"In-Roads", Life Positive Magazine

The breeze carelessly touched me and I conceived of a divine gift, just as ready soil receives a scattered seed. Plans materialized to head for the four day Threshold to Inner Stillness retreat at Ganeshpuri. Doubts asserted at the same time. Confusions mounted. Yet, these were not an obstruction as one would imagine them to be, rather a push towards that irresistible and definite pull.

A dream of running bare skin in long forceful strides towards a rising sun made me leap out of my reverie, just in time to catch the first flight to Mumbai. The rising light had engulfed the last trace of suspicion. Intensity brewed as I neared the land of the Siddhas. In my bones and still under, I was pulsating with that same energy that had made me leap forth in my dream. The beauty, the beckon was too much. Ganeshpuri…. I just have to make it till there, a voice told me. The rest would be history.

Buildings grew shorter and grass taller as I neared the ashram. The moment I stepped in (rather ushered in), the first greeting was that of love. There after, each gesture, each stirring in the Gurudev Siddha Peeth affirmed its presence. Its sweetness was palpable in the smile of the guards, in the countenance of the lawn tenders, in the hands converging in service at ashram kitchen. What is yoga, it was clear, if not love! A tour of the ashram uncovered its beauty stealthily, as a drape is lifted over a work of art. Just like with a work of art, one understood only as much as ones heart could hold.

Storks boasted their whiteness against the lush green at Dakshin Kashi, a round pond of cared for grass with a circumference of a mile, is the first to be wooed by the morning rays. Next to glisten are the eyes of the sculptured saints that dot the ashram grounds—Lord Dattatreya with his bowl and four dogs; Baba Nityananda and Baba Muktananda in a gesture of eternal blessing; Shravan serving his old folks’; Saint Jnaneshwar, Namdev and Shankaracharya amongst many more sculpted by a late Italian devotee. Wooden benches carved out in quiet zones, natural caves, wad banyan retreats, coconut, cashew and bamboo groves, and a relaxed study—the ashram offers many a welcoming corner where one can get lost to the world and closer to oneself. I relaxed when I failed to spot any ‘Do No Enter’ signboards. Freedom is the spirit that reigns. There are no paths where you can’t tread, no choice that you can’t make, whether it is one to attend the class or be alone, whether it is to eat quietly in exclusive silent areas or chat. Because one has a choice, one opts for silence and because one is free to stray, one adheres to discipline. What is yoga, you spontaneously understand, if not discipline that frees?

As stars got dressed up for night and the stately moonlit statues trembled with life, the trail of evening chants in my luxuriously simple cottage lulled me into a blanket of long and rested breaths. The Shakti that courses through every vein of Siddha Peeth began its work. Sunken fears, embedded memories rose to surface; as also did abandoned joys. When I rejoiced, She the Friend, frolicked in my bliss. When I doubted, She the Presence, affirmed. When stirring of an unrecognizable sorrow moistened my eye, She the Mother, hastened to soothe and cover. With the shield of the threesome—Baba Nityananda’s steel strength, Muktananda’s glass gaze reflecting the Self and Gurumayi Chidvilasananda’s assurance, I was directed to ‘Love yourself first, as you are….."

Surrender bore sweet fruit. Slumber gave way to freshness. In this freshness, sprang a desire to see night turn day at Ganeshpuri! One becomes a brand new being on witnessing sunrise at Dakshin Kashi (meaning Kashi of western India) it is believed. I waited under a sleeping tree from 4 am. The moon was hung so low I could touch it. A leaf fell in my lap. Unable to wait passively anymore, I started to move on the dark path just as night encircled the Siddha abode one last time before exiting. By the minute, the ink began to recede, the moon rose high and grew faint. Hints of red tinged the mountain lining and the entire sky blushed pink. Birds turned delirious on being the first to sight the rising light. The glorious moment dawned! The sun that was till now only gently preparing ground, flashed its first resplendent smile. Night became day at Ganeshpuri, and I returned, fulfilled, quiet and content.

After a strengthening breakfast of date oatmeal, sesame butter, salad sprouts and hot ginger-cinnamon tea, days of silence began. The whole ashram fell quiet to support our group. All throughout during the long hatha yoga sessions, rich meditative hours, Guru Gita chanting and insightful sharing, active tutelage was extended by retreat guides. With each passing day, gratitude swelled, silence called more and more. Gurumayi’s words "Die a little bit each day in your meditation", compelled contemplation. For the first true time, my body felt to be a shrine, with the four limbs corresponding to four doors, the senses standing as guards, while the heart seeming as the seat of the Self.

It was morning of the last day. As I rubbed open my eye, I discovered to my wondrous surprise that the mantra Om Namah Shivaya that I kissed goodnight, had somehow lingered by itself at my shore, and weaved threads of nectarous delight around me, like a cocoon softer and subtler than silk. I felt like the tender worm, ready to gather flight. Yes, flight was the one word I had jotted in my writing journal. Strangely, I was ready.