Nalanie Chellaram, Integral Yoga teacher and Gibraltar and Sotogrande, Spain centers head, recently published a book, Loss, Love, Life. In this article, she shares the inspiration behind writing the book and her journey through loss into life and love again. The book is available at the centers in Gibraltar and Spain and on Amazon.
I had read many books about death and dying. I had contemplated the subject often. I truly understood that we all die. I myself had been on my deathbed four times. I had lost my beloved Dad and my great Guru, Swami Satchidananda, the two people I admired most in my life. Yes, I was truly saddened and missed them, but I was totally prepared with all the knowledge I had. I realised they were of a ripe age and life took them at the perfect time. Since then two of my siblings have also departed. Mira aged 69, who was really like a Mom to me, and my brother Kumar aged 67, a kind, gentle soul to all. Many friends have left this earth since. One in particular, our dear Paddy ‘San’ Alcantara who served tirelessly at the Gibraltar Yoga Centre and was my personal assistant, struck the heartstrings of my soul deeply. Strong connections. All too young. All deaths from cancer.
When it came to the death of my beloved husband Shanky, I was shell-shocked by the tremendous pain. I felt that someone had torn my soul apart and that part of me was just dead, just gone. The horrendous pain literally gnawed at my heart constantly without abate especially for the first six weeks after he passed. After that I had periods of peace. These short bursts of pain release came only when I was not absorbed in my own sorrow. They came when I forgot myself and just dived into my work. My children and grandchildren were the lights in the darkness for me; their innocent charm lifted me from my deep sorrow.
When the ache started to lift after the first six weeks, I felt that I was going through some kind of metamorphosis. I had no idea what was happening. I just knew that something in my psyche was shifting. Good or bad, I was not sure. I was just aware of a letting go. Life seemed so surreal and nothing appeared so important anymore. There was a softness that emerged from that pain; a compassion so profound for anyone who had suffered a loss. A desire to serve them and help them in any way I could. A feeling that suffering was my teacher and not a punishment. I had to help others free from this cage of darkness.
There was an inner voice compelling me to write a book to serve those who lost such loved ones. To give them signposts to relieve the pain and to understand the healing that has to take place in order to make sense of life. To give hope to those who feel lost and laughter to those who shed all those millions of tears.
My husband and I had been married for 34 years. I always said the best years were after the 25th. That’s the truth. That is the absolute truth. It became even better because I had learned the science of Yoga, the science of learning about oneself, the science of looking within, of finding divinity within. I think that science gave me the opportunity to love my husband as I could and should have loved him. It all helped me to be more selfless. Prior to this science I was extremely selfish, and I never knew it. I never saw it. I only began to realize it when I started to meditate and watch myself, because you do start to observe yourself when you get in touch with your spirit. When you go deep within, you start to experience that you are spirit, and when you start to experience that you are spirit there is a gift that comes to you, to all of us, nobody is exempt. And that gift is the ability to watch the way you think.
Once you know how you think then it is your choice whether you have the courage to change it, to be brave enough to change it. It is the ego that stops you. It is pride that loves to place blame on someone else. You consider yourself holy just because you are the one practicing meditation and doing yoga. A tragic mistake! We are all holy. We just forgot to be ‘whole’. To be whole is to merge with all Consciousness in everyone and everything.
In writing this book, I wanted to relay my own personal experience with death and how I dealt with bereavement, and ultimately came through it. I hope it will help those who have lost someone, or who are experiencing the terminal illness of someone close. You can never explain it to anybody else until you go through it. People will tell you that they know how you feel, but very often you know that they don’t know. And it doesn’t really matter. It’s not really important. What is important is how you live and deal with these circumstances. Understand that those suffering from a terminal disease may be very bad tempered. It’s normal and we must have so much compassion for them. Give to them all the love you can and every time they scream or shout at you know it is because they’re unwell and fearful. Think ‘God is teaching me compassion. The Lord of love is teaching me patience and empathy’.
Someone called me a few weeks after my husband had left on his onward journey and said, “Nalanie, I was thinking that you must be filled with regret for all the things you never said to your husband or did with him.” I thought it rather presumptuous and lacking in awareness. However, I answered, “There was never any guilt or regret. We spoke a lot and we had total closure.”
The thought running in my mind was ‘Dear God, I am so grateful that you gave me the strength to give my husband a beautiful passing. Of course I miss his strong presence and I am in great pain but you Lord gave me the strength when I needed it most, and which enabled him to leave his body peacefully and with incredible dignity.’
Shanky passed in December 2008 after a mercifully brief battle with cancer. My spiritual journey began in 1987 when I was 33 years old and continues to this day – and will continue until I, like Shanky, shall move on to ‘the other side.’
About the Author:
Nalanie Chellaram is one of Integral Yoga’s master teachers and trainers. She has been offering service to thousands for many years. She founded the Integral Yoga Centres of Gibraltar and Sotogrande, through which she has conducted classes, teacher trainings, seminars, and satsangs. She often travels the globe sharing the teachings of Integral Yoga.