Inner Awakening in May of 2015 was held in the holy Indian city of Varanasi. In Sanskrit, the word “Varanasi” literally means the place between the nose and the eyebrows, referring to the third eye. This beautiful city is built on the shores of the Ganges River in Uttar Pradesh, North India. The most famous and oldest ghat is Manikarnika Ghat, a cremation ghat for the bodies of Hindus. When a person’s body is cremated here, Shiva grants moksha, liberation, to that person. This makes Varanasi a popular place of Hindu pilgrimage. Varanasi is a truly magical city filled with ancient temples and I cannot wait to go back again.
I always tell people that they would recognize the city if I showed them a picture of one of the ghats. Many people, through Western social studies books or historical documentaries, instantly recognize the grand stone slab embankments set along Ganga. One of the most fascinating pieces of information Swamiji has revealed about Varanasi is that the old streets are so narrow because this city was built for the Shiva ganas, servants of Lord Shiva, who flew instead of walked! They simply didn’t have use for streets like we do today.
Speaking of Shiva, Swamiji had invited everyone to experience the state of Shivoham in Shiva’s home, Varanasi. I remember Swamiji saying that Varanasi is the place to experience Mahadeva’s love current. Of course, I didn’t know what that meant until I really experienced it for myself!
What is Inner Awakening?
Inner Awakening is a 21-day yoga and meditation retreat conducted by living enlightened master Paramahamsa Nithyananda. It is open to absolutely everyone – all ages and any religious backgrounds. Each and every technique and process is directly derived from Vedic scriptures and teachings.
One of the most unique aspects of this transformational program is having the kundalini shakti, our dormant potential energy and power, awakened through initiations by the Avatar. We experience healing at the physical, mental, and emotional layers in various dimensions of our lives. I’ve heard it perfectly described as an upgrade in the software of your body-mind-consciousness system by using the science and technology of Hinduism.
How did I end up going to Inner Awakening? I hardly knew anything about Hinduism except a few things I had remembered from some terrible Eastern Religions course I took in university. Besides that, as a teen I became interested in Buddhism and many Eastern teachings (I was even inspired to practice vegetarianism at 14 years old). In summary, I had an open mind and yearned for a real solution to the crippling anxiety I suffered under. But I found so much more than what I was looking for!
Durga Mandir shown in the photograph above.
We had one full day in Varanasi before the beginning of the Inner Awakening program.
At about 8am, Swamiji gives a morning discourse called satsang. Before this day, I had only ever seen Him through a screen. I didn’t know what to expect, and the fear of disappointment lingered in my mind. Was He really blissful 24/7? The answer is YES! The first time I physically saw Swamiji for live satsang, I was taken aback by how radiant He is in person. His skin is soft, smooth, and without blemish. His teeth are the whitest I’ve ever seen. His laugh is infectious. I found He laughed so much more off-camera! That is what I would miss most about Master when I went home.
A devotee receiving blessings and fruit from Swamiji
After satsang, there is a kalpataru darshan, which is open and free to all. I stood in line along with the other devotees and watched Him give out blessings and fruit. Finally, it was my turn and I felt so shy, but I was indescribably thrilled afterwards! I felt in inner excitement for no particular reason.
Following satsang and breakfast, we booked a tour. We visited a few temples, including Durga Mandir (also known as the Monkey Temple because there are so monkey beings that that hang out there). And I bought my very first sari, even though I had no clue how to wear one!
Grand Opening of Inner Awakening, Varanasi
May 7, 2015: At the time, I thought the opening was really theatrical, which I was really puzzled by. I felt puzzled by the whole thing, really. The thought crossed my mind “What the hell am I doing here, halfway across the world, practically alone?” The lights were dimmed and there was loud music…but I had pictured a yoga retreat as really quiet! “And if He is God, why is God on Facebook?” I had all sorts of judgment and fears. But in His powerful presence, all of those silly assumptions and conclusions simply vanished.
In the photograph below, although I’m not visible in the crowd, I was standing to Swamiji’s right.
Before Swamiji arrived, we were given flowers to offer Him while He passes us on the way to the stage. As He drew near, I outstretched my hand, He graciously accepted my flowers and set His hand on my forehead in blessing for the first time. My heart rate immediately skyrocketed and I felt intensely relieved and joyous at the same time. I smiled, I teared up, and I danced along with hundreds of other ecstatic beings. I relished in the feeling of His warm, soft hand on my skin. My Being knew I was at the end of all my suffering. Even though it didn’t logically make sense, I felt like Swamiji had happened just for me.
For one of the first processes, Swamiji guided us all into a meditation in which He releases the suppressed emotions in our nervous systems. I sat there, blindfolded, waiting for something, anything, to happen. Then, it felt like it all hit me at once: I was bawling so much, I started gagging. A strong surge of energy, almost like electricity, buzzed throughout my body. And then I felt a strange, almost uncomfortable sensation in my hands and fingers. I temporarily lost control over them as I felt my fingers contort into positions they’d never been in before. It was literally like all the suppressed emotions were being squeezed out of my nervous system. Afterwards, I was pleasantly surprised when I felt no trace of the depressing hangover that usually stays after such an intensely emotional episode. I quickly learned that nothing around Swamiji is usual.
The above photograph wasn’t taken in the Inner Awakening I attended, but it shows Swamiji in Kalabhairava bhava.
This is when I experienced Swamiji as God through having the physical darshan of Kalabhairava. Kalabhairava is the time-aspect of Sadashiva, He is incredibly ferocious and fiercely destroys the negativity within us. With just the flick of His hand in Kalabhairava bhava, He sent people into bliss with intense kundalini shooting through their bodies. Some people shake, some people jump while sitting cross-legged (the initial stages of levitation), some sit still as a rock.
Even though, as a Westerner, I felt a little freaked out at first with everyone wearing white, totally adoring Swamiji, and wearing a rudraksha mala with His picture on it…After the Kalabhairava darshan, after I experienced Swamiji as God, I couldn’t help but excitedly get a mala for myself! I laughed at myself for resisting the idea. I loved it so much, I never wanted to take it off! During personal energy darshan, Swamiji put my mala around my neck Himself and gave me a hug. It feels so special. In fact, I wear mine every single day and only remove it while playing or training for my sport.
Rudra = a name of Shiva
Aksha – tears/eyes
The rudraksha bead is very special to Shiva, the first rudraksha were formed from Shiva’s tears, they fell to Earth and grew into rudraskha trees. Lord Shiva is often depicted wearing necklaces, bracelets, and armlets made of rudraksha. These malas are one of the ways we can communicate to Swamiji, we hold it in our hands and tell Swamiji what we need and He answers all sincere prayers. Rudraksha holds energy – mine is fully charged by having worn my mala throughout many Shivoham processes, initiations, dips in holy rivers, and darshan.
Temple Visit to Sri Kasi Viswanathr
We were up in the early hours of the morning to have darshan at the Kasi Viswanathr Temple. Kasi Viswanathr is a temple for Shiva where the the linga, the deity, was installed and energized by Shiva Himself. In the wee hours, we were taken in tour buses into the city, then we walked through the narrow streets of Varanasi barefoot to Sri Kasi Viswanathr Temple. I remember tearfully chanting “Om Namah Shivaya.” I’d had never really cried from happiness, I made fun of my mom for that. But now I was crying left, right, and centre because I was overjoyed and completely inspired by all of the beautiful traditions.
Throughout Inner Awakening, we had darshan at the temples several times. All the temples are breathtaking and all the deities absolutely gorgeous. When I had their darshan, I felt my whole body, especially my head, was full of a light, gaseous bliss. There is nothing like inwardly basking in the ocean of bliss and blessings that the gods and goddesses give freely to all those who seek it.
Participants at the Kalabhairava Homa. I’m in the middle of the above picture!
We sat on the banks of the Ganges River to participate in the Kalabhairava Homa. A homa is a Vedic fire ritual. Lord Kalabhairava was offered oblations as we requested His divine protection in our lives. Swamiji gave all the participants a gift to energize our homes with in the form of a copper plate inscribed with a yantra. It was so cool!
Swamiji initiated all of us into the completion process. This topic by itself can be the subject of many blog posts. I’ll explain as best as I can and as briefly as possible…
The completion process is firmly rooted in the Vedic tradition. Mahadeva (Shiva) taught the science of completion to Devi, the Goddess. This is recorded in the Vijnana Bhairava Tantras. Swamiji gives this translation of the 22nd verse:
“Look at your past, disidentified; let attention be at a place where you are seeing some past happening; and even your form having lost its present characteristics is transformed.”
What the heck does that even mean?
First, let me give you an idea of what incompletion is: Incompletion is the hangover of the past, sitting in the present, and affecting your future. All forms of powerlessness such as guilt, fear, anger, hatred, and greed develop into patterns. In our unawareness, we forget the reason why we made the decision to react in a certain powerless way. Our bodies mature, but our consciousness becomes frozen in those moments of powerlessness.
Most of us run our whole lives based on these incompletions and we feel them most prominently when a certain situation “triggers” us to experience that same powerless inner space. For example, if your boss yells at you and you feel angry or scared – it is the exact same powerlessness you felt when you could first remember your father yelling at you at four years old. As a result, you’ll avoid your boss or any situation where that may happen. You may tell your friends and they’ll take your side, you will focus on justifying why you are so angry or scared of your boss instead of why you react the way you do. Much of the time, we find that our incompletions become blind spots for us as they have become part of our day-to-day lived experience. Our distorted perceptions are justified, normalized, we can’t see past or through them, and we accept them as reality.
During the completion process, we recall all the incidents in which we felt powerless and relive them in vivid detail inside our inner space, which relieves us of that incompletion. This is “reliving to relieve.” Important to note is that remembering is not reliving. Remembering is shallow whereas in reliving, we completely forget who we are in the present and become ourselves at the moment the incompletion formed. Next, we relive those incidents in the mirror with our reflection as our non-judgmental, silent witness. At last, we complete with ourselves and others while another being sits and gives us the deep listening we require to heal from these incompletions. I say “being” because we can also sit with deities and they also provide listening to us while completing.
At the Inner Awakening program, we provide deep listening for others and vice versa. This means we are given eye contact, but no “nodding” or sympathizing or any other words or body language is utilized. To be perfectly honest, I was very nervous about sharing all my painful stories with others. Instantly, my fears about others judging me bubbled to the surface, but as it turns out, everyone was so supportive and sincere in helping each other complete.
These kriyas, processes, are really intense and powerful. We complete with our identity, self-doubt, self-hatred, self-denial, health, wealth, food, sleep – with ourselves and others. Completion opens up a deep understanding and clarity about ourselves and empowers us to rewrite our own futures.
If you’re interested in learning more about the Science of Completion, there is an amazing playlist on Nithyananda’s Youtube channel: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zSc1Ao-hJwo&list=PLY2GZjHc0HLmO2cgduGXlfH-oMqV4xxNi
I continue my Inner Awakening journey in another blog post: Part 2