Process of Illumination

Somewhere in the Catskill Mountains

Here we are, in the first week of September and there are many changes taking place. The energy has been pretty intense for the past little while. Do you feel it? 

I have always thought of September as a time for new beginnings. As the summer comes to an end, we have to start thinking about getting back into our regular routines. Vacation time is over, kids to go back to school, the weather begins to change and, for my family, it’s also the beginning of a new year (Rosh Hashanah). Once all of the adjustments have been made during the first week or so, I find September is a perfect time to look ahead, set new intentions and make plans for the year to come. 

It feels very different to do this in September than it does in January because I still feel pretty relaxed and energized after the summer break and I’m excited about creating new possibilities. I suppose its an embedded program from all the years of getting ready to go back to school. As soon a Labour Day is over I feel like stepping right into “planning” mode. As much as I love the freedom of summer and the warmth of the sunny days, I still look forward to the cooler, crisper temperatures and getting back to a routine. It’s like a refreshing plunge into the lake after lounging in the hot sun.

An invigorating shift in experience.

As I said, the energy over the past few months has been pretty intense and we have all been feeling the effects of this in some form or another. Highs and lows, glitches and gifts, doors closing while others open… it’s been a bit of a roller coaster trying to navigate all of it. This is one of the reasons I was so eager to get to the Omega Institute’s Ecstatic Chant Retreat this past Labour Day weekend because being in that pure, uplifting love energy is like having your energetic pipes cleaned… You’ve gotta do it regularly to keep the system flowing.

For me, part of the experience of going to that particular retreat is that it means I get to take a road trip in my convertible. During the drive from Toronto to Rhinebeck, NY, I usually take the opportunity to learn something new by listening to podcasts or an audiobook. This time I chose a new novel by Paulo Coelho called Adultery. God only knows why that popped out at me… I suppose I was intrigued that Mr. Coelho would approach that subject at all, let alone with such a blatant title, and I was looking forward to the possibility of gaining some new spiritual insight on the matter.

Without going into too much detail about the book, I will just say that, while it was not at all what I was expecting, it was a very interesting look at what human beings face in relationships and the factors that contribute to their sense of unhappiness or dissatisfaction. It also shows how easy it is to get pulled down the rabbit hole when you are in “default” mode – disconnected, living inauthentically and without a sense of your own worth. 

Here’s how wikipedia describes the plot:

“A woman around her thirties begins to question the routine and predictability of her days. In everybody’s eyes, she has a perfect life: a solid and stable marriage, a loving husband, sweet and well-behaved children and a job as a journalist she can’t complain about. However, she can no longer bear the necessary effort to fake happiness when all she feels in life is an enormous apathy. All that changes when she encounters an ex-boyfriend from her adolescence. Jacob is now a successful politician and, during an interview, he ends up arousing something in her she hadn’t felt for a long time: passion. She will now do anything to conquer that impossible love, and will have to go down to the pit of human emotions to finally find her redemption.”

Needless to say, I can think of dozens, if not hundreds of people I know personally, including myself, who have encountered this phase of life. For the most part, the book was not easy to get through because it brought me back to a place that was really hard for me to look at. I remember, all too well, those underlying feelings of apathy that were so artfully masked by my ability to make the best of any situation and to keep on striving… and trying to convince myself that it was enough. And, like the main character in Adultery, I think I would have gone on like that, had the universe not turned everything upside down. Ultimately, I came to the realization that I could no longer stay in my marriage and, at the time, it felt like it was the only choice possible. I had no idea who I was anymore and I had been desperately trying to reconnect with my authentic self for years. Little by little, I was learning how to discover and reclaim parts of myself… and it felt good. However, even though I was changing for the better and beginning to really respect who I was becoming, despite my best efforts, the dynamic between my former husband and I wasn’t changing.

I had to move on.  

I’ve often wondered if there were other options I could have explored in my marriage to try and make it work and whether my choice to leave was, in fact, the right choice. While reading Adultery, I came across one particular passage from the book which I found helpful in the sense that it was quite validating and, in retrospect, very true. At one point, the main character consults a Cuban Shaman about her predicament and he only gives her one piece of advice: To choose a path, regardless of how extreme or irrational it may seem and follow it through to the very end. Whichever path she chooses is irrelevant. What’s important is fully committing to her choice and not giving up half way. This is the only way to truly learn what the experience is there to teach you.

Looking back, I realize that this was the only way to approach it. There is never any way to know for sure if the path you are choosing is the right one unless you see it through to the end. If you change direction mid way, all you are likely to do is get more confused and more lost… and it will take you a lot longer to get where you need to go. Once you get there, you may find that it was a mistake but, at least, you can know for sure. There is a lot of power in that as long as you are able to take what you have learned and choose the next part of your journey accordingly.

When the book ended, I felt an enormous sense of relief. Here I was, doing one of my most favorite things… driving in the sunshine with the wind in my hair, drinking in the gorgeous scenery of the Catskill Mountains and on my way to have one of my most cherished experiences – chanting for 4 days in an idyllic setting with some of the great Kirtan artists in the world… truly a gift to myself.

There was no doubt in my mind that the life I have created over the past several years could not be possible without having made the choice to leave my marriage. Yes, there were bumps and detours along the way, but it has led me here, to my truest self. The feelings of gratitude I felt in that moment were overwhelming and I wept with joy for the rest of the journey. I remember thinking that the tears usually don’t begin to flow until I get there and feel the incredible love energy of the group as we chant together. My heart seemed to open up way earlier than usual and I wondered if that meant something. When I arrived at Omega, my eyes were puffy but I was invigorated and excited! I felt like I had dropped a huge weight… somewhere in the Catskill Mountains.

The weekend at Omega was everything I imagined and hoped for… and so much more. This year, I was joined by a new friend I met at the Meditation Retreat in Puerto Vallarta this past February, which was a real treat. We were given one of the best cabins on the property – right next door to Krishna Das and two doors away from Deva Premal & Miten! It seems silly, but it was very cool to pass them on the walkway… smile… say hello… Their music has meant so much to me. I felt very fortunate to be sleeping so close to that energy.

And sleep, I did! 

For some reason, I kept falling asleep during the Kirtans. I’d be chanting and dancing and clapping one minute and then I’d sit down and suddenly my eyes just had to close and I was out! This kept happening at least once during every set. I fell asleep for 10-20 minutes at a time about  5-6 times a day and then slept soundly all night! It was the most bizarre thing and it’s never happened to me before. We were joking about it until my friend noticed that I was not the only one this was happening to. There were dozens of people falling asleep intermittently and all at the same time!

What we decided was that being in that energy opened us up to receive some kind of download during the chanting and we needed to sleep in order to process it. At mealtimes, I was ravenous, as if I had been working out for hours. I have been chanting for some time now and this is my third visit to Ecstatic Chant at Omega, but this year was very different. In fact, everyone else was commenting on it. 

So, what’s going on?

Well, remember how I said that being at the Chanting Retreat was like getting your energetic pipes cleaned? I think that’s because there has been so much chaotic energy everywhere on the planet over the past few months, from both global and personal perspectives that we, as humans, are needing to recalibrate. We are letting go of the denser, darker energies in order to make room for the higher vibrations of light and healing. Symbolically, this is a time of year for fresh starts and new intentions and I believe all that begins with making a choice to clear out the sludge that has been clogging up our systems… emotionally, physically, psychologically and karmically. 

So, as the summer ends and you contemplate going back to your routines, I invite you all to take the plunge… or plunger, as the case may be. Use the opportunity of the changing season to refresh and cleanse on the outside while you purge and let go of all the unwanted and unnecessary baggage you have been carrying around on the inside. With this sense of clarity and renewal it will be much easier to tune into the truth of what you want to create for yourself in the future and to set your intention. Once you know what it is, no matter how crazy it may seem, choose it, commit to it and take the first steps on the road toward it. Most importantly, remember to see it through to the end. Whatever you do, don’t abandon it (or yourself) part way or you’ll never know what is really possible.

No matter what happens – good or bad – a stronger, wiser you will be waiting for you when you get to the end of that road.

All blessings to you.