How Surrender Turned into SoulJour
May 25, 2020
#meditation #travel #yoga
By Ashley Melin
“Let go of what was.
Surrender to what is.
Have faith in what will be.”
– Sonia Ricotti
When I look back on my 45 years, I’m not sure I ever fully grasped the concept of surrender unless it was forced on me. Until I got divorced, my only experience with surrender was via physical injuries. As an athlete who constantly pushed limits, injuries came with the territory. I totally blew out my knee at 20 which forced me to quit a lifetime of competitive horseback riding. I surrendered my deepest love up until then to rehabilitate my first ever major surgery – for a solid year I was forced to stepped back to some degree but never fully mentally. Discpline and an inability to sit still made me push my rehabilitation and step into my next chapter as a marathon runner. I know, crazy. But I found running to be my solace from life – a place where I could push new limits while connected to nature. 10 years a competitive marathon runner and then Bam! A torn hamstring in a random water ski accident. Once again, I was forced to surrender, go back to step one. Yoga therapy, body work and a seemingly never ending ability to truly heal my hamstrings (one of which was used in my knee surgery) prevailed. This time, after 10 marathons, I quit running. Dived deeper into my yoga practice. Upped mountain biking & hiking. Feebly attempted to be still but not still enough to truly listen to my body.
Fast forward to 2009 when I had my son. The ultimate lesson in surrender. But even during the first 5 years of Carter’s life, I was able to continue daily yoga, mountain biking, skiing, leading trips in India. I couldn’t participate in AS many activities but I did my best to maintain my lifestyle. I did a pretty great job. Minor sacrifices but never full surrender.
Until age 40, 2014. The year I separated from my husband and partner of 17 years. This is when the rubber met the road. Where I found myself playing a game that you couldn’t make up in a movie with a 5-year old boy as a chess piece. Until then, I’d been practicing yoga for 22 years, meditating along the way but never seriously. This is when I dived head first into the dark cave of my mind and began meditating daily. The more I visited this place, the more curious I got. The more curious I got, the more I began to let go – to unmind a lifetime of “minding.” Some days when things go so intense with attorneys, mediators, and emails that would leave me borderline hysterical, the only thing I could do would be to retreat to my meditation practice. The idea that the person I had spent half my life with would be so hell bent on taking away my freedom, at the expense of our son no less, was unfathomable. I would go sit in front of my altar. My meditation practice which now took more time than my asana practice for the first time ever, eventually evolved into a practice in prayer. Some days I found myself fully outstreched on my stomach in full pranam – hands reaching towards what? An unknown Source that I had spent my life rebelling against. Here I was, asking God for help. Help in protecting and guiding us to our highest Selves, to the light, to our purpose.
It is during this most challenging time that a spark was lit. A graphic designer for 15 years, I would have visions of graphics depicting my experience in a way that didn’t need words. I had been witnessing the world of yoga transforming into more trivial form of exercise – hot yoga, green juices, silly phrases on t-shirts, fancy poses on social media – it was hard for me to witness a practice that had such a deeper significance evolve into this…
I had been playing with the idea of people who had faced seemingly insurmountable situations and turned them into a positive called “Souldiers.” I even made a shirt that said “Souldier.” At that time I was on my second name for the business – Revelate (the act of having a revelation). About a year later in the middle of the night in Rishikesh, India, I was meditating on the banks of Mata Ganga – the sacred Ganges River and flutters of the mind took hold – How much time I had spent adventuring all over the world, mostly on my own. How my life had changed so drastically in such a short time – I was now a single mom – totally on my own with a mouth to feed. What a Soul Journey I was on….
Wait! Journey…Jour…rhymes with “Dier”…SoulJour!!
Brilliant. I sketched it in my notebook.
The next morning I showed a few yoga teacher friends at the International Yoga Festival my idea. A resounding YES.
Over the last 5 years, my meditation practice and more importantly, my conversations with God have become a daily. Each morning, each night. So many layers shed. My truest Self has begun to shine through. Even my social use of alcohol and drugs shed by the wayside. Being sober was never something I planned but I can’t imagine any other way at this point. It’s impossible to preach Truth and being your best Self with masks and clouds to fog the view. I have come to know that the more I surrender, the more miracles begin to show up. High vibration people entered my vortex. AUMazing!
What started as T-shirt graphics soon evolved into SoulJour Events with me designing a 3-dimensional experience featuring many of the people/teachers/musicians I had met over the years of being a seeker. My backyard, a 2000 sq ft swath of artificial turf in the woods – turned into SoulJour headquarters complete with a yagna firepit and a silent walk through the woods. As we’ve heard, “when you build it, they will come” – and sure enough, they did!
This past March, after an 8-year hiatus of taking groups to India, it was time to once again, bring people back to the Motherland. Nicki Doane, whose teachings I have always appreciated, wanted to go with her students. 12 fearless SoulJours (all women!) courageously stepped into the magical chaos of India…even as COVID was just coming on to the scene. For 2 weeks we adventured in North India – Varanasi, Rishikesh, Dharamsala, the Taj Mahal. COVID became the talk but didn’t really affect us as there were still no cases in India?
The group made it through India and home RIGHT in the knick of time. Literally a week later, the country shut down.
We re-entered the U.S. in the midst of a pandemic – a first for all. India teaches you to live yoga off the mat. But now the real test began. Fear, anxiety, depression. Wow. The emotions ran wild.
So again I went into my cave to surrender. For 2 weeks I woke up at 4:30am, the best time for a conversation with God. The energy felt different – it was SO intense. I continued to ask – how many I serve? What is my role/SoulJour’s role in the current landscape? Then I would listen with my softest listening ears. For 3 days I kept getting the same message…organize a Global Meditation where people all over the world would come together at the same time.
“When?” I asked.
“4.4.2020.” – the inner voice said
“But that’s less than 10 days from now?!”
Right at this time 3 hustling rockstars seemingly fell from the ethers to support the mission. Then a talent buyer for other in person festivals showed up. Then someone who knew way more about Zoom than any of us did. Wow.
I reached out to Saul David Raye & Jim Beckwith to discuss my idea – what if we organized 11-minute meditations from 11 countries? Hmm I thought. A lot more work but what a great idea!
I recruited international friends I’ve met over the years in India. I asked the Brazilians I had just taken to India and my friend in Argentina – who are the awesome teachers in South America? If I didn’t know directly, I knew someone who knew someone. In 2 days time, I had 11 countries represented!
Our first ever live stream was incredible – proof that when you move from intuition, from an inner knowing, the pieces will fall into place with seemingly minimal effort.
SoulJour 3.0 was born.
So here we are, right on time. Exactly where we were meant to be. We are seekers, sages, warriors. Peacemakers, rule breakers. Fearless forces of nature. Most of all we are Source. We radiate Grace through Purpose. Purpose through Grace. So we close our eyes and breathe. Unmind the mind and let Truth rise!