This morning I had scheduled a special Empowerment Meditation at 7am, where I envisioned myself and all my students, friends and family members, past and present, re-routing our energies through the highest planes – to connect to our higher self.
At 6.30am I headed to Mana West, the stronghold of the ‘Bravest of the brave’. Undeterred by snow and cold winds, I made my way down to the sacred waters of the Saraswati and Alakananda rivers.
In my meditation by the river, I envision all the people I know one by one. Some appeared to me as mountain gods, others as mountain goddesses. Some appeared as divine minstrels and some great energies. Other people were tuned out or distracted by the business of life.
I imagined clearing and cleaning up all past impressions, all energy deposits, and directing all that energy to the Akash, the highest realms. My intention was that everyone could reclaim their own energy, as could I. This clear pristine space was the perfect setting to let go and reconnect.
After the meditation was complete, I headed back to Mana village and up to the Vasudhara Falls. The trek followed the Alakananda high up the valley.
Mana village disappeared and the rough-hewn path made the going difficult. Finally, I reached the waterfall and I had to wonder if it was worth all the effort. Sometimes we follow the narrow path to make ourselves stronger. Sometimes the narrow path finds us reflecting on the true nature of the quest.
I returned to Badrinath near sunset as the weather was closing in. Today was a fulfilling and enlightening day.
Sometimes, when we put up with hardship along the journey, the destination offers the sweetest fruit. Badrinath is a jewel of a palace: with high altitude (3300m), thermal hot pools, rushing rivers and snow capped peaks. Immediately you feel your spiritual radar light up.
The bus trip up to Badrinath took over 15 hours (319.5 km), via the rockslides and sheer drops of NH 7. I took the pilgrims route on a government bus packed with devout people. We were not alone.
The traffic up and down the mountain was intense, with earthmoving machines working around numerous rockslides. As traffic banked up the trip got slower and more difficult.
The Haridwar bus terminated at Joshimath late in the evening, so I completed the final 50 km to Badrinath the next morning with a taxi load of people. In the taxi I got talking to an interesting young woman named Ashoo.
In regards to spiritual life in the West, Ashoo said that the trappings of luxury, workplace competitiveness, and social status, diminish both our spirituality and humanity. She continued, “in their own eyes people see themselves as superior but in the eyes of god we are all equal.” Ashoo reminded me that humanity is an important part of spirituality. If we treat each other with respect and kindness, rather that aloof coldness, the world and is a better place and our spiritual practice is made complete.
After bathing in hot pools filled with ecstatic splashing women, and paying homage at the Badrinath temple, I headed up on foot to the village of Mana – ‘India’s last village’.
It seems you can only find this level of natural beauty and simplicity high up in the mountains. The local Indo-Tibetan people carve out a basic existence and yet everything seems flourishing.
Just beyond Mana village, the Saraswati River thunders out of the mountainside. The rushing waters carve out rock caves and fall with breathtaking velocity. The Saraswati joins the Alakananda River just below Mana.
Sitting at the confluence of the Alakananda and Saraswati Rivers, reinforced the energy of my name given to me by Guruji – ‘Alakananda Saraswati’. I decided that this incredible place would be the site of my Empowerment Mediation scheduled for the next day.
A few members of the Tuesday 6pm class gave money regularly over a few months so I could hand small donations out to the poor. Local people in Haridwar were so grateful when I was able pass that generosity on.
Money was also given to buy flower malas and leaf boats to offer to the local Goddesses and the wonderful river mother- Jai Maa Ganga!
The sun was rising on a new day. The beautiful fast flowing waters of Mother Ganga washed all my old karma away. It is such a refreshing and uplifting experience. Offerings were made for our shared prosperity and health.
Birla Ghat, a public place where marble steps lead to river, is filled with song, devotional activities and natural energy. I come back here time and time again because nothing makes me feel as good as an early morning dunk in the naturally high pH (8.9 pH) waters of the Ganga.
A boy tries to catch coconuts, which are thrown into the Ganges as offerings for peoples’ prosperity. Blessings to us all on this beautiful day!
Calls to prayer woke me this morning at 5 am. Broadcasts from minarets echoed across the background noise of the waking city. This podcast captures the sound of that ‘ungodly’ godly sound.
Seaking retreat from the dusty streets of downtown Delhi, I took refuge in the lush green grounds of the Lakshmi-Narayana temple. The first morning light illuminated marble of this beautiful complex. Here I was able to release some residual stress and sit in peace.
Minor birds in the temple grounds seemed to be sharing news of the day. All around parrots, squirrels and abundant bird life seemed excited about life.
Feeling pangs of breakfast stirring, I killed two metaphorical birds with one stone and headed to Chandni Chowk to see what was there and find something to eat. All I can say is I’m glad the shops weren’t open because it seemed like a place that could get very crowded.
After stopping in a side alley for some lassi, I caught a cycle rickshaw back to the hotel. The crowds at Sadar Bazar were amplified by people buying presents and fireworks for the forthcoming festival of Diwali. Insane traffic!
My train leaves today at 3pm. Looking forward to waking up tomorrow in my fav town of Haridwar.
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After bathing in the sacred Ganga at Haridwar, Ali will head up to Badrinath and Valley of Flowers high up in the Himalayas
She will then return to Delhi and pick up her new India group and return to Haridwar.
We will visit Rishikesh, and stay at the Parmarth Niketan Ashram
We will then visit Guruji’s ashram in the rural area of Barsana.
Here we will engage in a special lingam installation ceremony to honour Guruji’s mahasamadhi (passing)
After Barsana, the group will travel to Jaipur
Ali’s weekly blog will be posted via her Facebook and website page
WEEK 1 – Ali will be here teaching
Milan has been practicing yoga for 17 years and has been coming to Ali’s classes since 2008. Like Ali, he has a Masters in Religious Studies and has travelled India extensively. He attained his certification as a hatha yoga instructor at Yoga Darshanam in Mysore, India. His classes are always tailored towards the students present in each class, but in general he focuses on strong, dynamic and aware practice.
A normal timetable of classes will resume throughout November
Ali Hale Tilley (yoga teacher and NZ Yoga Centre owner), explains why she gave up eating meat two decades ago, and has gained numerous benefits from her choices.
My relationship with India taught me that a strict vegetarian lifestyle, together with a disciplined yoga practice, promotes real spiritual clarity. We are what we eat! Therefore, my dietary choices are reflected in the longevity and clarity of my yoga and meditation practices.
Plus, choosing sattvic food (pure and alkaline), which means eating fresh, locally grown vegetarian or vegan food, provides me with huge vitality. Similarly, eating ‘pure veg’ food, which excludes all meat, chicken, fish, eggs, and gelatin products, supports my spiritual and physical well being.
My Guruji took dietary purity to another level. At his ashram in Barsana, we always cooked bhojan food, which prevented us from tasting food during cooking, and yet allowed us to offer ‘pure veg’ food to the temple deities. Blessed food becomes prasad.
As a result of my commitment to pure eating, I can walk into any spiritual environment and know my conscience is clear and my spiritual vibrations are fine-tuned enough to receive any blessings available.
My godfather was a pig farmer so I got to see first-hand the squalor and stench of pigs! Similarly, feeding testosterone to beef cattle, estrogen to chickens, and using chemicals to disinfect sheep can affect our hormonal systems, leading to high rates of aggression, endometriosis, and immune dysfunction.
In contrast to the purity of sattvic food, meat products are tamasic, which means they are dead, highly acidic, and full of toxic waste, such as heavy metals, antibiotics, fertilizers and parasites.
With my gut is clear of tamasic pollution, I have the intuitive advantage of having the clarity to navigate through life’s journey with confidence and enthusiasm.
Ahimsa, the first of yoga’s moral codes, means practicing non-harming and non-violence. Yoga asks us to restrain our violent and selfish urges, and avoid causing cruelty or contributing to the suffering of any sentient beings.
Personally, I cannot see how one can reconcile meat-eating with the practice of ahimsa. As a yogi, I practice what I preach and would feel hypocritical saying ‘Namaste’ or chanting ‘OM’ one minute and tucking into a piece of fish or meat the next. No one can afford to ignore the karmic debt of consuming animals that have suffered on the way to the dinner table.
New Zealand’s Primary Industries (meat and dairy) have contributed to native forests being cut down, land being cleared, grass being chemically fertilized, and pastures being irrigated with communal aquifers. Grazing animals belch methane, toxic effluents washes into waterways, culled meat requires expensive transport systems, and abattoirs stink like hell.
However, by leading an organic vegetarian lifestyle, I feel I am doing my small part to slow down the looming climate crisis. My dietary requirements invite crop diversity, organic composting, sustainable production, and community gardening. I am actively invested in helping save the planet, and my diet is part of that intention.
I am ethically opposed to animals being force fed antibiotics and growth hormones, and exposed to inhumane killing methods. How can I talk about gaining personal inner peace and going with the flow in my classes if I personally rely on energy sources that are traumatized, sick and suffering?
I recognize that although I rely on dairy produce, which can also use inhumane treatment of dairy cattle, I try where possible to buy locally produced organic products from suppliers that ethically look after their animals. Maybe it is time to invest in a crowd-shared cow if anyone is interested!
Due to my vegetarian and yogic lifestyle I never get colds or suffer from the flu and I have such a strong immune system that I rarely get sick or visit the doctor. My largely alkaline diet means I have plenty of energy and an excellent gut flora. I am currently reminding myself to chew my food properly so my digestions stays strong!
Recent studies have linked red meat consumption with bowel cancer and breast cancer, and not a week goes by without a new case of a salmonella or e-coli outbreak from meat related products.
Many meat eaters thinks that vegetarian cooking is difficult or expensive. However, with a million vegetarian recipes on Google and the mindset to go meat-free a growing concern, there is no time like the present to join the global movement of taking ethical responsibility for the planet by going MEAT FREE!