Tag Archives: meditation

The Science and Experience of Meditation, Flute and Healing the Planet Feb. 17, 2018 in Oakville, Glen Abbey Community Centre-Always Free!

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This week I met so many marvelous people in the Halton region, (Ontario, Canada) putting up posters on bulletin boards, focusing more on Oakville to spread awareness of another wonderful free public event for Realize Awareness in Nations to Heal Mother Earth. People shook my hand, their eyes began to sparkle, they asked in depth questions, and some of them spontaneously got their self-realization (they achieved the yoga state, nirvana, moksha) in looking at the poster with wonder and while we talked. One employee from a coffee shop had many questions, which were very introspective.

As I explained the yoga system that unlocks our central nervous system by awakening our own energy that enlightens our entire being, A.J. exclaimed he had goosebumps suddenly. So I told him, that is the life force, the energy we have been talking about, now you have felt it, and it is showing you what I am sharing with you resonates with truth. He said, I am totally going to the program, can I bring someone? Another lady from a pharmacy wearing a lovely elephant ring, was so glad, she stretched her arm out into the air and said, spread this, spread it everywhere! It was as if she was saying go forth!

But all over Oakville, from Dundas, to Glen Abbey, to Lakeshore to Kerr Village, youths and adults alike, shook my hand, hugged me, marvelled at the wonderful animals on the poster, and were filled with a desire to experience this Yoga connection. About the poster, they said, this is so cool, I get it, this is what I have been looking for, I get it! One girl said, I was just manifesting something like this, and here it is in my store. Thank you so much, I am bringing my mom!

It is a mini universe inside that connects us to the entire planet, living beings, the universe, and it can be felt like goosebumps, a cool river or breeze inside, or a wave. While explaining the poster and the system to a cashier, another lady looked over our shoulder and was asking, may I see the poster, can I come too? Can I bring someone? The energy was and is palpable once you get your self-realization, and they were responding with such genuine interest.

It felt like that moment in the movie Tomorrow Land (with George Clooney) where the new generation picks up a curious badge that transports them to a new reality, you can really feel the vibrations coursing through your veins. A new awareness is infiltrating our society, and there are so many who have been searching for it. I did not know what to call it before, it is a type of inner journey, or truth seeking. And Sahaja Yoga meditation quenches a thirst for self knowledge.

So come and experience the positive energy, feel the music of the flute flowing through your entire being, and find out the science and health benefits of meditation and experience it while sitting in a chair or on the floor, with no hard poses. Meditate to connect to Mother Earth, everything and everyone and feel it for yourself. We can heal the planet if we realize our powerful connection to it and all it’s living beings. May the force be with all of us!

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Saturday January 27th in Burlington is a FREE Event-Realize Awareness in Nations to Heal Mother Earth, Ontario, Canada and Croatia’s Inner Peace Sahaja Yoga Classes Begin Jan, 2018.

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On Saturday January 27th in Burlington, Ontario we celebrate the March of the Penguins in a FREE public program that is dynamic, invites the audience to participate in changing the world for the better by changing our consciousness to a collective state of Yoga, which means union or connection. The Burlington event includes a meditation for Mother Earth, some artistic, creative and scientific presentations and for the kids in all of us, music, dance and more!

Families and first-timers are welcome to enjoy the enlightening event which appeals to all walks of life. Join us from 3-5pm at the Brant Hills Community Centre (Mountain side room).  You can sit comfortably in a chair and still achieve the Yoga state, with no hard poses, or on the floor if you prefer. You’re sure to feel joy, peace and a sense that we have the power within to change ourselves and change the world for the better. Come with an open heart and bring your friends and family and feel the positive energy!

On that note, January being a traditional time of re-evaluating our life journey to improve our higher selves let me share even more Yoga Events in the world, this time, in Croatia. Sahaja Yoga helps us humans to achieve a higher awareness through the actualization of Yoga. It is an experience that works out really well in collectivity.

It will make our communities a better place to live in by celebrating our Oneness, come meditate with us, open your heart and have fun! Sahaja Yoga invites you to Croatia for a brand new course curriculum this month. The last two summers my family and I have visited this wonderful, warm bunch of Yoga enthusiasts for blissful meditations in class, and on the pristine beaches of Rijeka and famous cruise destination Pula. We also had meditation retreats in Selce-Crikvenica for the advanced class which were so relaxing and blissful.  Best of all, these instructors speak Croatian, English, Italian and German and even more languages…as does their global class. They adapt and keep communication lines open so everyone can feel the joy and peace within. Every change starts with a single step, at no cost to anyone, and is absolutely priceless. Look forward to meditating with the Croatia crew this coming summer 2018! Stay warm this winter, keep calm and meditate with us!

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The Restorative Power of Meditation Event, Burlington-Wednesday June 14th, 2017-A Drop in, Public and FREE Event

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March of the Penguins Climate Change Event happening Jan. 30th, 2016

On January 30th, 2016, the public is invited to a FREE public program entitled March of the Penguins, held at the Burlington Senior Centre Auditorium from 2-4pm. The address is 2285 New st., across the parking lot of Central Library. Come visit us in Burlington, Ontario, Canada!

This Climate change Event features the latest research presented by Calin Costian, President of the Centre for Evolutionary Learning and a meditation to connect us to mother earth, rather than planet earth. Calin Costian is our very special guest speaker that was actually involved with the Climate Change conference in Paris! He visits us all the way from Dallas, Texas, U.S.A. and is a Wellness Ambassador for HP and has provided informative and interactive programs for large corporations all across the globe. Many international corporations have benefited from the research and seminars he has shared and whole heartedly endorse this scientific yet simple approach to re-establishing the higher human connection in a collectively conscious method.

It is a family friendly event, where we will see what penguins have to say, sing or dance! A broadcast of the live event that occurred in Paris of Meditate on the Eiffel Tower will be shared, with additional surprising twist and depth. This unique program is inter-active and ultimate facts and fun will be interwoven into a self-realization experiment with the truth of our being. The audience will learn to connect to Mother Earth, as aboriginals have called her, and self-cleanse with Sahaja Yoga simple techniques.

This can easily happen while enjoying the presentation in a chair. Of course others, may prefer to sit on the floor, if they are more comfortable. March of the Penguins is the kick off point for a monthly Climate Change (show you care) Program series which will demonstrate how We Are One and transform us from a local to a global personality that can affect change in our neighborhood and abroad! Many ECO teams from Halton schools have been invited to participate in this community event that promises to change the way we approach our materialistic way of life. Youth are the future ambassadors for inner peace and living in harmony with nature.

Leaders from the community of Halton, Burlington, Oakville, Hamilton in Canada and other areas have been invited to this very important community program.We can all work together, no matter what age, to raise the awareness of human beings and realize that our potential to influence and change the world for the better, is within our hands!

No matter where you live in Ontario, this event will be life-changing and life-affirming. Everyone is welcome to join us, from near or far!

The March of the Penguins Climate Change Event is a FREE public program, but spaces are limited. You can take a chance and drop in, or contact us at contact@free-meditation.ca and reserve your tickets by pasting this URL into your browser http://www.free-meditation.ca/archives/20798. Tickets can be held at the door. Simply send us your name and how many tickets you require. Even young kids will enjoy the penguins and a little interactive fun for younger children. This is a collaborative project with CEL The Center For Evolutionary Learning and Sahaja Yoga Halton which has an informative facebook page with more information.DSC00329

Modelling Again, Never Say Never

Paula Erskine Rediscovers the Catwalk (third from the left)

Paula Erskine Rediscovers the Catwalk (third from the right)

The stars seemed to be aligned as door after door opened to bring me surprisingly back into the modelling arena again. Alexis Lagos, of http://www.lacedupimagery.com had bought me a ticket to a fashion show being held last fall in downtown Burlington. Earlier that day, I had visited the Burlington Arts Centre to assess the same room for a completely unrelated event. There, I spotted co-owner of Vogue models Sandie. I re-introduce myself, but because there were very few plus size models that they had employed, I was delighted that she remembered me. After telling her about my career as a flight attendant, she asked me, “Why don’t you come back?” Reluctantly, I said, I don’t have time. Don’t you have anyone? She said, “she has tattoos!” We both scoffed at this. When I was with agencies Sherrida (possibly the best agency I have ever worked for, and at the perfect time in my career) in Toronto and Ford, I also moonlighted with some runway shows for then solo owner and model/actor Mike from Vogue. We had seen each other in waiting rooms at other gigs and I gave him my comp card (a composite card with head shot, fashion shots, and measurements).

I didn’t know how I could fit it into my flying schedule again. My seniority has become quite good by now, and I can choose longer layovers overseas and gather some per diem (money assigned for meals, but with a little budgeting, can be saved for shopping or paying bills). Flying had become a far better way to make a living than waiting three months for a modelling paycheck, working a few times each season, and watching a check reduced to series of agency deductions and fees. And I say this of some of the agencies I worked for, which never stopped deducting for mysterious, automatic re-orders of my composite card for $99 a pop, mysterious, unproveable long distance calls for “potential clients” in other cities that I never worked for, courier charges of same composite card to unknown U.S. clients, and obligatory self-produced video shoots that such agencies claimed was for U.S. clients and deducted $150 from each model’s paycheck times over 100 models. Let’s all do the math on that one since it happened about 3 times a year up until the year Ford, there I said it, closed it’s doors in Toronto, forever.

I worked for the same 10 clients for two decades. It is justifiable if one’s composite card was actually updated and completely different from year to year, if not sooner. But over and over, said agency re-ordered the same $99 for 50 cards every 3 months, sent to the same 10 clients, who knew me well. I say that not because I was “the best” in any way. It is just that out of 8 plus size models in Toronto, about 3 or 4 of us managed to find time for modelling bookings around our other jobs for many years. We had a reputation for being professional, punctual, hair and makeup ready, available, friendly, likable, and most importantly, we fit the sample sizes.

There were about 4 main studios producing most of the flyers and catalogues. And hiring us, were the fashion stylists. They knew our measurements matched the sample sizes and as long as the clients were happy, we got hired. We built relationships with these stylists and photographers. I was always friendly with the assistant photographers, who, never forgot when you took the time to chat and crack jokes as the test polaroid developed, and later, the digital test shot, before the shoot got rolling. Assistant photographers became lead photographers with which the base of a friendly relationship had been formed. But I have gone off on a tangent here, only to explain a bit about the inevitability of leaving the modelling world simply because it did not pay the bills.

Cut to this time, last year…after a 5 year absence from the modelling world…

Upon attending the downtown fashion show as a spectator, I was warmly greeted by Mike, owner of Vogue. Actually, Sandie must have mentioned that she had seen me, because there were hundreds in attendance as Mike collected the tickets for prizes. We watched the runway show, with music pumping, and marvelling at the models in their towering heels navigating steps, levels, and runway. Alexis asked me, “do you miss it?” And I had to say, that yes, I missed that live feedback you get from a runway stage with music setting that upbeat, “come on, why don’t you shop?” mood.

One month later, I got an email from Vogue. They had a job for me in January. They had gotten my email from the prize ballots. So I booked my days off from flying, and committed to two weekends of runway shows. Fridays were rehearsals and fittings for several retailers. I studied the choreography and lineup from a well organized sheet and made notes with a pen. It was a bit nerve wrecking. I was worried about walking in high heels and falling. I hadn’t walked in heels in 5 years because of foot issues, which have since subsided thanks to compression stockings and orthopedic shoes. I bought a metallic pair for a wedding that were suitable and perfect for the wedding themed shows. I had also picked up a patent nude pair of heels from Guess in The Bay on sale. After many years of modelling, one tends to buy shoes that one can invest in a model bag. This is always subtracted by how much the job is actually worth. I bought the shoes just months before knowing I would do the show. Yet how I buy shoes, always has that practical factor. Then, I invested in clear, industrial packing tape. And I packed those size 9 and 1/2s and taped my shoes in on the soles and back of the heel. I was apprehensive about tripping and/or stepping out of my shoes. The tape gave me confidence.

Bridal Hair Backview-Revisiting the Modelling Arena 2014

Bridal Hair Backview-Revisiting the Modelling Arena 2014

Saturday and Sunday of each weekend consisted of two shows in the afternoon. Hair and makeup was provided in the mid-morning and I couldn’t have been more delighted. One thing that I miss about modelling is getting my hair and makeup done. Lashes, pin curled up dos, air brushing foundation finishes were a highlight. The part I don’t miss is that the whole production took two entire weekends from morning to dinner time plus friday night to prepare. But in hindsight, I have no regrets. My outfits ranged from bride to bridesmaid to mother of the bride. I particularly fell in love with a teal gown from Mirella’s Boutique (Burlington) with encrusted jewels that flowed to the ground. I felt like I was in an haute couture gown built for me.

Feeling grateful for being given the opportunity to model the catwalk, I strutted, and gladly posed at the end of the runway to an appreciative audience. Here is what I didn’t expect. That after meditating for about 5 years now, I have in particular instances, felt absolutely blissful vibes in my meditation class, watching movies that appeal to my soul or spirit, and certain types of music written or played from the artist’s heart. It is like a rush or flow that feels like it is pouring out of me. And that is what happened on the stage those 4 days. Once my nerves subsided after the first show, I felt that rush inside that made me smile from the heart and soul. The music was helping me float down the stage. An electric violinist played Vivaldi on stage for the finale and I felt like this music was coursing through my veins. I was glowing from every nerve ending. It was so surprising for me to feel such joy while modelling. But I had got into the good habit of clearing my mind lately. I knew that meditation would help me to strut my stuff. I was so delighted that I was enjoying the whole process to such a heightened degree. I was beaming. Which for bridal wear, is probably a good thing.

I realized that I have always enjoyed the social aspect of building relationships in the modelling world. Modelling would not have been possible for me had I been anything less than a fairly proportioned, 5’9″, photogenic, comfortable in my skin, full figured model. A professional reputation, friendly personality and availability blessed me with longevity in the fashion industry. Upon revisiting the modelling catwalk, I was relieved that my taped feet did not fail me in my heels. The bonus of having gained some momentum spiritually, turned this privileged opportunity into an absolute pleasure to the core of my being.

Destination: The Space Between The Thoughts

Photo by my Scuba Diving  Instructor Gunner Eggers, I witnessed this beauty during a live-a-board excursion in the Similan Islands,  article and personal adventure by Paula Erskine

Photo by my Scuba Diving Instructor Gunner Eggers, I witnessed this beauty during a live-a-board excursion in the Similan Islands, article and personal adventure by Paula Erskine

“Buoyed by water, he can fly in any direction-up, down, sideways-by merily flipping his hand. Underwater, man becomes an archangel.” Jacques Yves Cousteau

I remember pestering my father as a child while he rested. I walked on his back with my light frame as I asked him to think of a colour or a number. I remember closing my eyes and trying to visualize the answer feeling that it would appear to me. I don’t recall what percent of the time I guessed correctly, but perhaps these were my first attempts to tap into my father’s thoughts. I remember trying to guess how many cars would come through the gate before our friends would arrive to play with us at the campground. In general, I felt that alot of things worked out for me and that what was happening seemed to be my fate in hindsight. I tried to connect all my experiences in my head, if this hadn’t happened, then would the rest of happened as it did? What control did we have on how we lived and what fate had in store for us? At 19, I found myself fascinated with my Philosophy class at York University. It was the first time I had ever heard of Dr. Carl Gustav Jung and his discovery of the collective consciousness. One example was when an Olympic champion had broken the record for running the fastest mile. Before him, nobody could do it. It was considered to be impossible. But after he broke the record, suddenly, collectively, runners all over the world, who had not communicated with each other, were able to surpass what was deemed impossible for so long. These people were not communicating via internet or phone. Just observing that there a was time when these were not common methods of communication is one example of how society has grown forward technologically at least, for better or for worse. It was as if there was something in the air that was, contagiously progressing mankind as a whole. So one can ask, was our limited mind, limiting us from surpassing what we thought we could achieve? Was there perhaps a possibility to access an unlimited realm? For years I have witnessed the evidence in favor of the fact that humans are all connected to a collective consciousness that pushes man to evolve together.

I found this to be the most profound discovery of my philosophical ponderings. Why was it when when a song popped into my head and I turned on the radio, the same song was playing? Not when I yearned to see someone, but when that person actually popped in my head (out of nowhere, or was it in fact the collective consciousness) did they seamlessly walk into the store I was working in? How many times have we picked up on the thoughts of others when the mind is still? Why do I continue to wake up 1 minute before my alarm sounds in the morning? Another example is why is it when someones pops in my head and the phone rings with their voice on the other line I can’t help but exclaim, “I was just thinking of you!” If you talk to anyone around you, everyone has experienced all of the above and so much more. I have never had any control over such happenings, but have always felt compelled to discover a way to uncover the “evolutionary force” and tune in to that intuition which seems to be based in every human being.

Was it naivety that made me feel protected from harm in my youth? As children, we are generally fearless, innocent and somehow, so wise. One has heard the expressions “out of the mouths of babes.” Perhaps it Means children seem to be directly connected to a truth untainted by positive or negative experiences gained later on. They see and observe in the “now” with “innocent” eyes. They are naive in the sense that they don’t understand what adults deem to have consequences or what we project to be potentially dangerous based on our experiences. But anyone who has heard children speak when observing adult hypocrisy, when literally doing as an adult does even though an adult wants them to do “what they say” can clearly see that there is an innate wisdom that we, who were once children, are endowed with, from birth. The pure words and thoughts of children can make us adults laugh out loud and declare, “how do they come up with this stuff?” If only there was a way to regain their/our enjoyment of the “now” and return, as William Blake has a song, “return to innocence.” In a way, like clearing a slate to live happy and now.

There are still so many proofs that we were all connected and I wasn’t the only one who felt this way. More than once I had a gut feeling about something which turned out to be true. I had perused several “seeking” books on this subject some that made me feel I was on the cusp of uncovering the secrets of maintaining a happy and purposeful life. Some of the books boiled down their vision boards to be filled with images of a mansion, a sports car or bicycle. Are accumulating objects in the material world the end-goal and can they lead to a sense of inner satisfaction? Haven’t we learned from the Egyptians that, we can’t take it with us? I love the line in the movie “Eat, Pray, Love” when they refer to the hope that a granite counter and a picket fence would fix the real life character’s marriage. I see the reflection in my own life. It’s not that I didn’t want things or success because I wanted that too. But “things” were not giving me that key to fully unlock what was missing in my life.

I was seeking some inner peace and answers. I went to doctors that treated symptoms, and naturopathic doctors who helped me give me a little more insight as to how to treat “symptoms” and possible causes. I learned that a by-product of low thyroid function could be depression. I still had no idea why some experiences or reading something would trigger a cluster of wonderfully intuitive moments, weeks or days. I still had no way of keeping that feeling alive in me that made me feel like life was conspiring to help me feel better and enjoy my life unobstructed. Through these negative experiences, I still believed these were just phases for my growth and still never doubted that everything in my life happened “for a reason.” I was always very positive and attracted to solutions to deal with the waves of emotional “sensitivity” labelled as depression, followed by waves of random panic. These “feelings” came and went on rare occasions but interfered with my goal to enjoy my life. I found travelling for a living helpful in hiding this shameful and uncharacteristic defect of my positive, fun personality. Sometimes I could delay telling friends I was home till I was fully rested and ready to face the world again.

More often than not, travelling to a new destination made me feel brand new again. Every step in a different country was a baby step. I tapped into my inner explorer, met and spoke to new and interesting people and had plenty of inspiring stories to share when I got home. Each new country gave me a chance to reinvent and improve myself. Travelling is an education in itself. I relish every privileged exploration as if by trekking new territories, that spark of wonder and spontaneity ignites again and again. Inadvertently I interviewed and interacted and recorded people through photography and journals from many different cultures and did not feel that we were all worlds apart. I have held so much admiration for the people I observe and am a bit of a fan of life lived elsewhere. I have always been attracted to the customs of other cultures and flying fulfilled this drive to globe trot. Starting over fresh in a new country made me forget what was bothering me from my past. But was forgetting the only way to move forward? With each trip I made new memories and embraced the happiness that comes from a renewed chance or lease on life.

“What is a scientist after all? It is a curious man looking through a key hole, the keyhole of nature, trying to know what’s going on.”
Jacques Yves Cousteau

Back in Canada, my enthusiasm to enjoy and improve the quality of my home life fueled an even more urgent exploration of several different types of therapies. I didn’t think something was wrong with my life, but something just wasn’t right. I didn’t feel quite right. I could not sustain a healthy mental attitude towards emotionally challenging subjects. I attended several different types of yoga classes seeking more help to cope with stress and managing my emotions. Although some had turned Yoga into fitness or a money making business, I craved the collective silence laying down on a mat at the end of class. Laying there, I was grateful for the silence around me, but it was just a temporary break from outside noise. In the heat of hot yoga classes, I was grateful the heat rose above where I lay, somehow making it less stifling.

Several other places I felt uneasy, unwelcomed, emotional, frustrated or disturbed from psychic activities. I didn’t want someone to predict who I was or sentence me to what would happen to me. I was not comfortable contacting dead spirits and didn’t feel that it would help me to find my own way of maintaining any kind of peace. I wanted to be the expert on how to be the “best” me. My friend went to a session with someone who was “taken over” by another entity and testified that they were all told they were from the lost city of Atlantis. I felt that it would be harmful, pointless and a little disturbing for me. The last few psychic readings I allowed someone to do had me reduced to sobbing tears.

An acquaintance in Thailand had said, never ever let anyone read Tarot cards are predict your future, they steal your energy. It was true. Any hope of a happy life was quashed by people claiming to see my future and placing their ideas into places in my brain which took years to remove. The incessant predictions kept influencing and having a hold on every decision I made, like a “pop up” reminder that I have no say and no control and the next move I make will ultimately end in a way I can’t seem to avoid because the psychic has said so. It was anti-intuitive, going against my zest for what was spontaneous, beautiful, marvelous and happy. I sought the purpose of life, not what may come according to people who don’t even know one thing about me. So I ended my journey with psychics and somehow deduced that inner intuition was a safe place I have always known. Everyday I was having life lessons taught to me through sincere conversations and observing how my actions affected my ability to enjoy everyone and everything.

One place invited me in and proceeded to massage my organs for free. Then I was encouraged to buy and wear a white karate outfit which, in his broken english,  was ” for atmosphere.”  I had an uneasy feeling in my gut that the teachings were incomplete or not rooted in pure knowledge. I felt a little violated and was less educated about this Asian therapy, and I just couldn’t bring myself to come back. I was open but could not stand to be uncomfortable. Another studio had no time to meet with me as they were filming a commercial, and yet another studio refused to let me enter the room because it was 5 minutes into the class. I bawled my eyes out in the lobby out of frustration from a long, tired journey of trying to feel normal. It was like trying to find the key to an unknown solution.

After many years of seeking one’s purpose for being in this life and uncertain of the path ahead, my conditionings were accumulating and bogging me down. This mental weight was preventing me from living a fully happy existence. My conditionings were built in messages that kept me in a limited mindset of what I could or could not achieve. These were formed long ago and although I had proved some of them to be false, I was powerless when it came to acknowledging and destroying negative thoughts that influenced me when I was overtired and getting into a powerless phase. Logically I knew that what was overwhelming in the present, would fade away in time. I thought the balance meant that the good times were fleeting, so enjoy it, before it’s gone. The bad times made me appreciate the good and balanced it out. Somehow when I got too judgemental, something negative would happen to “balance” the egotistical part of me where I did exactly as I pleased.

Not all, but some of these acts, had consequences it seemed, or benefits beyond what I could have conceived. One decade turned into the next, and I tried to uncover that fearlessness with which I had started my life. Many times I felt like everything was designed to go in my favor. Other times, my undiagnosed thyroid problem was putting me on a roller coaster of emotions. Even after finally getting medication to regulate my thyroid gland, it would be years before I felt normal. Rules, advice, conditionings, guilt, false ideas, other peoples’ plans or visions of who I was were like barricades to sustaining a joyful state. Besides carrying my own baggage, trying to carry other people’s burdens was my specialty. As a result, socializing could sometimes make me feel anxious. I wanted to fill myself up with something that was good for my growth. Instead I found myself sentenced to be a sounding board. My instinct has always been to pack my bags and run far, far away.

“From birth, man carries the weight of gravity on his shoulders.But man has only to sink beneath the surface and he is free.”

Jacques Yves Cousteau

One day, I was walking with my friend Audrey in Munich, Germany on a 24 hour layover. She told me that she was planning to go to Thailand to attend a wedding in the autumn and I expressed that I would love to go there. Nearly four years of dating someone who didn’t own a passport was taking me in a direction that didn’t feel quite right. I spent the next two months preparing for my first backpacking trip and getting used to the idea of taking a sabbatical from my Canadian life.

The beaches in Thailand seemed to call out "calm, here." Kata Beach during the lingering trickles of the tropical rainy season 2005, less than one year after the Tsunami, Thailand. Photo and personal adventure by Paula Erskine

The beaches in Thailand seemed to call out “calm, here.” Kata Beach during the lingering trickles of the tropical rainy season 2005, less than one year after the Tsunami, Thailand. Photo and personal adventure by Paula Erskine

It was my greatest hope that Thailand would slow down my life to a manageable pace where I could re-invent me. I found two more colleagues willing to take the 18 hour flight to Thailand for an indefinite amount of time. It took three flight attendants at the stand-by mercy of Northwest Airlines six days to reach Thailand. One of us anxiously expressed her worst fears that we would not have seats on all of the six flights we attempted. We pep-talked her to reprogram herself to create “space” on the aircraft for us. Even though this six day twist put a dent in our plans, it taught me that nothing planned ever happens according to plan. Not exactly. But there is an even better plan out there if we just enjoy each moment in the present long enough to discover that fate is rooting for us. But I wasn’t there yet. I was about to experience the stress of travelling in threes and trying to catch up to the trip which Audrey had started 6 days prior.

First stop, Busy Khao San Road, Bangkok, Thailand, photo by Carmelina

First stop, Busy Khao San Road, Bangkok, Thailand, photo by Carmelina

Bangkok’s busy streets, standing Buddha and fresh fruit smoothies were exciting but we knew we had to waste afternoons in travel agencies making plans for the week ahead. Somehow the beaches were calling out “calm, here”. Ko Chang was one of the closest beach reprieves from Bangkok. We booked an advertised 3 and a half hour van ride which turned into a 5 hour reality bus followed by a short ferry over to the relaxing island. The sunsets were spectacular and our favourite place to eat was the “Treehouse” Restaurant which we climbed up to the platform and waited for our food to arrive while lounging in a hammock.

Ko Chang, one of the closest beaches outside of Bangkok.

Ko Chang, one of the closest beaches outside of Bangkok.

Thailand turned out to be the beginning of my seeking calm inside and out. But it would take a month before I felt my shoulders unshrug and I began to chillax. It would take an unplanned, four month sabbatical in Thailand with an unscheduled stop in Malaysia to change my life forever.After climbing the ladder to the Treehouse Restaurant in Koh Chang, we relaxed in hammocks and enjoyed the very best crispy spinach. A half day trip from Bangkok by bus and ferry. Photo by Carmelina

After Koh Chang, we headed back to the mainland and booked train tickets to the north and explored in the intermittent rain. Within a week, we flew south to Phuket to the much anticipated beaches that did not disappoint. October’s rainy season lingered longer than the Lonely Planet guide books had mentioned and we sometimes felt “stuck” because the other side of Thailand in the Janguat province of Surat Thani (southern Gulf of Thailand), the full moon party island of Ko Pha Ngan, was covered in rain and mud. But as soon as we stuck around long enough at Phuket’s Kata Beach, we discovered that getting qualified with scuba diving courses would help pass the time. What lay below the surface of the Andaman Sea, was a treasure trove of beauty. Within the first thirty seconds of delving beneath the sea and looking up at the sun streaming through the depths, I felt a shift happen that made me feel like the “new” refreshed me had returned. The gratitude was just pouring out of my every pore and changed my perspectve of my journey. Scuba Diving was the first time I was relieved of all thought in a very long time. It hadn’t taken years to reclaim who I was, it took seconds of thoughtlessness. I could have scuba-dived forever, just to get that feeling inside to spark up again. I felt that everything in that glorious sea was created just for my enjoyment. I felt one with the sea and a deep, grateful appreciation for being able to absorb fully the joy.

Scuba Diving in the Andaman Sea, Thailand with a school of fish that respectfully kept their distance, but mimicked our every move. Photo by Gunner Eggers

Scuba Diving in the Andaman Sea, Thailand with a school of fish that respectfully kept their distance, but mimicked our every move. Photo by Gunner Eggers

Obviously, I could not continue scuba diving indefinitely just to get that feeling. So again, I was faced with how to sustain that feeling of bliss and block any negativity that got in the way. Fighting the negativity was exhausting and did not make me feel positive. But I fought it plenty. I blamed others because in a room full of positivity, one negative person or thing could consume my feeling of well-being. I fought with myself too, trying to dispel feelings of life wasted, resentment, failure, time wasted, and feeling guilty for trying find my own selfish happiness formula. I was visiting Buddhist temples looking for a sign, serene beaches and conversing with people who were on their own seeking paths. Travelling for travelling sake and checking off destinations didn’t seem to be the overall goal. What everybody seemed to be seeking was happiness and collectivity in a mostly Buddhist country. Thailand was the hope trip that revealed to me that happiness was not a selfish act but actually my birthright.

Peace in the Andaman Sea, photo of Paula, article by Paula Erskine

Peace in the Andaman Sea, photo of Paula, article by Paula Erskine

Many of the challenges I have experienced were growth spurts in disguise. With every test, I drew on my philosophic tendencies to reflect on solutions to each segment of my life. Within a year of returning back to Canada from Thailand, I found myself searching again for a way to deal with people and life in a peaceful manner. I had experienced a shift of consciousness while scuba diving but still did not know how to maintain that feeling of wellness through every aspect of my life. I can only say that after 30 seconds, I felt like my “self” again. I was seeking to feel like I used to.  I felt like it was a hint of a gift that the feeling I am seeking is there and attainable. But I still did not know how to hang on to it. I had visited numerous Buddhist temples and have read many books with beautiful quotes and stories to learn from. I had tremendous admiration for Buddha and other cultures prophets that perhaps in combination could somehow form  the key to my happiness. Then I don’t know quite how I found it, but somewhere in my seeking the great search, I saw an ad for a free yoga class around the corner of my house and found out that there would be meditation also. I had nothing to lose. I packed my runners and yoga mat and was greeted very warmly. I was asked to remove my shoes and ended up sitting comfortably in a chair. It was a peaceful place that lead me through a guided meditation which felt very good and something I could handle. I brought a friend, and enjoyed learning about the chakras, or energy wheels in the body that govern different organs and parts of the body. I paid close attention and attended with pleasure. It felt like I was getting to the root of my problems and was about to find the solutions.

I have found the destination in the form of a sustainable, truthful, transformative meditation around the corner from my house. Nobody charged me money or told me what to feel. But three classes in, I returned home to tell my new Russian husband, (that I had met backpacking, but that’s another story), about how peaceful I felt. Suddenly, a charge of energy, like a waterfall, surged up through my torso up through my head and I stood up with excitement. When I stood up I felt my whole body energized to reveal that I had received the enlightenment, the connection that Buddha had sought his entire life.

Now this was an experience that I felt compelled to pursue. It gave me that feeling I found under the sea but a thousand times more powerful. It was portable and permeating because it happened following the meditation class. Since then, I have come to discover these sensations are known in Sahaja Yoga as vibrations and have helped me to feel that bliss when I am meditating, collective, listening to music, watching inspiring movies, socializing, spending time in nature and scuba diving of course! It was as I suspected the key to discovering how everything and everyone is connected! The key could be discovered spontaneously and with a simple moment where a gap in the thoughts allows one to feel the oneness and the flow happening inside. My thoughts pulled me back and forth from past to futuristic thinking and interfered with my enjoyment of the present. I was able to identify the root of my problems and was gifted the solution on how to not only cope with stress but to enjoy a path that is built on happiness.

I have since learned that timeless, inspired works of art or nature, including the underwater “art museum” I experienced, had the power to stop my thoughts long enough for me to experience a shift. I returned to feeling like myself again. I was very comfortable in water, so fear was not a factor when it came to scuba diving. I was innocently just interested in an adventure with my friends and trying something new. Which is why when I started watching Jacques Yves Cousteau’s documentaries with my husband, post-Thailand, a flood of vibrations filled me up with such enjoyment! Was Jacques Yves Cousteau perhaps, a realized soul? Was I connecting to the excitement of scuba diving through powerful, adventurous music and underwater images? Then I had an epiphany. Scuba diving was my first meditation.

A cleansing waterfall, Koh Chang  island, 4 hours away from Bangkok, Thailand, accessible by ferry.

A cleansing waterfall, Koh Chang island, 4 hours away from Bangkok, Thailand, accessible by ferry.

This bliss can be felt in the fourth dimension which is “ours” to discover in this lifetime. The space between the thoughts that battle for our attention between past conditionings and worrying about the future is the door to paradise that William Blake has described in his poetry. “If the doors of perception were cleansed everything would appear to man as it is, Infinite.” The space of “thoughtlessness” occurs in the “present” and through the awakening of kundalini energy (the sacred energy within everyone) I was granted with the feeling of connection. My perspective was changed forever for the better. Conditionings don’t define me anymore, but I have to “sweep” my mind of them daily. The future does not exist, so when I get into planning or anxiety mode, I take a few seconds to clear the “I”-ness out of my system so I stay the course of just enjoying the present and maintaining a balanced state. I learned for the first time in this simple, spontaneous experience of meditating collectively, that Yoga actually means union, meaning union with the divine. In my personal experience living in the western world, I had never taken an exercise, or yoga or any other type of class that had ever alluded to this union. In one fell swoop of a cool breeze, I felt the union with others and nature. It made me feel the physical proof that I had just plugged in to to the infinite realm. I am the spirit, which is eternal and resides in the heart. At last, I had found the answers to all my questions and the source of unending happiness.

Photos and article by Paula Erskine

Searching for Enlightenment, Bangkok, photo of Paula Erskine and Fatima by Carmelina

A few things I learned in this spontaneous meditation method is to forgive my past, forgive everyone including myself so that I can start with a fresh slate. Guilt and fear are myths that we create in our minds. Reconnecting with the enlightened brain through the present is the source of truth and a “cleansed” perspective. If I collect anything in this life now, it is the tangible feeling of joy and happiness. I am not alone in this journey. This is the destination that evolved my personality to a whole new level. For me, it affirms Dr. Carl Gustav Jungs findings that we can tap into a collective consciousness that gives us a sense of oneness. A feeling that there is an organized love that has gifted this beautiful earth for our enjoyment is evident. I have access to the tools for coping with life when setbacks and mini-dramas try to suck me back in to my old, reactive and conditioned responses. Maintaining a healthy meditation practice helps me to grow within a proven happiness formula that is not limited by the mind. Now I know that the balance actually refers to an inward journey through the present. I don’t leave home without it for it is always within me and built to share. And by the way, you have it too.

Try your own “Experiment with Truth” by taking the meditation course for free online at http://www.freemeditation.com
I enjoy the “Meditation for Beginners” video as well. Since even more can be felt when meditating collectively
you can join a free class, anywhere in the world, just check the website for more locations. Try the classes for
two months and see how you feel.

Another great website is http://www.free-meditation.ca

Sahaja Yoga is now a UNESCO partner for peace.