Being robbed of my phone, asking help from a stranger and driving around in a police car trying to find who stole it on the night I was catching a flight to Madrid was not the way I wanted to start my spiritual journey. But it happened and I decided to fly out without my phone.
Vrajamandala temple where we stayed was beautiful. Secluded in the mountains, the atmosphere was serene. There were many beautiful moments I wanted to capture and share with you during my stay, but having no phone, I guess on this occasion, the memories were meant to be captured in my heart.
Devotees of Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON) always openly encouraged me to be part of their events. They have always approached me with such sincerity and open hearts. This is what led me to sign up – I wanted to repay with the same open-heart, open mind and sincerity.
I was not seeking anything particular from the trip. Though deep down, I’m conscious of a little hope and desire to seek a connection with God and my own soul – both of which had become distant in recent times.
The way we conduct ourselves, control our hearts and minds during times of change shows the vigour of our souls. Humans like security, we like comfort, change is unfavourable. But if we can handle ourselves rightly when the cards dealt offer weak odds, we are on the right path.
During the first few days living in the temple, we had small experience of change. The rooms were cramped – sharing personal space with people you don’t know so well. Water was scarce at times as was lights. And when the water was there, it was mostly cold. You live according to a schedule. Those of us living in the girls ashram adapted in a way which brought us all closer together. We served one another and looked after the spaces in which we stayed – We adapted to a simple. If we can carry this adaptability trait forward to changes in our lives, we can learn to live happily.
I’m going to be honest. Engaging in meditation mantra, services, yoga, kirtans, lectures, dancing on the streets, the auspicious prayer Mangala Aarti at 4.30am has not made me instantly closer to God but nor do I expect it to be that simple. But it has filled me my mind with focus and trained it to use intelligence and instinct to try to use whatever spiritual energy in a practical way- the relationships around me and work.
At temple I learnt chanting is integral in Krishna Consciousness. Chanting prayers on each of the 108 beads 16 times. I told one devotee I don’t have beads and I might buy some when I returned back home.
In earlier months, someone close to my heart left this world. From India, I asked to take her prayer beads home with me – I have memories of her holding them in her hands and gently touching each one. I never knew why, or what this meant but I had a powerful connection to them, so I took them back to the UK with me.
This woman was incredibly strong. As painful as it was, I witnessed her defy odds and hold on to life – my admiration will always be held close to my heart. Today after landing back in city life, something in my heart told me to seek out those bead. I found them. I counted. 1,2,3… 108. And I sat wondering, what mantra she used to chant when she held those beads… and if this played a part in her resilience.
Each person’s spiritual journey is unique and mine is one I share only between myself and God, though it was lovely speaking with others about where their journeys had taken them.
It was the people I met that made this trip. I don’t mean friendships- though this too is a blessing. What I mean is the experiences we shared and the kindness and openness they offered. In my eyes the Lord – whichever form and name they take- resides in the hearts that speak kind words and hold true intentions.
It’s the little things that happened – the stranger who let me use their phone when mine got taken, the ones that collected me from the police car and got me to the airport, the clothes that were lent to me, the flower that was saved for me by a friend when I wasn’t around, the people who supported when I led kirtan and was nervous, those who opened opportunities when I said I didn’t feel smart enough to do medicine, the ones who cooked for us all and shared experiences with us.
And it wasn’t just me that kindness was delivered to. It was everywhere and echoed through the ashrams.
To everyone I met, thank you for teaching me so much. May your spiritual journeys be filled with lots of love and happiness.