by Natalie Ulrich
Traveling to ancient cities and journeying deeper – developing the courage, more and more to walk on this earth with an open heart – understanding that life means well always, no matter what.
I recently traveled to India again. And every time I am in India I sense that each journey awakens me to accepting myself and life on an even deeper level. It somehow has this magical energy of bringing me closer to myself and at the same time urging me to fall apart. The waves in this ocean we call life can be incredibly challenging. The waves of fear, joy, sadness and pain that we so very often try to disguise. I see two realities. I sense how the one reality wants to move me deeper and the other is resisting change. I can sense this inner and outer struggle. I see the reality of life in India and the other reality of living in New York. I am in the middle of this ocean, this vast consciousness and somehow try to move those two worlds closer into balance.
Stepping into this moment, I see myself clearly and I don’t always like what I see. How can I bring these two worlds together? How can yoga bring me deeper into balancing these two worlds? Living in full acceptance of this present moment yet not being passive? Jeff Foster is one of the teachers that have moved me deeply and has journeyed with me into the practice of yoga and accepting this moment as it shows up. Of developing a practice every day, and when failing, picking up the pieces and journeying on. One of the wisdoms he has taught me is that if something is happening now, on a deeper level you have already accepted it. With a sigh, I immediately sense relief flowing through my body. Resistance simply makes no sense. My yogic journey has been about letting go again and again of this fear, this resistance to life of this need to control everything. And my deep spiritual practice has guided me and reminds me of this truth every single day. Yoga is a practice. I have struggled myself with many different hurdles. I have asked myself why me? Today I can say why not me. And I believe the way is different for everyone. It’s a matter of diving deeper into yourself and finding that way to serve the divine within yourself.
Ever since I have been back from my last trip I have been asking myself, what is it that so fascinates me and pulls me into this sacred space in India. And yes, I know this is quite cliché for a yoga teacher. I am not at all trying to say that sacredness cannot be found right here right now. As a matter of fact I believe that it’s all about daring to be more present each moment of the day. What we are looking for is within us. But do we have the courage to look closely? You don’t really need to go to India for that. But sometimes a little push of agni “fire” can intensify the search and push you further into transformation. When our senses, smell, taste, sight, hearing, feeling are triggered in different ways and we manage to switch off the “autopilot mode” there is a whole new world waiting for us.
As I traveled through the busy streets of India, I felt as if the world stopped around me. I inhaled and became aware of the chaos surrounding me. It was loud and there were thousands of people all going somewhere in a rush. There were rick-shaws squeezing themselves through the crowds, children were playing on the dusty and mostly polluted streets. They were laughing and flying their kites into the evening sunset. Sometimes I would catch a glimpse of their deep dark kind and innocent eyes showing not so much sorrow but a natural sense of compassion and curiosity. Where was it hiding, this passion in my world, I asked myself with a sigh? There were street vendors everywhere trying to sell something, there were a thousand different scents. A mix of spices, food, incense etc. There were colours everywhere, piled up fruits, vegetables, women wearing saris in colours of the rainbow glittering into the evening sky showing off their own irreplaceable scents, their own way of moving in the world. Music of different soothing Hindu chants were blasting out of loudspeakers and in the distance I heard a local raga (one of the melodic modes used in Indian classical music) singer chant away freely as the melodies were dancing in the smoky evening skies. There was life everywhere! There were people sleeping on the streets with little privacy for anyone. India was so alive! As I finally managed to exhale I knew I felt a little closer to home. I was in a place of deep comfort and sacredness even though I was uncomfortable in my physical form. Waking up to the here and now. Bowing down into my heart asking for guidance to be able to bear what life would serve on the silver platter today.
There is a deep sense of sacredness in India. And it is not hidden in the backrooms of a temple. People pray and perform pujas “rituals” by the river in the evening and it’s exciting to be a part of that. It is so very much a part of people’s lives.
This really got me thinking. How is it that I see so many troubles and discomforts in this country even though there is so much spirituality. Am I on the right path here? This question really got me to dig deeper. Was I being too hard on them? Could I find a way to soften myself instead of looking elsewhere? Were my expectations unreasonable? Was I wrongfully making assumptions of how life should be? Isn’t everyone allowed to be a unique flower, expressing themselves freely? Am I not looking on the outside? And do I dare to find clarity within myself and move closer into compassion?
There is a level of blame and fear for the times I am not able to line up with the principles of yoga. I see how I have that expectation for others too. Yoga allows me to see the contractions in my body and mind. My hope is to find space. The space first in the asanas (yoga poses). The space to savor however life presents itself. To taste the darkness the ugliness, the bliss and joy, to allow everything to be here and then to see where the beauty lies and then let it go again. To focus on what I love about each moment of the day. To explore all these different aspects of yourself and bring them all together. And then let go again and again. Find beauty in tasting water, in smelling foods, in touching someone’s hand lovingly, in seeing the soul behind those deep dark eyes. Unifying the good and the bad. Speaking from the heart and finding that sacred spacious awareness within us. Becoming, activating and aligning ourselves with life. Letting it in, all of it. And thus finding the balance and space within you. Accepting this vast ocean of consciousness.