So you may have noticed my absence. Or maybe not.
The thing is, in 2015, I had the best 9 months of my life. I quit my job, traveled the world with my love, ate lots of really crazy food, had a breakdown/breakthrough with my anxiety, learned a whole lot about happiness, yoga, and budget travel.
Look at my last few posts. Ah, now there was a girl who was starting to figure it all out.
And then, predictably, it fell apart.
Look, I’m not saying that all the things I learned while on my trip were false. I am saying that sometimes– even when you know all these things about being happy, about letting it all go, about karma and meditation– sometimes there are still storms that can blow the roof off of your peaceful meditation hut and seriously destroy everything.
If you can stay calm in one of those storms, you’re a liar. (Or a genius. I’ll probably buy what you’re selling and then write about how it’s actually cheating.)
So obviously I moved into an ashram.
Which of course made it so much worse. But I didn’t know that at the time.
When I used to hear the word “ashram” I thought of pretty girls with no makeup on, making tea and reading the Bhagavad Gita before going to bed at 8pm. I thought of barefoot hippy children running around doing yoga and having an etherial glow. I thought of a care-free world where people would talk out their issues before holding hands and meditating together.
I will be the first to admit that having any kind of expectation was my biggest mistake. Turns out, people go into ashrams for all sorts of reasons. Sure, sometimes they want to serve God… but this is California.
There’s this thing called Spiritual Bypass. It occurs when people move into spiritual work because they are running away from their unresolved issues in the material world. It’s fueled by this idea that if you renounce worldly things, meditate (or at least pretend to), and wear certain clothing, you’ll somehow be above all the pain and suffering you’ve got to deal with because you’re a human being.
Spiritual bypass is no secret in spiritual circles. It gets talked about a lot. But what struck me about living in that sort of environment is how it really just sneaks up on you. And the harder you fight it, the stronger it gets. And it’s almost like by *trying* to remove yourself from the world, by *labeling* it a distraction, you actually give it more power. Sort of like a demon on Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
Which brings me to my last point. For some people, I guess living in an ashram is a good and healthy decision. I always thought finding a place of solace to explore the mind and spirit would be good for me. But now to state the obvious:
Ashram life wasn’t for me.
Those who know me well know I’m not one for authority. I like to think critically. I’ll debate you just to see how well you’ve thought through your beliefs. These fun personality flairs aren’t really compatible with what I signed up for.
I won’t really go into detail about what went down or why. I’ve got plenty of funny (and some sad) stories from my time there, and I’ll spill when the time is right. But just know that the details of what happened aren’t really that important. What’s important is the lesson I took from my time there, which is this (as a little poem, for just you!):
If you’re ready, you’re ready.
If you’re not ready, you’re not ready.
You cannot simply choose to be ready.
If you keep living with eyes open, eventually you will be ready.
The point is, I wasn’t ready. Choosing to renounce the world wasn’t going to make me any more ready. In fact, it was making me less ready because it was removing me from my purpose and discouraging me from engaging with emotions and the causes of suffering. Personality flaws (or flairs!) aside, the real problem for me was that I realized that I wasn’t doing what I needed to be doing. My intuition was telling me to embrace the world, not shut it out. To go out and live in it, and get my hands dirty alongside others.
And so, I’m back in the world of the living.
It’s taken me a surprisingly long time to regain my voice. I think I had put my humanity away in a little box and then forgot about it for a while. Not long after I came back, I would joke with my friends that they needed to be patient with me because I was slowly becoming a human again.
Aren’t we all?
Even though I know it’s all complicated and twisted and temporary, there’s sacredness in this world. There’s holiness in the mundane. It’s fleeting and it’s a mess, it brings about suffering all the time. But learning to be ok among these things, instead of removing myself from them, is a far more valuable lesson. For me, anyway.