I hope that you’re doing ok during this most strange and challenging time. I hope that you are able, most days, to feel your greatest inner strength and resilience. During a conversation with my Mum recently, it struck me how much she finds the temporary loss of her independence so challenging. Driving to the supermarket to choose what she wants herself. Many of us are faced with our most dreaded of demons during this time. Whether that’s the feeling of aloneness, or boredom, or just plain fear. Fear of so many things. We could use this time as an opportunity to face our demons head-on. We can’t make them disappear in our usual routines, our busyness. So, is it possible to accept these shadows, these fears, and to even welcome them? Only then will they be able to move on, and we can release our hold on them. I am reminded of the expression I have heard often in the context of mindfulness, as well as modern psychology -“what we resist persists, what we accept transforms”.
11 years ago, during my first India trip, I knew that I wanted to experience life in an ashram. I felt it was something that I should do, as oppose to want to do. I was curious.
I was a freshly qualified yoga teacher, and also, I had just read Eat, Pray, Love! I wasn’t even looking forward to it, it was, if I’m honest, more of a “tick the box” experience. Three or four days should do it I thought. The thoughts of the confinement, the rules, and the lack of freedom, made me shudder. I ended up staying 3 weeks. It was one the most rewarding times in my 4-month trip.
What was it about this ashram life that was so different from my usual life? The days were all the same - simple and monotonous. There were no choices to make about what we would do, or even eat. Little freedom. We could only venture outside the confines of the ashram to have a short walk or a dip in the lake opposite its entrance. We all had the same schedule – wake up with the rising sun, meditation and chanting, breakfast, yoga, karma yoga (basically chores), meal, free time, yoga and meditation, bed. I left feeling renewed and with greater clarity and purpose than I had ever felt.
The purpose of an ashram is a spiritual retreat. It provides a safe space, free from the distractions and routines of daily life, and “the chance to get rid of excess emotional and material baggage”. I am now reminded of my ashram experience. Without the usual busyness of our daily lives, we could choose to use this time of isolation as our own kind of ashram – our own spiritual retreat. Ashram life is centered around a community. Never before have we had such a global community living the same experience. We are together in our isolation. There is a kind of peacefulness in the simplicity. A kind of freedom within the confines. Here balance and well-being have room to flourish. Creativity and truth can bloom.
As we are reminded of the fragility of life, we are also reminded of the miracle that it is. This too shall pass, like everything. But perhaps we will be changed in some way. Change is always the prerequisite for growth. Growth always asks us to step outside of our comfort zone. We are now all stretched well beyond our comfort zone. We have no choice. Yet, we have a choice how we can respond on the inside.
So, I ask you, if at all possible, to be patient, to be gentle with yourself during this time of change and turmoil. I ask you if you can savour some aspect of this “ashram” time. Finally, I leave you with 2 questions to reflect upon: how can this change help you grow in some way? Could this experience enable you to live with less fear, and with greater presence of the here and now?
Written by Kerry White
Kerry is a Health & Wellbeing Facilitator, Speaker, Holistic Coach, Yoga Teacher & Shiatsu Therapist, and the founder of Kerry Wellbeing.
Kerry specialises in workplace sessions to help people feel as well as possible, physically & mentally. Through practical and collaborative sessions, Kerry equips people with effective tools and insights to help them deal positively with everyday stress, challenges and common health and well-being complaints (including backache, headaches, fatigue and anxiety). Her coaching work supports clients to identify, and achieve, meaningful, yet realistic goals.
Kerry has brought her unique practical sessions and talks to numerous top corporates and organisations, including the World Health Organization (WHO) in Geneva, where she worked for many years. She has also held other international corporate roles in sales, MedTech and training. Because she has spent many years working in pressured office-based roles, Kerry understands the challenges many people experience.