Nicole Jaquis is relativelyLocal, feeling like a spiritualAlien, like a planet gone retrograde, as she revisits herself in the mirror of the American culture she left behind, having recently returned after living 80 months in rural Himalayas. After this year long yatra, she will return to her little himalayan kutir (cottage) in the Kumaon region of Uttarakhand.
NOTED EXPERIENCE IN NORTH INDIA:
Total 108 months in five trips: 2000-2001, 2002, 2004, 2007, 2010-2016
• Established and maintained a yogic lifestyle since January 2010: living in ashrams with sanyasis, staying in caves at pilgrimage places, living in a collaborative learning center with over 25 people (ages 5-41), living with a sadhana-partner as well as solo in a jungle hermitage, all within the foothills and high Indian Himalayas in both Garhwal and Kumaon regions, of rural Uttarakhand.
• Led group treks to pilgrimage sites, temples, caves and Himalayan glaciers.
• Attended; hosted camps; distributed cameras, photos and videos; as well as documented women’s initiation rites into Juna Akhara (sanyasi order of Hindu monks and nuns) at the Kumbh Mela (largest gathering in the world) in Allahabad (2001, 2007, 2013), Ujjain (2004, 2016), and Haridwar (2010)
Traditional seven limbed Hatha Yoga system: shatkarma (seasonal and daily cleansings and detoxes), asana (postures), mudra (gestures for connecting one’s individual pranic flow with the universal or cosmic force), pratyahar (concentration towards removal of disturbance from sensory input), pranayama (expansion of the breath and prana / vital engery), meditation (uninterrupted blissful flow of pranic energy), and ultimate samadhi (complete balance of the mind in all situations); Sukshma Vyayām (subtle pranic exercises); Vipassana Meditation (as taught by Goenka); Yogic / Sanathan Dharmic / Buddhist Philosophy; Karma Yoga (seva – selfless service towards others, without concern or attachment to the fruits of one’s labor); Swadhaya (independent study and introspective study of the self).
Documentary Filmmaking and photography brought me to India over 16 years ago; where eventually as the search for good characters becomes the search for good gurus, the lessons get deeper and deeper, and the filmmaker / photographer / writer (myself) gets so engrossed in being (present) in the moment, soaking up all the wisdom I can digest, that actually doing sadhana begins to take precedence over documenting it.
On January 24th, 2010, having cleared my debts (student loans & credit cards), quit my job (running a community multimedia center), and packed up my material belongings (to fit into a small room full of boxes), I arrived in India (for the fifth time), this time without a return ticket.
I happily traded the fast paced New York City concrete jungle of modern convenience for the real Himalayan jungle of mindful simple living and high thinking, where I’ve: cut firewood to heat water for a warm bath, washed my clothes in a bucket and hung them on a line to dry, maintained extended periods of time in complete silence and sometimes gone months without phone much less social media.
But as I replay in my mind the scenes of this film, this novel, (my own story unfolds) all that has happened to me in my time in India (incidents, struggles, purges, rebirths), I realize I’ve created something far more substantial than any motion picture light show that can be projected on a wall, far more substantial than any expensive hardcover coffee table book; in seven years time I’ve (re)created myself. And thus over the years of deepening my practice, I’ve come to know some real truths about life:
I’ve come to understand how one needs to be both physically and mentally still in order to truly listen to others and why one needs to be silent on top of that in order to truly listen to oneself. And as such I have begun to trust that I can find all the answers I need inside, once I can get myself to that place of silent stillness.
I’ve come to deeply understand, a yogi is not just someone who can twist their body and hold it into odd positions long enough to click selfies and become Instagram famous. Through my own practice I realize all this stretching, twisting and holding myself in odd positions is actually a method for me to transcend duality: moving beyond the preferences of likes and dislikes, beyond craving and aversion, beyond comfort and discomfort – ultimately to have a balanced mind in all situations, to be able to accept and surrender to What Is in each and every present moment. I’ve discovered the ultimate inner truth baring, emotional barometer that is my own breath, of which in following mindfully I can actually expand it and the pranic energy that maintains my stamina for life.
And I’ve come to understand, that it is by swimming to the depth of our own ocean that we find inner calmness. Those who struggle among the waves to stay afloat at the surface only perpetuate their struggle by being the very cause of their ocean’s turbulence. This is indeed an inner journey.
I'm very interested in Hatha Tantra notion of what I like to call "Queering Yoga" (not unlike the Native American concepts of Two Spirit people); this idea of the inner union (yoga) within one self, being the re-balancing of both sun (masculine) and moon (feminine) energies, an inner duality that until balanced, actually confuses our souls once we are stuffed inside this body. The body may indeed have a gender, biologically dictated, yet our societies even further dictate how one’s gender is to be performed. What it means to be a man or woman, the performance of either masculine or feminine and in many cases a sometimes (seemingly) awkwardly blended mix of the two, is a construct created and thrust upon us by our society, most often through the media we consume. The atma however (that which is our true essence, otherwise known as our soul or spirit) does not have a gender, it is neutral.
This year is the culmination of nearly seven years of inner purification, releasing of cultural conditioning, habitual reactionary patterns and emotional luggage. It is through this purification that the lenses have a clearer view, and the connection to the divine (the fine tuned intuition) is possible. I’m realizing the power of thoughts manifesting reality, the power of repetitious expressions of gratitude manifesting miracles, and how only in alignment can I enlighten my correct path. And as I’ve once again realized, I must surrender to “The Plan”, accepting what opportunities have been put in front of me, accepting my Dharma (duty), do my Karma (work), trust that everything is going as it should and be grateful for how well it is going. And thus I have been able to identify patterns in my life’s journey that have revealed my true authentic self, path and purpose.