Valley of the Gods

20 May 2013
Written by Shabnam Pointon | images - stock photography
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For Shabnam Pointon, travelling to India to meet her spiritual leader transcended her wildest expectations, as she shares in this month's guest post     


I recently travelled to India at the invitation of a dear friend who has been a huge influence in my spiritual life.  I have been meditating and actively following a spiritual path for over 28 years and this trip was an opportunity to travel to an ashram in Northern India and meet the self-realised Swamiji whose teachings I follow.

My husband Richard travels regularly to India as part of his business and although he was in India at the same time, the majority of the trip we were apart. I have to admit I was very reluctant to go and kept seeing obstacles in the way, such as I don't want to travel on my own, I will get sick etc, etc all of which, in the light of what I experienced, now seems so inane!

Meeting Swamiji felt like I was home and when he held my hand I felt he knew my heart and self. The time that I spent at the ashram in the Swamiji’s company was incredible, his presence and gentle guidance brought out the best in me. The practical knowledge imparted by him has been invaluable and has led me to a more sincere practice and an understanding of who I truly am, which is ‘pure, free forever’. The constant seeking has stopped and my newfound knowledge has afforded me a deeper understanding of what my real nature is, allowing me to be more aware and able to witness the events of my life (that's another story!).

I felt I had come home when I arrived at the ashram. I felt an incredible connection with my friends because between us was a real experience of love in its true sense. The love of truth and an appreciation of ‘I am immortal, I am blissful’.

Below I share my travels through emails I sent home to friends describing my journey of actualisation set against the beautiful foothills of Kullu in the Himachal Prahesh State of Northern India.

Received: Friday, 5 April, 2013 
Subject: Well it has been an amazing experience so far...

After flying in I spent one night in Delhi with Richard before meeting our friends from the UK that night. The next day my friends and I flew to Chandigarh and then had a 10-hour drive to Kullu. Thankfully we had frequent stops for coffee, lunch and afternoon tea - actually I loved the trip as it allowed me to see rural India. The driver was thrilled that I could speak Hindi - my friend David was also pleased because it meant I was busy!

It was mountainous terrain and sometimes the roads were almost not there. Not to mention the Indian trucks, oh and the cows just lolling about! I really had to control myself from telling the poor driver how to drive. However, no matter how bad the roads the route through the lush Punjab region was very beautiful. They grow so much food there.

When we arrived in Kullu we were given a wonderful welcome. The next morning we went to the ashram and had an audience with Swamiji. We have had two more meetings with him since. I am so glad that I made this journey.  I have found the meetings truly inspirational - they have led me to the next step in my spiritual journey.

We usually have lunch in the town before heading back to our hotel which is surrounded by lovely apple orchards and situated alongside a fast-flowing Himalayan river.  In the afternoons I go for walks with my friends and we share cups of chai under the trees. I then just read, reflect and relax in my room. We all have dinner (the Brits call it supper) together and chat about our day.

I am finding the whole experience very relaxing and am greatly enjoying the company of my friends. 

Well I hope all is well with you and love to you all.
Shabnam xx

Received: Saturday, 6 April, 2013
Subject: More news from the Valley Of The Gods

Well it's 3.50am. Woke up at 3am and once again have made good use of my time, had my coffee (which I brought with me and my plunger). Bodily comforts still matter to me even though I am here for my soul. We usually all meet up and meditate by the roaring river with snow-capped mountains in the distance before breakfast on the terrace. The temperature in the morning is rather cool, about 6 or 7 degrees. By the time we finish breakfast it usually warms up to around 20 degrees. It is really pleasant here, all around us apple trees are in blossom, it's beautiful.

I had my first tuk tuk ride yesterday, my friend Pat from UK insisted that I enjoy a ride; she is aware of my 'stick in the mud ' nature! Pat is in her early 70s and is very adventurous. 

We went up to the ashram and had a wonderful session with the Swamiji. He speaks fluent English and his essential message is that, as intelligent human beings, we need to use our mind to enquire and reach our full potential. 

After the meeting I went to lunch with a couple of my new friends and basically had a great time. I speak Hindi so I do engage with the locals and I feel that I'm getting a lot of news about their lives. Kullu is a very small community so it's easy to get around, but you essentially feel India all around you! As long as I just go with the flow and accept things as they are it is really pleasant.

The people from UK are all so interesting there are chemistry PhDs to headmasters to me, but every one is so inclusive and willing to share their experience and they love talking!!

I am really grateful that I could come here. Richard was right, I needed to do this on my own. He is in Jodphur at a remote hotel having his own retreat but I gather in much more salubrious surroundings!

I love India; it seeps into you and knocks the western idea of time away, which I have totally surrendered to.
Shabnam xx

Received: Tuesday, 9 April, 2013
Subject: Last 2 days at the Valley of the Gods

What a remarkable two days I have had! I can say with certainty that it has been the most beautiful time that I have spent here. The group meetings with Swamiji have been inspirational enough, but when he asked me to come and sit with him I felt honoured. My delightful friends promptly asked if they could take a photograph, of which on the outside I look the same but I know that there has been quite a change in my inner world. I have since been practising everything I was given during our meeting and certainly feel cleansed.

I had lunch today with two New Zealanders who have been living here for 20 years. The restaurant was called Valentinos and I had amazing minestrone soup and homemade bread, a most welcome change from Indian food (not good Indian food). After lunch Pat and I went to a little Indian sweet shop and bought sweets for dessert and once again we took a tuk tuk - Pat said she is determined to make me pedestrian. Pat is such an interesting person. She deals in antique jewellery in the UK and has travelled extensively - the moment she told me she dealt in jewellery I was her friend.

I left this morning for Chandigargh, which was very hard. My friends are staying in Kullu till Saturday but they all were up at 7am to see me off. I feel extremely blessed to have met Swamiji and these truly wonderful people with real inquiring minds. 

I’m now waiting to catch a flight to Delhi to meet Richard and spend the rest of the week with him. I was very reluctant to come to Kullu without him but in hindsight it was the best thing.
Shabnam xx

Received: Friday, 12 April
Subject: Hello from Jaipur

I love Jaipur!! I have met the people Richard does business with here and they are so charming. We had an amazing lunch at their house. Jaipur has quite a different atmosphere from the hustle and bustle of Delhi. There seem to be so many universities and medical colleges here, I was gob-smacked to see the size of their medical research buildings, no shortage of clever people here. 

I felt extremely sad to leave my fabulous friends in Kullu but we are already making plans for our next trip. Richard is going to come next time and meet Swamiji.

It is extremely hot here, very different from the climate in Kullu. We leave tomorrow to make our journey home. We are going to Delhi from Jaipur by car, gives me a chance to see more of India. This trip has really whetted my appetite to travel here and now I understand Richard's love affair with the region.

Wellington seems so far away and work does not even figure in my world at the moment! I am extremely grateful and feel very blessed to have had the opportunity to do this trip.

See you soon.
Shabnam xx


 "I love India; it seeps into you and knocks the western idea of time away, which I have totally surrendered to."



0 #2 Anna 2013-05-22 22:05
Lovely to see the photos Shabnam and love your writing. I kinda felt I was in there!
0 #1 Samantha Kenny 2013-05-22 21:14
Great! I loved this, thanks for sharing it via MyMag

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