I’ve always known it, I’ve always felt it, but never have I experienced it to the degree that I did on this recent trip to India. The connection of women is universal, not just tied to your friendship group at home, or your family of sisters or even your relationship with your female colleagues. This is a connection experienced all over the world and something that unites women everywhere. You see it in a smile or a knowing glance when you meet, or in the squeeze of a hand from a stranger you have only just met or a hug after the sharing of a painful story. Women get women, we understand each other, we empathise and it’s amazing how we connect when we are given the space, the time and the opportunity.
Connection of women is the theme of My Soultime Escapes. When I decided on the idea to become a coach it was to guide women to take time for their souls. To give themselves permission to fill their souls and do the things that bring them joy. Hence the title My Soultime became an obvious choice for the name of my business. To me that encompasses everything I want to work towards. To create experiences whereby women can take time for their souls, to enrich their lives and consequently the lives of their families and friends.
Therefore, to combine my two loves, travel and working with women, into an opportunity to travel with women to places they wouldn’t generally go on their own, to destinations that lift the spirit, educate the mind and stimulate the senses, whilst at the same time taking time to reflect on their own lives through workshops and meditations, is an absolute dream come true and I can’t believe I’m living it.
The community of women that joined me on this recent trip were living proof that this idea has merit and that women want this. Ten women including myself shared their lives, their laughs, their joys and their sorrows as we travelled together for 10 days. India took care of the rest. It provided the setting, the stimulation, the pain, the joy, the colour and the opportunity to meet women, cook with women, share pain with women and laugh and connect with women. Language was no barrier because the heart speaks its own language and a smile or a laugh can connect anyone.
From our very first day when we rolled bread to feed thousands at the Sikh temple in Delhi, we began the process. Sitting around a giant rolling platform surrounded by women we were taught the art of how to roll the perfect roti. We may have produced a few odd shapes and some oversized roti’s but at one point I became completely overwhelmed with emotion as I watched this gathering of women learning, laughing and teaching each other a simple skill. As the tears just ran down my face I watched my friend Alana at the other end of the platform, engaging a group of women with smiles and hysterical laughter. It was just pure joy to watch and I could feel fill my whole body. I knew right then we had something special going on here.
We were approached by people everywhere but particularly by groups of women. At Humayun’s Tomb in Delhi, a group of female university students engaged us in conversation. They just wanted to know where we were from, where we were going and tell us about their current studies. Young, curious, friendly and just one of those moments where your heart feels full. Then at the mosque the same day, in a place of prayer, once again women coming to us for photos with our group. Where does this happen? How welcoming and friendly and truly open can a country be? I’ve never experienced anything like it.
Although we had many amazing encounters on this journey there was probably none more compelling and stirring than meeting an older woman and her husband, who had outlived all five of their children. This woman shared her story with us through our guide, to a point where you could see she could bear it no longer. She was beautiful, still dressed in colour, earning a living making her craft, but as she spoke of her story you could see the pain sweep across her eyes, her face tightened and the breath shortened. Whether you are a mother or not, you felt this pain, you felt the vulnerability and you could not escape the raw truth of that woman. As she reached for her tobacco pipe as a means of breaking the story or escaping the reality, we turned our attention to her husband who demonstrated the making of the clay cups, yet I noticed that none of us had truly disconnected from her. Whether she knew it or not she had entered the hearts of 10 women from another place, who would hold a space for her for many years to come. I don’t think any of us will forget that woman or that moment.
India worked its magic on us in Varanasi as we celebrated on the rooftop with a family on Holi. Although a family welcomed us to their home, it was the women who had been up since early morning to cook and prepare for our visit. A constant stream of treats was delivered to the rooftop from the family’s bakery below as we threw colour, played water fights and danced with the women of the family. Although slightly more reserved than their Australian counterparts, these beautiful women opened their home to us and made us feel so incredibly welcome. We all have our highlights from that day but meeting a young English teacher was one of the highlights of the trip for me. We formed a connection with her as we mimicked her dance moves (we still have a lot of work to do here), laughed and talked with her and have been in contact ever since through the help of What’s App and Facebook. New friends are easily made when barriers are removed and all there is the soul to share.
So many memories and so many stories all from 10 days, but like anything it isn’t always the big moments you remember, but those small ones that are just in the everyday. Catching someone’s eye across the dinner table as they eat their fifth piece of naan bread, the belly laugh that breaks out spontaneously on the bus as we gorge on potato chips like we’d never been fed. Sharing a joke with our guide or teasing him about a moment and dancing on a rooftop of a heritage hotel on our final night as a sitar player strums “When you are happy and you know it clap your hands.” I mean seriously did you ever expect to be standing on a rooftop in India under candlelight dancing to a children’s song. But we did, and it was spontaneous and free and connected.
But when a group of women who have only known each other for 10 days can sit in a meeting room together and hold the space whilst another member of the group shares her soul, spills her tears and opens her heart, you know you have something that is nothing short of magical.
I am truly honoured, blessed and forever grateful to the women of Soulful India and the women of India for giving us an experience we will carry forever.
It filled me up.