When I travel, there is so much to see in the world that I rarely go back to the same place twice. But there are a few places that lure me back. (And I actually moved to one of them). One of those places is Nassau and Paradise Island in the Bahamas. Every time I visit I seem to connect with others and leave with a deeper understanding of humanity and myself.
My most recent trip was in January of this year. My aunt was looking for a spiritual getaway, and I had been to the Sivananda Ashram on Paradise Island and thought it was the perfect place for her, and me as well. Our initial plan was to take the daily yoga classes, swim in the ocean, and attend a three-day workshop about divine timing and synchronicity. As irony would have it, or divine timing, the workshop we were going to attend was cancelled. The only other workshop available was one about cultivating your inner divine goddess. As the Rolling Stones said, “You can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometimes well you just might find you get what you need.” Cultivating my inner divine goddess was exactly what I needed.
This trip’s theme ended up being about connecting deeper with other women and with myself. It was a beautiful experience but quite trying. All I have ever wanted was to be seen and understood for who I was. No masks, no hiding, just being vulnerable and honest. Even though this was what I wanted, I didn’t realize how hard it was to let it happen. There was an initial fear associated with standing in my own power of who I was. It was funny how deep doubt can be ingrained all the way to the cellular level.
The workshop was held on a large wooden platform outside as the ocean air blew through and about 20 women sat in a circle. I was surrounded by women who were powerful and beautiful and looking around this circle making eye contact with all these women created a palpable energy. I started to see more in these women than just what was tangible. Locking eyes with each individual woman felt like a camera that sharply catches its focal point then everything in the background is hazy.
The workshop leader asked many questions which we answered and shared with the group. The one question that caught my attention was, “How would life be different if I believed the divine goddess worked through me?” The question made me realize how I still felt separate from the divine, how I still felt separate from myself. I could see it present in others but somehow it wasn’t in me. But if the divine goddess flowed through me, I would have no fear of standing in my truth. All the self-doubt, criticizing, and giving my power away to others would slip away. It was a huge turning point for me. I had this moment of clarity and self-acceptance. This moment of feeling connected to myself and every person around me. To hear other women share their same stories and to hear other women share how they already honored themselves was refreshing. As these discussions continued, it felt satisfying to have these conversations with other women. To be honest without any repercussions or judgments and to feel supported.
One of the things I love about visiting the Ashram is the questions people ask one another. When we normally meet someone in our everyday lives, the first question we ask, after getting someone’s name, is “What do you do?” This question bothers me so much. I have always felt we are so much more than our jobs. It is a surface level question; it is safe. It probably doesn’t help either that I don’t have an answer that most people understand. But at the Ashram, the first question asked, after we get someone’s name, is “Why are you here?” It is such a simple question, yet it always has rich answers. Everyone at the Ashram is on a journey and seems to have an amazing story.
I remember one morning after breakfast I headed to the beach. I was wading in the water watching the cool waves roll into my thighs then pull the sand and small shells out from under my feet. A beautiful young woman was standing 10 feet away doing the same exact thing as me. We made eye contact and smiled. She said, “I will do it if you do it.” We both had been standing there for quite some time deciding when the ripe moment would be to duck under the surface of the waves but neither one of us had made a move. I let out a long sigh through a puckered lip smile and hesitantly said okay. While the sun was sitting brightly in the sky, the ocean still had a chill to her. But we counted to three and both bobbed under the surface. I stayed under for a while to let my body adjust to the new temperature. I popped back up and the young woman was floating close to me.
We started with the “Ashram” introductions as we treaded water. Her name was Erin, and she was on escape from life. She visited the Ashram at least once a year because it replenished her body, mind and soul. Right now her life was hectic, and she needed some quiet reflection time. The Ashram always offered that to her. She was a successful business woman who moved from New York to London. She was single, never married and didn’t have any children. She had spent her 20’s traveling the world then she settled in London and started her own business. She could have fooled me. I thought she was in her 20’s still, but she was in her 40’s. She had a youthful, gentle energy and a radiant smile and skin. She said she loved owning her own company, but it took so much of her energy. She wasn’t able to travel and do all the things she loved like she had been able to in her 20’s. She thought about selling her company so she could be freer, but she was afraid she had become too accustomed to the lifestyle she was living.
She shook her head with a smile on her face then asked about me. Why was I here at the Ashram? I told her this was my second visit here. This time I came with my aunt who needed an escape as well and wanted to have a spiritual getaway. At the time, I didn’t call myself an Adventurer Explorer, so I always said I wasn’t actively working because I had been afforded some opportunities that allowed me to take some time off. In actuality, and this applies now as well, my job is me. My job is to rediscover myself, to take time to have fun with myself, and truly experience the joy in life. I normally didn’t share much more than that, but there was a rapport with Erin. There was an ease to our conversation. My story began to unfold right there in the ocean. I told Erin both my parents had passed away from cancer in 2014 six months apart from each other. While my parents didn’t leave me with millions of dollars, I was still left enough money to be able to spend some time traveling and exploring and following my whims.
Death is always an abrupt wake up call to life. Watching two people pass away who wanted more time to live is unnerving. When they passed, my mom was 61 and my dad was 65. I don’t think I ever took life for granted, but I think it is easy to get lulled into auto-pilot when cruising through life. And I don’t want to miss the ride.
After I finished my story, Erin nodded voraciously understanding the need to not just live, but to experience life. She was a fellow life traveler and appreciated others who shared that common interest.
There is power in connecting with another human being. Erin and I talked for 30 minutes in that ocean. We shared hopes, fears, joys and concerns; we were vulnerable; we were honest; we were our true selves. In that short time, Erin inspired me, and I was in awe. She had amazing experiences of traveling that she shared with me from spending time with monks in India to experiencing an intense Native American ceremony in Oregon. It made me crave traveling even more. To hear her story of how she started her own company and moved to another country, another continent, alone elicited excitement in me for all the possibilities that life has to offer.
She was proof of what could happen when we take chances and risks and believe in ourselves.