SPIRITUAL WISDOM THROUGH A SOUL INTROSPECTION PRACTICE OF YOGA AND TRAVEL
Welcome to Healing From Within with host Sheryl Glick author of The Living Spirit Answers for Healing and Infinite Love which shares stories of spiritual communication healing energies miracles and discovering intuition for creating ways to expand inner wisdom and compassion from within. Today Sheryl is delighted to welcome Kurt Koontz author of Practice and a former guest of this show to describe his open hearted life journey to discover and advanced yoga practice in India quite different than his experiences previously Kurt explores the beauty and age old wisdom of the Himalayas and the sacred Ganges River and strives to expand his own wisdom and compassion in this adventuresome and life changing experience.
As listeners of “Healing From Within” are well aware Sheryl and her guests share intimate experiences and insights into the metaphysical world of life both in spirit and physical aspects as we ask age old questions, Who are we? Where did life originate? and Why am I having this human experience?
In today’s episode of “Healing From Within” Kurt Koontz an outdoor adventurer may not have been wholly guided by Spirit when he first began to explore yoga, however, when he found himself in Rishkikesh India known to many as the “Yoga Capital of the World,” Kurt was able to explore the visual cultural richness of the land and he developed a “Practice” that appealed not just to yogis and travelers, but to all adventurers who strive to expand their consciousness and love of life.
Kurt shares with us when asked to think back to his childhood and to remember a person place event or value that was important to him and may have shown him or others the life path and interests he might embrace in adulthood Kurt writes, “I had been an active kid who enjoyed skiing and participating in team sports like football and basketball. When I graduated from high school, my parents gave me a suitcase and a bicycle as graduation gifts. I took both to college. At the University of Puget Sound, I often used my bike to get away from the noise and stress of being a student. I routinely rode the 15 mile round trip to Point Defiance Park and its scenic loop. After graduating from college and going to work at Micron Technology I found a need for exercise that had very little to do with health. I poured myself into physical fitness to mask my addictions. I convince myself I could not possibly have a drinking or smoking problem if I was able to endure strenuous bouts of exercise. Two exceptional women worked for me during this time. We could often sneak out to the gym for a class or some cardio exercise. One day I tried a new class called Spin and really loved it.
After my trip to Amsterdam and riding my bicycle across Europe exercise had new significance in Kurt’s life and after the trek across the Camino in Spain Kurt was very in tune with the idea of letting go and opening himself up to the unknown. As he tried new things he also gave up his attachment to the outcome. He was now on a spiritual journey of self-discovery. This attitude led him to his first yoga class.” So it seems Kurt’s parents encouraged him to travel and explore the world and his love of activities.
Kurt’s book Practice is the story of one man’s search for Self through movement travel exercise yoga and learning to move past limitation and addiction to freedom of the mind, to imagination and opening to the world without expectation and judgment. In the photos captured by Kurt in his book you can see the beauty and goodness that Kurt believes is within each of us, and how people live with their challenges and still find happiness if they don’t dwell on negativity. Kurt Koontz shares many wonderful stories of places and people who show us what is possible, if we move beyond our comfort zone. Kurt tells us that his first trip to India in 2015 was totally unexpected. He had traveled to many international destinations before including a nearly 500 mile walk on Spain’s El Camino de Santiago in 2012 which culminated in his first book A Million Steps. While writing his first book he spent a bit of time on the Camino-related social media and began a friendship with Laurie Larson. Laurie had landed in India to become the executive assistant for a prominent spiritual leader and she had begun a practice Seva: selfless service performed without thought of reward and payment. She really liked Rishikesh and thought Kurt should visit.
Kurt began to study about the city of about 100,000 people in northern India at the base of the Himalayas and it was described as the “Yoga Capital of the World.” He had been practicing yoga for about two years at that time…Kurt discovered that the Beatles had visited the city to learn about Transcendental Meditation at the ashram of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. This is where most of the melodies and lyrics were created for The White Album.
On Kurt’s very first night at the Ashram he stayed in for the month he heard young men singing and saw ashram students dressed in yellow and orange robes and he followed them to the banks of the Ganges River where hundreds of people were gathered for the Ganga Aarti ceremony performed every night of the year on the banks of the Ganges River—Mother Ganga—in Rishikesh. The riverside celebration began with a fire ceremony or havan wherein herbs, sweet rice, marigolds and seeds were offered into the fire pit by 14-16 participants. Music was broadcast. Traditional Indian chanting calmed the mind. There were 30-40 large lamps lit at the conclusion of the ceremony. Music light and chanting filled the air.
Kurt tells us about his beginning yoga sessions before India and Surinder, for originally yoga was just another form of exercise and physical fitness for me. Kurt had a long history of using exercise: first as a distraction from his addictions and of course also to stay fit and attractive to women. When Kurt was 48 a few months before walking the Camino he went to a hot yoga class that involved a series of classic asanas poses performed in a room heated to 105 degrees and flooded with 40% humidity. Inspired by the level of difficulty he formed a habit of using heat as a barrier and went three to four times a week. The heat did increase flexibility. He was there for the flexibility of his spine and never imagined the same flexibility could transfer to my mind. Yoga became a compliment to my other exercise routines and after several years of practice for the wrong reasons when I found myself in Rishikesh India, I waded into the Surinders drop- in class where I made my first connection to the Spiritual side of yoga. In yoga we are able to control the movement, which is the first step to controlling the mind.
Sheryl tells Kurt how she found her way to yoga. About 25 years ago she was told after having her first intuitive or psychic reading with a medium that was a gift given to her at a Christmas party she attended that she would take yoga classes, write three books and her psychic abilities would explode. Sheryl thought all that sounded completely unlikely. A week later Anna Sheryl’s hairdresser asked if she would like to go to the Sky Gym in town for a yoga class as she had a gift coupon. Had Sheryl not just been told about yoga by the psychic she probably would have said no, but she said “Yes” and spent the next five years learning the language of Spiritual matters and feeling the energy of her own body as she slowed down her mind and began to perceive life in a new way. Next came Reiki energy healing and working with a gifted healer and medium and Sheryl began to meditate regularly. Sheryl wrote her first two books Life Is No Coincidence and The Living Spirit Answers for Healing and Infinite Love. The third book New Life Awaits See through Spiritual Eyes the Evolution Revolution and World Awakening Process is in the works. She didn’t believe that psychic at the time but indeed everything she told Sheryl came to pass.
Rishikesh became a very special place for Kurt for in India Kurt’s first lesson was learning to go with the flow—to float through all doors that opened – while respecting that time has a different meaning in this place or land. One day Kurt’s friend invited him to an ashram’s prosthetic camp. Kurt had thought about all the limbless people he saw regularly in India. A few blocks from the ashram an armless girl grasped a paintbrush with her toes to create artwork she sold for her survival. At the Prosthetic camp ashram volunteers used their skills to craft customized arms and legs. Over a three week period they had crafted more than 75 devices. Kurt watched as a middle aged man with one leg and crutches had the prosthetic attached and began to walk taking his first steps without the crutches for the first time. It was inspiring to see how people helped each other in this place where there was much poverty yet hope.
In regard to the obvious exterior pollution of the area for the Ganga was the fifth most polluted river in the world and half the population had no access to a toilet. Acknowledging the external problem the founder of The Global Interfaith Wash Alliance is trying to bring sanitation and hygiene to those in need throughout the world. It was suggested that environmental ignorance is rooted in Indian culture because for thousands of years the focus has been inward. Shoes were left outside buildings to prevent dirt from entering the interior the same way negative thoughts were discouraged for the same reason. Hindus believe we are all part of a universal divine. We don’t need to go outside to find the divine because it resides inside every human Yoga and meditation are methods to strengthen this connection to the inner soul.
Without being offensive ashram leaders then pointed out the sharp divide between India and the Western World. Beverly Hills for example is carpet bombed with perfectly manicured lawns youth is coveted …porcelain veneers and bling equals status..Balance is the key to life, ashram leaders observed but Americans seemed to be skewed toward the outward view.
Sheryl remarks that she feels discovering the balance between our spiritual energy soul life and our physical needs is what actually helps us achieve a purposeful healthy joyful productive life journey. If you do not know you are more than your body, and that life is an opportunity for your soul to expand while refining your values and sense of love and compassion, you miss the reason you are really having a physical life: then neither your spiritual or physical life is able to thrive. You can enjoy the beauty of the physical world, art, music, travel, color, and have beauty in your home, but, it cannot be the whole focus of who you are, for it cannot outshine your inward beauty
Sheryl writes in her book The Living Spirit, “Self mastery is an ongoing process. We are changing second by second and so is the world around us. We will never completely know ourselves or anyone else, for that matter. What is important to realize is that we are not limited by our thoughts and dreams. We are not just beings of essence or spirit, nor are we merely physical bodies. We are both. Once we learn to focus and concentrate our thoughts in a consistent manner without doubt and negativity many of our best intentions will come to fruition. I have observed and concluded for myself that happiness is not based in power, or in the accumulation of monetary goods and possessions. Rather, happiness is in the joy and giving and receiving and elevating oneself in the positive eternal energy dance in this physical dimension and with awareness of our higher spirit.”
Kurt tells us about other solo traveling he has done. After returning from my first trip to India it took a while for Kurt to digest all that had transpired. After two months in California he spent a few weeks looking for a yoga centric community in Central or South America. He was hoping to find a yoga scene with deep roots in the spiritual aspects. Kurt was there for a month without encountering anything that compared to India. He tells us that when he left India the first time it was like he had been on an extended hallucinogenic drug trip. It was a place that seemed like constant chaos with unfamiliar sounds scents foods and customs. A beautiful trip but definitely rooted in the surreal and wrapped in an endless sea of vibrant colors. Solo travel had many benefits like meeting a person like Shaochen a 34 year old woman from China who without any effort radiated love and light. She had left China at the age of 20 and ended up studying at a university in the Netherland. Until this trip she had worked for the government of Netherlands as an envoy to China. Also in search of a spiritual path she had scoured the Internet for places in Rishikesh and ended up at The Parmarth whose slogan was “Do not wait for miracles. You are the miracle.” and that’s how she ended up on the banks of Mother Ganga in December. After seven days in Rishikesh she made a decision to resign her position and devote her life to service of others. She completed a 30 day yoga training course at the ashram. Following the example of the Hindu god Hanuman who is believed to have moved the Himalayan Mountains, she declared her intention to serve the next generation. Her personal mantra: “There are no boundaries and we are all one.”
Another visit with Mr. Garg made me explore again the many reasons Kurt love solo travel and adventures. He felt very fortunate that he was able to retire early and travel often. Mr. Garg told us how he became a disciple of the original Swamiji at Parmarth in 1950. He came from a privileged family and had a successful business career. Throughout his career he always spent considerable time at the ashram and finally moved there on a permanent basis. He could have lived a life of luxury but chose to spend most of his time in a tiny apartment at Parmarth which brought him so much peace.
Kurt tells us that his first trip alone was a bit nerve wracking with many moments of insecurity. Instead of taking full advantage of his good fortune, he spent time worrying about what other people thought of me. Imagine the level of arrogance it took to think I was important enough to be noticed. Age has taught me to disregard this idiotic though process. He now known the big advantage of solo explorations. On his own, Kurt meets many people he might not get to know if he was traveling as a pair or with a group. Alone he also gets to choose everything from the destination, wake-up time and restaurants to the daily list of activities.
Sheryl remembers going to a Spiritual large event in Phoenix Arizona because there was a group who were studying “remote viewing” and Sheryl as an intuitive downloading information from Spirit for her clients thought she might be doing something similar to the process of remote viewing so she went alone, and there were so many people from all over the world sharing their special alternative healing modalities and products. Sheryl met many wonderful people artists musicians and gifted energy healers mediums and health practitioners. Later down the road when Sheryl had her first radio show “Healing From Within” one of the people she had met in Arizona Bliss a spiritual singer from England was one of her first guests. Life Sheryl believes takes us where we need to be, to have the experiences, and meet the people we are supposed to meet. For Sheryl the benefit of that solo trip was that I talked to and engaged with many new people and didn’t have to spend time with friends or family doing what they might have been interested in. I was free to explore whatever caught my attention.
Sheryl thinks it is because Kurt is not so much in search of excitement and adventure as much as he is in search of appreciation for life happiness and ways to be comfortable no matter what, that the trip whether large or small, at home in Idaho, or on the Camino in Spain it is all valuable and enjoyable. Kurt wrote,“ When I travel my surroundings have rarely been as comfortable as my life at home. My budget does not allow for luxurious settings or accommodations. While the first few days in a new place seem abnormal I soon realize I have more than enough in any given situation. I have slept well in bunks on the Camino, in a cramped and dusty ashram room and in a tiny rented jungle house in Central America. These experiences serve as a reminder about the true seeds of happiness. The basis of needing more is a feeling of not having enough. That soil grows only discontentment.
A core message that Kurt hopes people take away from his yoga experiences and his books is that we all pursue personal growth and an opening of our hearts and minds to possibilities of expansion.
Kurt wrote, “Overall I try to seek solo adventures at the outer edges of my comfort zone. For me personal growth happens in these unfamiliar territories. I have also remixed my at home activities to focus on personal growth. Such as though I enjoy road and mountain biking in Idaho because I have lived in the state most of my life some of the trails have become too familiar too predictable. One day I woke up and decided to ride each one in the opposite direction. The change in perspective was so simple but required thought and imagination.. When confronted with a decision, I always ask myself, “Which one am I most likely to remember five years down the road?” The routine choice is rarely my answer. An adventure either in my neighborhood or in a distant land gives me something extraordinary to look forward to—an exciting opportunity to open my head and heart to exploring this beautiful world.”
Kurt Koontz author of Practice has shared a most creative adventuresome look at the visual beauty and culture of Rishikesh India the self-professed “Yoga Capital of the World,” and his unbounded admiration for the lush foothills of the Himalayas and the sacred River Ganges and for the many families who welcomed you.
In summarizing today’s episode of Healing From Within I believe we have seen in all the journey’s Kurt Koontz has shared with us, no matter how far, how different from our own life and routines, the challenge is within us to appreciate who we are, and how beautiful nature and the physical lives and cultures of other nations and lifestyles are in their own simplicity. How we find similarities in human values and dignity. if we are able to give up judgment and expectation allowing our minds and hearts to enjoy all the places we visit, without fear, enhances the human spirit. Then it is possible to know compassion and love in our essence. For our personal goal is often to just let go, and flow with the experience, the people, the scenery, the food and customs, and know how fortunate we are to have the opportunity. Each journey of every day, whether to a new country, or a new street in your own neighborhood, may move you beyond your comfort zone, and you may find freedom and peace. As I am writing this I am looking at the picture on page 57 of the beautiful children in Rishikesh and they remind me of the sweet faces of my grandsons who live in California. Children with a smile can light up a person’s face and soul, no matter the place or conditions. Their innocence and trust are sincere and Kurt Koontz’s experiences ring true to the beauty of this precious discovery. Life is indeed wondrous.
Kurt and I would have you begin your journey of self- exploration wherever you are wherever you go in all of life, for each moment is a new moment of awareness and creation. If you are fortunate to explore the many beautiful places throughout the world, go with the hope of connecting to the heart and mind of others in a way that brings happiness, without expecting anything in return, share what you have, and in the giving, we are certain you will receive the love and acknowledgment of simply being the best you can. That is the journey of life and love, wherever you are, wherever you go. We wish you observe and explore within, and also the outside world of nature people culture and change.