Spiritual Temple Tour of India

Temple tourI can’t wait to return to India for a spiritual temple tour! I have been to India twice now and after each time I returned home, I said to myself, well, I can scratch that off my list of experiences.  But India calls you back to experience that deep stillness in your soul and the feeling of flower petals dropping into your heart.  I know some of you will say, but there are SO many people, limited or nil sanitation, worries about what you will eat (cleanliness), constant loudness of many varying sounds and the hustle and bustle of all who live there.  But within all this chaos, there is this indescribable peace; the Shanti of India.

GaneshaThe first time I went to India was in 2007 with my guru, Namadeva Acharya (Thomas Ashley-Farrand) for the Shree Ashtavinayaka Darshan (pilgrimage) visiting the eight holy shrines of Ganapati in Maharashtra.  Words could never describe all of my experiences, but I will list a few here – Peace pouring down like rain that brought tears to my eyes when meeting the Jagadgurus in Kanchi Math.  At the Rama Krishna Centre in Bangalore, I sat outside on a rock with my feet grounded to the earth.  My meditation was short due to time limitations but very intense.  I could feel all of my chakras vibrating all at the same time.  When I stood up, I could feel all of my energy lodged into the earth and I could not move my feet; possibly an indication that I did not want to leave yet.  Attended an evening puja and when the priest rang his bell, I could feel intense heat and an upward flame burning from my forehead where the marking lines of Vishnu were drawn.  Meditated at a Ganesh temple feeling my heart full, chakras vibrating in my hands with purple lights clouding my vision.  In a meditation in the Himalayas, felt like my hands and feet had separated from my body.  These are just a few of my experiences.  Seven years later in 2014, I returned to India again visiting Rishikesh, Haridwar, Vrindavan, Mathura, Agra and Jaipur with many more wonderful experiences that I will never forget.

Spiritual Temple TourIndia calls again, four years in this upcoming March, when I am leading my own tour (Harmony Spiritual Temple Tour in Tamil Nadu, March 12-27, 2018).  My tour guide is Mina Tilakraj who has worked 30 years in tourism and whom I met in 2014.  I have extensively researched everything for the tour, all planned and ready to go!  I am taking a small group but there is room for you if you wish to experience a dedicated Sadhana practice in India.  Tamil Nadu has 33,000 ancient temples and I have selected very special ones.  We will visit the five temples for the elements (earth, wind, fire, air, ether) and the nine planets (Sun, Moon, Mars, Mercury, Jupiter, Venus, Saturn, Rahu and Ketu) plus visit many other temples for Shiva (including one temple with 468 Lingams), Parvati, Brahma, Saraswati, Vishnu, Lakshmi, Krishna, Rama, Shesha Naga, Sudarshana Chakra, Kali, Narasimba, Durga, Ganesha, Hanuman, Bhuvaneswari, Yama, Mother Gayatri and Dhanvantari.

At each temple there will be a planned Sadhana practice (pranayama, mantra, meditation, mudra and journaling in a tour book I will be providing to all aspirants).  This tour is totally spiritual; our main goal.  Oh yeah, with a little bit of shopping.

Temple Tour

By Helen Mikuska, SOYA, E-RYT500, Lead Trainer for SOYA teacher training in Calgary.

Woman Dancers

Ayahuasca as Medicine Part 2

In last month’s Newsletter, I talked about the benefits of working with Ayahuasca and Tobacco as a tool for our healing and spiritual growth. I believe that no single practice can take us where we need to go and do.  We need to be open to all the possibilities that are available to us, but only if they speak to us.

It was after my trip to Ecuador in May that Grandmother Doreen Spence came into my life. She is an 80 year old Cree Elder who acts like she is 50 years old. She is a woman of tremendous knowledge and spirituality. In June we did a Traditional Native Teachings course with her in Victoria. It was here that I knew a new path was being laid out for me.

We had a drum journey at this event. In the journey there was a bear and he led me to the top of a mountain. Then an Eagle came by and picked me up and took me across the mountains and landed me in the prairies. Here my journey became a continuation of one my Ayahuasca journeys, and I knew that the prairies held a special significance for me.

View from Writing on Stone of the Milk River.

Mugs and I had our summer all planned out. We had our home up for sale and we were going to travel through the Kootenays and Northern BC looking for property. But Grandmother changed everything. She invited us to a sweatlodge in Cochrane. “Of course!” we said, and our plans had to wait.

The sweat was a great experience – very cleansing and detoxifying. We spent a couple of nights at Grandmother’s home hearing her stories and gleaning her wisdom. She is not a fan of Ayahuasca, but feels it does have a role and she seemed to accept me going to a Shaman in South America.

We left her place without really knowing where we were headed, and at the same time there were areas that intrigued us. We had a summer of

Writing On Stone Provincial Park. Art work by the Blackfoot nation has been dated back 5000 years

following our intuition, looking for the signs and paying attention. We had faith that where ever we ended up was where we were intended to be.  As a BC boy all my life I could not ever see myself living on the prairies, but when one begins the journey there is no stopping it. Grandmother says “there are no coincidences in life”. When you place your trust in your inner and divine knowledge, that is within every being that surrounds us in our day, we can’t go wrong, because everything just is.

Writing on Stone Provincial Park held a special significance for us. Our campsite was full of robins. I never seen so many robins in one spot. I looked up the meaning of the robin and it was “new beginnings”. Our property sold while we were camping there. After we left the park, our plan was to return home and Mugs could catch up on her work. But…….I felt we had to go through Cardston on the way home. The little town was interesting. There was something about it.

After a few days at home, I couldn’t shake the feeling that we had to go back to Cardston. There was a POW WOW in a week. So after telling Mugs she could be home as long as she wanted, I lined up some houses for us to look at and off we went to Cardston.

We weren’t impressed with anything we looked at, but I kept saying to Mugs, “I hope the realtor has something unlisted. Something that a friend has that he is allowed to show.”  Well, after looking at all the houses the realtor had for us, he could see nothing had grabbed our interest. He then said ” I have a friend, who has a house and he told me to bring somebody by.”

We stepped out of the car at this house and we were in love with it. What a manifestation! I said I could live in a two-bedroom house with one bathroom if it had an office, a garage and a yoga space. It had it all and character in spades. This is how a BC guy ends up in the prairies.

My point is, from this year of following our intuition, that the learnings from my lovely wife, Erich Schiffmann, Tantra, Ayahuasca and now Grandmother, all become part of my tool box. I am not just a yogi; I am not just studying Shamanism; I am not just working with Indigenous spirituality. I am the totality of everything I have learned. There are four colours to the medicine wheel, Yellow- (Asian), Red- (Indigenous), Black- (African) and White- (Caucasian). It is said that when the four colours come together there will be peace on earth.

When the fruits of our spiritual practices come together, will we become enlightened?

 It is with great sadness that I had to cancel my Men’s retreat in Ecuador this year. But the journey continues and I still intend to go back and bring men and women with me, as many of you have expressed an interest. I am hoping that this will be the beginning of helping people come and experience what the Plant Medicines have to offer. Please feel free to email me if you are interested. 

Bob McConnell is a RYT500hr yoga teacher and co-owner of SOYA.