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Before I left on my 6th trip to India, I was asked the Question, “Why do you always go back to India? Why not visit other places in the world?”

It’s not that I don’t have a desire to see other places in the world, but as a Yogi, India holds such a powerful pull of rich spiritual wisdom that it’s hard not to come back to get that feeling of being spiritually charged in the birthplace of Yoga.

India’s ancient culture has always been directly tied to a deep sense of spirituality which has been preserved through the passing on of traditions from generation to generation. Spirituality and practicality has been interwoven in such a way that I feel is truly unique to India. There’s hardly any mundane activity that isn’t somehow deeply rooted in spirituality. The openness and acceptance of religious and spiritual freedom is evident everywhere. There’s no taboo concept like “never discuss politics or religion” as we hold in the West. As you wander down any street you’ll see mosques, temples and churches next to one another. You’ll see people praying at roadside temples, stopping on their way to work to say a quick prayer, people chanting mantras, singing devotional songs, decorating their houses, bodies, cars and children with their chosen Deity/God/Guru. Devotion isn’t something that needs to be hidden within a church or a temple, but is accepted and normal to be expressed in day to day life. It’s this openness that I feel attracts so many western truth seekers as a safe place to discover and explore their own sense of spirituality.

India has always had a rich history of spiritual Masters, Saints and Gurus and is easily the World epicentre of spiritual wisdom. The ancient spiritual techniques that have been practiced thousands of years ago can still be found today undiluted and preserved through strong lineages and teachings that have been transferred from Guru to Disciple. The energy created through extensive spiritual practice by these enlightened beings can be strongly felt in the places where these masters spent their time. To visit these holy places and feel the energy is an amazing and sometimes overwhelming experience. In these places we are reminded of just how profound our existence is beyond the physical material world.

As a traveller India isn’t always the easiest country to visit. The sheer volume of people, pollution, the sounds, smells, colours etc. is typically known as an “assault to the senses”. Travel can be difficult at times, sometimes 100km can take 3-4 hours to reach. Keeping an open mind and willingness to adapt to the cultural expectations is very important to stay sane and safe. You really need to be able to “adjust”- a term many Indians use to describe the typical change in plans that might occur within a day. That being said, you won’t go anywhere where there isn’t someone who is curious about you, willing to help you out or even offer you food. To Indians, the “Guest is God” and you can really sense that wherever you go.

India is often regarded by its people as Bharat Mata “Mother India”, which to many outsiders seems strange to personify a nation, but when you travel through the city centres, talk to the people, and see their constant reverence and connection to the nature, animals, the land they harvest, the temples they worship in and the ancient sacred places they sustain, you quickly realize that there is a deep sense of gratitude for what this land provides. The pull I feel to visit India really does feel like I am “coming home”, as India is the Motherland to all the teachings I am drawn towards.

Every one of my visits to this holy land have been life changing and have strengthened my faith, trust and devotion. Though travel is not necessary when it comes to true spiritual growth and development, sometimes taking yourself out of your day-to-day routine and immersing yourself fully into something different can teach us so much about ourselves, others, and life. That’s why I encourage people to take retreats, immersions, and travel opportunities- even if it’s just for a day, to reset your shift your perspective and introspect.

This month on the AWC Virtual Studio, our theme of all our practices is ALIGNMENT. This buzz word is thrown around a lot, so I wanted to explore it further in the context we will be exploring it.

First of all what is alignment? We talk a lot about alignment in Asana class, for example by bringing our hips into alignment in Warrior 1 etc. This is one way we use this term 'alignment', but this month we are exploring alignment more holistically.

Let's start by exploring what if feels like to be mis-aligned. For me it's a feeling of disconnect- a lack of awareness of my body, mind, emotions, values and desires. It's when the stress response takes over, automatically, and I start moving mechanically rather than intuitively. It's the moment awareness leaves us and our ability to choose is hijacked by reacting to whatever is thrown our way. Mis-alignment is also a gut feeling that I have when I'm directing my energy and effort towards things that really give little or no meaning/purpose or positivity to my life.

To reclaim alignment is to regain awareness. The moment we choose to become aware is when the re-centering process begins. Our Yogic practices always lead us to Re-Alignment. The very process of Yoga is spiritual alignment, steeped in cultivating awareness in everything that we do. What exactly are we aligning? In the simplest terms our selves with our SELF. Our True Self. The very essence of who we are- our Satchitananda (truth, consciousness, bliss), the part of our being that is always at peace, ever wise, always blissful. We know this place to be true because we have had moments of experiencing this, and are constantly longing for this. It's our birthright, and it is in the HERE and NOW. There's no searching for it, because it is YOU.

I envision this like a a river of energy always flowing and ever present. Everyone's river has it's own unique path to take, dams to break, obstacles in the way, but nonetheless always flowing. Sometimes we are caught up with the obstacle, sometimes we are course correcting and sometimes we are so off course we are swimming upstream, drowning and fighting our natural flow. Then, as we tune into the truth of who we are, and drop all the fears, worries and stress, we relax into the flow of our river and the energy moves effortlessly and we just 'know' that we are in alignment. Often in this state things just seem to happen, like the universe is conspiring with us- opening doors, bringing us opportunities and opening us up to the wisdom of any given moment. This is alignment. It's not just dumb luck or only reserved for a few to experience- it's when we open our hearts to give and receive love fully, when we drop the fear, worry, insecurity, need to achieve or be anything that we are not, and instead being in total acceptance of who we are, right here and right now.

A practice to try:

Ram Dass uses the affirmation, "I am loving awareness". I am loving awareness

s, I am loving awareness... say it with me know "I am loving awareness"- keep repeating while noticing your breath and all that expands from within you and around you. Open your heart to receive with loving awareness and release that back to the world around you. Do this throughout your day. Get into your unique 'flow' and let the universe respond to you, as you drop the effort and simple be who you ARE.

How do I stay in my positivity when others are so negative and draining? I begin my day in the peace of my sadhana, but then I become impacted by the negativity of others who I see in my day.

Great Question!

This question pops up a lot. As we start on this path of introspection and begin to realize our thoughts influence our moods and therefore work our best to correct our own limiting, negative beliefs, we also start noticing those tendencies in others.

When this happens, we need to come back to the Vedic attitude of, “what I am finding disturbing in other’s reflects my own inner condition”. Perhaps the negativity that is arising in them reflects the negativity you are working so hard to pacify within yourself. In this case we should use these small annoyances as a motivation for us to keep doing the work.

Building our spiritual immunity is just that- doing the work, until one day, these things will no longer bother you. It takes courage and self-responsibility (to face your own stuff), acceptance (to make peace with it) and time (to overcome it).

So you can we build our spiritual immunity:

- Daily Sadhana: Your self-care practices that draw your awareness and energies WITHIN. This is where we learn to truly introspect, sit with the fluctuations of the mind, realize that we can cultivate calm, even amongst all these wavering thoughts- and this translates into our everyday life. If you anchor yourself for a few minutes of peace everyday, you will have this as a place to come back to, when the waters of life get turbulent.

- Work on Vairagya (detachment): The more you walk on the path of yoga and cultivate greater awareness, the more you will notice negativity in the world. Yoga is a path of self-empowerment. As you become more empowered, and have more control over your moods, emotions and impulsivity and become more balanced and peaceful. You’ve taken responsibility and gained some control over your own inner state. Now other’s negativity is being heightened in you. It’s not your responsibility to “up” your positivity game. It’s not your responsibility either, to tell everyone how they should be, act or live their lives. We are the only ones responsible for our peace of mind. So in this case we need to work on detaching from expecting everyone should be the way we want them to. This is obvious to understand, yet much harder to fully accept. Other’s will be who they are. In the meantime, do what you can to protect yourself from their influence. Perhaps it’s changing the subject, leaving the room, or respectfully having a conversation with them if you feel it is necessary (*again without expectation of them changing their ways). Remember this is an individual journey, however you shining in your unshakable peace and positivity can really have an effect on uplifting others!

- Karuna- Compassion: Instead of meeting those negative people with annoyance, meet them with compassion. Perhaps they haven’t awakened to realizing that they can CHOOSE positivity, then can influence their own reality by looking at the bright side of life. Perhaps this is a coping mechanism for them to get validation or attention. We don’t know their whole story. May we hold these individuals with compassion, because they are ignorant of their own behaviour. They don’t know yet how great they could have it. May we send them silent blessings for them to find what you have, or are working hard to have! Also extend this compassion your way so you don’t beat yourself up for feeling annoyed/disturbed by others, we are all works in progress!

- Fall, but get back up: If you get shaken out of your place of peace by these people, employ your tools to bring you back there. Affirmations, calming breaths, mantra, your accountability buddy, venting, journaling or whatever else you need to come back to the moment.

I hope this helps you find some clarity when working through negativity in others, and finding your role in working through it! Eventually you will come to a place where the things that used to bother you, don’t anymore. These are little validations along the path that we are making progress. Remember to be gentle with yourself and keep doing the work!

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