This was my fourth visit to Ganga Darshan, but this time I was extra lucky because I did the four month Certificate Course in Yogic Studies, which gave me the opportunity to come into contact with a wide range of yogic knowledge. As in my previous stays, I experienced many changes. It seems impossible to remain unaffected while being in the ashram. I noticed this in my classmates too. Everybody had an internal process of transformation, sometimes painful, sometimes joyful, but there was always the excitement of on-going self-discovery, like an adventure. In the ashram we are in a special environment, leading a sattwic disciplined lifestyle and sharing our lives with many wise people. This has a positive influence, allowing us to see things in another way which is more expansive and intense.
My class group was a very heterogeneous one, consisting of 63 students from 25 countries. They were friendly, open-minded cooperative people who integrated to form a whole, although this was not immediate. There were different ways of being, different customs, and some of my classmates spoke poor English, so communication was limited. At the beginning of the course, the group was watchful and silent, trying to understand as much as possible, so there was no excessive socializing. Gradually, however, the integration happened on its own, spontaneously, increasing with the celebrations we frequently held.
It grew especially after travelling to Rikhia for the Sita Kalyanam program in December. Our karma yoga there was helping with the preparation and serving of food, and with accommodation. There were thousands of visitors to Rikhia, so the task was not an easy one; it required a great deal of organization and work. Working together helped us to unite more as a group, encouraged by the feeling of happiness which flooded the akhara. The small sacrifices brought great joy, a sensation of vibrating and living to the full.
There were no sub-groups within the class. We were all friends. Several students left the ashram highly motivated, with a strong inner resolve and enthusiasm to carry out some work connected with the ashram or with the yoga of Swami Satyananda. That surprised me because in between our inner processes, the most common and the easiest thing is to identify with the negativity coming out. It can be difficult to keep one's balance and give the appropriate value to all the benefits being received.
I had already been practising yoga for some years, so I had a certain background. However, the course helped to deepen my understanding and clarify many subjects and concepts; for example, the relationship between guru and disciple, prana, the mind, the effects of different practices on the body and mind. In particular, I found the study of yoga philosophy interesting, and the fact that you can find a direction to follow through, comparing your present situation with the ideal one. If you are convinced that the ideal one is better, you can follow certain guidelines for change and work on a process of self-improvement. Personally, I found this very useful in order to keep on going in areas where I felt I had become stagnant. Whether or not you have practised yoga for some time, you can always get benefits. Many of my classmates, who were complete beginners, felt very happy with what they learnt about yoga.
We received so much from the teachers, who taught us with dedication, enthusiasm, humility and an interest in sharing what they knew. That contributed enormously to our imbibing yoga more and more. The motivation and inspiration remain in my memory, along with gratitude.
The best part of ashram life were the meetings with Swamiji. Contacting him in satsang, or in 'casual' interactions, or going directly to him for a talk, always leaves the sensation that something is moving within us. These interactions always trigger feelings, emotions and thoughts which help to improve our understanding and awareness. They are opportunities for change in order to grow, learn and expand our awareness. I have often received invaluable teachings on such occasions, although of course more than once they actually produced a conflict within me. Interaction with Swamiji can mean perhaps a shake or lead to a feeling of fullness. Every meeting is definitely unique. Beforehand, one never knows what is going to happen. Being in his presence means living in the present, and that is a great gift.
I really feel very lucky because Swamiji is my guru. My life has progressively been filled with more light, my personality with more strength and glow and each time I feel more alive. It is as if he perceives every new understanding and step forward we make and smiles and feels happy inwardly. So, on this fourth trip to India, I have been given more than I expected and again I feel like returning. My gratitude to Swamiji, the swamis and all the people I met is enormous. It was worth being here.