A small, peach-coloured poster on the bulletin board jumped out at me as I walked into the Salad Centre, a vegetarian cafe in Bournemouth, England with the best Banoffee pie.
The poster had an image of a Hindu deity and advertised energy yoga and meditation classes with a number to call to find out more. These were the days when people actually called each other on the phone, before email was a common form of communication and certainly before text messaging, WhatsApp, or any app for that matter.
At the time I was just starting to encounter subtle spiritual energies and wanted to learn more about how to manage and build these energies. I’d attended a few yoga and meditation classes but still wanted to know more and deepen my experiences.
I decided to call the number. A very animated man with a soft Northern English accent on the other end of the phone invited me to a class they were holding later that week.
I said yes and made a plan to attend. When the day came, I set off from my home in the early evening to the address I’d been given on the phone. I got to the seafront and started looking for the apartment, which was on the clifftop just next to the pier.
I walked up and down the roads along the sea cliff looking for the address I’d been given. A journey that should’ve taken me about thirty minutes took me almost two hours and I only found the place about an hour after the class had finished.
As the yogis were teaching out of their home, they were still there even though everyone else had left. A very petite, dusky woman with black hair almost down to the floor opened the door. She introduced herself as Satya then led me to the front room, which had bay windows along the length of it through which you could see the sea. Soon after, a tall man with long salt-and-pepper hair and a beard worthy of a yoga guru ambled into the room and cheerily introduced himself to me as Madhav in a masculine and resonant voice. Their appearances both calmed and unnerved me. I was confused because their names were Indian though they weren’t. They told me that these were their Sannyasin names given to them by their guru.
The conversation to follow was (unbeknownst to me) the first of many that I would have with a couple who was soon to become my first spiritual teachers.
The depth of relaxation, insight, and stillness I felt in their classes was unlike any I’d ever experienced before in the classes I’d attended at community centres.
When the lease on my apartment ran out and I needed a place to stay, they told me that they had a spare room I could move into.
Then, I saw that they didn’t just teach but also lived their spiritual paths.
They taught me about discipline and perseverance as we woke up at 6 each morning to meditate and practise yoga six days a week, even in winter.
There were many times when I wanted to stay in bed or give up. I cried, raged, resented and resisted… but kept going.
We fasted, cleansed, and ate pure, natural, organic vegetarian Sattvic food so that our bodies would be primed for the smoother flow of the energy of awakening.
Changing my diet and even not eating at all was much easier than quitting smoking. I snuck cigarettes on the balcony even when we fasted, marvelling at the amount of time I had when I wasn’t thinking about what to cook or eat for my next meal.
They shared the wisdom of their gurus and Zen master generously. I diligently took it all in, even if I didn’t always understand. These spiritual teachings both nourished me and made me hungry for more.
For the first time, I was enjoying learning and my life.
I felt I was on the right path.
At the end of my time with them, I decided that instead of going back to university, I’d return to Singapore, where I’d be able to take part-time work as I continued on my spiritual path.
I came across the flyer of a Zen shiatsu teacher at a local macrobiotic shop not long after I got back. She lived quite close to me, but (again) I lost my way the first time I was to meet her. She was to become my second spiritual teacher under whom I spent several years studying bodywork, macrobiotics, and Taoism.
I’m so grateful to my first teachers, who waited for this Muggle as she got lost time and again. They understood that sometimes when profound change is afoot, we just can’t seem to find our way easily.
There is an inner unconscious resistance that can block us from moving forward and disorient us. We get uncomfortable, overwhelmed, confused, and even afraid. Sometimes, we get angry and rage, feeling victimised, or want someone to hold us by the hand because we’re sure it should be easier than it is.
We feel like giving up because we’re not confident that we can make it.
We wonder if it’s practical or financially viable to invest in our personal aspirations or spiritual paths.
Are we being indulgent? What tangible result will we achieve anyway?
It feels like too much of a risk and that we have too much to lose.
We put it to the side and focus on what’s in front of us instead.
Yet something silently feels off about our lives, and it gets harder and harder to ignore.
It can take much longer and be much more difficult than we think it will be to embark on deeper, meaningful change because of our very human negativity bias. It’s our survival instinct, and it’s real. However, it shouldn’t be allowed in the driver’s seat because (God Bless it’s little cotton socks) it’ll just hold us back from living the meaningful lives we long to live.
We have evolved as humans to have the power and volition to make conscious choices, to do what feels uncomfortable, and to push through our resistance for the sake of achieving something more. We can conceptualise and reason with our baser instincts and choose to calm our inner Debbie Downer.
We can listen to that softer and deeper calling that’s telling us there must be more to life than what we’re living because there is – so much more.
But you must believe in it and go toward it before it can become real for you. It’s not going to fall into your lap. That’s the test.
Each step you take, however awkwardly or ungraciously, matters. Even if you fumble along the way, each step is an affirmation that you believe there’s something more, and over the years, I’ve found that something becomes everything once you get past your resistance.
So listen a little more closely and see if you can push past your resistance, even if it’s just a smidge to start.
It’s your destiny patiently waiting for you. You wouldn’t want to keep it waiting forever now, would you?