it was a little over a year a go that i experienced a place that was beyond imagination, and beyond reality. perhaps one of the only things that convinces me that this place is thankfully real is that I can go revisit its magic.
I share a story now that I spent months hiding in my heart. Last summer after deciding to stay in Karachi to wait out my separation from my ex-husband I started searching online for a yoga retreat in Sri Lanka or Nepal – both places that would be easy for my parents to get a visa (I wanted to go for a week with them before I went off alone to a yoga retreat). It was my first time planning a vacation just for myself and I somehow came across this website: http://www.ulpotha.com
Without reading the recommended review I signed up, paid, and confirmed two weeks at Ulpotha – a yoga and ayurveda retreat 3 hours from Colombo. The main attraction for me was that this place provided a not for profit health care service to villagers through the money generated from the yoga retreats.
Closer to the day of leaving Karachi I found out that Ulpotha is without electricity, phone or internet. Hah! I had never been out of a city for more than 2 days in my life, and even then always in a place with electricity & cell phone reception. But somehow this time around, it didn’t really scare me, it just meant that that was how it was going to be and that I would be fine.
A week before leaving for Colombo my mind had reached a manic pitch of anxiety and sadness. I had even succumbed and left a message on my ex’es phone after months. I couldn’t believe that time was slipping by and I still hadn’t heard from him. That he hadn’t regretted his decision to walk out on us. That he was somehow happy ok, moving on, while I was miserable tormenting myself with thoughts of the past.
I entered Abdullah Shah Ghazi Mazar, a place where seekers ask the Sufi Saint to help deliver their prayer to Allah, at 9 am on a Monday morning after yoga at the Art of Living Centre. I had forgotten to bring a dupatta to cover my head but I still was allowed in. The first day I went I started to cry. Fresh hot tears, nose running, no tissue. And a man approached me who worked at the Mazar. He began to ask me what I wanted. In any case I told him my story, and he said he could help me. That nothing was lost yet. My heart hoped. My mind rejected. I decided I had nothing to lose so agreed to take his help. In return (and only in retrospect do I realize how hilarious this next part is!) he asked me to top off the credit of his mobile phone!
I came the next few days to leave an offering and pray for the return of my forsaken love. The day before I left for Colombo, Baba gave me a small piece of metal and a piece of paper with a long prayer wrapped around the metal. He said leave it under your pillow at night and pray before you sleep. Do this every night and you will see that in a month your husband will come back to you, beg for you to return, etc etc. I smiled in my heart thinking this is impossible but arriving in Colombo that night I did as he had directed.
For 10 days (4 days in Colombo 3 days in Galle and 2 days in Ulpotha) I did exactly that. And then after the second night in Ulpotha I forgot about the piece of metal. I forgot about praying. I forgot about my past. I came fully and incredibly into the moment I was living. And this moment was unreal, so beautiful, so poetic, that only God could have created it for me to experience.
So I soaked in it. I trusted my heart and it started realizing that I was only here because of all that had happened. That I had awakened my ancient divine self because my ego shattered into pieces. And the torment I was in was my ego’s last attempt at keeping me reigned in, tied to a past that I would never understand or find answers for. Coming into the moment connected me to my heart. instantly i realized that I had to accept 2 important things: 1) that it is not important why it happened i just have to accept that it happened 2) and ultimately we all live in a benevolent universe.
Now I can understand that many of you who may read this could come up with tons of rational mind based arguments to defeat my simple conclusions. But I’m asking you to step away from your judgement for a few moments. and see how it feels to listen from your heart, even it if feels uncomfortable, just sit with that discomfort.
I left the prayer behind though I think I had 20 more days to actually get the desired result I somehow was graced with the realization that I didn’t desire any result than the one I had in the moment. That i couldn’t actually go back to my old life because I had begun my rebirth and that there was no room left for my past in my present. Nor was there room for a future built on my past. I felt that sudden excitement of the endless possibilities. Of the endless adventures. Of the first breathe of true freedom, not from a life partner, but from the shackles I had built around myself.
I swam in the beautiful magical lake of Ulpotha on the third night – I had never swam in the dark before and the water felt like velvet ribbons. That swim so simply cleansed me of all the negativity I had been storing inside myself for a year. My tired eyes, my overused tear ducts, all got a break those 2 weeks. I just swam, played, did yoga, enjoyed ayurvedic massages and food, and met beautiful people.
When I got on the van to go to the Colombo airport, it felt like I was leaving my true home. A place that without any fuss of our modern life created for me the experience of healing i desperately needed and the universe needed for me too. Something a friend said many weeks ago returns to me over and over again – Rumi has said somewhere ” that what you are seeking is seeking you too “.
The last morning in Ulpotha I visited the Ganpathi statue outside my hut. Unbeknownst to me then, but Ganpathi is the Hindu God that is known as the “remover of obstacles”. I took that piece of metal and the paper and laid it as an offering to Ganpathi. I prayed from my heart. I asked for the strength to accept my life as it is. To know that it is perfect and to be truly full of gratitude for everything that has happened and everything that I have. I asked for help. Over and over again.
From that day to this one I have travelled more on my spiritual journey, understanding my destiny, my truth. It is so simple and so complex, and it is so ordinary and extraordinary all at once. I continue to ask for help, I continue to falter, and I continue to be all too attached to pleasure. But I can feel the difference, the calm that rests at the centre of my chest and filters through my blood all the way to the tips of my toes and to the top of my head. my body moves with the grace of love and God. Thank you Ulpotha can’t wait to be in your nurturing arms once again.