Heart of India : Pilgrimage and The Journey Home | By Ange Stopperan

Last Updated: December 29, 2018By

Originally published in the Winter + Spring 2019 issue

On my knees I bow, the cold marble floor penetrating into my forehead, tears rolling down my face, short of breath, my heart racing. I soon notice that I’ve been bowing for quite some time —  there is a row of people behind me waiting to present their offering. I wipe my tears to the side of my face and sit back onto my heels and realize for the first time that I am fully present on my knees at the Kainchi Temple in India. My body awakened fully allowing myself to be at peace in this moment alone. I slide to the side of the Neem Karoli Baba morti to sit down on a wool blanket as those behind move forward to bow.

As I’m sitting in the temple, an unexplainable wave came over me with the question, “How did I get here?” It all began last summer as I was reading the book, “Love Everyone” — a book about the journey of souls who traveled to India and their experiences with the saint Neem Karoli Baba. In this book, many of these individuals stayed here in Kainchi. While I was journaling last summer, I heard a voice say, “Go to India.” I trusted this whisper which carried me to teachers who were offering a Yoga Yatra (spiritual pilgrimage) to India in a few months. I instantly said yes, trusting this call and allowing it to lead me in the direction I needed to go. When my feet touched the soil of this country steeped deep in spirituality, I walked as if I knew where I was going, like I had been there many times before. There was an ease that poured over me; I was being held and had nothing to worry about.

Before I move on, this is not a story about the travel experiences I had in India, it’s about what happened when I returned from the pilgrimage in a complete quandary.  

While in India I stayed at an ashram in the Himalayas in the village of Ramgarh, visiting the temples of Neem Karoli Baba in the Kumaon Hills. This is a truly special place which I hold very near and dear to my heart. As I returned back to America, I was in more of a culture shock here than I was when I arrived in India. I began to isolate myself into the room of my home where my alter sits. My head had to jump back into being a mom and wife, but my heart was deeply mourning. I would wake from my jetlagged slumber, to take my son to school and drive back to lay on my floor crying as I tried to sew my opened heart back together.

I was feeling a heartbreak and pure bliss at the same time.

I was feeling a heartbreak and pure bliss at the same time.

I felt as though my body was here but my heart was still there. My heart had harpooned an anchor in India’s ground with a red string attached to my body here. Draped in confusion of my next steps and not knowing how to work with these sensations, all I knew how to do was bow. Bow to these feelings, bow to the experience, bow to the unknown. Re-entry became an unfoldment process of emotions and teachings, each day a reminder of the potent lessons I learned along my journey. One of those lessons being from a man by the name of KK Sah; As I and others in my Yatra group sat with him in his home and enjoyed a cup of coffee, he spoke about devotion. For him, growing up in India, devotion is always number one. He said, “Every morning I wake, devotion first.” I began to realize as I was unpacking the spiritual guidance that what will help me most in this time of bewildermentis devotion; To bow to it all — the good, the bad, the heartbreaks, the awakenings. It’s all there for me to honor and respect through my practices of devotion. As I began back into my regular teaching schedule, that’s all I knew how to teach —  how in our yoga practice we have the opportunity to bow to whatever is going on in our lives. As we bow we begin to practice surrender, as we surrender we begin to connect to the divine essence that we all carry.

“Every morning I wake, devotion first.”

Every morning I bow, I return to Kainchi. The depth in which I lovingly stepped into stays with me, kept in a grace-filled locket. I am mindful to bow to each moment whether in despair or gratitude. I bow to all of the unanswered questions. I bow to my India Yatra group, family, friends and their loving support. I sit, I bow to my spiritual practice, I remember to stay open as I only have love to gain.

Photos by Stephanie Lonon.

Along with her role as a CO YOGA + Life ambassador, Ange Stopperan, E-RYT 500, is a yoga teacher, mindfulness and business coach, writer, co-owner of LC Yoga in Loveland, Colorado, and lead teacher in LC Yoga’s 200-hour Yoga Teacher Training. Ange leads the Northern Colorado Ram Dass fellowship which speaks to mindfulness topics and lessons from Ram Dass. She is passionate about teaching her students how to connect to Yoga off the mat by incorporating rituals into their daily life. Ange enjoys hanging out with her family, traveling and getting into nature as much as possible.

Subscribe to Our Tribe

Stay up to date with Y+L News, Events and special announcements.

Leave A Comment