There have been two places I knew I had to visit this year – one was McLeod Ganj, returning to that special, scenic, soothing reading and tea drinking spot of October 2015. The other was Leh – the unknown land of lakes and Himalayan mountains.
What has become clear upon learning in and leaving both of these beautiful places is that I was surely guided there by my intuition. I was guided there by the Universe. Because magic happened. Healing happened in both places.
Quite quickly into my year trip in India I realised my soppy sappy defensive heart yearns for connection to God through Bhakti yoga – the practice of love. In order to connect, you have to be open hearted, vulnerable and surrender in devotion, and it’s fair to say my heart has been carefully wrapped under dense anxiety ridden protective layers for most of my life and it’s been an active healing process with 3 years of camel pose (a heart opening asana which I no longer boil with rage through), chanting and changing how I treat and feel about myself with self love and self care, using mantra and song to connect to the sensual, expressive energy of the Goddess Lalita, and by learning how to trust love in all its glorious forms.
I’m a rather impatient overachiever – and it’s fair to say I’ve expected to blast through this spiritual process with the same ruthless charm (I hope) as I attacked half marathons, & job interviews in the Legal world. And I was frustrated every time I would hear that healing, that ‘The Path’, all unfolds in its own time and when you are ready – at the right time.
But those wiser souls were correct!
My heart was blasted open in my 7.5 weeks in Leh. And I’ve been taught how to hold my nerve through the magical movement of life (and the nauseating night bus back to Manali) and truly surrender to a new found understanding of love.
I have been healed and held by the beauty of the mountains, the icy cold streams and motionless clear blue lakes. I’ve been safe at home within myself, and the home of my sweet guesthouse, being force-fed extra meals and chai by the family there. My heart has been warmed by the beauty of new friends, fresh ladakhi bread for breakfast, beside bonfires, beneath stars and through countless rounds of shithead (the ONLY card game for people who enjoy smugness) and, finally, by the tremendous connection with one particular charming Italian man.
There’s a quote (I think by the spiritual legend Ram Dass) that if you think you are enlightened, then go live with your parents. (Did that.. and it confirmed my suspicion that I’m not anywhere near….) I say, if you think you’ve healed your insecurities around love, then go let someone into your heart.
For the first time in a very long time I met someone who mirrored the dreams in my heart. Who spoke about wanting a big family, travel, the adventures, the dogs and the daughters. Who could even imagine me as a mother lying beside my baby girls, caressing me with tiny little hands of love. A man who as a result of his grounding, affection and sensitive presence made me stop hiding under bluster and confront the aching truth of my own heart.
My dreams of love, of a husband and children are something which I’ve tried very hard for years to be ok with not existing, and I’ve been finding contentment in life without them (you know, just in case I run out of eggs, use up my funny lines and my relatively pert boobs surrender to gravity, and towards my knees) but which in the face of this most recent heart obliterating process is simply not the truest reflection of my heart’s desires.
My heart has been continually shattered since I surrendered to wherever the path of yoga needs to take me. So, what do you do when your heart is raw and thudding achingly with another deepening crack despite a long held fear of love? Well, if you are like me, you cry, you breathe and decide to keep it that way. I have surrendered into the messy pain of the unknown & the sick pain of heartache and goodbye. I have surrendered all of the emotion and snot to the Universe with gratitude that this man even existed, and that he came into my life and heart not once, but twice. That he ignited my truth – the one I’ve tried to be better and braver than.
That after a long year of self healing, self exploration and self love I give thanks that the Universe answered my prayers and sent me a man, a connection, when I was ready to embrace it. That I spent 3 glorious weeks with someone who inspires me to want even more from this life. To believe I am capable of more – of loving more, and perhaps of coming back to Leh to climb the mountain peaks that I’ve not felt quite ready for.
After years of dating, of ‘singledom’, it’s been scarier for me to finally meet a man who is emotionally open, to have my dreams reflected back in deep brown kind eyes, whilst accepting that the experience of being seen and held in the arms of an adventurous man always had a ticking temporary timeframe.
So it remains a true test in faith to see what happens in the unknown after saying goodbye to all the love I found in Leh. Perhaps moving on is necessary to create space for something else I need to learn in my last month in India? Perhaps I’m to use this experience to strengthen my resolve and faith in the loving guidance of God before I return home to the sometimes spiritually unsupportive value system in the West? Perhaps it’s to continue to develop my faith, manifest more, to wait again, and then finally be ready to welcome into my life truly what my heart beats for. At the right time.
If you trust love and understand its lessons then every type of love changes you – it changes the beat of your heart and I can no longer deny what I want thanks to the light, love and laughter this man shone into my life. Or, of how fearful I have been that it may never come true.
Love, like the mountains he climbs, involves risk and ridges. Perhaps it includes the death of your previous held beliefs, nerve wracking assents, scary knee knocking slides back down to Earth (ungraciously on your arse if you’re me) to dust yourself off and start again. Even the odd axe may be required to shatter your illusions, & those precious icy defences you thought kept you safe.
Love isn’t linear. It doesn’t lead to anything other than a deeper knowing of yourself if you are willing to face yourself – wholly and with acceptance of all that lurks within. Love is about experience and immersing yourself fully even if you know it’s temporary and no promises can be made. Because in reality they never can. Life constantly changes and you constantly have to learn to let go and begin again.
Sometimes you are held back from your plans to trek with a slightly dodgy tummy because you are meant to meet an incredible man in your guesthouse a couple of nights later, and then at other times your separate plans mean you have to say another red-faced snotty goodbye (me, not him). Love is knowing either experience is for your own good, your progression and learning about love. About how to embrace love when you have it. To give thanks. And to let it go. And to realise under the thudding pain of your beating heart that it’s all love at the end of the day. That the Universe wants me to heal, keep healing, keep loving and that’s why after months of self work, She, the Divine Mother, sent me a love, sent me a fellow dreamer, sent me a sign to keep manifesting, keep doing my practice, to keep doing the spiritual work but most importantly how to finally bear the honest truth in my heart. So that I can steer myself in love, to a future of love, because of Her Divine Love.
And that is Bhakti – a complete surrender every and all the time back to the loving guidance and wonder of the love of God. To accept the gifts in this life as they arise, to let them go when the time comes and to believe you are loved unconditionally. And finally, through all of the lessons of this last year, I know I am.
With blessings and love to you. And in particular to those beautiful souls I shared ‘home’ with in Rai Wa guesthouse, Leh. X