For many years, I didn’t appreciate the word “faith.” It had a very narrow definition for me and didn’t resonate. When people talked about their “faith” and “having faith,” I was glad they felt something, but it was hollow to me.
Then, after years of life challenges such as surviving the military and infertility, we had the opportunity to take a year off. When our gap year started in 2011, I felt like I had been pulled through the ringer.
I felt a bit broken and a bit stretched too far. I needed a change, I was searching for answers, and I needed a boost of hope for what was next in my life.
Our gap year started in India (after a short stop in Amsterdam) and a couple of weeks in, we went to our first spiritual retreat: a 7-day yoga retreat in Mumbai.
The first thing we learned? Many Westerners (ourselves included at the time) think of yoga as a form of exercise, but we learned at this institute that it is so much more. It’s a philosophy, a way of life, and a way to be in this world and engage with it.
It encompasses how to work the body, how to take care of it, what to eat, how to think, how to live and act, and how to connect with “God.” The yoga postures (asanas) make the body healthy, but they also train the mind and work to cultivate mental health.
When we attended The Yoga Institute, the guru in charge of the center was Dr. Jayadeva Yogendra. He made time to have a brief meeting with each student and offered individualized health advice in the form of certain exercises or postures one should do, as well as recommended readings and perspective shifts specifically tailored to that student.
Prior to meeting with the guru we had to fill out a form listing our current and past health concerns and specific questions for the guru.
Rob was given instructions to walk for 15 minutes first thing in the morning before eating, and should do two specific asanas each day in addition to regular yoga practice.
Other fellow students in the program received various instructions – some more physical exercises and others, more mental. I was so excited to meet with the guru and hear what he had to say. Since I had so many health challenges at the time, I was very curious and very ready to hear the guru’s advice.
When my turn came, I felt electric with anticipation of what he was going to say. I sat down facing the guru, and waited anxiously for his wisdom. We sat silently and he stared at me deeply for what seemed like minutes. Then his breath broke the silence and said, “Have faith. That is all. Have faith.”
I came all the way to India to hear to “have faith”?? What does that even mean??
I was perplexed, and frustrated.
Several weeks later, we found our way up to Tushita in northern India. This program was the main reason we went to India. It was a 10-day silent meditation retreat and “Intro to Buddhism” program.
Before I continue, I’ll answer your burning questions. Was I really in silence for 10 full days? Yes. We only broke silence for 30 minutes each day to have a short discussion with our assigned groups. I did not talk to Rob for 10-days even though I saw him numerous times a day.
Second question: Yes, it was one of the best things I’ve ever done in my life. I would do it again a thousand times. And then again.
Day by day, my mind settled, and the inner messages started to come through. Tushita also offered the opportunity to meet with the instructor to ask specific, personal questions. I visited to him one day to ask my question (whatever it was – I can’t remember now).
His response was, “Ah, yes. This is where faith comes in.”
So, a yogi guru and a master Buddhist teacher (totally different religions and approaches to spirituality) both had the same message for me.
That is all. Have faith.
I spent the rest of our gap year contemplating this message. What does faith even mean? What does it mean to me?
After months of sitting with this question, and being in a state where I was the most strongly connected to myself and my spirituality than I’ve ever been in my life, it finally dawned on me.
To me, faith is the most simple, common definition. Faith is nothing more than having complete trust or confidence in someone or something.
So the next question was:
And what do I have trust in?
My inner widsom’s answer?
The powerful force that is beyond our comprehension but connects us all. The force that in quiet moments, I feel it’s pull, and sometimes, it’s message.
“Having faith” became new to me when I reclaimed it’s meaning for myself. And it has served me very well these last couple of years.
Moving to Columbus, Rob starting medical school, spending another year trying for a baby, getting pregnant and keeping the pregnancy full term, having Pookie and becoming a mother, and on the cusp of more changes to come this year as Rob waits to be matched, we wait to hear where we are going, and we start the journey of residency.
It’s a lot. But…
I have faith. I trust in it. It’s really all I can do. And it is enough. <3
You can read more about our time at The Yoga Institute on my old blog.