Last October, I left the home I had known for a good chunk of my adult life to embrace my ancestral homeland of Ireland. Over the course of three months, I traveled from county to county, meeting up with some European friends along the way, and connecting with my ancestors in ways I had never envisioned possible.
The heart of the story — the call to adventure, if you will — began months before I touched down in Dublin town. I felt this urge to travel beyond perceived confines as I lay on my back one early morning in Hawai’i. I wasn’t meditating as much as I was resting my eyes, but after a week embracing the songs of the Big Island and feeling more at home than ever before, coming into a meditative state came with greater ease than it had in years.
After a week embracing the songs of the Big Island and feeling more at home than ever before, coming into a meditative state came with greater ease than it had in years.
As I lay on a shala floor, the morning sun stretched halfway across my body. My knees were bent, feet planted, palms on my heart and lower belly. I witnessed my conscious, waking mind shrink away. Spirit, Source, Gaia, God — that essence within me, pushed down the grounds of mind as if I were a French press. They had steeped long enough; the byproduct of marinating for so long was ready to be consumed.
Three words echoed through me.
Ireland in October.
In a voice that was indistinct; ethereal; unknown. Not entirely my own, but I trusted her.
Ireland in October.
My waking mind — held at bay. Those three words reverberated through my entire being for minutes on end until I rose and opened my eyes. They stuck onto my heart now.
Ireland in October.
Yes, of course, this is the way. I remember thinking just that as my conscious thoughts melded back with this vision. Beyond the channeled directive, I had seen myself crouched over some cliffside in Ireland — wind in my hair, fingers tangled in the high grasses. The sea salted the air. My eyes were closed in this vision, too, and this woman was free.
I returned to my mainland U.S. home a week later. My flights to Ireland were booked within 48 hours. My previous plans had been related to moving to a big city; I was fresh out of undergrad and looking for something new and exciting — but that wasn’t in the cards. Spirit, my ancestors, though I didn’t consciously know this yet, had called me back to the Emerald Isle.
A couple months later, I packed my belongings away and brought two bags with me to Ireland, where I would rely on savings and freelance work while I traveled. I spent the majority of my time in County Kilkenny, County Clare and Galway.
Along the way, my sadhana (daily spiritual practice) expanded and danced beyond the veil. After having taught yoga asana, with sprinklings of philosophy tossed in, for four years, I hadn’t been without a weekly teaching gig since I was a student alone.
If I had stuck to my big-city-life plan, yoga gigs and studio work would have been my primary source of income. Now, in a foreign land without the space to teach, I was left to sit with my personal practice in full for the first time since I was a teenager. I witnessed the gaping holes in my layers of being. Asana was what I taught. I knew it best; it’s what they teach you most vigorously in teacher training. I didn’t feel worthy of teaching beyond asana. The philosophy of the practice, beyond certain broadly understood concepts, felt too deeply personal to me to be “teachable.”
They say the British Isles, Ireland especially, has a year-round thinned veil. This is often felt in mystical lands, ripe with ancient culture and ways that still shine through despite modernization and Westernized ways. Folks can experience the thinned veil throughout October and November with the most potency. I spent the depth of my journey in Ireland during these two months exactly.
When the veil thins, we are able to connect with Spirits — whomever we would like to; entities, deities, ancestors — with greater ease. I took advantage of this. I felt myself being ripped from my asana and teaching philosophy. I craved instant gratification in the form of filled in gaps with immediacy. Spirit, ancestors and my practice gifted me patience.
My asana practice all but disappeared. I sat, instead, in deep stillness night after night, morning after morning, waking before traveling mates to find some quiet time and witness the darker corners of self.
My ancestors appeared to me as guides for my personal journey — one I now know is meant to be intertwined with asana, creative movement, art in a multitude of forms and philosophy building of my own — in a myriad of ways. One day, they would come to me as I danced alone in an Airbnb room. They held my hands, asked if they, too, could dance. Another day, they were with me in the whipping winds on the Aran Islands off the coast of Galway and County Clare. As I walked around an ancient fortress, I (politely) requested that my travel mate allow me a moment to listen to the wind and the wind alone. It was singing to me.
I made it to the edge of a cliffside encircled by the wild Atlantic. I crouched down, perching myself on the balls of my feet. I pulled my coat, once my father’s, around me and tugged my beanie down so it wouldn’t fly away. Steadied, despite the winds, I closed my eyes. My fingertips floated away from my coat and brought themselves to brush the green, dewy grasses. In that simple moment, I felt joy. I felt my heart at total peace. I leaned into the subtle connections — between my senses, the winds and how they reddened my ears and nose, the hail, snow, rainfall that swirled around us in a washing cycle. When I would come to open my eyes, a rainbow stretched above me, from one side of the island to the ocean beyond the cliffside.
Laughter bubbled up with ease, as it did throughout my entire pilgrimage in Ireland. I knew it then — that though I felt lost, in that the identity that I had once clung to — yoga teacher, asana student, lazy philosopher — was dissipated. Free, now. My sense of self had been chipped away at until the core of my heart remained. The land, her winds, the essence of my ancestors, the matriarchy that still held itself steady through Ireland was there to guide me to a new way — a way home that let me dance with oooohs and aaaaahs more so than ughs and more this, that, then I’ll be set.
In the months that followed, I would return to the U.S. and move back to Hawai’i. It wasn’t until a month ago — six months since I left Ireland — that I fully alchemized the knowledge sent my way, through my ancestors and the general Irish culture, to rebirth my personal and teaching philosophy. My asana practice flourishes — for myself and my students — in transformed, transfigured ways. I move consciously. With femininity. With ancestors and guides moving with and through me. It’s a ceremony — asana, and the general experience of being in a human body. One where Earth and Spirit dance in communion, and movement acts as an extension of experiencing, of witnessing all that we are, through every layer, across every plane.
With that, I’m more grounded in myself — how my blood, bones are far more ancient than I can truly process consistently. I’m more connected to the beings beyond the veil — in many philosophy systems, though I connect most often with Celtic and Hindu deities. I don’t know it all, but I know that the core of my being is never alone. Whatever is to come in my teachings, I am not alone in carving the patterns and rhythms into being. Guides, beyond the veil and in my heart, are right there dancing with me we break cycles and go beyond the body. My asana teachings are a bridge to this. I now invite students to join me in these lands and planes of being where the veil thins and we can better understand ways beyond ourselves and societally-sculpted identities.
Photos courtesy of Caroline Smith.