Ava’s Story – The Evolution of Spanda School
I’ve reflected a lot on my childhood in the past few years. Reliving moments in my old neighbourhood, room and schoolyard, vividly. I was troubled. I wasn’t “in” trouble. But, I was eager for attention, and that usually came to those who were troubled. I blended in to all the different friend groups as I moved into high school in Canada, and was in my own category of popular. The word ‘unique’ resonated with me when I first heard it, I always felt different, always felt special. I also felt out of place, lost and in need of meaning and connection.
Fast forward to my teenage years, I used my intelligence and drive to achieve high distinctions in high school, and enjoyed a huge group of friends in my new home in Australia at age 15-18. But my real education was the media. My beliefs and values were informed by a society that was insecure, shallow and distracted. I left Mandurah and moved to Sydne for university,. I tried my very best, but all my drive and ambition was sucked into a blackhole of not having any meaning, and no mentors or ideas about what excellence really was, or could be.
In 2010, after practicing Sri Chinmoy meditation & Bikram yoga fanatically, my first spiritual teacher appeared, Behram Ghista. Who is also my uncle, but who’s talks and ideas never resonated with me in the past. He was giving a workshop in Sydney, and suddenly the seed sprouted and shot up like bamboo. From that point on I became enthralled with spiritual teachings and enlightenment. After taking a few retreats with Behram in Queensland, I found myself at Agama Yoga in Thailand.
I spent 6 years studying and being a part of the teaching team at Agama, and like every other community I found myself rising up into a position of appreciation and authority. Agama Yoga is a Saiva Tantric/ neo-tantric / Classical hatha inspired spiritual centre that almost doubled in size every year after I joined. In 2018, it was struck down on the global media scene over the culty, masochistic nature of its leadership and of course sex, power and money scandals. All of which were getting worse and worse as the years went on when I was a part of the community.
My time at Agama was interspersed with: finishing my philosophy degree in Australia, coming home to run various courses and workshops in Australia, connecting to my family in a more meaningful way and sharing yoga with them, meeting Jarred, as well as two 3 month stints in Mexico. On Mexico’s peaceful southern coast, I continued my role as a student and teacher in the Hridaya Yoga community. Hridaya Yoga is a sister school of Agama whose emphasis was more on the self-enquiry method of Ramana Maharshi, than anything else. My heart was always with Hridaya ever since I did my first 10 day silent retreat with Sahajananda (at Agama) in 2011. In 2016, I officially left the international yoga community, came home and opened Spanda School in Fremantle.
My intention for opening Spanda School was to replicate the powerful vortex of transformation, evolution and love that had transformed my life in both the Agama and Hridaya centres. However, from working with the management of both schools, I was aware of a lot of the pitfalls, and wanted to create something for my generation of seekers. In 2020, the spiritual seeker that I serve is looking for something relevant, meaningful and authentic. They are not interested in spirituality that focuses on one format dogmatically, and leaves the entire existence on the table.
Far beyond a yoga ‘studio’, I was interested in creating a space where community could grow together and to enjoy deep spiritual experiences. But the most important thing was that the growth was at home. You don’t have to leave your job, friends and family to have a deep spiritual experience on some island after hours of flights and travels, or live illegally outside of your home country. Spanda School is in the city, where you live, where you relate, where you dream, where you think. If you can realise the depth of your Being, your infinite potential and open your heart at home, you’ve immediately made your practice relevant, embodied and integrated. You have become your own healing balm for yourself, for others and the planet.
My dream for Spanda School was to create an integrated space. A facility for education, where people can experience yoga and the most refined spirituality on the planet, in the comfort and meaningfulness of their own life.