“When I told my friends I was planning to travel to an ashram in India, they couldn’t believe it. I’m quite a talkative, lively person, so they joked that I’d be chucked out for being too noisy.
This is not about me having an Eat , Pray, Love moment. Rather, I’m turning 30 and, with it being a significant birthday and the start of a New Year, I just want to do something different for myself. January always signifies something special and spending it in an ashram is the ideal way to guarantee that you start the year in a positive frame of mind.
As an expat living in Dubai, Christmas and birthdays are usually about travelling back to the UK and seeing friends and family there, but it can get quite manic. My family are very different from me, so when I told them about my plans to escape, on my own, just for some ‘me’ time for a few weeks, they were very much like, ‘Oh, here she goes again!’. I think they see me as some kind of wandering hippie, so it didn’t surprise them much.
It’s not that I want to be unsociable or not spend time with them, more that I see turning 30 as a pivotal age and a new chapter in my life. I’ve been getting a bit more spiritual over the past few months and just want to follow it through. I feel quite strongly that I want to enter my new decade being in a clearer state of mind and more sure of myself. I am quite an energetic person and I can get stressed out because my brain is constantly on the go. My aim is that the ashram will provide me with that bit of inner peace to propel me into my next stage feeling refreshed, enlightened and more confident about who I am.
I’ve always been fascinated by travel and adventure. As a child I loved reading stories about different countries - tales of mystical cities and faraway lands would always fill me with curiosity and wonder. They made me feel excited, like I was stepping into a whole new world. Consequently I love visiting new places and immersing myself in different cultures and traditions, customs and food, and understanding how other people live. I’ve always found it funny that throughout the whole world over, everyone’s day to day existences are so varied, yet as people we are all striving for the same fundamental goals - love being one of them.
It was actually one of my pupils who recommended the ashram to me. One day I set my class a homework assignment to write a report on something I’d be interested in and, remarkably, one of them wrote about yoga and meditation and recommended an ashram that his father visits.
The particular one I’m visiting concentrates on a mixture of yoga and meditation, solo and group classes, plus some guidance and therapy sessions. I won’t have to be silent the whole time (I hope!) but there will be periods of quiet reflection. Then, of course, there’ll also be lots of time to soak up the surroundings and to just be by myself, being peaceful.
Although I often travel alone, I have never actually spent a significant amount of time in complete solitude so this will be a whole new experience for me. Some of my friends think it’s a strange choice, but I’m looking forward to it. I think in today’s demanding society it’s all too easy to get wrapped up in other people’s lives and you can often put your own thoughts and feelings on the backburner. Spending time thinking about what makes you ‘you’ and fully accepting yourself, whilst focusing on who you want to be in life, is all important for self-development and re-evaluation.
I read Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer this summer and the main character in it stated that ‘happiness is not real unless it is shared’ (or something along those lines). I totally agree with this observation, however, I don’t believe that you can truly understand such a statement unless you have spent time in solitude, where you have to deal with yourself and all of the issues that you may be trying to ignore by constantly being in such close contact with other people.
In my opinion you cannot attempt to find real happiness and contentment if you’re not happy and contented with yourself. Too many people are scared of their own company, and worry that admitting that they enjoy being on their own will make them look like a loner.
There are lots of things that I want to achieve for myself in 2012 - from travelling to progressing at work - and I want to get myself calmed down, be in the best place I can be, and to start the year off as best I can.
I am quite a goal orientated person and my main focus this month is on self-improvement. No one can picture me staying in the ashram, but I believe that this is the thing that I really need to learn. I can be one way, and have a lively and chatty personality, but I can learn to be another way too.”