What it means to be locked down in the Isha Yoga Center
Rachel : My name is Rachel Hunter. I am a mother, a TV host (of Tour of Beauty), and a model. As I say this list of identities, I realize they mean nothing. I’m a human being. “Stop hunting, Hunter,” were the words Sadhguru said to me a few years back. What you must understand is that I have a wandering, curious soul, or maybe just a restless mind.
Cut to the March 24th lockdown, in the ashram along with some incredible people, Sadhguru himself, and consecrated spaces like Linga Bhairavi, Dhyanalinga and the Nandi. This is sadhana, a spiritual seeker’s dream; and my spiritual hunter wings had been clipped. I am in.
I had decided to stay on after Mahashivaratri to submerge myself further into sadhana. An 18-day silence blended into a 21-day lockdown. Silence to lockdown!
During this time I would experience moments of great worry as my adult children are in London — wanting to hold them — with loved ones scattered. There are moments of worry, wanting to have control of the outcome, with thoughts of those that are suffering; moments of “I need to get home;” and finally a moment of surrender. Somehow this is where I am meant to be.
This is the sadhana of a lifetime! We had been living together for weeks, health checks done every few days, with social distancing in place. We were lucky to be able to walk within the ashram, a place that reveals and fast-tracks so much of the internal dialogue.
Transcending the Ego Response
My first encounter was with the Yoga Yoga Yogeshwaraya chant coming from speakers planted all over the ashram 12 hours a day. I wanted to choke them at first, which I realize is quite the ego response from me. Please someone pull the cords out! I just wanted silence. But I knew that the chant was breaking down some deep conditioning. It was a collective supportive practice. There was great comfort found in it eventually, the volume hasn’t changed, and I have found that I have transcended that irritation. I actually found myself naturally chanting away during the day at times. The mantra was becoming a part of my breath.
Regardless of who you are, where you are, with the world shut down we are now left with the world we are in — the inner world — here at Isha, surrounded by beauty, the mountains, the calls of the peacocks, tiny squirrels. That moment gets abruptly halted as it all dissolves and you are left with you! This became more evident as I knew nobody really, as in socially, so there were no stories, like “She did that”, “He, did that”, or “Oh, did you see…”, etc. No external dialogue.
Hearing yet again the invitation to go within more, like someone’s running their fingers down a chalkboard that reads “Go within.” Ugh, I know, I have, I am there, reels the ego, the loud mind.
Connecting with the Inner Temple
As time goes by, days melt into each other, so do the stories in the mind. There is no hiding the inner stories or flaws. Time to dissolve and evolve. During my sadhana every day I walked to the Dhyanalinga. I love temples! I have sat in many. But this ‘ahh’ moment became so clear when I saw this sage. As you leave from inside the dome, you walk past great sculptures of the sages, Patanjali, Akka Maha Devi, Kannappa Nayanar, to name a few. I found great awareness from Poosalar. Within himself was the inner temple etched in his body. I would run my hands to touch his feet, the deep recognition of the inner temple. Without the deep awareness of the inner temple — my own inner sanctum — I realize I will never fully Be.
This powerful life force weaves throughout Isha, breathing life internally and externally. Seva is that abundance of health and wealth of humanity. As you silently walk to morning and evening meals, spacing always at six feet, an occasional gentle look from someone if you are too close, warm Namaskaram as you wait patiently to wash your hands for 20 seconds, lining up for food patiently, the patience to get a meal, the volunteers standing serving food! You are part of a family here so you offer to serve. The day I served here my heart felt full, expanded. To move 2500 people through meal time with awareness in space, cleanliness, with gratitude and with respect felt effortless. It was beautiful to watch and be in. We wash our plates and cups; all in a conscious way. All of it so beautiful!
Donated my Dinner
As I walked to dinner one night I was in my head of sadness about those who had no food in these times in India and around the world. As I approached I saw a longer queue. I asked what is that line? He answered, “If you want to forgo your evening meal and eat simple, you can donate your dinner. Tears welled up in my eyes. This needs no explaining.”
Warm drinks are offered to us to support our immune system. The keyword is “warm,” in this South Indian heat. The shifts in my physical body, the changes in my health, my nails which have never been longer, my energy, my skin! My ability to be stable mentally in a time like this is extraordinary.
Isha acts as a beacon to us, to be there for others, to serve. Volunteers in the communities help the farm laborers with food, as it is the time to get the fields ready for the coming year. No person should be hungry or unloved.
The inner noise slowed. So, the restlessness of the soul slows; no hunting, slow seeking, instead providing glimpses into the Inner Temple.
Last night I walked in the cool night air as I do every night — lucky in these times of a lockdown. The water lilies open shining in their glory, out of the mud came the lotus, the sweet smell of summer, the rain starting to become present.
I sat at the Nandi’s feet, the great vehicle of Shiva, with the full moon between his horns. Nandi is known for his receptivity as a spiritual seeker. I bathed in the moonlight, starting to be receptive to the Inner Temple. I bow to you Sadhguru, to all the volunteers, to the people of Tamil Nadu and India.
Again learning deep lessons. Someone asked me at Isha, “Why do you love India?” I replied, “She has been a great Mother to me. She teaches me lessons fierce, with great love. She always holds you in her arms.” Life has changed, so has the world. May we tread lighter, realizing we are nature, we are not superior.
Within the ashram this is an incredible example of over 2500 people being proactive and responsible to each other. Living in an unknown timeline with great honour to each other, we can thrive and survive, allowing all aspects of nature to exist.
Like Sadhguru said the other day, would the world survive without us? It will thrive. Would we survive without the world? No.
Editor's Note: This article was originally published in Isha Whispers…April 2020. "Isha Whispers...” is a monthly newsletter that gives you access to the inside scoop of what goes on behind-the-scenes at Isha - be it Sadhguru's programs, events, volunteering, intimate sharings, inspiring incidents or glimpses into some little-known facets of Sadhguru...