These days, I feel as though the quest for the “bigger picture” has been the hot topic for many self-improvement connoisseurs. Spiritual awakenings and enlightenment grace the pages of books like “Eat, Pray, Love”, “Yoga Bitch” and other wanderlust adventures. To be honest, I get just as sucked in as anyone else out there. That’s right- I want a spiritual enlightenment dammit!
Recently, I decided to travel to Bali, Indonesia in search for something inspirational and to break the monotony of my daily life. I became so work-focused after I gained my sobriety that I felt I needed something external (maybe divine?) to elevate me to the next level in my life. I used a 200-hour yoga teacher training as my ticket to justify quitting my job for this questionable journey especially since I was new to yoga. I started practicing as part of my recovery program in 2017. Though I enjoyed yoga, I struggled with my limited flexibility and my overly-competitiveness to be the best yogi (to say the least).
Is possible that this secret search for spirituality may relieve me of my own harsh criticism? I have read multiple books in preparation for my “A-HA” moment, I wanted to know what to look for and what to expect when it hits me. I was too busy preparing for the “spiritual” test that I did not prepare for the physical test ahead of me and little did I know the agenda they had in store.
I would give a month of my life, actually 29 days (if you consider the travel time) to the sole dedication of yoga. This meant hours of meditation, pranayama, (yogic breath), advanced yoga physical practice, philosophy and yoga anatomy. An intensive 28-day program that was aiming to prepare us for our yogic destinies.
I decided use my all savings to make this leap- knowing I had no job to come home to. Though, I was completely supported by my other half which made it a little less daunting. All reassurances subsided, however, when I realized what I was getting myself into. So off I went! I was scared that my lack of practice and discipline would get me kicked out day 1! All those fears of “not being good enough” were met by 16 other people with the same uncertainties. All 17 of us bonded together over our struggle in the classrooms and in our daily yoga practice. The days of work were exhausting and challenging! (Funny how Yoga Bitch never mentioned the intensity of the program).
I was too busy transitioning from my chaturangas into my downward dogs to even think about my spiritual journey. Two weeks in and I finally had a breath to reflect about my time here, realizing that it is half way over and still no sky-opening realizations have occurred. Where was this awakening I read about? My kundalini experience?
I meditated and practiced pranayama as best I could for two hours each morning trying to get the mythical Shakti and Shiva uncoiled through my breathing exercises. I made sure that I put in 100% in all my activities. During yoga I made sure that my alignment was on-point. I studied philosophy each night because it must help to be wise and knowledgeable when the awakening arises. I gave it my all each day for twelve grueling hours straight- but I still didn’t feel any different. No enlightenment here, just sleep-deprivation and muscle soreness. Moreover, I was still scared and insecure. All the books I read suggested my anxieties would just melt away by now, that I would evolve into a yogic Wonder Woman- but I didn’t.
By the third week, I started to pray each morning in my time of silence (we had to be silent four hours a day) and research spirituality. I figured this was my last shot at my awakening. I had seen enough documentaries to know that Indonesia was the place to practice devotion. “Bhakti” as the yogis called it. A devotion to something greater- the higher power. On top of my meditation, breathe work and yoga practice, I sat in silence talking to God asking him to take all the obstacles away.
It was now week four, everyone was so relieved and there was a sense of relaxation that washed over the group. All the hard work was reaching its fruitful stage as we received our yoga teaching certifications. I was also thankful, but no more enlightened than week one. Something did change though. I came to the understanding finally, that there is nothing to go in search for. The obstacles I wished away were inside me. I was my biggest enemy. I didn’t need to go to Bali to see that. The search is never external and it cannot be found by stubbornness or pressure and the journey is still continuing. I spent that last week being in the present moment. I enjoyed my time on the mat and the company I was with. I listened to stories of Ganesha and Shiva taking in the lessons of balance and awareness. That’s when I realized how much I liked practicing and teaching yoga.
For those who may think I was foolish in spending my savings for a journey that never took place, I found there was a purpose. I came in dread, fearing I would fail and ended up spending too much time looking for the “bigger picture” that I hadn’t realized what I had accomplished in the meantime. I faced challenges that I forgot I had. Two years ago, I would not step on a plane due to anxiety. I have never once traveled alone in a foreign country. I was new at yoga yet I passed an intensive 28-day teaching program and equally important, I made friends. Obstacles removed granted. As I said, the journey is not over, though I think the secret is out.
“That is the real spiritual awakening when something emerges from within you that is deeper than who you thought you were. So, the person is still there, but one could almost say that something more powerful shines through the person.”