For the new year: Embarking on the inner journey

Mariellen Ward, Breathedreamgo, travel, India, Kerala, Varkala, beach, inspiration, quote

Photo of me on Varkala Beach by Andrew Adams.

While meditating in India, I  was called to take an inner journey to reach my destination

Men go abroad to wonder at the heights of mountains, at the huge waves of the sea, at the long courses of the rivers, at the vast compass of the ocean, at the circular motions of the stars, and they pass by themselves without wondering.” – St. Augustine

LIGHT FILTERS THROUGH the palm trees and thick-leaved tropical plants in front of my writing porch. I am surrounded on three sides by greenery, swaying in the breeze. It may be winter in Kerala, but the afternoons are hot and the evenings warm. Down the road, the golden beach, red cliffs and shimmering waters of the Arabian Sea beckon.

Watching the sun set over the ocean, swimming, eating fresh fish and fruit, immersing in the beauty and bounty of nature — these are the reasons I came down to Goa and Kerala in South India. I wanted the support of the sunny climate, fresh air and bountiful nature to continue the inner journey I began at a yoga ashram in North India in November.

Rishikesh, Aurovalley, ashram, sunrise, sunset

Peaceful Aurovalley Ashram at sun rise

The call to inner adventure is part of The Hero’s Quest

On my first day at Aurovalley Ashram, near Rishikesh, as evening approached and the sun started to set, I went up on the World Temple roof to enjoy the beauty and peace of the “magic hour,” and listen to the cries of the birds as they flew home. Suddenly, the speaker system started to blare extremely loud music. (In fact, it was The Mother’s music. The Mother was the spiritual partner of Sri Aurobindo. She played evocative organ music that is haunting and tends to drone, and is not suited to loud amplification, in my opinion.)

The shock of hearing loud music in this usually peaceful setting upset me. I have been going regularly to Aurovalley for 10 years and have never heard this before. I felt really rattled, as if my secret sanctuary had been invaded and taken from me. In fact, it almost seemed to trigger a PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) type of reaction.

You enter the forest at the darkest point, where there is no path. Where there is a way or path, it is someone else’s path. You are not on your own path.” Joseph Campbell

During meditation that evening, I was flooded with painful memories and emotions as I allowed myself to feel how badly I had been traumatized and abandoned by earlier events of my life. Over the next day or so, as I processed this experience, I became aware that I was attached to a very negative story about my life. I was attached to the idea that I was hanging on for dear life, and skating on the edge of doom. My life was going to fall apart or end any day, and I was using a lot of my energy to stave off the inevitable catastrophe.

I realized I felt alone in the world, always having to do everything myself and prove myself, over and over again. I had an ego-driven need to succeed, to make a name for myself, because I had no one to rely on, nothing to fall back on. In other words, I was simply surviving, not thriving — and thriving did not seem to be an option.

Your vision will become clear only when you can look into your own heart. Who looks outside, dreams; who looks inside, awakes.” – Carl Jung

When I had this realization, and the implications of it began to unfold, I felt nauseous and couldn’t eat. I knew it was an emotional response and not a physical illness. I could see that my negative mindset was undermining my confidence and everything I was trying to do, and that I was blocking a more joyful, connected, prosperous and spiritual experience of life.

The traumas in my life, and my struggles to make a living as a writer and blogger, combined to make me feel “alone in a godless universe.” And every new email from an organization that wanted me to work for free, as I sank further and further into debt, seemed to validate this view.

Ganga, Ganges, Rishikesh, India, travel, yoga

Sacred Ganges/Ganga flows through Rishikesh

Falling out of grace

When I founded Breathedreamgo six-and-a-half years ago, I wanted to achieve success. I wanted to make a name for myself so that I could achieve my dreams — my dreams of supporting myself as a traveller and writer. And my career has soared in many ways. I gained lots of exposure, readers, opportunities and had lots of travel adventures. Perhaps most importantly, I took the leap and followed my dreams — something I had never done before, and many people never do.

But I used a lot of my strength of will for this and paid a price. I depleted my energy and my savings and threw my life out of balance. I struggled to understand why this path has been so hard, and so financially unrewarding. I thought perhaps the problem was the economy, or societal attitudes towards creative people, or my non-existent business model.

The only journey is the journey within.” – Rainer Maria Rilke

And while all of these things contributed, it was my inner world, my unconscious story, that was the biggest cause of all. Most of us don’t realize that our lives are manifestations of our thoughts and beliefs. As the sign at Aurovalley Ashram says, “There’s no use complaining about the circumstances of your life as they are an expression of who you are.” This is why I go to the ashram, to find the peace and solitude needed to become aware of my inner journey.

In my meditations, I started to practice trust, faith and surrender. I literally imagine myself falling back into the arms of the goddess, like a loving net, or a warm ocean. Whenever I start to slip back into negative thinking, I replace it with a mantra, chant, prayer of gratitude or positive vision of the future.

Knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom.” – Aristotle

Since having that realization, I feel almost as if I’ve been let out of jail. A whole new world of possibilities seems to be opening up in front of me. I feel much more open, confident, excited about life. I feel the burden of loneliness and my financial crisis is being shared. It’s not entirely lifted, but I don’t feel I’m carrying it alone.

It’s a big relief to let some of the western ego-driven and controlling part of my mind go, and adopt a more eastern-inspired, faith-driven approach.

We in the west are brought up to believe in the power of our individuality and strength of will. We are told we can do anything, conquer anything, achieve anything if only we set our minds to it. The role of fate, destiny, friends, mentors, resources, support, unseen forces and plain old dumb luck doesn’t seem to count for much in this world view.

But as they say in India, “God knows best.” Things happen they way they happen, and they’re not always in our control. The only thing we can control is how we react and respond, and what meaning we find.

Not until we are lost do we begin to understand ourselves.” – Henry David Thoreau

As well as cultivating more faith and trust, I’m also much more open to possibilities and the idea of abundance. When I landed in Goa in December, and started touring Panjim and the surrounding area, I spontaneously had a vision of me living in a house with a big white verandah, on a hill, facing the Arabian Ocean. I was fit, happy, healthy and wearing a flowing Wendell Rodricks gown.

This positive vision, informed by abundance, was a revelation. I have no idea how I’m going to get there, but right now, it’s just enough to have a new dream, a dream of abundance, balance, health and sunny days.

beach, hut, Agonda, Goa, India

The beach hut of my dreams on Agonda Beach, Goa

Learning to trust

Also in Goa, I had an experience that encouraged and validated my trusting approach to life. I booked into a small resort on the beach in Agonda and didn’t like my room. I had imagined a coco-mat beach hut facing the ocean, but instead got a dingy, dark room near the road. The next morning I was guided to The Secret Garden where I immediately booked into the beach hut of my dreams. I literally ran back to get my things and moved over in about 30 minutes. I felt euphoric the entire day, having my beach hut dream come true and at a price I could afford.

So, at the end of 2015 and the beginning of 2016, I am going to celebrate my successes and start planning for the new future I am envisioning. I am going to let my inner journey take the driver’s seat for a change, and spend as much time and energy surrendering and trusting as planning, working, striving. Let’s see where it takes me.


Celebrating the accomplishments

In 2015, Breathedreamgo turned 6, I celebrated 10 years of travelling to India. I am very grateful for the opportunities I’ve had — a lifetime of adventures over the past 10 years. I’ve felt freedom, watched sunsets and sunrises all over India and the world and opened myself up to new ideas and cultures. I’ve dedicated myself to an art form, watched myself improve and tasted success in the form of awards, readers, prestigious assignments and personal satisfaction. I’ve done more and gone further than I ever dreamed.

This past year, 2015, especially I achieved some career highs such as:

  • Publishing stories in BBC Travel, Conde Nast Traveller India and Vogue India
  • Publishing a 16-page feature about my travels in India in Outpost Magazine
  • Winning Ontario Tourism’s top writing award for a story about Niagara Falls
  • Speaking at TBEX Asia and at the first Twillingate Unscripted Arts Festival
  • Having the opportunity to travel in Canada, the USA and many new places in India
  • Hitting almost 2 million page views on Breathedreamgo
Varkala, Kerala, India

Lush, beautiful Varkala on the Arabian Sea in Kerala

Motivational resources for getting rid of old baggage, creating a new life and making successful new year’s resolutions

And now as I begin the proactive exercise of imagining and planning for my new life, one free from the burden of the negative story I was carrying, I asked my wise friends on Facebook for some recommendations for moving forward, and got some great responses.

A person often meets his destiny on the road he took to avoid it.” – Jean de La Fontaine

The secret to successful New Year’s Resolutions
Amy Gigi Alexander posted a link to this page on her Facebook page, and said she used the techniques successfully to vision and plan her new life. I’m trying it this year, too, as the advice makes a lot of sense. The secret to successful New Year’s Resolutions.

Amy Gigi Alexander, writer

Books by Rilke and Campbell
“This may or may not be something for you at this time . . . but it’s something that works for me, pretty much always . . . when I’m in some kind of personal purgatory: Letters to a Young Poet by Rainer Maria Rilke. My own favourite letter is #8. I’ve carried this book with me pretty much everywhere I’ve gone in last two+ decades. The letters are Rilke’s responses to question from a younger man about art and life and love . . . I also read Joseph Campbell. Another book I take with me everywhere: A Joseph Campbell Companion. Pick a page … any page …

Scott Hartman

Oneness Meditation
“Not exaggerating when I say that this meditation changed my life in a matter of weeks. Almost exactly three years ago…” Oneness Meditation.

Corinne McDermott, Have Baby Will Travel 

Vipassana Meditation
“Go on a silent 10-day Vipassana meditation course in India. It will help you disconnect from negative and unwanted thoughts. It is intense and challenging, and will change the way you think and react to things.” Top 5 Vipassana Centres in India.

Sharell Cook, About India

Do What You Love
“The website Do What You Love has a great New Years Revolution PDF to help you with just this.” Do What You Love.

Frances Fox

Eckhart Tolle
“I always find inspiration from the books of Eckhart Tolle, especially Power of Now and A New Earth.”

Sharon Aschaiek

The Four Agreements
The Four Agreements.

Betsy Wuebker

Shining Academy Workbooks (for Life and Biz)
“I do this yearly.” Shining Academy Workbooks

Reena Tory, Mantra Wild 

Mad & Divine
“First chapter of my book Mad & Divine, What Are You Seeking & When Will You Stop?”

Braja Sorensen, writer

“If you’re going to try, go all the way. Otherwise, don’t even start. This could mean losing girlfriends, wives, relatives and maybe even your mind. It could mean not eating for three or four days. It could mean freezing on a park bench. It could mean jail. It could mean derision. It could mean mockery-isolation. Isolation is the gift. All the others are a test of your endurance, of how much you really want to do it. And, you’ll do it, despite rejection and the worst odds. And it will be better than anything else you could imagine. If you’re going to try, go all the way. There is no other feeling like that. You will be alone with the gods, and the nights will flame with fire. You will ride life straight to perfect laughter. It’s the only good fight there is.” Charles Bukowski

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12 Responses to For the new year: Embarking on the inner journey

  1. Sharon Aschaiek January 3, 2016 at 12:37 pm #


    Thank you for sharing so openly about your journey and latest insights. Agree with you completely that the inner adventure is the most important one, and the more we nurture it and allow it to unfold, the more we can self actualize. Hearing your story motivates me to focus on my own involution. You are on to something and I think good things are in store for you in 2016.


    • Mariellen Ward January 9, 2016 at 11:06 pm #

      Thanks so much for commenting Sharon, and for your kind words. I think many of us get to a point where we realize that we create our lives with our thoughts, even the unaware thoughts … so getting our inner house in order is a good idea indeed. Good luck with your journey.
      Mariellen Ward recently posted..Shining a light on DiwaliMy Profile

  2. oneweirdword January 7, 2016 at 10:21 am #

    In Christianity, it’s about surrenduring to God’s will and opening up to the support of your community. The good part of religions and schools of thought suggest the same. You’re right to reject the (sadly promoted by Oprah too) “you can do anything if you put your mind to it” theory. It’s the cause of much heartache. I think back to that young Toronto woman who died on Everest. She’d never climbed another mountain beforehand, but she believed in that terrible destructive notion. It’s like making your first cycling goal the Tour de France instead of, perhaps, the Ride for Heart.

    Well done, MEW. I’m happy for you and wish you joy and prosperity.

    • Mariellen Ward January 9, 2016 at 11:10 pm #

      Hi OWW, there is indeed a sweet spot between desire, intention, longing and reality, destiny, practicality. We are taught we are in control, but in the east they know better, ha. I always remember my yoga teacher saying that he doesn’t pray for things to happen the way he wants; he prays that he can gracefully accept what “god” wants. Totally different attitude. ps There is no way I am ever climbing a mountain!
      Mariellen Ward recently posted..The sacred and profane at the Pushkar Camel FairMy Profile

  3. oneweirdword January 7, 2016 at 10:24 am #

    The beach hut of your dreams looks like something from a movie! Or Pinterest!

  4. MarianBaghor January 9, 2016 at 12:24 pm #

    Thank you, dear Mariellen. I’ve appreciated each of your newsletters and you’ve given so much by sharing your life in writing and pictures. In your vulnerability you are a shining light. May that light nurture you too, wherever you are. This is for you, on your way in your inner journey:

    I do hope you know a bit about Tolkiens’ trilogie “The Lord of the Rings”?
    This was sung in chapter ‘Three is Company’, by the hobbits when they are walking
    through The Shire, just before they meet a company of elves:

    “Still round the corner there may wait
    A new road or a secret gate
    And though we pass them by today
    Tomorrow we may come this way
    And take the hidden paths that run
    towards the Moon or to the Sun”.

    This new version is sung softly by Frodo as he and Sam walk in the Shire a few years after they have returned, and as Frodo prepares to meet Elrond and others and journey to the Grey Havens to take ship into the West:

    “Still round the corner there may wait
    A new road or a secret gate
    And though I oft have passed them by
    A day will come at last when I Shall take
    the hidden paths that run
    West of the Moon, East of the Sun”.

    There’s much I can relate to, in your last newsletter, Mariellen. Here’s what I found on an inner journey of mine. I shared it recently on a Forum, discussing the subject of autonomy:

    “There’s a very interesting aspect in putting boundaries, in that by stating my perception as valid, without the need of an outside confirmation by any person or being, a boundary is created as a circle around a centerpoint. I guess I could call that definition. The definition of self in a non-defensive state, in absence of opposition or merging…. or compromizing…. in order to belong.”

    With warmth, Marian.

  5. Mariellen Ward January 9, 2016 at 11:27 pm #

    I have often said that I may not have the biggest or best blog, but I have the best commenters. Here is more proof.

    Marian, this is one of the best comments I have ever received. It’s both so heartfelt and so inspiring. I will memorize these verses and try to remember them always, thanks so much. They are truly wise words.

    I also love what you said about stating your perception, your truth. This is part of the process of knowing the self. Once understood, we can transcend duality … and just be …
    Mariellen Ward recently posted..Finding the real India on my 8th tripMy Profile

    • MarianBaghor January 13, 2016 at 5:24 am #

      Thank you, your reply made my day, Mariellen. I’m learning to acknowledge my way of being more, since I live in the UK and left Holland. It’s a new place where I feel a quietude and liveliness both, that is about being in the moment. Many happy moments for you, it won’t be that hard to experience quietude where you are, I think. Your story about that startling loud noise/voice of “The Mother” through that loudspeaker, sounds like a strange mix of vibes, ancient wisdom merging with modern technology. In Utrecht, my former hometown, at times I was near the Mosque when also a loud warbled noise/voice in a drone, broke loose. Ouchhh, my ears didn’t love that much! Be happy lovely lady, much warmth and love, Marian.

  6. Margaret Hale January 14, 2016 at 9:43 am #

    India is truly a wonderful place where a people can take their time to find the road to themselves. I really look forward to moving there with my husband. We both got caught up in the philosophy that comes with yoga and Buddhism and I believe that moving to India will let us grow a lot in a spiritual way! I find your stories about India really inspiring! Thanks for sharing!

  7. Katie January 24, 2016 at 11:08 pm #

    Very inspiring story … hope 2016 is your most successful year yet!

  8. Fillingthegap October 2, 2016 at 2:07 pm #

    Hi Mariellen,

    Really like the realness of your article above and thank you for sharing some of your deep refections. I can really relate to the article above and your general story. It is breath of fresh-air and serves as a ‘guiding star’ when people brave people like yourself ‘open up’ their difficult cathartic journeys; it really brings tremendous hope to others and helps us feel we are not alone!

    I am about to start a 6 month/12 month journey around India and Asia- doing a mixture of travelling, volunteering work and yoga training; so your blog has and will prove a huge resource.

    Thank you!

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