I just arrived home from a couple of weeks travelling around Tamil Nadu, the east coast state above Kerala in India. If you follow me on my instagram @nadine_shebirths you will have seen some photos of my trip. We thought it important to share more on what this trip means to me and why travelling is such an enriching part of my life. I hope you enjoy and would love to hear from you. What holidays have restored you? What do you do to reconnect with your soul?
Return to the motherland India
India is by far one of the most complex and extraordinary countries I have been to. She is quite challenging to travel around due to her size and language barriers…but not as hard as China perhaps. She is exotic and beautiful and it seems like everywhere I look there is a picture just waiting to be taken. India also has, in my humble opinion, the most beautiful women in the world. The whole country seems to flow in a state of absurd looking yet seamless chaos that makes one fear to step across a main road and requires a deep sense of trust to navigate pathways filled with dogs, cows and trash. She is steeped in the customs of numerous traditions and religions that provide no reason or logic to our western minds and currently my clothes smell like sandalwood and jasmine…which I wish could stay imbued within the fibres forever!
My trepidation in taking a holiday, having been there a few times already was knowing that India is never just a holiday. It is of course goodbye to vegetables and salads and hello to carbs and chilli. It is always wise to carry one’s own toilet paper roll and probiotics and remember that you will be melting in the heat of full body coverage outfits every moment of every day. However, if you are open to the inner journey, India always turns out to give you so much more and everything you need…although a little scary to step into from our clean, controlled and very organised reality here, She always delivers.
It is hard to write about a mystical journey though – one that happens not only via the body but also in the mind and heart and touches the soul, so I will try to convey a few pieces from my recent journey that might inspire you in your life and reflections or even take you on a journey back to the land of ancient wisdom and source of Vedic spiritual knowledge.
Of course, I highly recommend ALL travelling – I mean always – like whenever you get the chance, no matter how old your kids are or what budget you are working with. Looking back on my childhood and Leroy’s too so many of our favourite and funny adventures and memories come from travelling across Australia and around the globe – especially into the remote, naturally pristine and developing countries – Tonga and Africa come to mind and of course India too. Although travelling with children in the third world is tricky with food and germs etc it is also by far the BEST way to be given access to a different culture.
I have always believed that if we raise a child in a village and expose them to the globe then we give them the best education in life. I have always been happy to live in a simpler way here in Bondi, in order to experience new places and have also taken Leroy out of school many times to travel abroad.
My passion and my dharma has always been to live a spiritual life, in the everyday world. My fascination with the soul and the inner journey began at 16. And my drive to help others and make the world a better place even earlier, as early as I can remember. Somehow working with birth, parenting and yoga has been the perfect alignment of these two callings. And my trip to India this year brought an even deeper connection to that unified soul purpose – it has reaffirmed that I am not alone in my longings – that other spiritual teachers also see the purpose of life as serving others, making the world a better place and integrating the spiritual into our daily life and work.
The great highlight of my trip was visiting the ‘human unity’ city of Auroville . I also spent a week in the ashram of Sakthi Amma. Both spaces are founded in spirituality yet differ greatly. They both focus on the Divine Mother as ‘God’ or the centre of their prayers yet their paths of connection are quite different.
Amma’s ashram is Hindu in its practices so we spent our days in temples, participating in puja (fire ceremony) and abishakam (washing ceremony). This allowed for a space of reverence and brought a sense of humility too. It forced me to drop the mind and fall into my heart. I have participated in a number of puja’s over the years but I had no awareness of the power that a temple or mantra could evoke – the effects, without even understanding, was subtle yet profound.
There were about 20 western devotees at Amma’s ashram from the US, Canada and Australia. You may have heard of Amma through musician Ben Lee who got married there . The golden temple at Sri Puram welcomed and fed hundreds, sometimes thousands of Indians each day. Amma has provided amazing resources to the extremely poor rural families of Tamil Nadu. They have built schools, research centres, initiated rubbish clean ups and tree planting programs called @green.sakthi There are nursing colleges, and a hospital built by the Foundation.
The main teaching that I took away was to make all of life a puja, a prayer – a time filled with presence – movements filled with grace and gratitude to the divine. It was also very much about being in action and helping others – being of service, or seva. I spent time talking with one of the doctors there who are currently building an Ayurvedic wellness centre and inquired into the maternity unit within the hospital a d started to get a gauge on what experiences the families are having now in India. I hope to return next year and help out in some way with birth education – but more on how this works in another blog soon!
Auroville on the other hand has no particular practices or techniques. It’s core principle is for all people of all religions and backgrounds to come together as one group – to demonstrate human connection and harmony in a new community built from the teachings of Sri Aurobindo and The Mother. This place blew my mind. Firstly to have two spiritual masters work together and support each others teachings and vision is extraordinary – both for the common goal of healing, inspiring and building a new type of humanity in love of the divine mother.
The Matrimandir – golden temple of the Divine Mother – sits beside a Banyan tree over 100 years old which is the very centre or heart of the Aurovillian town. There is an amazing story about this tree too that you may hear from ‘B’, formerly known as Bill, on the guided tour. They are both surrounded by gardens and petal rooms, smaller spaces for meditation. You are asked not to bow down or pray or even meditate using a technique…just invited to simply be in these areas.
Being inside the main chamber of the Matrimandir is an amazing experience. The whole internal space is pure white, even the carpet. The staircase spirals as if floating into space, apparently unsuspended. I felt scared that I would fall or a star trek alien would come down and pick us up at one point. Once inside the upper chamber a ray of sunlight is drawn down into a large crystal ball that fills the room of 40+ people with light as we sit in complete silence.
Like at Amma’s I was blown away by the power of design and architecture and communities built with a specific purpose and intention. They held such a strong energy of their own, even when the founders are no longer there. The energy was more powerful than techniques and allowed me to simply fall into presence and I was moved me to tears often. I honestly wish I could bring a Matrimandir back here to Bondi or help organise an Auroville festival (akin to Woodford) and take us all over there.
The 12 petal rooms are each named gratitude, peace etc…all qualities of the heart and the gardens have the flowers chosen by The Mother evoke these qualities too. She gave over 400 flowers spiritual meanings. The essence of the Auroville teachings for me was that we must not only transcend via meditation but we have to integrate into our daily lives and achieve self perfection. The Integral Yoga Sri Aurobindo spoke of seemed to me to be the most wise on the planet – reminding us that yoga takes place not only in the body but must also occur in the mind, heart, psychic and spiritual being too.
Travel alone carries me into a joyous state of living – a state of flow and spontaneity. Taking guidance from within, one moment at a time, and letting go of effort is what India asks of us, in her own unique way. It is so utterly refreshing. Not knowing who I was going to meet each day, what or where I would eat is such an exciting and liberating way to live – but to know you are in a like minded conscious community is also so deeply nurturing. If you are looking to be swept up into the divine Mothers’ energy and live a little more in the mystery then I highly recommend visiting Auroville and Sri Narayani Peedam.
“Birth, parenting and yoga for me are my spiritual practices. They are about seeing and connecting to the divine in all things. Finding the extraordinary beauty within the ordinary and everyday lives that we lead.
If we just pause for a moment and take time to really look at the magical symmetry and beauty of a flower or ponder the amazing orchestration of functions taking place within our bodies, or between the planets and their subtle yet perfect angles, that keep us alive and in balance, one cannot deny the power of a mystical supreme intelligence and be filled by awe and wonder.
If we look at the journey of humanity and our history one can also not deny the great power of Nature and her evolutionary force to make things better and better all the time, and maybe hear the calling to join her forces for good on the planet.
To reignite my spiritual connection I have found it is essential for me to step away and fill up, to refresh and restore through travel in more remote and unique parts of the world, away from the control and habits that slowly build up in my every day. By returning to India I find that I can let all things fall back into their natural order and my life flows again just like the great river Ganga or the chaotic traffic breathing and weaving down dusty roads on a hot sweaty summer day.”