7 Things I Found In An Ashram

We might not always have to fall to stand up. We might not always have to make mistakes to learn lessons. But sometimes we do need a jolt to bring us to our senses. Sometimes we do need to burn and rise from our ashes to grow stronger and wiser.

A while back, I made a few mistakes and some serious bad decisions and I found myself leading a life that I didn’t recognise or believe in anymore. After going through a particularly rough patch, I decided my mind needed a break and I had to find a way out of the mess I had created. Refuge came to me in the form of a small ashram in Rishikesh, India.

I enrolled in their yoga course, hoping that the spiritual connection would help me find a path to healing. What I found was life-changing in a lot of ways, and the experience has opened my eyes to who I am outside of the chaos I created for myself. Here are the seven most important things I found in the ashram, that in turn have brought me a little closer to finding peace:

1. You Are Not Alone

Many of the people I first met in Rishikesh were in their late twenties. They had quit their jobs and had no clue what to do next. They were in the exact same situation as me. I had never felt this kind of camaraderie with any group before; suddenly it was okay to be lost!

As it turns out, the ashram is the kind of place that attracts people who are wandering and trying to find their place in life. You see people from all over the world, speaking a hundred different languages, from 18 to 80 years, all living together to achieve that common goal. This led to the realisation that you are not alone. Everyone is looking for peace and happiness, and although everyone has a unique path, the destination is the same.

2. It’s Not All About Me

Image Credit: Ahmed Sinan via Flickr.
Image Credit: Ahmed Sinan via Flickr.

How many times have we judged people after only one interaction? Is it just me, or do we all do that? If someone smiles and greets us they’re a friendly person, but if someone ignores and walks past us, then they’re just arrogant!

Being here has opened my eyes to the fact that everyone is dealing with their own problems. Looking inward is a very important part of the journey here in Rishikesh, be it through meditation or simple silence. Just because someone didn’t look at me and smile isn’t reason enough to assume people don’t like me! Similarly, in real life it is always better to think that maybe the other person has a lot on his mind rather than thinking they’re not very nice.

3. Life Is What We Make Of It

I woke up unhappy every morning for a very long time, blaming it on my job, my relationships, even the weather! After arriving here, I recognized that I was ultimately responsible for what was happening in my own life. I started asking myself every morning, “So who are you going to blame today?” It’s only when we start blaming ourselves for the problems in our lives, do we find the power to fix them!

Many yogic texts tell us that being a good human being matters more than anything else. BKS Iyengar said, “Yoga teaches us to change what need not be endured and endure what cannot be changed.” Being here has given me the strength to see the difference between the two.

Image Credit: Staffan Scherz via Flickr.
Image Credit: Staffan Scherz via Flickr.

4. Fresh Starts Are A Gift

Change is the only constant in our lives, and it’s terrifying. As humans, we’d rather stay in an uncomfortable situation that we know rather than take a risk and step into the unknown. I had been unhappy for a long time and I exhausted myself fighting the inevitable changes in my life.

After I surrendered and found myself in India, I realised that I don’t have to be scared of the future. You will end up where you’re meant to be. This showed up in my life by discovering that I want to build a career around yoga. Ultimately, negative feelings don’t have to be a bad thing. Sometimes it’s anger or fear is what we need to change our lives for the better.

5. Everyone Needs A Break

Relatively speaking, life in an ashram is quite easy. Everybody around you minds their own business, nobody tells you what to do, no conflicts of any kind with anyone, and you’re surrounded by the beautiful sounds of prayers and chanting. After only a few days at this place I felt I was miles closer to finding inner peace. With such a quick result, you can understand why I was concerned to be going home for a weekend.

But the weekend turned out to be a great success! I realised that the peace and calm was a result of isolating myself from reality and the glow was just the yoga and food! The purpose of being in ashram is not to give up on life and be in isolation, it’s to learn the art of being you and living with others in complete acceptance and harmony.

6. Truly Living ‘The Golden Rule’

Image Credit: M M via Flickr.
Image Credit: M M via Flickr.

Another lesson I learned from my trip home is that when we lose our preconceptions it becomes easier to accept people for who they are. In Rishikesh I had to let go of prejudices, first impressions and all that I had learned about people and places in order to live peacefully with so many different kinds of people.

People are not labels, people are just people, no different from you and me. It seems so simple in writing, but living it is a very different thing. When we embody this most important lesson, we grow as individuals, it’s easier to get along with everyone, we accept differences and we belong everywhere because our heart is everywhere. Ultimately, peoples’ attitudes towards me are just a reflection of what’s within me.

7. God Doesn’t Play Dice With The Universe

Right at this moment exactly what’s supposed to happen is happening. We are here because that’s where we are meant to be. I came to an ashram to isolate myself from people, instead, ended up making some amazing friends, finding love and a new career path. Most importantly, I ended up finding myself.

At my little ashram in Rishikesh, I have come to believe in a higher power and to believe that there is always a plan. The sooner we learn to surrender to that power, the sooner we will have our answers to what our life means. Meanwhile, I’ve learned to just have faith and sit tight!

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Zen Monkey, a sub-division of YogaLondon, is an online conduit for yoga students and teachers to share ideas and develop a catalogue of content that is informative, creative and fun. We are a community founded from the collection of writers and yogis we've mentored, worked with and been inspired by. Together, we are building a tribe that shares the tools, the inspiration and the motivation to lead a healthy, mindful and sustainable life.