IMG_20180112_132339I am just back from my travels in India, with a group of friends, where we spend 3 weeks in the southern state of Kerala. We started in Neyyar Dam, on the outskirts of the jungle for an intense 10 day stay in the Sivananda Yoga Ashram where we practiced 4 hours of yoga a day along with 3hrs of meditation and chanting. We began meditation at 6am, however, the karma yoga I had been allocated was to prepare the temple prior to our 6am start. This meant I was up just after 5 to prepare the temple for the arrival of approx 500 people ready to practice. Getting up at this time was challenging when I had struggled to sleep in the heat if India, however, preparing the temple in silence and darkness was a meditation in itself. It became a deeply wonderful mindful experience where I could hear the tigers roaring, the many different varieties of birds, feel the breeze on my skin, the heat and experience the sun rising surrounded by the beauty of the ashram. Some mornings we would walk in silence to the local dam and experience the sun rise over the water which was absolutely beautiful. On our walk back, the local village was awakening to begin the business of the day. I loved our first 10 day, immersed in ashram life with a strict schedule each day to follow which was deeply mindful.IMG_20180114_070420

Part two of our three week trip took us to Varkala which was by the white sands and beautiful long beach overlooking the Arabian Ocean where we enjoyed a more relaxing second half of our trip. We went to a local yoga class each morning and often walked the long beach. Many mornings we watched people practice yoga on the beach or simply felt the warm sand under our feet whilst listening to the sound of the crashing waves hitting the sand. Many mornings local families would arrive to see the visiting sadhus, for a spiritual offering and this was fascinating to observe. The second part of our trip was equally fabulous.

IMG_20180116_112732India is magical and challenging at the same time! The heat and humidity makes you slow down in life, you simply can’t do anything at the fast pace we have in the west. The noise level can sometimes feel quite overwhelming, the poverty and depravation is eye opening! Yet at the same time, it is magical; it has a deeply spiritual side with many absolutely stunning temples and beautiful scenery. So many have very little in the way of materialism, yet you will find many are very happy, especially the children. It was quite evident to me that many in India appreciate and accept what they have, which is often much less than we have here in the west!

I have returned home to value and appreciate everything I have; a comfortable home,IMG_20180120_135455 the people in my life, the work that I do which I love, basics such as hot running water, drinking tap water, a wonderful health system, quietness, regular yoga and mindfulness practice to name a few. Since returning I feel full of joy, gratitude and appreciation for what I have and how lucky I am. I have really been able to pause and appreciate more in life since returning from India. Pausing, slowing down and practicing gratitude is a wonderful practice which I would encourage you to connect deeply to and feel the benefits.

Good luck.

-Tina Gilbert

Tina is a Lead Tutor for the Mindfulness Association and will be teaching on a Level 1: Being Present course starting in Edinburgh this June (2018).