Last week was Navaratri, a hindu festival honouring the nine forms of the divine mother, which can also be seen as facets of ourselves. I really wanted to go to the Babaji Ashram in Holland, Sada Shiva Dham, to
be part of this, because it's over 9 days we couldn't go for the whole time but were able to go for a few days.
We got the ferry from Harwich to Hook of Holland and then drove on to the ashram. When we first arrived I felt apprehensive as I hadn't been before but I was so happy to be there. We went straight into the Havan (sacred fire) which is an ancient Vedic form of worship where the fire is seen as the mouth of the Divine. Offerings of dried grains, fruit and flowers are offered during the havan while mantras are repeated in thanksgiving for the many ways that the Divine sustains us. It was held in the dhuni, which is a small cob building which houses only the fire and a seat for Babaji. It's a very deep and beautiful practice, I found myself very quickly feeling quiet and focused and it was so meditative. After the Havan we had some lunch, did a little karma yoga and settled in. That evening we did Aarti, daily devotional temple service that takes place morning and evening. Offerings of fire, earth, water, air and food are made to the Divine as prayers are sung in Sanskrit and Hindi. Aaarti offers the opportunity for us to play music, sing and dance while celebrating our connection to the Babaji and the Divine Mother. We sing Aarti at home at least four times a week and this form of sadhana has done more for me than I could have ever imagined. I am so very grateful for this practice and I feel the difference within me after doing it regularly now for well over a year. Doing Aarti in the temple at the ashram was beautiful and so lovely to be around other Babaji devotees. Something that came to me was how it didn't feel that different to when we are singing Aarti at home because ultimately, it doesn't matter where you are, Babaji, God, the divine, however you relate to this, is always within you, all you have to do is connect to that part of yourself, to bow down .
After Aarti it was time for bed. I hoped to sleep well but Babaji had different ideas. I woke up, well, at least I thought I did, in the room and sat up, I could feel a presence of a child in the room and told it to come to me, it was a little boy who sat on my bed and told me he had something going on in his jaw. As I had a look something terrifying came out of his face, I started shouting that it was an evil entity, but for anyone who has ever had a night terror will know, you become paralysed and moving and speaking becomes almost impossible. As I tried to move away I screamed with all my might 'I banish you, I banish you, I banish you!' I then woke up, realising it was a night terror. I was so scared and struggled to sleep after that, my mind racing and telling me that the ashram had horrible energies within it and questioning if I should even be there. It's amazing how the ego can get in the way of our healing, how it can take the focus away from the truth of what is and push us towards fear. Getting up in the morning I felt quite fragile and unsure of how I was feeling, luckily we had silent fire meditation and then Aarti and that was the best medicine to process my night.
After Aarti I had come to the realisation that I had been gifted a healing from that night terror. The ones I had previously I never banished the entity or fought against it, the fear had always won, this time was very different, this time it didn't have a chance. I didn't think too much about what it meant or what it was representing, I just accepted it and continued on at the ashram. I found that I felt so much lighter, something had shifted. I felt the most myself that I had ever felt and so content. I'd also had fear about playing harmonium and chanting in the ashram but that went, so I felt maybe it was a fear to be seen that I banished. Regardless, I felt blessed I had been given the opportunity to rid myself of a part of me that was no longer serving me. The couple days that followed I slept very well and was immersed in the ashrams program, I truly felt so at home there. The people were all so welcoming and loving and it felt like a big family coming together in unity, all of us at Babaji's feet. You start to feel what Tom calls 'Babaji valium' after a couple of days of strong sadhana and its such a peaceful and blissful sensation that is just coursing through your being, everything that seemed bothersome loses its grip and you just fall into surrender.
We left on the Sunday morning and headed back to the UK. It's a long journey and so we didn't get home until about midnight. On the Monday I drove down to my Mum's to get Alara. It was amazing being back with her after being at the ashram, the calm feeling was still with me and I found my relationship to Alara was different. It felt much more easeful and I didn't feel triggered by any of her behaviours which I can so often be triggered by. It's been a part of me that I have struggled with a lot recently, lots of mum guilt arising and beating myself up if I don't deal with things in the best way or even just questioning literally everything I do and never feeling I am being a good enough mum, but that dissipated and continues to. I also really truly saw and felt how karma yoga connects us to God, I felt this at the ashram when I washing up. I love cleaning and tidying anyway but when done with the intention of it being karma yoga, you can feel the deepening of the connection to the divine. I found myself really enjoying unloading my Mum's dishwasher and wanting to clean the kitchen for her. I nicknamed myself Mrs Sweep a while ago, so this isn't exactly a new thing for me to enjoy but I now understand how this is a beautiful path of service to God.
I feel so much more connected to my souls path after being at the ashram, I feel peace in my heart and so much love. I had felt uneasy about sharing my connection with Babaji before now, afraid to step into who I am, to allow myself to just be me and share my truth but I no longer feel that. That is what going to the ashram gave to me, permission to be me, to be seen as my authentic self, to let go of needing to be the perfect mum and the frustrations that come with that and to know that all I need to do is surrender, serve & sing and in doing that I will always return home to myself.