Tap­ping the source

Yoga Journal - - Live Well - By Meghan Rab­bitt

I SAT IN AN UN­COM­FORT­ABLE WOODEN PEW with my hands crossed in my lap and started re­peat­ing Hail Marys out of habit. It’s prac­ti­cally im­pos­si­ble to go to Malta, a tiny is­land coun­try just 50 miles south of Si­cily, with­out vis­it­ing more than a few of its 359 churches. And, ap­par­ently for me, it was also im­pos­si­ble to sit in one of the coun­try’s most beau­ti­ful cathe­drals and not pray, de­spite it hav­ing been more than 20 years since I’d gone to church reg­u­larly.

It did feel a lit­tle weird to pray, in a church, to a Catholic God while on a yoga re­treat. But in fair­ness, this wasn’t a typ­i­cal yoga re­treat. I’d trav­eled to Malta with Per­illo’s Learn­ing Jour­neys— a com­pany that spe­cial­izes in spir­i­tual travel—on a week­long trip fo­cused on well­ness, gas­tron­omy, and cul­ture. Rather than the typ­i­cal twice-daily yoga and med­i­ta­tion ses­sions of­fered on most re­treats, we were en­cour­aged to prac­tice on our own—and then ex­pe­ri­ence the kind of one­ness with Source that hap­pens off the mat: the di­vin­ity you feel when wan­der­ing around cob­ble­stone streets, say, or eat­ing just-baked bread drenched in exquisitely fresh olive oil.

To get to know Malta is to learn about the coun­try’s his­tory, which dates back to the dawn of civ­i­liza­tion. The coun­try went through a golden Ne­olithic pe­riod, the re­mains of which are ev­i­dent in the 50 pre­his­toric tem­ples scat­tered around the coun­try—all built be­tween 3600 BC and 700 BC, mak­ing them older than Stonehenge and the Egyp­tian pyra­mids. Par­tic­u­larly in­ter­est­ing to our group of yo­gis was learn­ing about the stat­ues of fe­male fig­ures found in many of these Mal­tese tem­ples, col­lec­tively known as the “Fat Ladies” of Malta. Their gen­er­ous thighs and bel­lies have led some ar­chae­ol­o­gists to hy­poth­e­size that they were fer­til­ity deities—signs of a god­dess re­li­gion that the highly re­garded mythol­o­gist and writer Joseph Camp­bell once called an ex­pres­sion of “that pri­mor­dial at­tempt on hu­man­ity’s part to un­der­stand and live in har­mony with the beauty and won­der of Cre­ation.”

As we walked through the Ggan­tija Tem­ples on the small Mal­tese is­land of Gozo—known for some of the best swim­ming, snor­kel­ing, and div­ing in the Mediter­ranean—I couldn’t help but think about the vast ar­ray of world re­li­gions and how, his­tor­i­cally, they’ve all served to help us seek greater mean­ing and feel a con­nec­tion to some­thing larger than our­selves.

While strolling through Hagar Qim, a pre­his­toric tem­ple on a hill­top over­look­ing the sparkling Mediter­ranean Sea, I was schooled in prim­i­tive de­sign: This stone struc­ture, like all of the tem­ples I vis­ited, had a cen­tral cor­ri­dor that cut through two (or some­times more) cham­bers, ul­ti­mately reach­ing a small al­tar at the far end. Carved into the stone walls were elab­o­rate de­signs, likely mark­ings de­not­ing the pas­sage

of time. Stone fur­nish­ings, fig­urines, and other ar­ti­facts found in these tem­ples, now on dis­play in the coun­try’s na­tional mu­se­ums, in­di­cate that early Mal­tese so­ci­ety was likely a pow­er­ful ma­tri­archy dom­i­nated by priest­esses, fe­male lead­ers, and mother god­desses. My heart was full.

Af­ter ex­plor­ing Hagar Qim and an­other nearby tem­ple, Mna­j­dra, I found a grassy perch over­look­ing the sea so I could med­i­tate. As I closed my eyes, I felt an in­vig­o­rat­ing vi­bra­tion wash over me—the same kind of charge I feel when I visit the Bud­dhist en­clave in Cre­stone, Colorado, or when I hiked to Go­mukh, the head­wa­ters of the sa­cred Ganges River, in In­dia. And as I re­ally leaned into that vi­bra­tion, sit­ting there with my eyes closed be­side those an­cient tem­ples and silently re­peat­ing my given mantra, I re­al­ized what I was ex­pe­ri­enc­ing was not far from what I’d ex­pe­ri­enced in that wooden pew in the cathe­dral just a few days ear­lier—where I had found my­self in­stinc­tively re­peat­ing Hail Marys silently like an old, fa­mil­iar mantra.

In that mo­ment, it was clear that one of the rea­sons I prac­tice yoga and med­i­ta­tion—ar­guably the ul­ti­mate rea­son I prac­tice—is to ex­pe­ri­ence shakti, the divine, cos­mic en­ergy that moves through all of us. As a kid grow­ing up Catholic, I was taught to find that en­ergy through prayer. As yoga classes came to re­place Sun­day mass, I be­gan look­ing to shakti’s many forms in the Hindu pan­theon, such as Par­vati, Durga, and Kali—pow­er­ful god­desses whom I could call into my prac­tice to help me tap the uni­ver­sal source of en­ergy, power, and cre­ativ­ity.

Here in Malta, these me­galithic struc­tures seemed to of­fer proof that we’ve been do­ing this for­ever. No mat­ter the struc­ture, whether a stone tem­ple, church, or yoga stu­dio, hu­mans have sat—to­gether, or alone, with the Source—in har­mony with, and in awe of, the di­vin­ity run­ning through our hearts, bod­ies, and minds. It is how we feel con­nected: to our­selves, to each other, to the place we live, and ul­ti­mately, to the beauty and won­der of the Uni­verse.

OP­PO­SITE PAGE Ar­mier Bay. THIS PAGE, FROM TOP Ggan­tija Tem­ples; St. John’s Co-Cathe­dral; Hagar Qim. For more in­for­ma­tion on up­com­ing re­treats in Malta, visit learn­ingjour­neys.com.

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