2012 – Leaving the Corporate World – Glimpse of an Awakening
My first yoga teacher training in 2012 led to my first glimpse of an awakening. This was the first time I practiced endless hours of yoga and meditation in an intense manner. At this juncture, I was toying with my place in the corporate world. I knew it was not my true calling. Art in a variety of forms has always been true to my nature. But years of conditioning, an attachment to a reasonable sized financial income, and the fear of uncertainty had always held me back.
During the course of my yoga training, I started to let go of the identity as a professional with a career. I started to feel a sense of freedom, and clarity that I had never experienced before. As I lost my sense of self and let go of years of external and internal conditioning, I left the corporate world and started my own hand painted accessories business. The rest of it is history. The universe has its way of supporting you when you are in alignment with self. I found the right support structure to launch my business. I spent hours and hours painting bags and was constantly in a meditative state. I felt a sense of complete oneness, transcending space and time. I was not the painter anymore. I was the paint, the brush and the canvas. One with all of it. No separateness.
But soon I found that a business with targets, measurements and ROI brought me right back to my sense of identity. I was forced to do things that didn’t feel in alignment with self. Lots of internal judgment. I also found myself being attached to the meditative activity of painting because of the blissful state I experienced. I observed a dualistic cycle of pleasure and pain.
2016 – The loss of my parents – An Awakening
In December 2014, I lost my mom. In January 2016, dad was gone too. The greatest loss I had ever experienced in my life. Grief hit me like the Tsunami. During this time, I went through a nerve injury and an asthma attack. The worst physical and mental trauma I had ever experienced.
Adyashanti, a buddhist teacher, refers to this intense pain and suffering as ‘Fierce Grace’. Our greatest hardships can be pertinent for our awakening if we are ready to face them. And this is what I did. I realized that there was only one way out – Through it. Surrendering to all of it. And in this time, my entire identity just vanished. There was no self. The ego dissolved. I felt an overwhelming sense of unconditional love.
I decided to let go of my handpainted accessories business as it didn’t seem to align with my true nature at that point, but painting continued to be a big part of my life.
In the next couple of years, I I went on to do several yoga teacher trainings, became a full time yoga teacher and also discovered the joy of writing.
Was I always in an awakened state? No. And neither did I try to be. But one thing was very ingrained in me by then. No matter what, I had to flow, and be true to my nature. I didn’t know how to live any other way.
2018 – Another milestone
I published many articles, and in one of them, I came out of hiding. For the first time, I revealed one of the most difficult moments I had experienced when I was younger. And this was a revelation. Until this point, there was always something holding me back from telling the story. A fear of being judged.
But there I was. Out in the open. Telling the story of my deepest darkest moment. Unprotected and Unguarded. This allowed my heart and mind to open up some more. Unconditional love flowed out of me naturally.
My love for singing, and playing the piano was also rekindled. I had performed on stage several times before, but I had a problem with myself. I wanted to be pitch perfect (especially given my name is Shruthi) and for years struggled with this conditioning. Finally I let go. Somehow I was able to, because of the oneness I was experiencing at the time. I shared a video of myself singing and playing the keyboard. It was raw, unbridled, and far from perfect. I became one with the keyboard and my voice after a long long time.
2019 – A Toughie
Slowly and steadily, as 2019 progressed, I found lesser joy in teaching yoga. I had never imagined this. But ofcourse, nothing is permanent. And while this was ingrained in me, it still took time to let go.
Yoga is my life, and is an integral part of me, but teaching yoga had served its purpose in my life. By mid 2019, I knew this, but was still not quite ready to let go. However, I reduced the number of classes I taught. I spent a lot of time in stillness and silence.
Lack of clarity, flooding of our house and a sick family member in India. It was a year from hell. But I had seen much worse, and knew that during such times, I needed to turn inwards even more. The difficult moments came and went.
I embarked on my first 7 day water fast (a few sips of herbal tea as well) in response to the fact that my body needed a break. It was crying out to me. Months of not having a kitchen due to the crisis in our home, led to unhealthy eating habits. It came to a point when my digestive system begged me for complete rest. A reboot.
I won’t go into the details here. But overall, it made me feel like a warrior. An increase in clarity, alertness, openness, ease in adapting to stress, and an overall sense of acceptance and contentment. If you would like to know more about my experience, check out https://www.elephantjournal.com/2019/09/why-a-water-fast-can-ignite-the-warrior-spirit-within-shruthi-krishnaswami/
Since then I have been undertaking a fast every year.
2020 – Clarity
The answers always come eventually. After months of soul searching and sitting in stillness, I found myself being drawn towards jewelry design. I taught my last formal yoga class, set out on a solo travel journey to Ecuador, got held at gun point, and experienced an ayahuasca ceremony. My 39th year started with a bang!! I got back to Seattle just in time before the first Covid Lockdown. I had identified some jewelry design programs I was interested in, but they were in Italy. And there was no way to get there. I had to wait patiently.
In the summer of 2020, Covid eased up slightly. I got accepted into a jewelry design program in Italy that seemed like a good fit for me. There was some resistance from my husband (Sam) , given he couldn’t accompany me, Covid was nowhere near done, and I was at a higher risk given that I was prone to Asthma. But he had unconditional support for my passion.
Italy turned out to be a beautiful experience with its share of ups and downs. But for several reasons, I found that the program was not quite the right fit for me. I decided to let go of the program. But a lot of learning came out of those few months and I had more clarity on what I might want to do in the field of jewelry design.
To Sam’s delight, I returned to Seattle after a few months right in time for our 15th Wedding Anniversary. We had plans to relocate to Europe, but with Covid still in the picture, it was a waiting game.
2021 – Yet another bumpy ride
Fast forward a few months, we cleared out our Seattle house of 15 years, and were on the road to California with a car filled up to the brim! I managed to secure one of the last 2 spots in a jewelry design certification course at the Gemology Institute. At this point we were semi nomads. Living out of a car, a bunch of suitcases, and airbnbs. And thank goodness, we had a fluid plan. Because there was a heavy speed bump without any signs ahead of us.
The unexpected loss of my mother in law in India. In the middle of Covid, it was a challenging experience figuring out logistics. I was in the middle of my program at the time. Right from getting to India, the experience there, taking care of his dad, and more, Sam was served the perfect storm. I had to support him from a distance and I was also experiencing loss – the third one in my life. My mother in law and I had developed a mother daughter relationship over the years. We faced many practical difficulties, grief and uncertainty during the months that followed.
I finished my certification and decided that I want to work with artisans to manufacture my jewelry in India. I spent hours and hours doing my research and legwork, made a trip to Jaipur and found someone I could potentially work with. But I observed an attachment to identity once again. This made me feel driven but also caused a lot of discomfort, as I outlined all the obstacles that were part of the process. There were thoughts like, “You are talented, you have so much potential, you can do this, you have to make this happen by this time”.
Finally our plans to move to Dublin came together. And in November, it happened. Before the end of the year, I managed to find us an apartment that spoke to both our souls.
Grounding felt like magic.
I had always thought of myself as a nomad, because I had experienced a lot of change growing up. Living out of different cities. But never had I experienced living in approximately 10 places in a single year. For the first time I truly realized the importance of grounding in my life. The simplest activities started feeling blissful. Cooking, walking, just being.
2022 – Right Here Right Now
Started my year with a water fast. My fourth one. And this one has had a profound impact on me. A full blown awakening.
A detached attachment with food has expanded to my entire state of being. A state of bliss, beyond the dualistic experience of pleasure and pain.
So, what was different about this fast? This is the first time that I volunteered to cook for my husband during my fast. I could smell and touch, but not taste.
I cooked for the first time on the third day of my fast. Also, the day when hunger started to hit. I was drawn to the aroma of the spices and I experienced temptation. But I managed to control my mind. And as we all know, the body follows the mind.
On the fourth day, I cooked again. And this time I observed my senses, with a keen sense of awareness. My mind was completely at ease. No temptation. No desire. I observed myself experiencing the aroma without any attachment to it. Similar to what I had experienced while painting. I continued to cook for the rest of my fast, with the same experience each time.
In Hinduism or yogic terms, I experienced a state of Samadhi – where the ego mind dissolves and the seer becomes one with the object. This was not the first time I was experiencing this. But in the past, I wasn’t able to experience Samadhi in stillness or silence. It was only experienced as a result of doing something.
It has been a couple of weeks since I completed my fast. And I seem to be in the same state as I was during my fast. At the moment, this applies to all facets of my life.
It is uncertain as to how long this will last. And I am completely indifferent to this, as there is no sense of attachment to my experience in the NOW..
What is different about this awakening? I find myself not being attached to any sense of identity. More Consistently. Not only while doing, but while just being. Everything is now. Everything is here. I don’t have to ‘be’ anything. I am already everything. I am not in pursuit of anything, but I flow. In consciousness. In creativity. The sense of self has not vanished completely but it seems to be getting dimmer and dimmer. The ability to sit in stillness has increased drastically. I don’t need to write or paint or do yoga to experience a state of bliss. It is there. It was always there.
I am still interested in designing jewelry. But the launch of a jewelry line has become what I refer to as a goalless goal. Many creative activities flow as a part of this. Timeline has been thrown out of the window. And I find that there is an ease in the obstacles that arise, because I am not ‘trying’ to be a jewelry designer. There is no ‘I’. Thoughts akin to ‘ I want to be a jewelry designer, I want a purpose, I want to achieve something, I want to find meaning’ have disappeared. Once we stop trying, it becomes easy to let go of all control. The ego automatically dissolves. And this is replaced by a continuous sense of flow. Sometimes this flow involves a lot of action and at other times patience and stillness.
In essence, for the first time in my life, I have surrendered my personal will to a large extent and the illusion of ‘me’ does not get in the way. There is no struggle or fixation. Life just flows and I have no idea where it will take me. I am ready for this.
The ordinary feels extraordinary these days. And this does feel amazing. But I realize that there is infact nothing special about my experience. It just is.
I have just managed to remember that I came into this world unconditioned, in a state of bliss. And somehow I have managed to return to that state by letting go of most of the conditioning that has been built up over time.
This is probably hard for many folks around me to grasp. Hard to fathom. Hard to imagine. As I go through this, I know that there are people I may need to step back from as a part of my unfolding. Maybe for a brief period of time. This is part of my unconditional love that needs to say No, because, that is infact a whole hearted Yes.
I still have some sticky spots. The illusion of ‘me’ creeps back in here and there, but more and more I find that it passesquickly. There is nothing to hang on to. With respect to my appearance, I notice some discomfort with the budding grays and irreversible hyperpigmentation on my face creeping up from time to time. I allow the discomfort to arise and pass, without judging the discomfort . Slowly it is coming to a point where the discomfort only lasts a few seconds, and gets released naturally with a smile. There is no ‘trying’ to let go of the discomfort or the ‘sense of self’ completely. Immense freedom, peace, and love.
I am just flowing in my most natural state, in the NOW. In unity.
When nothing is done, nothing is left undone – Lao Tzu