INDIA EXPERIENCE - EXPRESSIONS OF INTEREST

Varanasi, India - February 2020

Screen Shot 2019-09-05 at 12.04.11 PM.png
Screen Shot 2019-09-05 at 11.28.01 AM.png

WHEN?

February 24th - 28th 2020

Help me to accept the mystery. To drift around in it until I’m saturated to my core and my need for rules to follow and answers to flaunt has been drenched in wonder and washed away in celebration
— Lori Hetteen

ABOUT THE EXPERIENCE

Who is it for:

For those who have always wanted to go to India but have been too scared, for those who LOVE India, for those that HATE India. For those who need a shake up. For those who are hungry for more of God, for those who are full. For those who feel certain in their faith, and for those who no longer feel the certainty they once did.
This experience is for those who want to open their eyes and hearts up to Christ.

For those who want to experience a God who is boundless, for those who want to carve out space to meet with the God of every nation, every tribe and every tongue.

Screen Shot 2019-09-05 at 7.28.31 PM.png

WHY VARANASI?

Our little family lived in this city for 3 years when my babies were only little. We moved to Varanasi when my daughter was 8 months old, and my son was born and lived his first year of life in India.
During those years I felt most' ‘alive’, I was stretched beyond my limits, challenged, broken, inspired, transformed, uncomfortable, at home, happy, and desperately sad. Though it was in this place that my faith grew its deep roots, it was in the surrender, in the hopelessness, and in the brokenness that Jesus entered in.

13260010_10154279377885337_3140558000932159574_n.jpg

As I watched the deep and beautiful worship of the Hindu’s around me, their faith that is very much front and center of their lives at all times, their faith that is so tangible and colourful, I was inspired to question, what does my life look like as a devotee of Jesus?
As the “Call to Prayer” rung out over the city 5 times a day, I was forced to ask, when do I pray? Is there something beautiful about embodied prayer, about a rhythm of prayer that you center your life around.

Spirituality in Varanasi can not be ignored. And I want to take you there to experience it for yourself!

This time is not to tear down other paths, but instead to observe, to learn, to see our own cultural blindspots, to get uncomfortable, to learn reverence and respect for our neighbors around the world.

Varanasi is the Spiritual heart beat of India, and whilst the Christian population is tiny here, I want to challenge us to look for Jesus, everywhere. It won’t be in a church building, or a cultural way of ‘doing’ Jesus. It will be in the humanity around us, in the eyes of the beggars and the rich businessman. In the beauty and the destruction seen in this city, in the death and life visible all around. In poverty and in riches. As we observe the Hindu doing their Puja, the Muslim praying, the religious festivals, we will see the earnesty and devotion of the one who is seeking, maybe considering what our puja looks like? what our bhakto looks like? what joins us together, what sets us apart? And as we observe and question and learn, may we always have our eyes and hearts tuned in to beautiful Jesus.

Christ is there, Christ was always there, and will always be there.

VISION AND SCHEDULE:

We want to make your experience as authentic and beautiful as possible. We will be staying at a simple, yet clean and beautiful heritage building in the old city. Whilst the old city can be intense and confronting, our accommodation is like a safe oasis in the heart of it all. A guesthouse for artists, musicians and social activists.

All our meals will be Vegetarian. We will be taking great care in providing meals that are clean and safe as much as possible, taking every possible precaution, however once again, please be aware, this is India. And India doesn’t do rules ;)

- Twice Daily Christ Centered Yoga Flows and guided meditation

- Teachings on world religions, yogic philosophy and where we can see Christ intersect.

-Sharing Circles

-Christ Kirtan - Devotional Worship to Jesus in Hindi

Doorways of Varanasi

Doorways of Varanasi

-Sunrise Boat Rides on the Ganges River

- An evening at Ganga Arti

-Guided tour of the Ghats that line the river.

-Shopping day

-A visit to Mother Theresa home for the dying and other projects working with the poor in the city

-Lots of space to contemplate, read and to process this incredible place

-Endless chai, served in clay cups

Lolak Kund - An Ancient Fertility Well

Lolak Kund - An Ancient Fertility Well


* It needs to be made very clear that India, particularly Varanasi is not a place you go to ‘rest’. This is going to be a beautiful and holy experience, though I want to make it clear that if you are after a peaceful, quiet, rest filled ‘retreat’, this may not be the place for you.


Varanasi is loud and chaotic, crowded and beautiful and wonderful and pulsing with energy and art and music and life. It is a feast for the senses! The smells, the sights, the adventure!


As with every retreat /experience I run, grace is at the center and you are welcome to participate in as much or as little as you like.

ACCOMODATION

[subject to booking and availability]

We will be staying at the Kautilya Society in the old city. The rooms are quite simple and they have shared bathrooms. BUT they are beautiful. With Art on the walls, and history, and social justice and the fight for preservation of history in this beautiful city, which in recent years has been under attack.

We know this won’t be everyones ‘cup of tea’, but India is also not everyone’s cup of tea.


The reason we have chosen this venue instead of a 4 or 5 star hotel, is that we know the owners, we trust the owners, and we believe that this is the best, most homely, and comfortable place to stay in this city. It is authentic and beautiful and reflects exactly what we want out of this experience for you.

Our Accommodation, a heritage listen, ancient property in the old city.

Our Accommodation, a heritage listen, ancient property in the old city.

The common area within our Homestay.

The common area within our Homestay.

Screen Shot 2019-09-05 at 6.56.45 PM.png
Screen Shot 2019-09-05 at 6.57.06 PM.png
Screen Shot 2019-09-05 at 5.27.14 PM.png
Screen Shot 2019-09-05 at 12.21.31 PM.png
Screen Shot 2019-09-05 at 5.25.33 PM.png

ABOUT VARANASI

Varanasi is said to be the oldest, continuously inhabited living city in the world. It lies on the banks of the Ganges River, a sacred site for Hindu’s who believe that to die and be cremated here, is to escape the cycle of samsara (reincarnation) and to enter into eternity. To wash in it’s waters is to cleanse you of your sins. It is also the home to the Kashi Vishwanath temple, one of the most important temples in India, with most Indians making a pilgrimage to it at least once in their lives.


For Muslims, Varanasi is the site of one of India’s most important mosques, the Alamgir Mosque which was constructed by Emporor Aurangzeb in 1669. The mosque is a blend of islamic and Hindu architecture.

For Buddhists, just 10km from the city center is Sarnath, it is said that under the Bodhi Tree at this site was where Guatama Siddhartha taught his first sermon, and was mentioned by the Buddha as one of 4 sites of pilgrimage for devoted Buddhist.

It is a place of Spiritual Pilgrimage, it is buzzing with energy, loud speakers, temple bells, calls to prayer, cows in the gullies, sadhus (Indian Holy Men) and Guru’s. It is home to approx. 23,000 temples - in one city.

You do not got to Varanasi to rest, to have a holiday. You go to Varanasi to experience.

If you think that this is something you may be interested in, Please send me an email by clicking on the button above! If there is interest…. Let’s do it!

Tune my heart to sing thy Grace...

The heavens have been forever opened and the veil is torn. We have to quit begging the Spirit of God to come close, were Jesus bled to remain. God invites us all into intimate connection where everything is seen and always loved, even when we don’t deserve it. Moreover God doesn’t just love, he actually IS love. So if the substance of God is already residing inside of you, how could you ever possibly be love deficient again. The trick is not learning to aquire or earn God’s love, the trick is learning how to tune in and experience what is already there.
— Christa Black Gifford
69223444_2374003559386033_225208332447645696_o.jpg

Yesterday I took the day to try to write my work report (a Visa requirement for life in Thailand) but also to spend time with God. A struggle for a long time for me has been a fear of God not “showing up”. I fear that I will be abandoned in the silence.

I’ve been reading/listening to a book called “Heart Made Whole” by Chista Black Gifford, and it came to a chapter where she discussed that God is already here, but the heart just needs to be tuned in to experience.

This led the old hymn “Come though Fount” to pop into my head, and as I figured it out on the harmonium, I spent the next few hours, belting it out in my office - an converted outhouse bathroom!. (My work report, subsequently is still not done).

As I sang, I have always had a vague Idea of what the words mean, though its probably more of a ‘jist’ . It is written in old English and I wondered if anyone had ever written a modern day translation? I didn’t find one.

I had all but forgotten about it today as I travelled to Chiang Mai to have a nasty wisdom tooth plucked from my skull. Though as I did my nightly routine of ‘numbing out’ (Hello Enneagram Type 9) to get rid of the physical pain, and probably the emotional pain too; I stumbled up the Yoga Abbey’s post on Instagram (a sweet Christ Centered Yoga crew). Apparently this month they will be delving into this hymn. I felt a prompting in my heart to look at the lyrics and re-write them as to what they mean to me. It was a beautiful experience. And so here I am at 2am in the morning, with an achey jaw and Come Thou Fount. It has been like balm to my face, and to my soul.

Maybe you can do it too?

Come Thou Fount - Paraphrased, for this Girl!

Beautiful Jesus, you are the source of Divine love, a never ending fountain.

You are already as close to me as my very breath, help me to know how to just tune in to your spirit already living inside of me.
Out of that fountain of Divine love, there are endless and vast streams of mercy pouring out. Covering us all, even those deemed not ‘correct enough’ for the table by some within our churches.
It is this radical love, these wide spread arms of grace, it’s this radical inclusivity that calls from the depths of my heart to sing with all my whole self of how beautiful you are.
Teach me to sing the same song that the trees of the fields clap their hands to, Teach me the tune that the mountains and hills burst into song too. The vibration deep within that connects us all. That same vibration and that same song that will be sung when everything is made right.

I am putting my stake in the ground. I choose this path, remembering all the times that the Divine was with me, The times when God was so close; As I birthed my baby girl and felt like I was completely surrendered into the arms of God. The times when I have felt complete and utter shalom.
And even, yes, even in the dark night of the soul, the liminal spaces where it was as if you had walked me into the valley of the shadow of death… even there you were with me. It felt so dark and so quiet, but I never remained there, you always came back.

Some days, more than others, I want to go home so badly. I want to go home into your arms, where I am safe and completely held. I want to be with you and do away with the mess, the pain, the injustice, the poverty, the corruption, the abuse of women, the systematic racism, the destruction of the earth. The cowardly rich men in positions of power.

When the time is right, Jesus, Take me home, wipe away my tears, and make it right.

Before I was even looking, you found me. Totally naked, raw and vulnerable, my own part to play in the mess of this world. You saw me, you knew me, and you loved me anyway. You incarnated into a body and walked into every screwed up situation that you en-counted. You healed the untouchables, you loved and forgave the corrupt, the sex workers, those seen as too dirty, too messed up. To the rich men in power, you peacefully went about subverting their power, igniting the revolution, turning the other cheek, peace, righteous anger, of holy shit stirring. This put you in danger. This put you right in the center of danger, of conflict, of accusations and it ultimately got you killed.


And I should be in debt to you, but the debt that you handed me was Grace. It doesn’t constrain me, it offers freedom, spaciousness. The soft and safe arms of Grace that I fall into when I come to the end of me, and all I have left is you.

Beautiful Jesus extend your arms out long and wrap my heart, my broken body in bandages of your goodness and grace and bind them to you.

I was taught to study you through the book, and to keep my heart at an arms length from you. When I had a ‘feeling’ you were close I was told to stop, to analyze, to engage critical thinking. To never trust this heart. It is weak BUT the word of God is strong.
Somewhere in the journey though, I lost the LIVING word, the word made flesh. Whenever you came close, I shut it down, I kept you at an arms length, and even now, I don’t know how to tune into you, I don’t know how to give my heart fully to you.
But Jesus, I choose you. I love you, I love you, I love you. Teach me to not run.

Here is my heart Jesus, take it and as I close my eyes and open my heart to you, I can feel the safe, soft touch of your finger on my forehead placing a seal on me. I am yours. You are mine.