Friends, it has been almost 2 months since I last wrote anything. Life has been full to say the least. I took the USMLE Step 1 exam. I packed up everything from my life in my parents home for the last 7 months and went back to Toronto for 2 weeks. Those 2 weeks were spent with my husband, packing and cleaning and basically trying to move in again to our “new home” that I have barely lived in. Then we got on a plane and flew to India, and that is where I am now.
My time here in India has been such a blur so far. I had expected that I would use my time here to focus on writing in my blog (that has been neglected for so long), take some beautiful photographs of the warm sticky glow of life here, and begin my second 40 day mandalam of Shambhavi Mahamudra Kriya. India felt like the perfect backdrop for these things, and yet I have only done one of these things (my meditation practice). Days are full here too, as a mother. Reya is a full time 24/7 job, even with so many loving arms here to hold her. I rarely get the opportunity to open up my laptop and settle into the untold stories I have inside me. Every time I do, a little pair of hands desperately finds their way onto my keyboard and writes “skdhfkshdfs;” for me. So maybe that is the story I have to tell for now.
For the longest time I have had the strangest sense of writers block, where I have something to say but I don’t know what it is – like a lump in my throat. On a few occasions, after putting my girl down for her nap, I excitedly open up my laptop feeling the rumble of ideas and stories ready to come. There is so much I want to write about, and yet in that 30 minutes of uninterrupted time, nothing comes. I am overwhelmed by all that could be, that I am unable to bring even just one thing to life. After a half hour of aimless pondering and writing and backspacing paragraphs at a time, I am left where I started, a blank page, and a couple minutes later – a stirring baby, who awakens from her nap, sits up, and smiles at me with the most delightful gummy smile. I close my laptop, take her into my arms and we venture downstairs to see what new adventures await us. This is my life now.
But today, I have a story I have to tell and I feel clear about it. It is something that has happened to me just yesterday and I want to write about it to chronicle it as a step on this sweet burning journey that I’m on. My husband, who never fails to cherish and protect what is in my heart always, is with Reya, allowing me time to write. This is a going to be a long post – so if you are interested in reading about spiritual experiences, make yourself comfortable! If not, see you in the next one, friend.
I am currently on day 20 of my second 40 day mandalam of practicing Shambhavi Mahamudra Kriya twice a day. The experience so far has been nothing short of profound, and I look forward with much anticipation to see what the next 20 days bring for me. I plan to share my experience once I am finished, as I did the first time I completed this. All I will say for now is this – this cycle is much different to my initial experience with this Kriya.
Since beginning this practice, life has been providing with me remarkable opportunities to deepen my awareness and clarity, my liberation, my joy – and I have been immersing myself in these moments of confused clarity. This story I am about to tell, is just one of these opportunities that happened to me.
From a believer to a skeptic
For those of you are unfamiliar, Jyothisham (vedic astrology) is a widely practiced tool here in India. My parents even consulted an astrologer to check the compatibility of both mine and my husbands astrological charts before we got married. It’s common practice. I’ve always been fascinated by vedic astrologers, who spoke a language that I didn’t know, who seemed to have access to subtle information, energetic aspects, powers, undercurrents of life that I could not comprehend. I’ve always been intrigued by the occult, even as a little girl, and would often ask my mother to bring me to various astrologers to hear about my future. However, over the last few years, something changed in regards to how I felt about it. I absolutely know that astrology works, that it is real, and that it is as precise as science. But I started to question the value it brought to my life. What value does knowing my future really bring me? Is it empowering or disempowering? Why do I leave my fate to the stars to decide? I would like to be the one who decides how I live my life. So as these questions and thoughts began emerging, I began to distance myself from astrology, and kept my focus on my own sadhanas instead.
My mother consulted astrologers during my troubled pregnancy with my first daughter, and also after she died. This experience probably added to my resistance. I deeply rejected being preached to about the crooked planets, the weak stars, my unlucky doshams and karma that culminated and contributed to my baby dying. I resented this. It was not that I doubted that it may have played a part, I just didn’t care for it. And it was certainly not that I wanted to think about during the bottomless grief of those days.
The astrologer is like the doctor – he makes the diagnosis and he writes the prescription. He highlighted various spots in my karma that were unresolved and heavy. He prescribed a couple of things to help remedy it. Now, even though I was skeptical, I don’t want this to come across as dismissive – I absolutely believe this is truth on a mind level, but I had never experienced it as truth. Do you know what I mean? I think there is a difference between thinking something is true, and experiencing something as truth.
So after our appointment with the astrologer, the next day my husband and I had to attend a puja (a prayer ritual) as part of my prescription. I felt rather neutral about this, if anything, more on the skeptical side of the spectrum. India is full of pujas and rituals, and as a clueless observer, these things can feel very dull.
That being said, I didn’t really know what to expect – other than thinking that I would have to sit for 2 hours in front of a temple priest while he chanted and prayed for me. How boring would that be?! And what if Reya needed me? Would I be able to attend to her? Yet in my heart, I was willing and open to do this, for my mother’s peace of mind, for my husband’s fascination and for my curiosity.
A date with destiny
And so we drove to the place that the puja would be conducted, an old indian home hidden in the forest. As we drove there, we had to stop the car to allow a cobra to cross the road. I have never in my life seen a snake in the wild before. To me, this felt very auspicious. The day before I had visited a Shiva temple and felt a particular connection to the naga (snake) idols. It is said that when you become meditative, the first animal that is drawn to you is a snake.
Once we arrived at the location, my mother held a sleeping Reya and said she would wait for us to finish. My husband and I were ushered into the puja room. I wish I had taken a photograph of this room, because I already know that my description will fall short. Even my husband, who never thinks of taking photographs, was dismayed by the fact that we didn’t capture that room in some way. It was a small room with black walls. There were hundreds of brass lamps that lit up the room. Hundreds. I have never been surrounded by so much fire. At first, I was enchanted, and then I was worried that I may set myself on fire, and then I was enchanted once more. The golden dancing fire amongst the black walls and golden lamps was simply captivating. There were plates piled with heaps of flowers and petals, and plates willed with various grains and mustard seeds. There was a crackling fire pit filled with coconut husk in the middle of the room. There were large golden pots of water, with petals floating a top. There were geometric designs precisely created on the ground using different materials, grains, powders such as turmeric etc. Smoke and heat filled the room, it was almost overwhelming. The priest sat in red robes in front of us. As soon as we stepped into the room, I felt how different this room felt from any other room I had been in. The energy was different, uplifted, strong, powerful. We both sensed that right away, you couldn’t miss it. The second thing I noticed was that I was surrounded by all 5 elements. Earth (flowers), Air (smoke), Fire, Water and Ether. One of my daily practices has been to acknowledge the moments I come in contact with one of the elements in its pure form. I felt like I was drowning in this room, in the most beautiful but overwhelming way possible.
We sat cross legged in front of the priest, who seemed to be a gentle and pleasant man. I sat captivated by the beauty and intensity of the room, my curiosity simmering, but also with thoughts of “how am I going to sit in this sauna for the next 2 hours?!” peppering my thoughts. It was hot. I could feel beads of sweat forming on my forehead and we were inside for less than 2 minutes. On an emotional level, I felt normal and static. I had no expectations. I was certainly not feeling emotional.
As the puja began, he rolled off some instructions that I only partially understood, being that I am not fluent in malayalam. I also didn’t feel comfortable or even engaged enough to ask my husband for a translation at that moment. What I understood is that we would have to take a handful of flowers in our hand, bring it to our chest, and throw it into the fire pit in front of us. I discerned that this was something to do with releasing some type of karma, though I wasn’t sure what kind or even if this was exactly right.
Still, I bought the flowers to my chest, and something happened. I felt a sudden build up of what can only be described as energy within me, and tears started flowing down my face. I didn’t know why. They just came. I was not feeling emotional. I was not feeling sad. I was not feeling happy. I was not expecting anything to happen, I certainly was not expecting anything remotely profound to happen. I was not hoping, I was not waiting, I was not anticipating. And yet, something happened, on a level that I cannot quite describe. It was not a physical sensation, it was not a mental sensation, it was not an emotional sensation, it was something on a dimension of it’s own – what I now understand to be some kind of energetic experience. I have never had this kind of experience before.
The priest then placed a plate full of grains and flowers in front of us and told us to take a pinch in our hands, bring it to our forehead and then down to our heart and repeat this motion 7 times before throwing it into the fire. We were to do this over and over again until the plate of grains was empty. I did not understand what type of karma we were supposed to be releasing. As I began, within me, I felt as though I was releasing karma from past lives and my past up to this very moment. I decided it was so and proceeded. Later that day, I asked my husband what the meaning of the first part was, and he told me it was in fact about releasing past karma. I didn’t know it at the time, and yet I somehow did. How remarkable is that?
I felt it through every cell in my body. I was no longer just a bored spectator of this puja, I was a part of it, and I could feel it. Something was happening. Things were shifting and moving. Energy was flowing. I could even feel how “heavy” (or how light) the karma felt. This particular one, my past karmas/ my past life karma, felt particularly heavy and burdensome, but mostly released with ease. Each time I dispersed the grains into the fire, I felt the lightness of it. I slipped into a meditative state as I continued to release, focusing on the gradual flow from weight to weightlessness of the energy within me.
We continued this process for various different karmas – health, home, work, Reya’s karma, any negative energy around us, and the area of family life and children etc, and I was able to sense how light or how heavy my karma was in each of these areas. My past karmas was the heaviest. Followed by karma surrounding motherhood and children. I could feel that I was not fully cleared in that area. I could feel that it runs deep in me. But it didn’t make me sad. It was just the quality of the energy within me, there is no happiness or sadness with it. I could also sense my husbands karma too, and I could feel the intensity of intention that he placed behind each clearing. It was powerful. I am so glad I got to experience this with him by my side.
A new dimension unlocked
2 hours passed in minutes. I could have stayed there for the whole day. It felt timeless. Sweat dripped down my face, but I didn’t care. I closed my eyes and listened to the quiet roar of the fire. I could feel my heart beating. I could feel each breath. I sat in this new dimension I had never had access too before – the energetic layer, I suppose that’s what I will call it.
It occurred to me that in all my life, the most intense experiences I have had have always been emotional in nature. An intense emotion (love, despair, hope, longing, nostalgia) that permeated a certain memory or a certain experience. It was all I had known. Even during my sadhanas and kriyas, I sat with a longing, a longing for something to happen – to experience something new and beautiful that I could package up and label as a spiritual experience. Even my sweetest and most moving kriya’s have been largely an emotional experience. I can only say this now in retrospect, as when you are going through it, and emotion is the deepest experience you have had, you really have nothing else to compare it to. I know that my experience during this prayer ritual was not an emotional experience because it was not about emotions. I was not feeling a particular way. I was not sad to feel the heaviness, nor was I happy to release it. I was just working with the energy. I was able to touch an aspect of my being that I had never touched before. This experience also taught me how necessary it is to sit for meditation with no expectations. My emotional expectations only cloud the process. They make me look for something when there is something else entirely for me out there. They trap me in one layer, when there are other layers to sink into. Like can’t see the forest for the trees. So, from now on, I intend to sit for my daily sadhanas with no expectations, but full involvement.
A bad number and a good coconut
Towards the end, we focused on the karma lingering behind in the area of childbirth and mothering. This was running deep and everybody in the room knew it. After a certain process, the priest asked Gautham to pick a random number over hundred, then after doing some calculations, the priest was able to see if the karma had been cleared. My husband’s number was clear. As my husband was taking his turn, a number came to my mind – 179, in big green letters. That was going to be my number when it was my turn, I decided. And yet when it was my turn, I felt this pressure of “picking a good number” so that I wouldn’t lose anymore babies, ridiculous, I know, because I have no way of knowing what a good number is. Yet, I worried. And instead of picking the number that was shown to me first, I picked another one. 133. Shown to me in red letters in my mind. As soon as I said it, I knew that it was not a favourable number, and yet I also knew it was meant to be. I sat back down, looked at my husband and shook my head knowingly. The verdict came back – it was not good, we needed to try again. And so we repeated the previous clearing process, and I was to pick another number. I picked 179, the first number I had in mind, and it was clear. However, I was not relieved. 133 is just as much mine as 179. I am not afraid of my karma. I just want to be aware of it, and I want to clear it.
The final part of the ritual to assess the results of the puja involved cracking two coconuts and revealing the quality of the insides of it. Would we get a good coconut or a bad coconut? Our coconuts was a soft white. Good coconuts. I whispered to my husband “I think your coconut looks better than my coconut” and he put his arm around me and said “there’s no my coconut and your coconut. It’s our coconuts.”
Sweet, sweet love.
And so it was over, and I stepped out of this electric room feeling a thousand times lighter. I didn’t realize how much I had been carrying with me for so long, I was never sensitive to it, but now I am, and I bring this gentle awareness with me into today and the days that follow. I want to live lighter. But I don’t want to live an easy life, I want to break my patterns and my cycles of karma. That’s what freedom means to me. Even the heat of the fire felt cleansing somehow on a physical level. We were given instructions on how to fulfill the second part of our “prescription”, which will involve another journey, and perhaps another story to tell. We’ll see.
Till then, thank you for following along.