By Rachna Singh Chopra
The breeze carelessly touched me and I conceived a divine gift, just as the ready soil receives a scattered seed. Plans materialized to head for the four-day `Threshold to Inner Stillness` retreat at Ganeshpuri.
Doubts surfaced and confusions mounted. Yet, these weren`t obstructions 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 in time to catch the first flight to Mumbai. The dawn light had engulfed any last trace of suspicion.
Intensity brewed as I neared the land of the siddhas. In my bones and deep within, I was pulsating with the same energy that had made me leap forth in my dream. The beauty, the lure was too much. Ganeshpuri… I just had to make it till there, a voice told me. The rest would be history.
Buildings grew smaller and the grass taller as I neared the ashram. From the moment I stepped in, the first greeting was that of love. Thereafter, 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 in the ashram kitchen. What is yoga, I realised, if not love!
A tour of the ashram uncovered its beauty gradually… as a drape is lifted over a work of art. Just like with a work of art, one understood only as much as one`s heart could hold. Storks exhibited their whiteness against the lush green at Dakshin Kashi, a round patch of cared-for grass with a circumference of 1.7 km, which is the first to be wooed by the morning rays. The next to light up are the eyes of the sculpted saints that dot the ashram grounds-Lord Dattatreya with his kamandala and four dogs, Baba Nityananda and Baba Muktananda in gestures of eternal blessing; Shravan serving his aged parents; Saint Jnaneshwar, Namdev and Shankaracharya amongst many more sculpted by a late Italian devotee. Wooden benches carved out in quiet zones, natural caves, a clump of `wad banyan` retreats, coconut, cashew and bamboo groves, a relaxed study-the Peeth offers many a welcoming corner where one can become lost to the world and closer to oneself.
I relaxed when I failed to spot any `No Entry` 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 to attend a class or be alone, whether it is to eat quietly in an exclusive silent area or chat. Because one has the choice, one opts for silence and because one is free to stray, one adheres to discipline. What is yoga, you spontaneously understand, if not a discipline that frees?
As stars dressed up for the 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 coursed through every vein in Siddha Peeth began its work. Sunken fears, embedded memories rose to the surface, as did abandoned joys. When I rejoiced, She, the Friend, frolicked in my bliss. When I doubted, She, the Presence, affirmed. When stirrings of an unrecognisable 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- `Love yourself first, as you are….`, I finally resolved that I wished to go on even if my whole world fell apart. I prayed: ‘Mother! Do what you wish to do with me!’
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, it is believed. I waited under a sleeping tree from 4 a.m. The moon hung so low I could touch it. A leaf fell into my lap. Unable to wait passively anymore, I proceeded on the dark path just as night encircled the siddha abode one last time before exiting. Within minutes, the ink began to recede, the moon rose high and grew faint. Hints of red tinged the mountain silhouettes and the entire sky blushed pink. Birds turned delirious on being the first to sight the rising light. The glorious moment dawned! The sun which until now was only gently preparing ground, flashed its first resplendent smile. Night became day at Ganeshpuri, and I returned-fulfilled, quiet and content.
After an energising breakfast of dates, oatmeal, sesame butter, salad, sprouts and hot ginger-cinnamon tea, days of silence began. The whole ashram fell quiet to support our group. All through 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 settled. Gurumayi`s words, ‘Die a little bit each day in your meditation’, compelled spontaneous contemplation. For the first time, my body truly felt like a shrine, with the four limbs corresponding to four doors, the senses standing as guards, while the heart seemed the seat of the self.
It was my last morning there. As I rubbed open my eyes, I discovered to my wondrous surprise that the mantra Om Namah Shivaya that I kissed good night, had somehow lingered on the shores of my being and had weaved numerous threads of nectarous delight around me, ensconcing me in a cocoon softer than silk. I felt like the worm ready to gather flight. Yes, flight was the one-word prayer I had jotted down in my journal all through the retreat. Strangely, I was ready.
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