who has time to consider God? Between the great illusion of modernity and the vile trappings of consumerism, there exists a narrow space for devoutness – and this time is usually spent browsing through social media! But where else do you go when your life is falling apart?
Fuelled by a trauma I was suffering, in 2018 I made a difficult, but necessary decision. Ultimately it terminated all bonds to my family of origin. Although estranged from my family for two decades, coming this heart-breaking conclusion snared me in a deep hopelessness that no one could touch. In the depths of this mire of depression, I applied to do the yoga teacher training with the Heartfulness team in Chennai. So here I was – the walking cliché! A white western woman having an identity crisis, absconding to a foreign land in search of an authentic, metaphysical, and profound sense of existence.
On the eve of my departure, a friend turned to me and said ‘Rachel – I really think you’re going to meet someone really amazing in India – I can feel it.’ I laughed – loudly. ‘Oh yes…I’m sure a Hindi Tinder account is just what I need right now!’ She nevertheless smiled and said, ‘you really should pay attention and prepare yourself for a surprise’. Surprises for me usually involve a bill I forgot to pay, a dodgy ex-boyfriend emerging from the shadows, or the stray cat I occasionally feed giving birth in the cupboard where I keep my clean sheets. Surprises are not universally accepted as a ‘good thing’, nevertheless, I was not deterred by the threat of surprises or the fact that my life was falling apart.
Upon arriving to the ashram, I soon discovered just how far outside any decipherable zone of comfort I really was! My own body odour offending me after almost thirty hours of travelling, I decided to take my first shower in India. However, the shower head and I had conflicting ideas about what constituted function! It spat out aggressive beads of water in all directions and with my dwarf-like proportions I could not hop from one jet stream to the other. Defeated – by India, on day one, I screamed at the shower. “How can I find myself if I can’t wash myself.” Then I looked down. I saw it. The green bucket. And slowly I realised why it was perched so menacingly under the shower.
Once I conquered the affliction of bucket showers, bucket toilet flushing and bucket clothes washing, I was free to immerse myself in all that this month-long yoga course had to offer. Usually an effervescent person, I was very anxious to see how I would persist in my current mood. However, encouraged by my friend’s suggestion to pay attention, I made every effort to converse with all the new and wonderful people who were at the Ashram. Listening carefully to what they were sharing, I paid closer attention to what they were not saying. Like the woman who told me her son had died; there in a silence so sacred we wept together, my arms not big enough to wrap around her pain. Or the 89-year-old Indian doctor who was worried his bachelor grandson would never find a wife: “Are you married sister?” He asked in earnest and in hope. “No brother, I’m not – but you are!” His friend dropped his chai from laughing and a beautiful friendship was born from the ashes of his enquiry. I have hundreds, perhaps thousands of these stories, and they remind me that where there is love – there is hope.
In truth that is what was being dripped into me daily – hope. Each time I sat with someone new and they shared of their life, I was distracted from the trappings of the corrupted narrative in my own mind. An intensely reticent person about my family situation, it was hard for me to reciprocate such sincerity. It would be a blatant lie to say the month-long training program was easy – it was not. I struggled with the heat, the lack of personal space, the daily war with my green bucket. I toiled physically with the yoga, with the super early mornings and the mosquitoes. I grappled with facing myself – with acknowledging the extent to which I was damaged by the trauma I was enduring – and it hurt, a lot! It hurt because I was trying to ignore it.
As the month pushed forward, my desire for connection swelled. Then on the last day – the day of graduation, I met the amazing person my friend prophesied. I fell in love with her spirit, her resilience, her strength, and courage. I fell in love with her curious mind and how she used her humour to touch the hearts of those around her. Rarely do we get to see the essence of our true nature reflected in the eyes of another and this beautiful gift was given to me as I got up to receive my certificate. I looked around the room and felt so overwhelming grateful that my ‘Brothers and Sisters’ had loved me back to life and in turn given me the courage to love myself without conditions.
I will never fully capture all of what I experienced during this yoga course. My journey from student to teacher is a new path of unfolding and of discovery. The trauma in my life is still here, and it will be much time before the full extent of its revelations will cease. But grief, sorrow and anguish are the most vociferous teachers in the human experience, and their imperative task is to rouse me to the love that is always – always present.