This week we begin our journey by stepping in to the eight limbs of Yoga as prescribed by Pantajali. Niyama refers to the five observances of how we relate to our inner selves. The first step is Shaucha-self purification of mind and body. Our trip to the Taj Mahal helped us cleans ourselves of old beliefs and reflect upon new ways of seeing.
Our trip to the Taj Mahal helped me to understand the need for Shaucha. We set off early in on our four-hour journey to Arga, where the Taj Mahal is located. Coming from the relatively quite and orderly city of St. Catharines, it was a shock to encounter the noise and Chaos of the streets of India. Our experienced driver maneuvered his way through the crowed streets filled with people, dogs, bicycles rickshaws, cars, transport trucks and yes, sacred cows! With one hand on the horn we navigated our way through busy intersections and narrow roads where the right-of-way belongs to the most aggressive driver. Sitting in the back seat, our eyes were on the road and our hearts were in our throat. Fear took hold of us as we swerved to avoid all the obstacles on the road. At times, barely breathing, thinking that we would never arrive alive, we decided to surrender to that which we had no control over and just trust in God, the universe and the driver, the one who had our life in his hands. The only thing that we could do was chant, breathe and calm ourselves with essential oils and keep the driver alert.
As we passed through the small villages we were shocked and saddened by the poverty. Our hearts ached for the destitute people on the streets: homeless
beggars, children in rags, people eating from the garbage and urinating on the streets. Our minds constantly bouncing from sympathy to fear to disgust; it is interesting to see how the mind reacts to things it does not understand. Fear gripped us when our driver picked up a stranger and we realized how vulnerable we were in a country we didn’t know and a language we didn’t understand, all we could do was trust! This is what Yoga teaches, surrender and trust a higher power, to know that our lives are in more skillful hands that will take us to our destiny and bring us home safely.
The Taj Mahal was built by emperor Mughal Shah Jahan, to house the tomb of his beloved wife, who died during childbirth. This white marble mausoleum is the jewel of Muslim art. The magnificent reflecting pool runs the length of the property and is surrounded by beautiful gardens. Red sandstone buildings are located at either end of the property, which is encompassed by a red sandstone wall. The magnificence and wealth of this building give stark contrast to the poverty just outside its gates. Even though much of the strife was hard to comprehend, we began to look past the superficial and find beauty in the faces of each person. We were projecting our own western opinions of what we believed was a good life, but we began to learn that there is much joy in this country of contrasts.
Traveling provides me with the opportunity to observe, to learn and to expand my thinking. Traveling teaches you to face fears of the unknown and call you your inner warrior to move you through those shadowy experiences, to call on the light within!
Each new day provided us with the opportunity to reflect on our own beliefs and preconceived ideas‑ to see the truth for ourselves and form our own opinions.
Awareness allows you to let go of old fears and prejudices and seek the beauty that lies beneath the surface. Our challenge each day was to find the beauty within all experiences and to embrace each person with heartfelt love for humanity.
My yoga practice has taught me to seek the truth and remain true to self. Travelling to India helped me put my training into practice. I learned to see the beauty even in the Chaos and filth by looking at the souls of people of India. Once we let go of the fear of looking people in the eyes, we began to be more confident in letting our own light shine and we attracted nothing but positive experiences with the people we encountered.
Just as the reflecting pool at the Taj Mahal showed things from a different perspective, I began to see the life in India from a different perspective. It is only when you begin to peel back your own layers will you discover your true self at the center. You must rid yourself of your own fears in order to let that light shine. Shaucha is a process for purification of the mind and body from within. I am so grateful for the journey to India and each day took me on a new spiritual journey down a new path. My heart swells with love for this amazing country that I now see with new eyes.