I’m wrapped in a warm blanket overlooking the Venice Beach canals finishing the last of my $19 green superfoods ice-cream smoothie from Erewhon, the LA-based grocery store that makes Whole Foods feel like a run-of-the-mill Stop & Shop. Walkers pass by on the sidewalk and look at me with a sense of awe, perhaps picturing themselves wrapped in this blanket, cozy with the riches of canal life.
By this time next week, home will be an Ashram in the southern state of Kerala, India. The packing list stresses that I bring my own dinner plate (it should be white), fork, knife, spoon and toilet paper. More than half of each day will be a strictly observed silence, wifi is available (but don’t count on it) and clothes must be modest (don’t show legs or shoulders, and hide your curves). Morning wake-up is 5am daily. Yoga study is 4-6 hours each day. I’ve signed up to live this for 30 days.
On this day and at this point in 180, I have created the freedom to do anything I choose. Since leaving my corporate advertising job and leasing out my home in Santa Monica, I’ve lived a lot. I’ve created incredible experiences, both for myself with the adventurous travels I’ve had and for others through retreats I’ve held, by teaching yoga, meditation and in giving my time to support others. I’ve also been supported in this time, as is apparent in the beautiful scenery of the water in the canals I see before me.
A woman in heels clacks by, admiring the homes and I hear her say, “This is living the dream!”
Perched here, luxuriating in pH10 water out of a glass bottle, a faucet of tears spurts on and off, paradoxically leaving the skin dry under my eyes. What the hell am I doing?
“Melt into the black hole of lonliness. Become one with the void, you aren’t separate from it.” Days earlier I had been at satsang (this is a word used for community gathering and discussion) at Bhakti Yoga Shala in Santa Monica where Sadhvi Bhagawati Saraswati from Rishikesh’s Parmanth Niketan was the honored guest storyteller. When she had time for one last question, the room fell silent. I felt the black hole.
I raised my hand.
What’s with feeling lonely when I’ve never had more support? I have built up meaningful practices in yoga, meditation, focus and gratitude, I have great friends and community. Yet I’ve found myself a few times in the past few weeks, waking up with shortness of breath, nearly in panic, loneliness coated over me like a latex suit.
The latex part I didn’t say, but you get it.
“Love the loneliness,” she continued, “Allow yourself to sit in being alone and don’t try to solve it. On the other side is great presence. Use this time, it’s a precious time. Milk as much growth and experience from it as you can. Chances are it won’t last long.”
Knowing that in a week I’d be en route in my solo mission to Sivasoorya Healing Ashram in Kerala, I felt reassured by her words. Despite the oddities and simplicity of the ashram life justapose to $19 smoothies on the Venice canals; I had made this choice to experience something.
It was in a spell of the lonely sadness this past December, I got quiet and gave myself permission to create any experience I wanted. I wrote a list of places I desired to see and things I wanted to do. Looking at the list, feeling in my body each scribbled word and country on the diary page, I circled “India” and I circled “learn.” The rest of the details were brought to me by the divine powers of Google Search.
So with that, I’m off to India to learn and to experience a culture and way of life that is very different from my own. All the while, open to trust that whatever is there for me will be revealed.
Now in India: BAM! I got a huge dose of feeling alone and a massive black-hole-180-in-your-face experience immediately upon arriving at the Ashram. More soon on how that’s going!
With love from Kerala,