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Live Your List – Unfolding of True Purpose

India is a land of diversity and mystery, known to change people and their lives. This was the case for this Speers Point resident, who describes her 17-day trip as an “incredible experience of knowing.”


In 2007, when leaving for the exotic sub-continent, Kym McDonald never imagined it would totally transform her life physically and spiritually.

Studying meditation, she heard about a spiritual pilgrimage to India that included ten days at an ashram in Bangalore, southern India.

“I felt I needed to go to – to trust and surrender. It was an adventure to step outside my comfort zone with no known outcomes,” Kym said.

The result was that Kym’s life was utterly transformed from a corporate career to a life that unfolded in yoga – educator, practitioner, teacher, and former Yoga Australia president, a transformation that Kym says is “a path of service, genuine service that enhances people’s lives in some way.”

At the ashram, Kym immersed herself in the daily life of meditation, chanting and service - working in the kitchen. She loved the energy of the monastery and understood why people repeatedly came back for years.

“It was in the ashram courtyard that I realised I was so much more than my roles as mother, boss, wife, teacher, daughter. A whole new path of awareness opened up.”

Kym also felt safe behind the ashram’s gates, away from the mass population, poverty and begging. Venturing out, she ended up in tears and ran into a shop to hide. When the shopkeeper asked what was wrong, Kym described her fear of poverty, feeling helpless and not knowing how to cope with it.

The man suggested she go and see Leela Deshpande and her work at Ashraya Social Welfare and Rehabilitation Centre.

In 1991, Leela discovered two children with disabilities and no parents and decided to look after them. Within a month, she had 39 children with physical and mental disabilities under her care.

She founded the shelter that expanded to include children with no parents. All the children were provided with accommodation, food, medical care, rehabilitation and education.

A free, government-approved school was started to educate children with disabilities that grew into a facility to educate the shelter’s children and others from the surrounding low-income neighbourhoods. They also receive a midday meal, snacks, medical check-ups and enjoy extra-curricular activities that include outings, gardening, sports and yoga. All this was funded by donations.

Visiting Ashraya, Kym discovered Leela looking after 95 children, with one-third severely disabled. Being a mum of four boys, Leela’s story and the children moved her to tears.

“I knew my purpose was to support this woman, and I decided that I wanted to raise $25,000 a year to support Ashraya and its ongoing work,” says Kym.

She has, through personal donations and by establishing the Karma Yoga Community, which holds events on a donation basis in the spirit of service.

“I have visited Ashraya and the children several times, and one student is now the school’s principal. It is great to see the circle and that education is the way out of poverty.”

Last year, Leela passed away. The Karma Community, as well as many individuals and groups, have helped keep Ashraya functioning during this sad time and the pandemic. Kym continues to support Ashraya and encourages others to join her.

“Ashraya gives these children a chance through love, joy and education for a better future.”

Before India, Kym had no bucket list; she was too busy raising her children and building a career.

“India dared me to dream to understand myself and be true to me and what comes up inside me.”

Since then, she has solo hiked 840 kilometres of Spain’s El Camino de Santiago, visited Uluru, completed a 10-day silent retreat in Bali, walked and meditated at spiritual sites in Israel and led a pilgrimage in India following the Ganga from Varanasi to Rishikesh.

There is also has a long list of to-dos, including the UK to Rome Pilgrimage, Japanese Coastal Monasteries walk, and star gazing at Broome.

“I love walking, and I walk every day. I am almost amazed at the unfolding that happens. It helps me connect with who I am beneath it – my inside calling.”


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