Updated: May 15, 2020
I was brought up Hindu and as I grew up, I practiced traditions like lighting a divo (candle) every morning before I went to school. I participated in all the traditional Hindu festivals and fasted on the days I was told to. TBH I really enjoyed the culture and traditions, but as I grew up and continued these activities I began to wonder why do I do these things? Why am I saying these prayers and what do these prayers even mean?! I realized much of what I was doing was out of ritual rather than from my heart and so I didn't have much of a connection while I was doing them. It lacked depth and understanding.
I am so fortunate to have had a mother who threaded spiritual practices into my life from a young age. When I left for college/university she gave me a Bhagavad Gita and told me whenever I felt lost, sad, or scared that I should open up the Gita and it would give me some sort of relief. The book sat in my room for a year or two without being touched in my room at university. I still lit the candle every morning out of habit and one day someone came into my room and asked me why I did that and tbh I had no answer for myself. I then decided I wanted to start reading the Gita to understand this missing piece. So I did. I started reading little bits at a time and ended up reading it all before I finished college. I can't say I understood much of it, but it definitely sparked curiosity and opened up my heart to dive deeper. I became eager to learn and understand more.
When I got back home after I finished college, my mum had started the practice of mantra meditation. She used to pray in the morning, but didn't really have a meditation practice. Interested in learning more, I decided to join the youth group at the temple, Bhaktivedanta manor, near me. I attended lots of events and made incredible deep, meaningful friendships. I then started going to Bhagavad Gita courses, which turned into going on yearly retreats where we dove deep into meditation, understanding the relevance of spirituality at this age, and how scriptures actually hold such timeless wisdom...As well as a little go-karting, dancing and obviously playing pranks on people hahaha 😊!
After I attended one of the trips, I felt a deep desire to continue the practice once I was home. I decided that every day before work, I would go to the temple for the 4:30 am prayers and meditate there with the monks and spiritual community that attended those magical mornings which are often referred to as Mangal Arti. I said to myself I would do it for a week...maybe two. I ended up pretty much doing it for a year and a half every morning and I can genuinely say it transformed my heart. The reason I am sharing this story is because I get many messages of people saying they tried to meditate for 5 minutes a day for a week and it didn't really make much difference to them. Now I'm not at all saying you have to go to a temple at 4 am to experience the effects, BUT think of it like a relationship or even a skill you are trying to master. The more time and energy and focus you invest into it, the greater the effect will be. If someone has the opportunity to go on a retreat or a deep dive into meditation, I highly recommend it. I also completely understand how difficult it is to start alone and so I definitely encourage those to try collective meditation, which can be really useful and powerful for many.
Alongside my meditation practice, I was regularly attending classes of different monks and spiritual leaders, learning so much from each one. One day, I heard Radhanath Swami speak (I often refer to him across my social media) and I felt the words rip through all the gunk and go straight to my heart! From reading his book, The Journey Home, to hearing him speak at University events and learning about all the incredible initiatives he has started to better this world, I knew he was extremely rare and so so special. I have been fortunate enough to spend time with him, cook for him, and learn from him. He has taught me so much just through the way he lives his daily life. They say words can only reach the heart if the person speaking them truly lives by them. It's easy to reach someone's mind, but to reach someone's heart takes serious sincerity and purity of intention. I am just one out of the thousands of people that he has impacted with his words of wisdom. Just as we need teachers for maths, tennis, and really in any skill, we also need to find a guide for spirituality. Finding a spiritual guide that strongly abides by the practices and values you are aspiring for and finding someone that you connect with, that you feel deeply encouraged by on your journey is the most precious thing. I would go as far as saying I believe it is a VITAL part of your journey. It does not require that person to physically be present to guide you, you may simply feel it through reading their books or hearing them speak. The impact of the person is what matters the most.
Remember, at the end of the day, your spiritual journey is your own and no one can tell you how to walk that path. However, what I can say from experience...it is so worth it!
Sending you so much love
xx Radhi ♡