Yoga… What does it mean to you? How has it touched your life?
This year I have been privileged to visit Shree Peetha Nilaya in Germany – the largest and most established Bhakti Marga spiritual centre and ashram and the primary residence of Paramahamsa Vishwananda.
The core values of the Bhakti Marga path are love, patience and unity. With all the traveling I have been doing, I have had lots of “waiting” time to sit quietly and consider what these qualities mean to me and a few weeks ago, at the Just Love Festival I met someone whose story sums them up so perfectly I feel moved to share…
During the course of the long weekend, from the vantage point of the Buttafly’s stand at the festival, I often found myself watching the movements of a striking young lady. She was at least six foot tall with long golden hair shining brightly in the sunlight, a figure-hugging dress the colour of lemons showing off her feminine curves. In contrast to the elegance of her stature though her gait was awkward, challenged by legs that didn’t quite work properly, her hands empty and unmoving at the end of arms that too appeared stiff and unwieldy. I found myself willing her to come over and wondered why… It was more than a desire to find out the cause of her condition, more than wondering whether I may have anything to offer her. The sun was still high in the sky on Saturday when she came and stood before me, her beautiful blue eyes clear and direct as she searched my face for I knew not what.
I quickly discovered that she uses her eyes as a primary means of communication – her speech impaired by a mouth that struggles to make the right shape to articulate words. She speaks nonetheless – patiently repeating herself while I try to figure out exactly what she is saying. I felt embarrassed by my lack of being able to understand her when she was trying so hard. We spent the best part of an hour together while she tried various ways to use the Buttafly – unfortunately her shoulder hurt too much for her to lie down on it comfortably – but this was by the bye.
For then she shares her story. She was 17 when her girlfriend laced her drink with a drug similar to the date-rape drug.
Her body had an extreme reaction to it and she went into shock, causing brain damage and leaving her profoundly disabled. She told me that she was unable to walk and in a wheelchair when she first started coming to the Ashram. By the Grace of Guruji she says, she is now able to walk and with fingers still paralysed she points to a tattoo on the inside of her right forearm – a phoenix. “I will rise again!” she smiles almost conspiratorially. Now I am barely able to speak for the lump in my throat. “You struggle to speak words I can barely understand and yet repeat them over and over, patiently waiting for me to get your meaning. You move and walk with a courage I can barely imagine to overcome your physical challenges. You to me are Living Yoga.”
She holds my gaze… I’ve had 13 years to practice patience, she says. And 13 years to work on forgiveness. In her eyes, I see the full source of her love and strength, the power of her forgiveness and in that moment, realise the gift of our encounter. We hugged long and hard – was it just me trembling with emotion. “We are sisters,” she says. “My name is Isabelle.”
Guruji says that learning to love ourselves, others and the Divine helps one change from the inside out, inspiring others to do the same. Patience is developed by learning to do one’s dharma (duty) with an attitude of acceptance and devotion. Unity comes as we learn to work together and grow into seeing everyone and everything as an aspect of Divine creation.
Isabelle continues to inspire me and encourages me to work even more on patience and acceptance.
Tilly Louise x