Mysticism and the Inner Way

Photo Courtesy of Isha Yoga Center

Group Photo Courtesy of Isha Yoga Center

Pulling up to the security checkpoint at the Isha Yoga Center I saw the outline of the Vellangiri Mountains stretched out against a clear blue sky. Not knowing what to expect or even what clothes to bring, I arrived in Coimbatore to do the Inner Way program with Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev because of a recommendation from a friend.

“If you’re open to meeting a Guru who’s something special, you must do this program. It will be profound, “he told me.

Sitting with Sadhguru was an experience I can’t articulate. Some people believe he’s not human; he is an energetic, embodiment of something divine few of us understand. Some can’t find the words to talk to him or hold a conversation. Sitting on his yogi bench hooked up to a mic with a huge screen to his right, at times I thought we were on Oprah. “South Indian mysticism has its own flavor,” he once told us,”It’s not better than other styles of mysticism, it simply has a unique flavor.” Part of the experience was about expanding consciousness, feeling something energetic shift and take root through his transmission.  Magic happens inside us, we just need to tune into it. At times, I felt as if an energy transmission was happening inside me and something was being subtly awakened. It wasn’t anything I could understand or explain intellectually, it was something sensed and experienced.

He didn’t talk “spiritually”. Instead, you felt his absolute love for all human beings and sometimes his total compassion for our stupidity. He distilled complicated yogic sciences down to the bare minimum we needed, to taste the experiences he was talking about. He amused me endlessly with his passion for racing cars, flying planes and charming snakes.

Photo Courtesy of Isha Yoga Center

Sadhguru – Photo Courtesy of Isha Yoga Center

Quietly, I questioned how and why I came to such a magical place, meeting this particular group of people. Before I arrived at the Ashram I had that strong inner voice telling me to not get caught up in thinking about what it was going to be like. My expectations were based on life experiences up to this point and I had not  experienced anything like this before.

Every day at 5:30am we woke up to someone playing the drums. At 6:00am, we’d hear the second drum which meant it was almost time to go. Then at 6:20 someone walked around playing the flute, which told us we needed to be on our way to Spanda Hall and on our mats ready to start at 6:30am. The yoga mats were set up for us with soft cream-colored cushions and small back support chairs. Each day would build on the practice from the day before, with the Sadilaja asana, Surya Shakti and Suraya Namaskar, until we were in Shavasana (a favorite asana). The two final days our practice included Sadhguru’s transmission of the sacred Shambhavi Mahamudra.

Photo Courtesy of Isha Yoga Center

Photo Courtesy of Isha Yoga Cente

Sadhguru led discussions about the yogic sciences and meditation. He shared life experiences, made fun of people who were falling asleep in the front row and kept us laughing with extraordinary storytelling. One morning our session was a short hike into the mountains to have our talk and lunch by a stream. Every night there was a fantastic dinner accompanied by live music, which Sadhguru usually attended.

Our class had 115 participants from UK, Spain, Lebanon, Bulgaria, India, China and the U.S.. Over the five days, I gelled with a small international group of friends. As we processed Sadhguru’s talks, danced to the Sounds of Isha and took in the beauty of the place I felt myself relax.

Photo Courtesy of Isha Yoga Center

Photo Courtesy of Isha Yoga Center

Over lunch one day as the program was ending, Shreedevi Chowdary of Hyderabad, turned to us and said, “If any of you come to Hyderabad just let me know. I’ll have my driver pick you up at the airport and you’re welcome to stay.” Feeling at ease I chimed in right away, “I’ll take you up on that. I’d love to come and stay.” She made me feel her invitation was genuine. In that moment my journey took another twist and turn.

Where do you meet a live Mystic & Yogi in India?

Sadhguru

Sadhguru

“Why are you going to Coimbatore?” he asked me. I noticed his mustache was little long. He blue and white shirt was neatly pressed, he spoke English and he was dressed like a business man.

“I’m going to an Ashram for a week. I’m not exactly sure of the name, I think it’s called Isha. It’s a last minute decision.” I told him.

“Ah, yes, how do you know about Isha?” He asked

I explained that I had been travelling with friends for the last week when our tour guide Bharat, from Delhi, mentioned it. He has been going for a few years and loves Guru Jaggi Vasudev. He recommended I go for  Mahashivarathri, a Hindu festival celebrated every year in honour of Lord Shiva, the Adiyogi – the first yogi.

Dhyanalinga

Dhyanalinga

Bharat found out Sadhaguru was leading a program  called “The Innerway” for 5 days before Mahashivarathri. All my friend could tell me was that it would be  transformational and something I  must experience while in India.  I went on-line and read what I could about the Guru and his Ashram / Foundation. He’s a mystic and a yogi who facilitates mediation and yoga programs all over the world. The Ashram has a Dhyanalinga yogic temple, with a 13 foot 9 inch lingam made of high density granite. The temple is purely a meditative space that does not ascribe to any particular faith or belief system. The Isha Foundation is a non-religious non-profit organization entirely run by volunteers. One of the many social initiatives funded is called Project GreenHands. The project is currently in the Guinness Book of World Records for planting over 8.2 million trees by over 2 million volunteers. I decided to throw caution to the wind one more time and do the program.

“I have many friends that go there. I’ve been once. It’s very powerful. It’s magical. You’ll experience magic after a week there. Really,” he said. I could feel the excitement in his voice.

Not knowing how to respond I stayed quiet. Silently I was thinking, “Good,  I want to experience magic in India. I wonder what he means.” I listened to him tell me about a German colleague that was considering going to the Ashram on his last visit to their office in Coimbatore. In the end the colleague decided not to go. He wasn’t open to a new experience  that he  didn’t understand or have context for. It sounded like he was trying to advise me to stay open to a mystical and spiritual experience. Something different from our Western ways of thinking and understanding. Again,  I sat quietly nodding my head and agreeing it was about staying open.

After the plane landed we said goodbye at the baggage terminal, he gave me his business card and said, “Here’s my email, please write me after your week there. I would really like to hear what you experience. Really. Please tell me about it.”

I smiled politely and gave my word that I would send him an email as we shook hands and said goodbye.  Waiting for my bag at the carousel, I felt inside this was the sign I was heading to the next place I needed to be. Whatever doubts or negative thoughts I was holding onto were all in my head.

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