The idea to go to an ashram occurred while living in New Zealand –back in 2013.
With my father’s unconditional support I signed myself up to go to an ashram in Upstate New York. Needless to say, it was February and freezing cold.
The moment I got there I started to hate it, the heaters were turned off, the food was bad and wake up call was at 5:30am. And of course smoking was strictly prohibited. After 2 days I quit (the ashram, not smoking).
My dad wasn’t happy about the idea; he couldn’t understand how could I quit when I had endured so much more in New Zealand. I didn’t know how to answer his question and so I started to cry.
He calmed me down and said “Don’t worry my darling, everything has it’s time under the stars.”
The moment I jumped into the cab that would drive me away from the ashram I knew I had made the wrong decision. As I puffed on my first cigarette in two days I reflected on how my quest for freedom was enslaving me.
I knew why I had quit. I felt imprisoned. Everything was controlled, the times you eat, what you eat, when you sleep and what kind of work you do. I couldn’t take it. I was a free spirit focused in living a free life.
When I went back to Mexico I tried going back to the ashram but life happened and my entire world came upside-down. The ashram then became a long-lost wish that I would bury with my father’s death.
Every single day after I quit the ashram I regretted my decision. After my father’s death I regretted it even more. Especially because I wanted to free myself from life, but life was determined to keep me in.
Nearly one year after my dad had died, I curiously sent an application to an Ashram. This time I chose the place carefully. I chose a nice island in the Caribbean. I didn’t know if I would get accepted, or if I would be able to afford it. Some would think I was wasting the administrative personnel’s time, but I wanted to dream and feel like it could be real.
A few months later — after I had forgotten about my application, I got a phone call saying I had been accepted. Coincidentally I had just sold my father’s golf car and had the money saved in my bank account.
It wasn’t much; it was the only material possession I had managed to save after his death, but it was enough to pay for the trip.
The yoga teaching course I wanted to take was set to start straight away and so I needed to jump on the plane soon after. I didn’t have time to think about it, it was my time under the stars.
I was excited but above all I was frightened. It was the first time I left the country without my dad’s support, economical and emotional. He wasn’t there to drive me to the airport or to kiss me goodbye.
Could I actually pull it through this time? What if I want to quit? Who’s going to bail me out? Besides the fear, it was the scent of freedom that pushed me to set sail again. Before my father’s death I would continuously travel the world with the breeze on my face and the unknown to call home. I missed it; I missed the freedom airports provided.
With fear building in my being I landed in the extremely hot Caribbean island.
“Fuck! How on earth will I manage to do 4 hours of yoga a day in this heat?” I thought the moment I stepped out of the airport.
On day four at the Caribbean Ashram I wanted to quit. I was extremely tired, wake up call was at 5:30am and we didn’t finish until 10pm. The heat was unbearable, nicotine withdrawal was pushing me to the edge and discipline was so strict that I repeatedly compared it to North Korea.
I wasn’t allowed to leave the ashram after sunset, If I fell asleep and didn’t make it into class someone was sent to wake me up and if I had a headache and didn’t want to do yoga I had to keep on going. There were no excuses to not show up, I had to follow the strict schedule.
I felt like I was in prison.
My roommate, a former US Marine said that life at the ashram was stricter than military training. Her comment comforted me, I wasn’t the only one having a hard time.
I wanted to leave; I dreamed of the moment when I’d take the boat back to the main island, I dreamed smoking a cigarette in the airport while drinking a glass of wine. I dreamed of my so-called freedom.
And then I remembered how ever since I was a little girl I had been insatiably dreaming and searching for freedom. Jumping the fence of my house and adventuring into the cornfields, getting lost between the dirt and the tall plants, running free under the autumn sky. Freedom always seemed one step ahead and I would run miles trying to reach it. Sunset was my enslavement time, when I would have to run back home.
The older that I got the further that I ventured in search of freedom, jumping from one town to another, from one country to another, until I ended up in New Zealand. Here I found freedom of expression, where I could be myself. However, a boy enslaved my heart and the immigration system imprisoned my freedom to choose. Freedom was always on my mind; one step ahead.
I left my 8:00am yoga class against my teacher’s wishes, locked myself up in my room and started crying uncontrollably. I was sleep deprived, hungry, I yearned for a cigarette, my head hurt, my body ached from the strenuous training, I was on the edge of giving up.
I was free to walk away, there was no one holding me back. I could walk to the dock, ask for a boat and sail away. If I did that, I would have physical freedom but my mind would be enslaved to the resentment of quitting.
With no money, a profound hatred in my heart and the hero in my sky dead (my father) I realized I wasn’t a prisoner of the ashram, I was a prisoner of my circumstances, of the pain and sorrow, of the beliefs that were encrusted in my being.
It didn’t matter how far away I sailed, how far I flew away, or how far away I traveled. I had always been a prisoner of something. Addictions, depression, the weather, the landscape, the sky, my mind…
I was laying on the floor of my small room, crying and punching the ground beneath me. Like a little girl throwing a tantrum. I would never find freedom in the world, because the planet itself was my cage.
I had been a prisoner of my own emotions, illusions and desires, they were my cell keepers, my cageless prison.
I pulled myself together and carried on with my day, I felt like my dream of freedom had shattered into countless pieces.
I followed with my strict schedule and made it to night meditation. I closed my eyes, sat with my back straight and my hands resting on my knees.
My back ached, my entire body was sweating from the summer heat, I was thirsty, I craved a cigarette, I missed my dad so incredibly much, I hated what my life had become. “Om, Om, come on!! focus back, bring your attention back Caroline” I thought.
“I miss my boyfriend, I want a cold glass of wine, how can it be so hot? I hate my father’s murderer. Why are people so bad? I wonder if there’s anyone truly free, how will I manage without his money.” My mind was all over the place.
“Om, Om, bring your attention back Caroline” I thought again.
Until eventually, my mind flew away where there are no thoughts. My back stopped hurting, I was unaware of the heat, my thirst went away, the hatred, mourning and sadness slipped away.
I don’t know where I went, but I was free.
Photo credit: Cornfields Pixabay.com