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By Saraswati Kaur (Jules Hartley)
I recently joked to a friend that my entire life felt like an Alanis Morisette song. The past year in particular has been a sardonic, thorny transit period for me—some call it Saturn Return, others call it "life" or even a sign of the times—but I was certainly in for a spiritual overhaul.
After going through two devastating breakups, floundering with a "failing" career path, having a friend die in an accident, and then enduring three more family-member funerals in a matter of months, it was enough to catalyze a movement towards personal enlightenment. Eat, Pray, Love—my emotional state had rendered me miserable. I was unable to eat anything but Lara Bars and the occasional cup of coffee, couldn’t sleep more than 3 hours a night, and was too paralyzed to do anything other than cry and knock myself out with “power” yoga to try and eradicate the ego-icane of thoughts and feelings that raged around me. My old ways of being were clearly not the best operating manual to follow. It was time to hit the “eject” button for the seat of my previous self and go on a spiritual warrioress’ quest in the name of love and clarity.
I was recklessly willing to dive into anything that might help, so at the suggestion of a friend I signed up for what sounded like a hippy-dippy peace fest, 3HO’s Summer Solstice. Peeling back the layers of my life, I quit all my previous engagements, dropped my old name, and jumped into my Prius to head out to the desert. But from the moment we drove in through the gate, everything seemed bizarrely familiar to me on many levels—like I had been there before. Guru Ram Das Puri held me in a magical embrace, and somehow, via meditation, chanting, and “slow” yoga I had found my way into a new world of blessings and light.
While in Espanola, I heard that "it takes 40 days to break a habit; 120 to make a new one." Okay, following that advice I decided to give myself 120 days of sobriety, celibacy, and reflecting. Using my intuition I made the bold decision to take the next 4 months and travel around the world and do some volunteering—all in order to continue my quest for love and clarity, fill my soul tank, and climb through to the other side of this Aquarian spirit window.
Seventeen flights, ten countries, nineteen new cities—my path has led me to do service work with an orphanage in Kenya, teach in Africa’s largest slum, and spearhead marketing efforts for a forest and community conservation site in Zanzibar. Rewarding on all levels, this seva (a term I learned at Solstice!) has been a most fulfilling adventure, packed with challenges, grace, and wonder beyond my wildest dreams.
But it is my unexpected, not-originally-planned current itinerary that has been the real gem: in Anandpur Sahib, India, I have finally found my spiritual home. A response to an email inquiry I had sent to 3HO back in June led to the suggestion that I come to this village in Punjab, and I am beyond ecstatic that I once again followed the whim. All I have ever worked for, cried for, loved for has led me to this moment, this sacred land.
Nestled in the lush cradle of the Himalayan foothills, Anandpur Sahib is like the Garden of Eden—colorful parrots, bright jungle flowers, and a vast expanse of blue sky provide a backdrop for gorgeous, mind-blowing temples. I believe it is truly the holiest place on Earth. The countryside is so rich with religious history I’ve been calling it Spiritual Disneyland. This was Yoga Bhajan’s favorite retreat and staying at his Dashmesh Sadan I have been able to channel the Gurus’ words and draw my spiritual sword to fight any remaining battles in my mind. I have succeeded in reaching a new level of enlightenment.
And what about “love and clarity“? I've found that clarity can only come with tranquility, and tranquility is the result of proper spiritual nourishment. By doing Yogi Bhajan’s kriyas, meditating at the gurdwara each day, listening to kirtan, and reading banis, I've been able to slowly tap into my neutral mind and understand on a much deeper level the roots of how I perceive myself, the Universe, and God. And in understanding this, tearing back the veil of maya and radiating my light, I have achieved a release of my anxieties as I am reminded that I myself am love, with beauty and sovereignty, inseparable from God, the Universe, and all sentient beings.
Bring it on, 11-11-11. Thank you 3HO and thank you India, indeed. Wahe Guru!
Jules Hartley/Saraswati Kaur worked as an actress and model in NY and LA for the past seven years. http://spritualwarrioress.tumblr.com/