Namaste lovelies and greetings from the motherland. I've recently spent 10 days with family in Vrindavan, a holy place dedicated to Krishna Consciousness (also known as the Hare Krishna movement). Where the maha mantra* is prevalent in everything!
While none of us are full devotees of Krishna Consciousness, being present in a holy place where everyone is dedicated to the same spiritual path is truly inspiring. This is bhakti yoga. The path of devotion.
During our stay in Vrindavan, an Australian devotee invited us to join her to visit the Care for Cows farm, a charitable organisation providing food, shelter and care for abandoned cows.
We turned up unannounced and in true Indian style were instantly welcomed with big smiles, tea and biscuits. The whole morning turned out to be one of the most humbling experiences I've ever encountered.
Not only was this a centre for abandoned cows, there was also a Food for Life school attached. Another charitable organisation whose mission is to provide girls from the poorest of the poor, with nutritious food and education, enabling them to live a healthy life with fair opportunities.
As the headmaster gave us a tour of the school, it soon became clear, not only his devotion to these students, but also the interconnectedness of the two organisations. Along with quality education and uniforms, the students are fed daily, fresh milk from the cows, and meals prepared from their organic garden. The cows are used to plough the gardens and also to transport the children to and from school.
The gratitude of the students radiated through the ease of their smiles and when we were taken to the classrooms, they would jump to their feet, clap their hands into namaste and shout Hare Krishna! They know how to melt hearts!
The cowshed was another example of pure devotion.
Cows are considered very holy in India. They provide milk, ghee, affection and spending time in their company elevates your consciousness.
However many cows are now being mistreated or abandoned once they have been replaced with machinery. These volunteers rescue them and nurture them back to good health with medical care, food, Himalayan rock salt (for extra minerals) and huge amounts of love. The chief cowherd is so devoted to these cows that he sacrifices his own sleep to guard them at night (apparently people try to break in and steal them!).
The headmaster and chief cowherd are Krishna devotees, having both walked away from the material world, they now dedicate their lives to Krishna, the cows and these beautiful children. These guys are true Bhakti yogis, everything they do comes from a pure heart space and being in their presence was incredibly inspiring and humbling.
If you would like to find out more about these causes or make a donation, more information can be found via these links, Care for Cows and Food for Life.
Love Lili x
*Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishna Hare Hare
Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare - chant and be happy!
I've been quiet the past few weeks as I've been on a roller coaster of a journey. Not a physical geographical journey, but an emotional journey, as I navigated my way through the Moon Course at Las Piramides, San Marcos, Lake Atitlan. This course was the reason Central America was first on my travel itinerary when resigning from my job last year.
After a couple of relatively introspective years in 2012/2013 I had been enjoying the social side of travelling that I'd been experiencing since beginning my travels in Guatemala, and was a little apprehensive about spending a month in one spot being introspective again.
However, the moment I walked into the grounds of Las Piramides and was shown to my pyramid set amongst lush jungle vegetation, met my fellow 'moonies' and experienced our first evening of meditation in a beautiful pyramid shaped temple on the lake, I knew I was exactly where I needed to be.
The moon course is a month long course focussing on esoteric yoga, meditation and metaphysics. We covered many topics, at a high level, such as lucid dreaming, astral travelling, tarot, numerology, the tree of life and much more.
The first week was based around the element earth and the physical body. Yoga focused on detoxification and I developed a stinking cold. I usually have a cold once every few years so this was frustrating, however I observed that by having such a cloudy head, I was able to enjoy deep states of meditation where I could feel the joy bubbling up inside of me.
The following week we focussed on the element water and the emotional body. The first week had been subtle, but this was the week where things started to shift. Emotions started to come from all directions! I also did my Reiki Level 1 training this week which was a very special process shared with some of my fellow moonies.
Each week got progressively more intense! Week three was focussing on the element air and the mental body (the mental body being where we store all our belief patterns) and this was the most intense week for me. I also attended a 5 day breath course where using an ancient pranayama technique we shifted past traumas stored at a cellular level in our nervous system.
Each day we had to regress through a specific time period of our life and journal about that period. I experienced everything from anger and rage to grief for everyone I've lost in this lifetime, followed by deep sadness that lasted for several days.
Although it was intense, after years of avoiding my emotions it was very healing to be in a such a supportive environment where I could experience and sit with the dense emotions.
This breath work was incredibly powerful involving breath retentions, and although it triggered some intense feelings, it also took me to other dimensions which involved a lot of psychedelic imagery! This was the fun part! I also passed out on one occasion. Not so fun!
The final week focussed on the element fire for our spiritual body. It was also the week of our five day retreat which involved five days of silence and fasting (we were given two juices and one soup each day).
To start the retreat we were taken up to El Arka, another retreat centre up in the mountains. Getting there was a trip, we caught a boat across Lake Atitlan to Panajachel then a shuttle up into the hills. After being mainly based at Las Piramides for almost four weeks we were behaving like a bunch of rowdy teenagers! It was a lot of fun and cemented our close friendships even more.
El Arka is a beautiful baron space, in the mountains overlooking Lake Atitlan, and here we shared our last meal together before attending a ceremony in the temple where we all dedicated the consciousness generated by the retreat to those in need. Silence then commenced and we had time to meditate in the grounds before silently making our way back via shuttle and boat to San Marcos.
The retreat was beautiful. I enjoy being in silence and not being distracted by the outside world. I look forward to doing many more silence retreats in the future. We were given daily assignments to contemplate and to journal about which gave us a focus. By having less external distractions, I find time in silence enhances my awareness of the beauty around me. Lake Atitlan has an abundance of butterflies and bird life and I loved lying in the gardens at Las Piramides marvelling at all the wildlife, flowers and vegetation.
Fasting on the other hand I find a little more challenging! I have a hearty appetite and find having restricted calories leaves me very low on energy. Day one and day four were very challenging, I barely had the energy to do my assignments and would have to spend most of the day resting.
Everyone's experience of the moon course is different. Some people come and find their life purpose, for me it just confirmed I am on the right path.
If you are after a strong asana practice, you won't get it here. The yoga is very gentle and some days you barely get off your butt. We only started doing sun salutations in week four. By week three I hardly made it to yoga. This is very unlike me, usually I'm very disciplined with my yoga practice, however, I found that with all the emotions I was working through, sleep and journaling were more important.
The meditation always started off with 30 minutes silent meditation and then the last 30 minutes would either be a guided meditation, selecting oracle cards for contemplation, AUMing continuously (my favourite) or expression meditation where we had to meditate on a question then pair up with the person next to us and express ourselves in relation to the question.
So in summary, this course will not necessarily get your zen on, but it will assist you in working through your sh*t! And the people you meet, become your family. Friends for life. And as always it's the unconditional love and support from family and friends that makes life so special.
I stayed in San Marcos for another couple of weeks after the moon course finished, San Marcos is a spiritual mecca and I needed some time to get reacquainted with the outside world and have time to explore the area as well as all the healing modalities on offer.
I've completed training in breath therapy and now have the skills to teach people to breathe properly and to prevent and treat many illnesses, visited Dr Bill the infamous channeller/psychic, attended Keith the Chocolate Shaman's cacao ceremony, gotten high from a cacao/kundalini workshop (many people come to San Marcos for cacao as it helps with meditation and opening the heart chakra), explored epigenetics, chanted uplifting mantras at Kirtan, attended vegetarian and probiotic cooking workshops, climbed Indians Nose for the most breath taking sunrise, eaten lots and lots of 'grounding' food and prepared myself to move forward with the rest of my travels.
It was an intense time. The energy in San Marcos was dense, everyone was feeling it, but energies have shifted and I now feel lighter and brighter and ready for more adventures.
Until next time amigos!
Love Lili xx
After leaving Semuc Champey I headed towards Tikal. Some ancient Mayan ruins set in the jungle in the northern part of Guatemala. It was an interesting journey! First we were crammed into a tiny shuttle and a few of the other passengers appeared to be suffering from terrible hangovers. I felt for them, because some of them looked pretty green and there was not a lot of room!
I moved further around the lake to the sleepier part of El Remate, where I stayed in a very cool dorm at Mon Ami. It was a loft/tree house with big queen size beds and I had it all to myself (it made a great yoga shala too!). There were no windows, just thatched roofing and mosquito screens for windows (I'm still covered in mossie bites though), I was surrounded by lush jungle and was often woken to the sounds of howler monkeys going wild!! I spent my days running, practicing yoga, meditating, swimming, hiking, bird watching, star gazing, watching amazing sunsets and making new friends on the pier. For a few days I was in heaven!! And I felt so free. It really is one of the most magical spots I've discovered so far.
All good things must come to an end though and I'm now back in Antigua suffering from a cold! I did however climb up the Pacaya volcano yesterday where we saw lava and toasted marshmallows.
Tomorrow I'm heading to Lake Atitlan for a month of yoga and meditation.
Hola amigos! The past few days as I've indulged in some amazing R&R in El Remate I've had plenty of time to reflect.
Tomorrow I head to San Marcos in Lake Atitlan to begin a month long meditation retreat. It's because of this retreat that I am in Guatemala. I'm excited about who I shall meet next!