It’s been a bumpy road and I don’t just mean the drive here to the Himalayan Institute in the middle of nowhere India. Although as I found myself in the back of a five row passenger van, that was no joy ride either.

Along with the thoughts around my birthday in the previous blog, I encountered a lot of resistance my first day on campus. This shrine, where everyone else seemed to be finding unlimited peace, contentment and joy, unearthed nothing but contempt and defiance in me. Defiance against spiritual pursuit. Defiance against the pressure of finding bliss. Defiance around terminology and scriptures I don’t know – or care about. At least at this point. I was bloated and cranky and jet lagged and tired and pissed. Pissed at beans and rice for dinner – again. Annoyed at the lack of vegetables and persistent constipation. Over the constant headache I was battling the past 24 hours. I was so agitated and pissed that I may or may not have flipped the bird to the shrine. Probably not in my best interest, but thank goodness, the one thing I’m pretty sure I came here to examine was forgiveness and acceptance. After that action, it’s one thing I would desperately need to ensure I wasn’t sent to purgatory for the rest of my existence.

And it was with those concepts I entered the shrine this morning. Maybe I was putting too much pressure on myself. It doesn’t help when right out of the gate your teacher throws down the gauntlet – You should be in the shrine a minimum of two hours a day. Nothing like a spiritual ultimatum to make me feel like I need to achieve something in the next 10 days. But after a pretty rough birthday, I decided surrender was my only option. If I got in that shrine and could only tolerate a half hour, that’s how long I would sit. I would get up and leave when I felt it necessary. To my surprise, half hour turned into an hour turned into an hour and half. Only one more ½ hour today to hit my goal!

Actually, I decided to care less about how long I was supposed to sit in the shrine. Or what texts I was supposed to be reading or what the rest of these 10 days are supposed to look like.

I forgave myself for the violent words that spread like venom through my vocal chords. Forgave myself for not being ‘up to speed’ on prayers and mantras and time in the shrine. Or leaving my teacher’s talk last night to retire with my new best friend, Ambien. I reaffirmed that taking care of myself is my priority. And not announcing how much shrine time I’m getting (or not getting) is helpful. Nor caring about how much time anyone else logs. My meditation can be as simple as entering the regal wood door and stepping onto the marble floor, sitting and asking for peace and grace without all the formalities. I can have my own conversation with the Divine. This is exactly the space for me to worship and pray how I need to. To find what works for me and let the rest go. And it’s okay if it doesn’t look like anyone else’s here. Or if I’m only interested in reading fiction. This is about my joy. My devotion. How I find it is really only something I can dictate, decide and ultimately, practice.

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