This page is dedicated to my trip to India where I stayed in an Ashram for two weeks. These blog posts are a recollection of my time there for those who are interested in what I experienced both culturally and spiritually.
The journey over...
I flew with Jet Airways which is an Indian airline. The first leg to Mumbai took 8 hours and 45 minutes. We were ahead of schedule. It was abit turbulent over the top of India. It dawned that there was still bad weather here. We came onto the runway and it was raining. When we got off the plane the heat was strong and yet bearable and I felt so warm inside.. I had never felt this before.
Mumbai airport was so luxurious, in decor, relaxing music, beautiful high quality shops, coffee places etc. I did a sweep through and had to make a move on to do visa, collect luggage and re check in. So I did all that and bought some Indian Rupees as you can't bring currency into the country.
I headed down to departures and put my phone on charge incase I needed it for when I got to Trivandrum. Whilst waiting for the next flight, I put my head down and had a really good deep nap.
Before I knew it the flight was ready to board. I was kindly let on ahead by some men as they saw I was on my own. The men were getting on the flight as well but they said hello politely and stepped back.
The flight to Trivandrum was 1 hour 55 . Again it was turbulent due to bad weather below us. When we arrived it looked clearer. I got my bags and headed outside to see my name on a board, held by the ashram taxi driver.
He headed off to fetch the taxi and in I got. I sat in the back knowing it was going to be an experience! And it was....we zoomed through life on the streets weaved in and out of bikes, mopeds, motorbikes, lorries, cars... you name it, we dodged it!! I wished I counted how many times he beeped his horn. They beep it to tell others they are up their backside by about 5 mm to spare..haha!
I slept abit to keep my mind off it. Although I was swaying in the back with the weaving in and out.
The street life is abundant in colours of clothes being worn, shops and more shops...plenty of fruit shops. Lots of different ages of people out and about being part of life.
We started to see the sea, this is the Arabian sea and it was a vast sight. We passed some beautiful river places too.
Three hours later we got to some back narrow roads adjacent to the sea and we were getting near to the Ashram.
In we went, the driveway in was short. I got out and was shown the way to the main office.
I checked in and was shown the way to the laundry office counter where I collected my two sheets, pillow case and a bucket. I had to pay 200 Rupees for a deposit for them.
I then went up to my room which was in a ladie's block on the 7th floor.
As I walked to the accommodation block I felt the ashram as being so busy! Overwhelming!
I get a lift up to the seventh floor and I meet a young lady in the lift who asked me how long was I staying for. I told her two weeks and she replied that she anticipated staying for two weeks as well and is still there 18 years later. Someone else chirped in that they too had been there 11years after only coming for two weeks. I felt a "worry" cross my mind that maybe I didn't want to leave as well just like them. I hoped not as I had my children still to be there for!.
I arrived at my room and there was a padlock on the outside which I was given a key for and had to keep the key with me all the time. I caught the eye of a lady in the opposite room sat on her bed with her leg in plaster. She was an Australian lady who came from the same area where I lived for two years, we had a brief chat and she then told me that I was sharing a room with a lovely lady from Spain. I was happy about that.
I open the door and was in semi shock. It appeared to me that there were no luxuries with this accommodation.
The mattress was thin on the concrete floor. A tin door opened up to a cold shower, a rusted up toilet and again a concrete type floor and a couple of hooks on the wall.
There was a sink behind a partitioned wall from the sleeping area where you could brush your teeth etc. It was functional. Two windows with mosquito nets but had holes in and over the top of them there were sarongs pegged on to keep the wind and rain out as well as some determined mosquitoes.
There was a length of rope from one wall of the bedroom to the other side where a couple of coat hangers were hanging to hang your clothes up instead of a wardrobe!
My room mate wasn't there but her belongings were there and a few clothes were hung on the line from coat hangers. She had the rest coming out of a back pack next to her bed. It was so endearing and this sight made me realise that it didn't matter about the room as this was just a place to put your things and sleep.
It was near to five o'clock and I was told to meet a Swiss lady infront of the Kali Temple for a tour of the place.
I had to wear an accommodation pass around my neck for security reasons to enter the main part of the Ashram. The whole place was manned by security guards and we had to enter a sensored entrance/ exit just as in an airport.I later found out the government had stipulated the guard system as the Guru, Amma has such a worldwide popularity now.
I met up with the Swiss lady and she took me into the temple to watch a video on where all of this began with the young life of a little girl who yearned to find god within and to help other people too through love and kindness known as the path of Bhakti devotion. I recommend you watching this clip of film which can be found on you tube.
We then went to look around the temple which had a ground floor and a balcony floor and a top floor with accommodation rooms within the top floor.
There was a floor area below and a shrine at the front. Some curved steps leading to a balcony floor where people were scattered sat on long benches handling brochures of some kind, it was like a production line yet each person had their own job to do. There were rooms around the outside, each one offering a service of some kind. One being a Vedic astrology room where you could book a reading. There was an internet office which was open at certain intervals of the day, you paid one Rupee per minute and there were restrcitions on time limits when it was busy.
There was an information office where you could ask questions on what was going on in the way of courses offered, what was on that day on the daily schedule, anything you had a question for that was the place to go. There were also books available to buy here.
There was a second hand shop for clothes to buy to wear in the ashram. It was stipulated to wear the appropriate clothing in the way of keeping your body well covered. The clothes here were donated by people who stayed here. If you lived in the ashram the people would mostly wear white or cream or both colours. People like myself would get by in mix and match in colours as priority being was to get it right in covering up.
Also there was a clothing store for children which sold new clothes. (children are very welcome in the Ashram and many families stayed here and lived here of all nationalities)
There was a gift shop which sold authentic souvenirs and spiritual pieces of jewellery, clothing, symbols, postcard photos of Amma, lots of nik naks.
There was also a seva desk which is where you book yourself in for selfless service tasks each day. (seva means selfless service, working without reward, the most important action in releasing attachment)
On the top floor were offices for booking in yoga retreats and classes, a kids library and some accommodation rooms.
On entering the temple we had to take our shoes off and walk in bare feet. No shoes were allowed to be left on the stairs infront either so there were always a gathering of shoes below.
I was then shown around a cow shed building which had an alter and candles lit and some small rugs dotted on the floor with some chairs at the back. This was the place where Amma started her Darshan healing/ blessing sessions as a young girl and the place where she meditated, chanted and sang bhajans (spiritual uplifting songs in Malayalam)
Next door was a bigger part of this shed and apparently it was where the first few men would sleep when they came to visit her. It is now a small temple where pujas, which are vedic prayer/blessing rituals that take place.
I was shown the main hall where Amma now performs most of her Darshan, Satsang (question and answer sessions) and Bhajahns. The place was massive with a stage and could seat a couple thousand or so..I can't put a number on how many exactly. There are 3000 people who live here and possibly a 1000 like myself who are visiting and then there will be up to a 1000 Indians arriving by bus to receive blessings on the days she offers public Darshan.
Outside was a dining area and the food was designed for Western taste. It was pretty with wooden round tables and tree herbs and plants growing from pots on the ground.
On the other side of the hall was the Eastern cafe which was more basic and an outdoor eating area with very basic tables and chairs. There was an Indian dining part of the main hall which catered for the food that was included in the price of the stay at the ashram, which by the way works out as being about £3.50 per night.
Dotted around outside the main hall was a juice stall which also sold ice cream, a coconut stall, a fruit shop, a chai and coffee cart, the toilets, an ayrevedic shop manned by Indian men, a gift and book shop, a small general store with some packet foods, spices etc. There was a square within all of these amenities where there was some seating area. It too was buzzing with people walking, talking, watching, reading, eating etc.
We then went through to a pathway to the beach which was out of another part of the Ashram over a narrow road and onto a small walkway which led onto some sand that didn't last long and then it was big rocks that framed the lapping waves from the Arabian sea. There were chairs dotted around for the ashram people to sit and meditate watching the waves. It had a powerful feel there
Amma has scheduled in each day that from 530 to 630 pm was a meditation time and many would use this time to do their practice at the beach as Amma did this on the same stretch of the beach when she was growing up. She would concentrate on the power of the waves to connect with the divine.
The lady showing me around left me here to meditate and I walked back up into the main hall and was given a Darshan token which entitled me to receive a healing, blessed hug from Amma. I sat on a chair in a long line of them to wait my turn. A young lady sat next to me and asked was I the last one in the line. I said I was and that I was new there having just arrived and hoped I was sat in the right place. She smiled and said she too had just arrived but she had been numerous times to the ashram and she assured me I was sitting where I should be. We chatted and introduced ourselves and waited, and waited, two hours later. I was near to Amma and I felt an enormous surge of an inner fullness arise within me. I was about three metres away from seeing her. I felt anxious. She was dressed in the purest white robes Id ever seen. She was chatty and smiley and that made me feel comfortable. I had heard that she gives hugs and blesses you with her unconditional love and you feel uplifted afterwards.
I was near to seeing her and I was given a briefing on what to do, and asked to wipe my face clean from any perspiration. I was ready.
I knelt down and waited behind a lady infront of me who was getting her hug. I was asked my nationality by a lady standing next to me and she would pass the message onto the one in front of her and then when I got to Amma that lady would then say to Amma that I was English. It was very well timed. Amma looks right at you deeply and puts the side of your head onto her chest. She tunes in to you what seems like a long time and she puts her head next to your cheek and she chants some words in Sanskrit into your ear. The power of her voice and what with the mantra and her divine presence just made me feel I was lost in time and into this feeling of pure love.
I immediately left her presence to go to my room as I started to cry. I was overwhelmed. Her voice was so powerful and yet loving at the same time and I could feel some of her powerful inner strength and yet accepting love. I can't describe it very well. But I could feel she was "plugged into a divine source " that was indescribable to you or I. We were welcome to sit near to her to meditate and stay wth this feeling and her presence a while longer but I didn't.
I went back to my room and had a cold shower (there was only cold water available) washed my hair and got sorted for a sleep, afterall I had just done a long journey as well.
I needed sleep as I was given an itinery for each day. I went into a deep sleep and was then woken up by my room mate coming in and it was pitch black as it was so late into the night. She and I laughed as we introduced ourselves in the dark night with no lights on, funny! I said I was getting up in the morningat 7.15 and we said we would meet properly then as she would be around in the morning and didn't need to rush off anywhere.
My first full day, Monday 27th August.
This morning I got up at 7.15 am and met my room mate properly. She is called Paula, from Spain. She had already been staying at the ashram for a month with her mother and aunty. They were all in this room together and I thought it was abit tight on space with just the two of us. She was telling me how she never really wanted to come to the ashram as it was her aunty's thing to do and she and her mother came along to see what it was all about. She said she had realy got into it and it had helped her settle down from her wild ways of drinking socially and she had made some nice friends here too. She had saved up enough money from her previous job and thought to stay on another two months on her own. She was doing seva (selfless service of translating English to Spanish to some people at a yoga retreat which was being held in the ashram) She was wanting to improve her English and she was pleased that I was English as well so she could practice more.
I really liked her and was pleased she was going to be my room mate for the rest of my stay. I suppose we could have had another lady to come in as well at some point along the duration.However I'd heard that the ashram was quiet as usually there would be more people staying from Kerala. But due to the bad floods they were absent this year. I was even asked at reception when I arrived if I'd like a single room. This is unheard of most of the time. I chose to share as it breaks down some of the boundaries we hold onto .It helps you to find out more about yourself when sharing and also to make friends. As a mother and being self employed and with the job I do, it's surprising how insular it can be. So for me this was an exercise to step out of the norm.
I got ready for the day and put on clothes that covered me from my neck down to my ankles, which in the heat of India and it's humidity was something to bear!.
Paula went back to sleep for a lie in. She sounded busy during the day working and in the evening she hung out with friends she had made til late. It was the ashram's rule to be in your rooms by eleven and to make minimal noise. Paula wasn't back by that time so I couldn't lock the door and I pushed the door shut but the wind from the outdoor balcony blew it back open. I found some cardboard and I wedged it between the door and the frame. See, if I wasn't sharing a room I wouldn't have had to think outside of the box like this!
I went to have a look around the Ashram with my programme of the daily and weekly itinery .I've posted a photo of this programme for you to see.
I went to see where to go for breakfast as I was starving because I missed having dinner last night. I found out I was a little early as breakfast would start at 9.
So I went to what was Amma's house as a child. It is a meditation space now, it's so small and I couldn't imagine it being a house with a large family living there.
The candles were lit infront of a big photo of her in meditation, when she was younger. I sat cross-legged on the floor infront of the photo, closed my eyes and watched my in and out breath. I quickly went into a trance. Never before had I got to that state so soon. Those of you who know when you concentrate long enough with a one pointed focus on anything you will enter into meditation and this is when you are at one with what you concentrate on and then ego will drop away releasing tensions in body and mind and you feel a different state of being which feels like an inner power opening up which is peaceful and joyful.
Well by a few minutes I was in meditation. But why so quick, I wondered? Afterall I was really eager to get some food and not really in a settled state of mind to get into meditation that quick. To explain how I felt.. it was my inner body that started to open up into.my outer body. The inner body I can describe as an inner feeling of softness, sense of quietness and very strong and powerful. This inner body showed my outer body how to relax and let go. I even let go of my hunger! This inner body taught my outer body to become like it is inside. When I teach yoga we work on releasing the physical body and help it to release and this helps to connect to this inner state of calm when the mind and body release tensions. So in this instance it worked the other way around. The presence of consciousness in this room connected straight away into the deeper aspect of my consciousness. I stayed for 30 minutes and it became a stronger feel with each moment that I spent there.
I did go for breakfast and bumped into the young Swiss lady I met yesterday when we were waiting for Darshan. I had a chat with her, because she has been coming to the ashram for many years now she knows how everything works so I was able to ask her anything and she was happy to help. I finished up breakfast and washed my dishes in the outdoor sink area. There were also bins labelled for recycling here. And a fresh water station to fill up your own water bottles which was useful in this heat.
I left her and went to book and pay for some yoga classes. They are held each morning at 7.15 - 8.30 am. I bought a card with six classes paid for. They worked out to be about £3 for each one. I was looking forward to these.
On the way to the yoga booking office I noticed an ayreveda doctors room, I could see through a small gap of the door and saw it was just like a consulting room and the doctor was Indian and it looked very intriguing. I've always had an interest in the natural remedies. I later found out it is so cheap to have a consultation with him, he would consult you and give you a prescription and you could buy the remedies form the ayrevedic shop in the ashram. The remedies were also so cheap.
Next Door to there I saw a music room. I saw a big locked gate nearby which in behind is Amma and her Swami's and Swamini's modest accommodation. Apparently Amma sleeps on the floor. I have to admit I slept well being closer to the floor last night on my thin mattress. My back felt good for it.
At this time I looked at my phone for the time and realised my text message to my children back home hadn't arrived to them and it was to tell them I'd arrived safe etc from my journey. I just received a text from them asking was I there yet? Oh no.!.. I didn't realise that my texts didn't send.
There was an internet office in the ashram but it didn't open til later. I remembered that there was an internet cafe in the local village. So off I went out of the Ashram walked over the bridge crossing the river and into the village. I saw a few small buildings and they looked like they were never in use. So I carried on walking around the corner and up a long street. The heat was intense and walking in long sleeves and long trousers just became an ordeal. I noticed within myself how I was on a mission to get a message over to Meg and Fay and hopefully stop them worrying that they hadn't heard from me for two days now since I last had a connection.
Anyway everything was closed in the village this day as it was a Bank Holiday celebrating similar to harvest festival time called Onam. Back to the ashram I went. I just bought a mango ice cream and sat down on a chair in the square where you could watch people coming and going.I noticed I was relaxed and was happy to enjoy my sit down there even though I felt stressed about making contact to home.
After I had some time to walk down to the beach and watch the waves. That experience was very similar to the meditation I had in the morning. So powerful yet peaceful.
By this time it was lunch time and so I had something to eat which was so delicious. All the food here is organic, vegetarian, there are vegan choices too. The Western cafe offered a menu with various options and a dessert. You paid hardly anything for this delicious food. Otherwise you could go full on Indian (which was free) and it was all curries, which was really healthy yet spicy. I like spices but was aware of not eating too much spice all the time, I wasn't used to it after all. There was an Eastern cafe too, which you paid minimum for aswell. I felt I wanted to play safe for now.
After lunch I went to the ashram's internet office to send a message back home. The key pads were hard to get used to and my hotmail wouldn't work because they wanted to send a code to my phone to prove my identity via a call. I couldn't receive calls at this time with what was going on with my phone issue so I went to facebook messanger.
I typed a message explaining that I was alright and explained my frustration about my phone but when I pressed send it all went into French! I tried to translate it using the icon button and it all deleted! I was feeling that I was being shown that this isn't running smoothly for a reason. After 90 minutes in the internet office, as someone in there tried to help with the problem of the language icon and they too, had difficulties in sorting it. I finally get through to Megan! She was fine and glad I was okay and in the ashram.
I explained how I could read texts from her but couldn't reply. So I would try to get to the internet office as much as I could to let her know and to find out if all was okay with home and Fay.
By the evening I was ready for meditation with Amma. She would normally do this on the beach. But because it was monsoon season there wasn't any sand left on the beach and so it was in the main auditorium.
There were about 3000 people minimum there to meditate with her. She arrived with a smile that could melt the heaviest of hearts and she took her place sitting in Lotus posture on a raised platform overlooking all of us.
She closed her eyes as we did too. There was a Swami next to her who guided us into the meditation in English. And then Amma spoke in her language to get us in further and Swami translated again.
As we started to sit in silence there were so many disturbances. People fidgeting, arriving late, mobile phones ringing, coughing, babies crying and so on. But eventually we all settled and there was just silence during the practice. You could hear the odd cough and the birds and the surrounding sounds of nature. Most importantly you could connect into inner peace. I'm not sure how long we stayed like this as time becomes insignificant when you are in meditation.
After the meditation it was Satsang. This is a time to ask questions to Amma and she would enlighten us with the answer. Someone asked her why did we visualise a triangle behind the third eye during the guided visualisation into meditation...?
Amma replied that where the triangle lies is important as it is in alignment with the base of the spine at the Mooladhara chakra, the support of the spine. She said the inner centre of the spine as described in tantra yoga represents divine power. This divine power is the substratum of everything. We must be aware of this power. As we are everything that functions from that divine power. When we concentrate in the triangle behind the mid eyebrows we cool the nervous system as well. This makes us resistant to taking on more of the divine power in the physical body. This is also why the sacred ash is placed on the eyebrow centre to cool the system down and aids in it's functioning. To make us aware of Atman she said. (Atman is divine consciousness. Yogis use many different names to express this consciousness to make us aware it doesn't matter about the name as it is the inner feeling that is real)
After the Satsang, we had Bhahjans with Amma. Her Swamis were near her and they played instruments and sang too. But Amma would sing on her own most of the time and then we could sing and repeat her last verse with her. It was sung in Malayalam and the Sanskrit was written on a screen with English translation underneath.There was another in French translation. I did notice that there are alot of French staying here. Again the words and vibration were healing and powerful alone.Her voice is divine and strong. I did attempt to sing in Malayalam as much as I could but I noticed their pronouncitation didn't match to what I was reading. Even so, I wasn't heard above everyone else when I got it wrong. I find the singing works fast in breaking down tensions in the mind and body.
These songs were moving and yet uplifting. At the end I cried as it would blow me away. Watching her and seeing how she was at one with all of the words, the music, she is at one with the belief of what she is expressing and the emotion of love. She would lift her head upwards whilst singing and break out into joyful laughter and she would use her hands in a gesture to lift up the energy in the room or within us...but I could feel this energy rising up inside and it just made me cry, but a happy cry.
She had her dog with her lying down next to her. It was cute apparently called Bhakti which means "devotional love." What a happy blessed dog it looked! Apparently there was another one who goes under her dress during the sessions. But I didnt see that one today.
The Bhajans finished with us singing to her. The words were in Malayalam sending her appreciation of her grace and unconditional love for the benefit of helping us to move us out of our boundaries.
The Swami who takes the lead in this song has such a powerful yet smooth and loving texture to his voice. Can't explain it very well.
It was time for evening meal which was 8 pm and afterwards I went back for a shower and bed.
My 3rd installment of my experience at the Amritapuri Ashram, Kerala. Tuesday 28th August.
I woke early this morning, just after 4 am and got ready to go to Archana which starts at 4.50 am in the Kali Temple for the ladies and in the the auditorium for the men. It is the chanting of the Divine Mother's name a thousand times with different descriptions in each chant. It is alot to remember and chanted really quickly. The language is in Sanskrit and has has a vibration which breaks down our ego and past karma It's a worship to the divine Mother's consciousness which represents the Oneness of all beings and all of Creation
The whole practice lasts about an hour. I arrived at the temple which is dimly lit and the altar lit with candles.
We sit on the floor facing the altar, some ladies sit on chairs on the edges.I could understand why as this was going to be hard core sitting still for an hour and concentrating on keeping up with the chanting. Some had a book with them to read the chants from, I wondered if they were in the temple to use but couldn't see any. I didn't know any of the chants so I decided I would absorb the atmosphere and concentrate on the sounds of the words and see where that takes me.
Off we went or rather the ladies went...they chanted fast and hard! It was such a powerful sound. Some were remembering every word without the book to read from and I noticed some were gesturing every chant from their heart with their hand as if to push the words out from their heart space to the altar which had a big photo of Amma there. They were performing Bhakti yoga here which is a devotional practice of worship to a higher deity and this opens the heart which is the path to enter the unconditional self that we are beneath the ego barriers.
I closed my eyes took a good seated posture, settled my breathing and curiosity and concentrated on the sounds. After about fifteen minutes my mind settled deep into the sound and I felt a transformation in my body and mind.The uncomfortable feeling of sitting on the floor started to lighten. My body felt brght and expansive and so did my mind. The power of this Archana was taking effect.
After about an hour they finished and they chanted another shorter chant after. Finally they stayed in silence to absorb the effects. They paid their respects with a gesture towards the altar, some by holding their hands in namaste and bowing their heads and some would touch the floor with their hand and then touch their chest and forehead. I noticed Amma did this aswell when arriving or leaving.
It was still only 6am and still quite dark outside, everyone rushed off to get a free cup of chai tea outside which was ladelled out by a lady into your mug, if you remembered to bring one. I did go aswell as I'd heard it was good and my tummy was starting to rumble any way. I needed something to go on with as breakfast wasn't until three more hours.I sat down with my tea on some chairs nearby and was happy to sit and watch everyone and listen to a few conversations around me. It felt so surreal that here I was in amongst somewhere I didn't have a clue about, so I was really feeling that any words I could grasp onto would help me. I overheard some men talking and it was just like they were at a coffee morning, chatting away about thow long they had been staying in the ashram etc. There was an older man talking to a younger one about a book he had read about philosophy and how each time he read it that it gave him more insight. I started to have my own inner conversation with him and thought of how much the Sutras of Patanjali (which is a book on the yoga philosophy through the understanding of the mind) giving more information each time you read it aswell.There was another man next to me and he looked friendly and I really thought he'd start to chat. I don't know why, maybe I needed to chat. We were both sat next to eachother on our own. I called out as some mosquitoes had started to nibble my legs and he laughed and spoke in another language I did not understand. But we laughed and I drank up my tea and left. Its funny to think that I expected to talk with him and the way we are conditioned in the "outside of the ashram environment that we live in" we think it's polite to talk as it's being friendly. But I had this insight (and I was constantly learning about myself) that it didn't matter that he didn't speak to me as there are many other levels in which people connect. I was appreciative of his humour and his company of just sitting there. We are constantly trying to fill up silences and really there's alot to experience in the spaces between chatter.
It was still so early and I looked at my mobile for the time and realised its frozen. That needed to get sorted, I thought. I couldn't press on any part of the screen to open it.
I decide to go back to the room to chill out before breakfast and realised I haven't got my accommodation pass.You have to have this on you at all times. I'm surprised I got into the main part of the Ashram with the guards on duty there. They look for it around your neck and if it isn't there they won't let you inside. I decide to go and explain to them that I was going to go back to my room to get it. When I got to the security guard place I walked out and I didn't get asked about it. I didn't bother to explain as I'd find it soon. I went to the room and the door was locked from the inside, Paula must have gone back to sleep.
I went back to the ashram and decided to meditate until breakfast in the Kalari Temple. As I entered, the security guard was chatting to the other guard and I just walked through and again I thought I'd sort it later.
At the temple there was a Puja ceremony taking place. This is an ancient Vedic ceremony held where different rituals take place to deeply cleanse body and mind and past karma ready for the new energy to be brought in. There was chanting, prayers, lighting of fire, burning of elements, flowers offered, bathing in the holy water, inhaling and enveloping of the insense, sandalwood and sacred ash on your third eye to cool the nervous system.This Puja lasted nearly an hour, they did this every morning, daytime and evening. You could get it done as a personal ceremony if you wished. It is advised to have a Vedic Astrology reading done first and then be able to have the Puja ceremony to help with your new direction in life and to help in clearing out past karma.
It was powerful to watch yet alone have it done for yourself. I did take part in the water and insence cleansing and I had some sandalwood and ash on my third eye (in between my eyebrows) You didn't have to take part as some people were just watching. I realised I don't mind doing something new and haven't got an ego about wearing the dot between my eyebrows. I remembered my brother laughing about my ashram trip before I left and he said "I bet you come back with a dot on your forehead!" Until you know about why they do these practices it is taken in humour. We could all do with a dot on our third eye in the Western lifestyle! We just tell ourselves to "chill out" or have a drink. We are not as tuned in to our system as the Eastern culture are.
I finally went for breakfast and enjoyed that. I did notice that I enjoyed the food here very much and it tasted so good. I was later told that everything has a blessed energy here because of the presence of a divine soul. It made me think how when you bless your food and drink it does taste better. There is the evidence seen under a microscope of how the water molecules change into perfect snowflake crystal shapes when you give it a blessing The scientist is Japanese man who found this out.
Today, being a Tuesday is a quiet day in the Ashram and it's dedicated to meditation .
There is a meditation with Amma in the morning. We all gather in the auditorium and take our places. I sit on the floor cross legged as I know this is good to sit still in the floor for the body and mind. As we were waiting I held onto my knees with my legs bent up infront of my body and thought I'd have abit of ease in the body whilst waiting. I was tapped on the shoulder by a lady who then spoke in my ear that my calf on my right leg was being revealed to her and she found it offensive and pointed out that the Indian ladies would be too.
During all the gatherings in the auditorium the women would sit on one side and the men on the other. So I was surrounded by women and I noticed that no-one else was looking at my leg. And I wasn't aware of it showing as I had long floaty trousers on but I realised there was a small split of the material on each side that opened up when your legs were in the position I was in. I felt really annoyed as I thought anyone could see it was not intentional and when I dropped my legs into a seated meditation posture my calf flesh would disappear. I couldn't and didn't answer her and just sat into my meditation posture straight away to prove that it wasnt' that bad.
Interestingly, after meditation Amma spoke in her Satsang (a question and answer time) - how we should look at ourslelves first before we judge others, interesting how that came up at this time. I wondered if it was a divine message! Obviously I am guilty of this as much as everyone else but I wouldn't tell someone off for something that looked to be a natural occurance. Later on I spoke with the Swiss girl who knows so much about the ashram and how it works and she said some of the devotees who live there take everything so seriously. And I did see this lady a few times during my stay and quite often she was frowning and sorting issues out with others.I could feel her dedication to the ashram so much.
Back to Satsang and Amma talks of having a " yearning" towards the divine.
She said we are always evaluating life according to our own mindset.
We must have more clarity and to understand things using discipline, discrimination and dispassion, these are all needed.
She said we should have the innocence of a child, not so identified with ego but to have more purity.
A child associates their "name - identification" separate to them. For instance there's a little boy who lives in the ashram called Yuni. He always says " Yuni is hungry" or "Yuni is tired" never does he say "I am hungry or I am tired." He sees his identification as separate to his true self.
She went on to say only a child forgives and forgets quickly.
An innocent heart is needed, like a that if a child's.
She says we are never truly free if we are associated with the ego.
She started to speak quicker but I got the meaning of her message as she related to an ancient story of a person dying with gold chains around his neck. But at death the chains don't mean anything, meaning don't build the ego up with possesions and labels as it doesn't mean anything at death.
She said people are being drawn to drink and not living in the moment.
They drown their problems in drink.
She continued talking and said to be spiritual we must forgive and forget like a child.
She went on and told another story of two children who were playing a game and fell out with eachother. They went to each of their homes and told their parents who became angry with the other child concerned. They each spoke with the other parents and everyone fell out. They decided the best way was to go and get the children together and they sort it out. So off they went to find the children and the two were playing happily in the river laughing and joking as if nothing had happened.
She said if only we can be humble and respect eachother as there is always a change in the situation.
She said you never know who the next person is to become enlightened.
She says have humility to gain knowledge to change
And know that light replaces the dark.
Don't have wrong conclusions.
We all have our drawbacks and flaws and we must work on them.
Everyone is equal and there is Oneness.
She then went onto explain further on Oneness, as two banks of the river are never separate. When the water dries up you can see it all as one, the two banks and the bed together.
During this talking and sharing time, Amma drew a picture with coloured pens. She showed us afterwards, it was beautiful. I asked the Swiss girl what happens to these lovely pictures as I seen she had also drawn another one at the last Satsang. She said they get sold on tour and the proceeds go into her charities.They were divine and spiritual of nature.
After meditation it was lunchtime. On a Tuesday Amma blesses every plate of food before it gets delivered to us.
The blessing of food is called Prasaad.There is a long line of people dishing out the food onto plates and they are passed along to Amma like a conveyer belt and Amma touches them and blesses each one Then they are passed onto people infront of her and they pass them back and so on until the very back people get a plate of food. As the plates are passed on they are being further blessed by everyone who touches the plate by the chanting of "om nama shivaya" which is what the ashram asks of us to say to another person in the ashram to acknowledge their consciousness from your consciousness when you face them or walk past them. Some people do and some people don't say this but admittedly you can say it under your breath . And even though we send that to others when we pass them we shouldn't do it for reward. Back to the hall, the food gets delivered to a couple thousand people there, it is a mean feat by Amma. She is fast! We then wait for Amma to get her food and we give our thanks and start to eat
We didn't have any cutlery (some carry their own around in their bags for hygiene reasons and for Prasaad) But we ate in the traditional Indian way of eating with your fingers of your right hand. This is the "cleanest hand" as the left is used for other means... toilet duties, and handling of money are two I have heard about. Any way it was curry! I looked around and saw that everyone was mixing it all up on their plate, using their fingers picking up as much as they could and putting it in their mouth as tidily as possible. I was anxious about making a mess but I got on great and got used to the texture of the food on my fingers.
I hoped I didn't look awkward and too Western. It's funny, we are conditioned to be polite and use cutlery and I felt realy dirty using my fingers and sociably awkward. But no-one looked at me and everyone had their eyes on their food going into their mouths. Again the taste of the food was good and we had a soft naan type bread with it which everyone mopped the last of the sauce up, so the plates looked spotless. We had a banana as our dessert which was covered in curry sauce over the skin because it was on the plate with the curry when it was delivered. Everyone just picked it up peeled it and ate the sweetness inside, it was delicious too. Afterwards we went and got our plates washed up by some volunteers and we could do what we wanted asTuesday there is no Seva (selfless service jobs). I went to the main reception to sort out getting a new accommodation pass to replace the one I lost.
After I went to the beach and saw the Swiss girl there. We had a chat and she said that the beach was looking really messy to what it used to be like. She said when Amma used to sit on the beach to teach the meditations when it wasn't rainy season, it was spotless and she thought maybe they've let it go because Amma isn't using it. It was true it could have been kept better with litter and debris scattered around. Ive since read that the government have asked everyone to clear up rubbish and debris within 2 km of their surroundings. And I've seen the beach is now clear.
I left the beach to go and send a message to Megan back home as now my mobile is frozen I can't open or read a message from Megan. I was concerned that she may need to tell me anything about home or Fay.
The internet office was closed all day as Tuesdays are dedicated for meditation and nearly every service was closed to give everyone a chance for this quiet time. This is something we could give ourselves, a day off from internet, shopping, chores. etc and spend some time in nature or meditation or yoga or read, or nothing! I remember Sunday's being much like this when I was younger, it was a family time and my brother and I would take it in turns to choose where to go for the day as a family.
I went back to my room had a shower and laid on my bed for a while, Paula wasn't there so I had some quiet time. I felt really sensitive today I felt alone in a sense in this big institute where I saw so many faces that weren't friendly and I felt like I was the new girl at a big school who knew nothing and was looking out for everything I could to pick up on information to help me to settle in more. Even though I'd made friends with the Swiss girl I felt I didn't want to latch on to her as she wants her own experience here. And deep down I did too. I do like finding out new things and information so I was surprised I felt the way I did. I was feeling frustrated about having to sort my phone too. My accommodation pass was a mystery as I did remember putting it in my bag. A couple of other experiences with grumpy women had happened. I was looking forward to starting a three day mediation course that was starting tomorrow but I was told it was cancelled now and may go ahead later in the week if there are enough people. I was in limbo about that. I also wanted to get started on Seva, selfless service But now felt the urgency to sort my phone screen which meant going out of the Ashram to the village. I wasn't feeling settled right now.
Notice it's all ego stuff dominating!
I went to Bhajan this evening with Amma and I sat on a chair tonight partly so as I don't reveal any leg to anyone and I was tired. So I took up position in a row of Indian ladies and felt at ease there. They are the most beautiful women I've seen, they have long silver hair scraped back in ponytails revealing their dark skin and high cheekbones. They wear their coloured saris and they are short and petite. Maybe I felt their motherly warmth and that was what was needed to help my inner child's feelings.
I cried at the end again after listening to the Bhajans, it is so humbling and moving.
Afterwards I saw the Swiss girl and we had dinner together. We keep bumping into each other like this... it's as though she is meant to be there for me.
Afterwards we decide to go to the Bhagavad Gita talk held in the Kali Temple. It's held each night by a Swami who translates the philosophy of an excert on the Gita. I love the Gita. So off we went, it starts at 9 pm and finishes at 10 pm. We sneak in to the balcony area as we were a few minutes late. I sit on a chair and listen intently. But about halfway through I left as I couldn't hear him very well. His accent was difficult to understand and there were children playing outside and their voices were loud. I left quietly and surrendered to my bed.
Wednesday 29th August
Today I woke up at 6 am as I really wanted to go to yoga. Yesterday it wasn't on, being a Tuesday which is the day dedicated to quiet time and meditation in the ashram.
The yoga was gentle, it consisted of a few opening postures and a sequence. The teacher chanted throughout the class in synchronisation with our inbreath and outbreath. The students chanted internally with the same chant.
The chant is:
Ma (inbreath) which means Divine Love.
Om (outbreath) which means Divine Light.
The teacher chanted divinely and it helped to soothe your mind into the posture. Chanting helped to focus with inbreath and outbreath and the vibration opens the deeper layers into the inner Self.
The class lasted an hour and fifteen minutes and it was held on a rooftop building, with open sides overlooking the backwaters.
The "backwaters" is a vast open river and the water just glides along. Any fallen leaves from the trees just float elegantly along as if skimming the surface. Whenever I have taken the boat across the water I feel like a lotus flower floating.
The view and sounds from the yoga space are full of nature. The birds making their early morning song and the crows sqwawking really loud and forceful.
Like everything here, it is the duality of life revealing itself as being perfect.
The sun is coming up and it's getting hotter and brighter. I'm grateful yoga is held early in the morning as the humidity here is so high.
We finish the class with a short relaxation and into a stillness. I feel I could drop into the stillness alot deeper, if I had time. But I was content to have practiced and I know the asanas are so beneficial.
I was still feeling surprised and sensitive to how some people were acting here in the ashram.
I will go into it a little more later.
After yoga I went to breakfast and sat with a lady who I met in yoga. She is from South America and she had visited the ashram a number of times and had even been on tour with Amma in northern India. I asked her what she was doing after breakfast and she told me about a talk being held about Pancha Karma, which is an ayrevedic treatment on the five sheaths of our being. I asked if she wouldn't mind if I came too as it sounded intriguing.
On the way I bumped into the Swiss girl and told her about it and she said it's very powerful and very spiritual too. She could recommend it.
We had to go out of the ashram to another building opposite a small road. This was still part of the ashram. We were given a talk by a lady who looked a picture of health. Her skin, eyes and whole aura were really bright. She definitely could sell the treatment on how she looked!
There was another couple from England listening too. Incidentally, there aren't many English at the Ashram as far as I was aware. I only met three people in total.
The Pancha Karma treatment sounded very intensive. It basically entails having a big detox with ayrevedic supplements, colonic flushing, massages, meal supplements etc and it lasted a week and you had to stay in the hospital to be monitored (Amma has two hospitals, one in the Ashram and one in the village nearby. It is free to get treatment) She said you will also need another week to recover.
The English couple were staying for a month so could spare the time and they were up for it. This particular treatment was something you paid for. However the ayrevedic practitioners performing the treatment didn't get paid and were working for seva, selfless service as part of the ashram.
There was an ayrevedic massage available that I could have and that would be in the hospital too. I came away thinking about the massage for a later time.
On my walk back I realised there is so much to partake in here and everything was having an effect on me in a strong way and I really didn't need to have to commit into too much. Also there's the part in us all (ego) that thinks "I need that!" And it dawned on me that you can get caught up in always believing that if you don't do something then you will miss out.
I wandered back to the internet office to message Megan. I tell her how I'm so surprised at some people here who are rude and selfish and grumpy. A couple of incidents really made me aware that even though I was in an ashram I wasn't in a bubble of love and light. It was good to share how I felt with her and she understood.
Lunchtime, I sat on my own and the yoga teacher that taught us this morning asked if she could join me.
She is French and lives in the ashram. She asked me "do you teach yoga?" I said I did. She said she thought I did and then asked me " how was I feeling being in the ashram?" I told her I enjoyed the yoga and really needed it as I was feeling sensitive to some people in the ashram. I told her that some of the behaviour was coming across as being selfish, very ego - centred, rude, unhelpful and I asked her was my judgement wrong?
She laughed out loud and said "no you are right!" She helped to explain that Amma is aware of it too and says you must detach from these people.To have forgiveness and compassion for them but she said it is hard when we have an emotional heart. She said if we see a person in a wheelchair then we can easily have compassion but we don't have it for people with troubled minds. She said we need to let go as they are in their karma, but not to feel happy about them being in their karma. But we should truly let go.
It really was a teaching for me that not everyone there is feeling they are in a comfortable, supported space.
And how truly letting go was inviting forgiveness and compassion towards them. This also makes us aware not to look towards others for our own approval, as Megan my eldest daughter reminded me when we were messaging on the internet earlier.
At the end of our conversation another French lady came up and joined in our gathering. She is always dressed in bright colours and has a bright aura too. I met her once before, when I was sat in the square one day and she really wanted to talk and know more about me. She kept saying in our first chat " are you enjoying it here, are you okay? " She visits and stays in the ashram many times a year. She is a psychologist but she takes on casual work when back in France and when she saves enough money, she comes back to the ashram and emerges herself into the life here. She is happy and not stressed. She also sings and takes part in the singing here too.
Again, she talked deep towards me as though really looking inwards to me and again asked me if I'm alright, am I happy?
She said she liked me instantly when she first saw me and liked my " energy" when she spotted me in the square. I smiled, as again the dualities are all here, just as in life.
As much as I felt this disconnection with some people then there's this deeper connection being revealed. It's so interesting, the experiences are such teachings.
After lunch, I went to see if I could get a Darshan from Amma as she was there. I was too early as Amma gives the Indian visitors theirs' first before the ashram residents.
The Indians travel by coaches from different places outside of the ashram and visit Amma for a blessing and to talk their problems with her. There are always some really sad cases that are talked about and Amma spends however long it takes to speak with them and gives them a blessed hug to her chest, she chants into their being to help their issue and gives them a blessed piece of fruit or sweet which is called Prasaad and also gives an envelope of sacred ash.
The sacred ash can be used on or in the body, or sprinkled onto plants in drinks, in our food. It also helps to heal and eradicate any blockages. I used some on my leg where a part of my skin wouldn't heal for some reason and the next morning it had scabbed over. It's gone now.
Because it was too early for Darshan I was asked if I'd give prasaad to Amma on stage. I said yes as I really wanted to get more involved with the workings of the ashram rather than feeling on the outskirts, so to speak.
Plus, it is a privilege to be part of Amma's work.
I had to get training on how to give the sacred ash and a sweet which was wrapped up together into Amma's hand. She sees thousands of people a day when she gives Darshan and she didn't have time to fumble around looking for the prasaad to give to the person.
I felt the pressure of getting it accurate with timing her arm actions and where her hand would be for me to quickly place the prasaad directly into the middle of her palm.
Amma is always aware of everything and everyone around her and I was told she would know I was new to this procedure and I was just expected to do my best. I sat near to Amma's side and was passed the prasaad from a lady next to me. I then had to study Amma"s actions with the person she was blessing and when her arm came closer and her hand raised upwards I would have to put it centrally into her hand. Sometimes she would have a few prasaads already in her palm and she would stack them up ready to give to the next few people. She works fast. Her awareness is so full that she can see me and know my nervousness and be speaking and blessing and know all that's happening, all at the same time.
Afterwards I left her side and went and lined up for Darshan myself.
You are able to sit in chairs near Amma before the actual Darshan takes place
Whilst near to her I was concentrating on my breath and I felt the outer edge of my body dissolve and felt an expansiveness taking place and the feeling just turned into a "feeling of love with everything"- the music sounded so loving, people's voices were a sound of love, the surroundings felt full of love.
It was time to kneel down infront of Amma, she looked into my eyes for a moment and she pressed her, head next to mine and chanted which sounded like " amora amora amora..." As she chanted her head went heavier and heavier down onto mine as though she was "pressing the chant into me" The amora sound of the chant sounds like "love" too, in her language.
After, I stayed on the stage near her and meditated for a while before going to the beach.
And the same feeling of " love" deeper than I've ever experienced was here, when I looked at the waves, listened to the cawing of crows, even the skin I saw on my legs was glowing and I felt "love" and hearing the children's laughter I felt "love "
Then I saw all these questions come up related to my journey to the ashram.....
They all related to - why was I here and what did I want out of this visit?
And I let them all go from my mind.
All expectations were released.
I had a shower, dinner and listened to the Bhajans by the Swami tonight whilst Amma was still giving blessings.
After I bought some reading books related to the ashram and Amma.
I went to the Bhagavad Gita Talk late in the evening and sat nearer to the Swami and understood more of what he was saying this time. (I will write a blog on that too)
I am now reading from my journal that I wrote "I feel better from this afternoon onwards, sorry!"
The mirror of consciousness is always reflecting back to us what we need to learn.
And then when we've learnt it we can forgive and detach.
Thursday 30 th August
I started my day with an early morning yoga class. Whilst in the practice an insight popped up about breath.
"We are Creation..and we experience this Creation through the inbreath and the outbreath. And with love and compassion, we open the body up like the lotus flower, opens up to daylight."
I didn't think this, it came as a gift of wisdom from within.
It made me realise how we take the breath for granted and we don't look after it..we are not honouring our divine creation and we push the body to extremes and don't treat it with love and compassion.
At breakfast today I sat under some trees a little away from most of the people chattering. I sat with a French lady and her small son, who must have been about five years old. She told me how she's really enjoying her stay here. I had seen quite a few mums here with their children. There is an itinery for the children each day so the adults can immerse themselves into the deeper spiritual activities.
Today I was signed up for "Seva", selfless service.
From 10 am til 12 noon I washed pots, pans and dishes from the Western Cafe. There were four of us washing up. Two people drying and another person bringing the dishes in by the cart load. It was hot in there and standing on your feet in the same place started to take it's toll. My body wanted me to move and get the circulation going again in my legs. I was feeling dehydrated and heady. I was determined to finish the chore.
I was told by the Swiss girl that pot washing was hardcore. I thought how can it be that hard but now I could relate to her words.
The people I worked with were great company and we all chatted and laughed our way through. It was good to meet them, one was French, two Malaysian, one Spanish and a Canadian.
Apparently, they don't get many volunteers for this chore as people don't like the hard work involved.
The Spanish and Canadian men worked here everyday and they live here. They told us that on one particular day it was only the Spanish guy there and he did everything by himself. It was a mountain of work! He was a very humble person and I noticed that he often would leave meditation, bajhans or satsang early to go and do kitchen duties. I learnt alot from his attitude. He had a cheerful and content yet quiet way about him. His ego was not dominant. At the end of our seva we were thanked and we could leave.
I was happy to leave but at the same time really happy to have helped and now I appreciate the workload that goes into the dishes, pots and pans for us. We do take so much for granted.
I walked to the village as I needed to get my phone fixed. I needed to get the blood going again in my feet and legs. The sun had been pouring down through the pot washing place and my head felt heavy. I drank plenty of water afterwards and soon felt better.
I found a mobile phone shop and went in to speak about it to the man behind the counter. He said I needed a new screen and something else, which would mean I would lose all my photos, phone numbers etc. I felt unsure about this so I went to another place and they said it was just a sensor problem under the screen and I wouldn't lose all my information. So I went with this one. I left my phone and said I'd be back to collect it.
Afterwards, I walked a little further up the village to see some more of it.
It was so native and busy with Indians going about their day. The older men seemed to ride their bikes in the heat instead of walking. There were alot of mopeds, motorbikes, cars and rickshaws. Women, walking in groups mostly. The shops were basic and some of them so jumbled up with wares on sale. There was a carpentry warehouse which was just a roof-covering area and you could see the men cutting up tree trunks and there was a furniture making area too,. The smell of the wood was so lovely.
In another open dwelling place there was a lady sewing on an old SInger sewing machine.
There was a bakery and coffee place at the end of the street and I decided to go in for the experience of being in amongst the village day life.The cakes were stunning to look at , nothing like I'd ever seen before and I couldn't tell you what was in any of them. I chose one and sat down to eat it. There were a couple of men in the corner and myself in the place. I felt I couldn't sit there comfortably afterwards to watch the world go past. I did feel I looked out of place to the locals and I got alot of stares. I couldn't relax.They were all very polite and not intimidating at all.It just wasn't the done thing for women to be on their own over there so it just looked odd to them.
I caught the boat taxi back and it cost 10 rupees which is about 10 pence. I gave him 20 and he was pleased. He had a hard job getting the boat to stay straight as we kept drifting sideways. He only had a long bamboo pole to steer us, which pushes against the riverbed.
By the time I got back to the Ashram my clothes were really heavy with sweat. I went back to my room and did some housework there. I swept through as sand would blow in from outside and I cleaned the toilet and poured some bleach down it that I bought in the village. That was a quick and easy housework session!
How much time it takes at home in comparison to here is unbelievable. I realise the more we keep and the bigger the place we have, we become prisoners to our housework! I really didn't miss the luxuries and felt unattached to my home, when I thought about it.
I changed into some fresh clean clothes and went for lunch.
I had a vegetable omelette, an almond and coconut cake with a chai tea. Again the food was amazing, the flavours of the food were divine! I felt as much as I was enjoying the food it was also so nourishing.
I never felt bloated or uncomfortable and nothing disagreed with my system at all.
After lunch I went to a meeting about the "I AM meditation " that I was enrolled to do. It is over three days to learn and practice.
I was pleased it was taking place as they weren't sure if enough people were wanting it to make it worthwhile to teach. They don't charge any money for it but needed a good number anyway.
The teacher who was going to take us through it explained how we needed to take a puja ceremony early tomorrow morning before the course started. He advised us, to have a shower and wash our hair early in the morning, put on clean clothes and to be at the Temple by 4.50 am for the ceremony.
It was to help us to be cleansed so as to take on the new energy of the meditation.
He also wanted us to think about what we needed to get rid of that was being a hindrance to our spiritual development. And part of the ceremony was to leave the hindrance in the fire there and then to draw in the invocation of starting afresh.
We had to think about what we wanted to let go whilst sitting in the room before him.
It quickly came to mind that I needed to know that Trust and Faith are always with me.
I find I have a tendency that I don't trust that things will turn out okay which can lead to anxiety. It isn't so apparent in normal life as then I'm just "busy being busy" as I seen it here in the Ashram. Even though as small as my phone issue was, I felt it a bigger issue and I couldn't see it ever being "fixed". I do believe that you are shown what you are like to a bigger scale here, so as you can be aware of it and move on
Obviously it's not about the phone per se, it's more to do with the issue that I don't have enough Trust and Faith in my life anyway.
We all left the meeting and on my way out the girl sat next to me started to chat to me. She said she had been living in the Ashram for a few months and she had just started a relationship with a man who was a yoga teacher. She met him in the silent retreat she was attending. "How do you meet someone at a silent retreat??" I asked her. She laughed and said it was surreal as there was instant attraction and they both felt the same and when the retreat finished they started to share their feelings to eachother and it is now an established relationship.They are a couple in the Ashram. Although they are not allowed to show any body contact whatsoever in public and I do believe there's restriction in private.too,. She said that it is so different in that there's no jealousy because of the pure way they live in mind. She looked very happy and she said if it doesn't work she can go home which is South America. She has only just left university and so is young enough to settle back home if she has to.
After our meeting I left to go the Kali Temple for Darshan from Amma. We were able to receive quite a few blessings, more than usual, as there were less people visiting from Kerala because of the flooding. I overheard that Amma wants to see at least 500 people when its quiet.
I wanted to ask Amma for a personal mantra. You have to ask her personally and it is up to her if she thinks you are ready to take one on.
A mantra is a few words said in Sanskrit associated with the deity you worship and the vibration and meaning of the mantra helps to develop you spiritually and also the power of the mantra is helping the whole of evolvement surrounding you.
You have to repeat it in a certain practice each day. Also repeating it as much as you can throughout the day has an effect, for instance even whilst eating it can help with digestion. It also makes an immediate connection to the Divine.
When I had my head on Amma"s chest in Darshan I asked her if I could have a mantra. She didn't respond, so I looked at her straight ahead into her eyes and asked again. She looked into my face and smiled and said "yes okay" I was pleased as I felt this was going to be powerful and I knew I had the discipline to keep the work up.
I sat near to Amma after and meditated for a while.
I was told she would give me my mantra once she finishes with blessing all the people, which would be later into the evening.
I had time to go and message home at the internet office amd I visited Amma's shop where I bought a top to wear to yoga, three pendants to make a necklace each for myself, Megan and Fay, another pendant that I liked for myself and some scrolled messages for my family from Amma. Why I'm telling you this.... is that in total it came to about £8!! I was happy with what I bought but even happier at that price as well.
So at 7.45 pm I was given my mantra on stage by Amma.
Beforehand, the Swami asked what I believed in most, and I said "Love." He went and told Amma.
On stage I knelt down infront of Amma, there was music and smoke from sacred burning of incense (I think), singing from the Swamis and flower petals thrown over my head.
She hugged me to her chest and chanted the mantra into my ear and kissed me on my forehead.
It was intense and yet quick. It was good that it was quick as the power of what happened was again overwhelming.
I went back down to be given the mantra written down on paper so as I could learn it word for word.
I was then told how to use it and nurture it.
Each day and everyday, it is a discipline and a practise. Overtime there will be a change within, having more compassion and forgiveness and it will keep you on your path to attain the highest goal. It tranquillises the mind. It is a protection as well. It connects you direct to the Divine.
This ends my day on a much different note to the previous days here and I am excited to start the meditation course tomorrow morning.
Friday 31st August
I woke at 4 am after a good few hours of sleep. My room mate had crept back into our room this morning at 3 am. Each night it had been getting later and later or earlier and earlier, I should say!
Even though I stirred when she got in, I definitely slept deeper after having been given the mantra last night by Amma.
I had to take a cold shower (it's never an option to have a warm one here anyway) which was part of the cleansing practice and put on some fresh clean clothes.
I set off to the Temple ready for the puja ceremony. It was really dark and quiet. Even the birds were still asleep.The only other people that were around were heading off for the early Archana chanting.
I arrived at the Temple, a little ahead of time, so I was able to watch the finishing touches of the setting up of the puja.
There was alot of work involved, it was a spiritual practice in itself.
A French man working there as the main organiser, was really happy to explain anything you asked.
The ground was prepared and cleaned, there was a space left where the main Swami would sit and perform. To his right were other swamis that would assist with the main chanting.
There were oils in bottles, lanterns, flower petals that were all carefully picked from the flowers and this too would be a spiritual practice beforehand and they will have been invoked with the divine. I had seen ladies preparing these petals before and thought how deep in practice they were, chanting inwardly as they picked them one by one.
There were candles, a fire, incense pieces of wood, a small altar. small hand bells, sandalwood and many other small touches that not only looked so enchanting but were all used for the ceremony.
I recognised some faces of the people attending the meditation course, starting to arrive.
There were other people there too, as anyone could come and watch the ceremony. But today, those of us on the course all had to take part.
We sat around the altar and watched the Swami perform the rituals involved. It was mostly done in silence which brought more power to it. However, the main Swami was internally chanting and you could sometimes see his lips move.
He was clothed from the waist down and had a strip of the same cloth draped over one shoulder. It was all very traditional to the ancient vedic times.
We had prepared our body and mind to come to the ceremony and to release the blockages that would hinder taking on a new spiritual practice and to take on the new pathway to help in reaching the divine.
We released our blockages into the fire and we were cleansed and blessed by the chanting, inhaling of essence, the blessed water was flicked all over us. We had blessed ash on our third eye, which helps in strengthening the nervous system as it will be taking on a higher charge of prana (life force).
The other swamis there chanted out loud for some length of time.Their voices were strong and moving.
I hadn't heard men chanting in person before and it had such a moving definite shift in the atmosphere during the chant and even afterwards, when it fell into silence. I felt this strength transported into my body and mind. But also I felt their genuitiy in them being there as a service to others and that came through as an essence of pure love.
The main Swami was busy the whole time going through his routine around the altar and fire. Oils were poured, petals thrown, incense burnt, ringing of bells, hand gestures, so many moves with all of the items.
The floor around the altar was a mess afterwards! I did have an internal giggle. It was a mountain of everything that he used.
The French man and his aids there were kept busy cleaning up aswell as setting up, as they do three pujas a day here.
At the end we could sit and meditate, absorbing the quietness and you could feel the thickness of the spiritual atmosphere that had been provoked.
We finished in time to meet our meditation teacher for 7 am.
The teacher explained that this meditation practice is devised by Amma and she has induced a sankalpa (a secret resolve) to it, making it powerful. He just said "it will work" and nothing more, which made me realise how we practice with our yoga and meditation and somehow think that we will never "get there."
The practice involves yoga moves, breathing, visualisation and meditation.
It is only taught by the teachers taught via Amma. It is not to be taught on again by the likes of myself as it would dilute the strength of the practice.
It is free and you are able to learn it here in England at an Amma Centre (Bromely in Kent). There are many Centres all over the world now.
How this meditation came about is due to the Indian Government asking Amma if she could teach a meditation to the military service people originally, to help deal with stress disorders. It is also now taught to emergency service employees such as doctors and nurses, to schools and anyone who needs it.
It is such a quick and easy practice to do everyday and there are a couple of versions depending on time spared to do the practice. There is even one adapted for children, which is an even shorter time.
I have been practicing the meditation everyday now since learning it in India and I am journalling it's effects.
There have been some insights that have appeared during the practice and I will teach from these as they will help us to develop a clearer path to the inner Self.
An English lady I spoke with whilst at the Ashram said she had learnt this meditation a couple of years ago and practiced everyday for a while but gave it up as it made her feel too good!
I asked the teacher if the power of doing it everyday was too much. His reply was 'no, you cannot do any harm by practicing everyday and it is a discipline to be carried out consistently.'
He explained with the use of the analogy of a caged bird. One day the door gets let open but it doesn't mean the bird will fly. He said we can feel "safe" being with our attachments and issues and what is needed is some compassion towards ourself to allow ourself to become free.
He said a prayer is good to ask for strength and to feel safe at this time, if it's needed.
We went through the routine in stages and learnt the moves and practices methodically, over and over again.
We were there the whole day except for a break to eat breakfast and lunch.
After lunch I went to my room and spent some time with my mantra and had a lie down. I was feeling tired, partly because of the early start but also the intensity of learning.
However, the whole day went quick and after the day finsihed there, I walked up to the village to collect my phone. It was fixed!
It was a huge relief as I needed it for my journey home to England. I still couldn't use it to contact home (network wouldn't allow) but could read any texts
Anyway I was now content to use the internet office to message home from time to time.
Megan and Fay were fine and the last time I contacted home, my youngest daughter said "have fun!" She thinks I came away for a little holiday, bless her....I wouldn't say it was a fun place but I definitely feel more calm and centered.
Today at the Ashram there had been a graduation ceremony for students who have been attending Amma's Universities here.
She has set up the most beautiful universities (courses specialising in engineering, architecture, teaching, pharmaceutical studies, ayrevedic medicine) which are near to the Ashram, on the way to the village. I have walked around the grounds of them and they are so impressive from the outside. (I will post the photos of them.)
The students are mostly from Bangalore ( I was told) and she houses the students in the Ashram accommodation aswell.
I managed to watch some of the ceremony inbetween our breaks from the meditation course.
The speeches from the professors were really moving. Amma was there too and had made a previous speech.
The whole reason she supports the education for the students is that she believed back in time India lost alot of highly intelligent people to other countries because there just wasn't the education facilities available for them. She said the country lost these intelligent people and missed out on their talents.
She also has brought the whole holistic approach into their education with the philosophy of yoga, meditation, selfless service and love. They each receive a personal mantra and have regular Darshans to help with their education and development.
I have seen the students here and in the village or down by the beach and they seem so happy and well cared for here.
The parents and siblings all arrived today to watch the graduation.The students looked smart and all wore the traditional colour of golden coloured outfits.
On the way back from the village I took the boat taxi and saw a boat full of students.(I will attach a photo.)
I decided to eat earlier this evening before listening to Bhajahns and I tried the Eastern Cafe. I sat with a couple of people who were on the meditation course, a German girl and a Canadian man. We ate with our fingers and the food was delicious. No cutlery to wash tonight!
Afterwards I listened to Amma and her Swamis and as usual the Bhajahns were moving and there were tears at the end.
Afterwards, I left to go back to my room to shower and get into bed. I always had to prepare my clothes and get as much ready to as not to disturb my room mate, as she would be in a deep sleep when I was getting up.
I couldn't put the light on either as it was a big fluorescent strip light on the ceiling. So I would just use a torch and know where my clothes were and have everything ready to hand.
I had to be up for the I AM meditation course that starts at 7 am. So I was happy to get a good few hours of sleep.
Saturday 1st September..
I got up this morning at 6 am and got ready to go to the I AM meditation course.
We started at 7 am prompt, there were a couple of empty places I noticed.
Although we had already learnt the format and stages needed to perform the practice, today was about answering any questions, understanding the precision of the techniques and going through the sequence again to learn it some more.
The questions were interesting and the answers even more so.
It was apparent that it had to be performed exactly as it had been taught and this was the teaching from Amma herself and in "this way she knew it worked!" The bottom line was not to change a thing.
It was alot to learn and take on board and we were given a handout of the moves, breathing practices and visualisations so we could learn it more in our own time.
We were told that once we had learnt it off by heart we had to throw the instructions away so as no-one else could get hold of it and copy it. We even signed a form to say we would not teach it and if we did, we would be penalised.
It is a free course so it was really about keeping the authenticity of her work and she had blessed it with a sankalpa too, which is a resolve to shift any barriers to experience the divine through this practice.
We were told to practice everyday and to keep the discipline going, for it to be able to work.
From my experience of being in the vicinity of Amma and her teachers here, I do not doubt the authentic teaching and reason for the privacy of this course.
Someone once had asked if she should ask for money to teach the course and her reply was "how could a mother charge money for her own breast milk"
She wants to help everyone, from her heart.
The teacher who taught us this meditation had so much knowledge and experience of the yoga texts too,. Again I felt his authenticity, like that of my own teacher who taught me.
The truth never falters from this ancient philosophy and it adheres to help us in this time span too.
There was a breakfast break and after I ate, I dashed up to the village again, as my phone had frozen AGAIN!
What was happening here? I asked myself.
The mobile shop was shut when I arrived, so I asked a shopkeeper next door what time it usually opens. He said it shouldn't be long, probably between 9.30 to 10 am.
I decided to go into his place and wait. It was a coffee place selling cakes too, this morning. It was a styled place in comparison to some other shops. I explained that I had a problem with my phone and I needed it to be working. He made me a cup of chai and brought me a piece of chocolate cake whilst I waited. He swept the floor and got the chairs and tables ready for the customers and then sat down behind the counter.
We started to talk and I told him that I liked his place and he explained that it had taken him years to get it to the standard it is now. He lived behind the business and he has relatives working in there for him. He was waiting for his sister-in-law to arrive to do the waitressing. In the meantime his nephew arrived and he offered to have a look at my phone to see if he could help. He said it probably needed a new screen. He started to chat and explained how he had trained as an electrician but hadn't found work as yet because it was difficult to get. He had done all the electrics in the shop for his Uncle. Apparently he is excellent at his trade.
I told him to go and visit Amma and see if she can help in anyway. The reason why I said this to him is because the meditation teacher had told us that when he first went to get Darshan from Amma in Chicago he was out of work, well trained but had been so unsuccessful in getting any work. He told Amma of this and within a couple of weeks he had been offered a good job. (Interestingly though he then went on to work within the Ashram after)
The Uncle had previously told me that he goes to the Ashram regularly for Darshan so I thought the nephew would be open to this idea. He smiled anyway, as his response.
In the meantime, the Uncle shopkeeper telephoned the mobile shop manager to ask what time he was coming to open up. The answer was that he was almost there.
I paid for my chai and cake which came to about 25 pence in total.
I met the mobile phone shop manager and he arrived on his motorbike. He was frustrated because he couldn't open his shop up today because the shutters had jammed tight and wouldn't move. He remembered me and said he had all my details from the previous time and he would take my phone and get it fixed for tomorrow. He told me he had another shop up the road which he would take it to and get it fixed up there. I was happy about this and left it to his devices.
I went back to the course again and we went through the meditation again and we finished up with a small puja blessing. Where we chanted and brought the blessing within and gave thanks to Amma.
We left the course and I felt cocooned in peace and tranquility and without any intention I didn't have the need to speak or make small talk with anyone.
I quietly went to the main hall, where Amma was giving Darshan. I looked on a noticeboard and saw my name was on a list there, which meant I was able to sit with Amma on the stage for 20 minutes whilst she gave Darshan. Everyone could do this and it was on a rota scheme. I was fortunate that this came after the meditation course and I could sit quietly with her presence and just "be"
The power she vibrates is just instantly felt and with just having done her meditation practice aswell I felt I was absorbing more than I had previously.
Strangely, I felt I had become more of a part of the Ashram rather than a visitor. I felt I wasn't "looking" for anything anymore there. Even though I didn't know everything, it felt I didn't need to know anything.
After 20 minutes I got up, even though I had been told I could stay longer, I felt it was time to leave. Normally people there would jump at the chance of staying longer as it is an honour. But for whatever reason I was happy to get up and go.
I went to the internet office to explain to home that my phone was frozen and in repair again and to check in on them aswell. All was well.
I went to Amma's shop and asked if I could do some Seva there. They said to come back on Wednesday as that was when they would be able to know if they needed anyone extra. I think it is a popular place to do Seva because it has such a strong feeling of Amma's energy there. It is also in the Kali Temple and it overlooks the hall below and the altar.
Inside the shop is a mixture of alsorts on sale. Even Amma's pre worn jewelry is on sale here. Because she has worn it, that means her blessing is embedded. All her pieces are displayed behind a glass cabinet door as they were more expensive. She also has her own perfume on sale here too. It is made of Rose oil, but I've never smelt anything like it..ever! The first time she gave me Darshan, I was overwhelmed by her smell. It was strong and heavenly. It also must have a healing quality of her within it because I did notice alot of ladies in the Ashram would walk past and you could smell a waft of the perfume, they were wearing it too. Although it had the rose tone to it and it was the same perfume as Amma's it didn't smell as good as it did on Amma.
Again the perfume was under the glass cabinet because it was expensive in relation to other prices in there.
The shop had clothes, modern and authentic, shawls, jewellery, handmade beaded pieces made in the Ashram, bags, souvenirs, insence, om symbols to hang, ganesh statues, photos of Amma, lots messages from Amma, books and so on.
I had already bought a few things from here but was aware I didn't want to weigh my suitcase down. I was contemplating buying a couple of Ganesh (bronze- type) elephant ornaments. I wanted to give one each to Meg and Fay and explain to them that when they wanted to start anything new, be it a new project or aim for something in their life, then by offering the obstacles that stand in the way towards that aim to Ganesh is a positive ritual, in releasing and starting afresh.
Having picked the Ganesh up and realised its weight, I thought again. I also came to a quick realisation that whatever you bring to mind and if you use a visualisation of Ganesh and the offering of your obstacles, was enough. And also that way my suitcase wouldn't weigh a ton!
I left the shop to book a Myofascial Workshop. I had been told it was excellent by someone who I had been chatting with. She just said "have you ever done the Myofascial course?" We weren't even talking about courses or anything about learning. It was just a casual chat but the way she said it with excitement, it really made my ears prick up.
Was that a pointer for me....?
I paid approximately £7 for the 3 hour workshop. It was to be held on Monday 10 am -1 pm.
I went back to my room for a shower, the water seemed warmer in the day time to stay under longer. I don't think my hair ever got a good covering of bubbles from the shampoo because of the cold temperature of the water and it's softness. I started to get really wavey hair, I laughed to myself, because if I stayed here any longer I would probably have the tangled dreadlock look. One Indian lady in the Ashram started to stroke my hair when we were standing in a queue to buy fresh juice. She didn't speak, just played with it. I had a chuckle and wondered what she was thinking.
I finished showering, and did my mantra meditation whilst sat on my bed and then had a nap.
Afterwards I walked to the main hall and bumped into the Swiss girl. We hadn't seen eachother for a few days as she had been on a yoga course learning about spinal movements whilst I had learnt the meditation. We laughed as we both realised that we were meant to always see eachother.
We had dinner together in the Eastern Cafe. She was very meticulous about cleanliness and brought her own cutlery to every meal. The Eastern Cafe wasn't so clean, the plates were only quickly washed by the people using them and left to drip dry in a big sink. So when we went to get our plates she advised me to wash them ourselves this time and to ensure they had a good scrub with detergent. The tables in this cafe also only get one clean per day and that was in the morning. The rest of the day they would just pick up more and more spillages. It was very different to the Western Cafe. The food was amazing though but I really didn't know what to ask for and with regards to spiciness too.I was taught along the way what was good, sweet, or spicy. I tended to go for "middle of the road" for spice and sweetness was very palatable. I couldn't get over how much I ate in sweetness here without any effect. I didn't bloat or feel headachey. I put on a few pounds but I felt good.
Maybe my system was stronger here to tolerate it. I felt I needed it rather than just " wanting it"
After we ate, we queued up for Darshan. It took a long tine, we were waiting for about three hours. I got split up from the Swiss girl and got taken over to the men's line across the hall. I sat with a man from Belgium and he was on the meditation course today. He was funny and was playing with a small boy who was also in line with his parents. In between his playing he chatted about his stay in the Ashram and he was leaving in the night to go home. He was going to take a train to the airport as he had heard it was an experience in itself, by train and so cheap to travel. He had made so many friends in the Ashram because he said he had done so many different types of Seva. It was his first time staying here and would definitely come back again and wanted to bring his girlfriend with him the next time.
It passed some time chatting with him as we were all getting really tired waiting. You could see people were flagging.
Amma had been going through the whole day from 10 am til now and would go on until everyone would be seen. It would probably be in the early hours when she would finish.
Once we got nearer to her I could feel her tiredness this time. This feeling I had about her, I doubted, because I knew she was tuned into the divine energy. I thought then maybe it was because I was feeling tired. I put it into the "doubt file" of my mind.
I had my Darshan and I asked her a question about an issue I have with the skin on my arms. A few years ago I went to a beautician and had some treatment to get rid of some sun damage. The damage had occurred when we spent some time living in Queensland, Australia when driving in the car. The sun would burn my arms through the window glass as I only had a t shirt on, being so hot. I used to see some ladies wearing long socks on their hands and arms whilst driving and didn't realise the reason behind it was to protect their skin. I always wore sun cream and had looked after my skin as I was trained as a beauty therapist years ago. It was instilled into me, to look after your skin!
Anyway the treatment had left what looks like vitiligo now and I'm really self conscious of it. I hardly ever wear short sleeves as I can't come to terms with it. I know it's trivial in this age when there's so much worse case scenarios around. But the meditation teacher had told us that Amma will answer anything even as trivial as " do you think I should get my hair cut short?" When I heard this, I decided I wanted to ask her about my skin. I wrote it down on a piece of paper. I gave the question to one of her Swamis and he told her it in Malayalam.
She picked up my arms and looked at them and then looked right into my eyes and she put my head to her chest and chanted into my ear. I don't know what the chant was or meant.
It felt good to tell her of this trivial yet annoying matter and I was relieved to off load and ask for help. I've since become alot more relaxed and happy about "imperfection" and actually I do love imperfection now, whereas I used to be aware of these differences. So now I don't see it in myself or others. Maybe the marks will go in time, once I've totally learnt my lesson about it. Everything has a lesson, no matter how trivial the problem is, there will be a teaching behind it. So never think it's too " silly" to worry about.
I went back to my room and read some of my book which is Amma's Biography. It really is worth a read. Mine is out on loan at present, but you can buy it from her website.
I went to sleep but had a nightmare, it was so vivid. It was about me having to teach a yoga workshop that I had previously prepared for. And my lesson plan blew into a puddle on the way to the venue and the wet paper had erased all my writing. I couldn't see it anymore to teach from and to top it off I was teaching my teacher too. If I told her that my lesson plan was ruined I would have heard her voice saying " it shouldn't matter, you should know it anyway from practicing it"
I started to teach the class by doing some breathing and started to talk through it and my voice went completely. In my dream I was hyperventilating and thought I was going to die or something else terrible.
At that moment the door to the room opened (for real) and my roommate walked in.
I was so happy to see her and to realise it was a dream. I told her what happened and she said she'd also been having bad dreams. One of them she said, she had insects in her hair and she couldn't get rid of them and one of them was so big aswell. She said that what was happening was the mind purging, with all the Darshan healings, meditation etc there.
I agreed there has been alot of processing going on within such a short time frame. I think I've had a lifetime of processing so far!
I went back to sleep and was relieved it was just a dream.
Again my roommate and I just see eachother for snippets of random timeframes but we connect and it's as though we've known eachother forever. It's so comforting to have her in the room.
Another day gone by....and another day tomorrow.
Sunday 2nd September
I woke up at 6.30 this morning.
It was a special day today as it was Krishna's birthday!
The Ashram starts celebrating this day early with what is called "Go Puja."
This is the worship to Krishna's cows in the same way as worship to Mother Earth, both giving human race fulfilment. Cows are sacred here, Krishna spent his childhood caring for a large cow herd and he would play and enjoy the simplicity of life out on the pastures. He would show his contentment in the caring nature towards the cows and calves and from this attitude the cows gave nourishment through their milk and also their manure is used for disenfecant properties.
I arrived just after the early morning worship and saw a man from the Ashram appear smiling because he was all dressed up as Krishna.
He had jewels on, eye makeup, bodypaint on show, bells on his ankles and was barefoot.
I recognised him from around the ashram and knew he was French and it was his first visit to the Ashram.
I thought how brave he was because he and some others played out the parade through the Ashram paths to lots of loud chanting and music.
Many people arrived to follow, clap, chant and enjoy the playfulness that Krishna portrayed and this French man did so well at it.
He didn't stop smiling, cheering, dancing, getting the children to join in. It was a real joy to watch and be part of.
The Krishna cows came too and received their puja blessings.
Apparently at the end of the day Amma usually plays games outside the Kali Temple with the boys from the Ashram but this year she was told by the government to play down the fun aspect and to keep the respect that the Kerala floods were still in devastation.
However, there were to be Bhajahns going on until the early hours of the next morning, as part of this celebration.
After the Krishna parade, I went for breakfast and then I had to walk up to the village again. This time to collect my phone and hope it had been finally fixed.
I used the mantra that Amma gave me and directed it towards my phone problem. I was needing it, afterall at the end of this Ashram trip for my journey home.
I knew I would be travelling in the night by taxi to the airport just before I leave to fly home. I was on guard about being on my own in the taxi with a driver and having a phone made me feel somewhat safe. But also if the plane was delayed or anything else en route when going home then I could call and let home know
A part of me felt somewhat selfish about going away to a country I knew nothing about apart from the Ashram. If anything happened I would have felt guilty as this was a desire of mine to learn more spiritually.
Amma does say that the family commitments should come first before our spiritual journey as in leaving to live in an Ashram. And since this trip I can see that the experiences you get here in the Ashram are no different to that of our own lives.
We can learn along our own path within our own lives just the same way, as long as you know the "tools". I definitely don't have an urge to live in an Ashram existence.
I collected my phone and was very grateful it has been fixed and it was all working again.
After all the trips up to the village and leaving my phone there I was starting to not miss it at all.
Even when I went to the internet office to send messages home using the facebook messenger, it didn't pull me in to look at anything on there. I felt very distanced to it and the desire had definitely diluted.
As a result of this I've definitely detached from looking and reading news from the internet newspapers and alot less involved with wanting to read too much information that is out there.
There is always a desire "to know more" and also a constant feeding that part of our mind that associates with bad news. Consequently I am releasing negativitity within.
This afternoon I went to the beach and sat on the big rocks that reach out towards the sea. I really experienced what" blowing out the cobwebs " was on a deeper level today.
It was beautiful being here and the breeze felt amazing.
This evening I went to eat from the Eastern Cafe on my own which was enjoyable, the food and my own company was perfect.
Afterwards I went to watch and listen to Ammas Bhajahns and towards the end I went to sit outside in the Western Cafe. Here, it was outside and it was pleasant getting some evening fresh air and feeling some space from so many people inside.
There was always such an eagerness from most people to be in the near vicinity of Amma. Earlier this evening I was asked to move out of my seat so as an Indian lady could have my seat. I had been sitting there for some twenty minutes before Amma arrived and there were some seats that I saw had been reserved with newspapers on them. I purposely stayed away from those and sat on a chair in a row that were "newspaper free."
This lady waved her arms at me telling me in her own language to move to another seat. I probably would have done as I wasn't feeling possessive over a seat but there was nowhere left, the hall was packed out as Amma was due to arrive any minute.
I had learnt from other's behaviour to not respond to these harsh requests. I felt just calm, neither angry nor sad about being spoken to in this manner. I stayed put and didn't react. Whilst I understood this eagerness, I didn't feel the same need. It is a joy to experience her presence and her smile but I can honour that is within us too.
The ancient texts say when you happily let go any desire then what you were hoping for will arrive easily.
Whilst sitting outside and after listening to Ammas last song she left from inside and walked straight past me and the others sitting outside and her beautiful heart warming smile fell onto our glances so easily. The experience was different than from before when I was "looking for a glimpse"
To end my day I went back to my room and showered and got ready for the next day with what I was going to wear and I did the new meditation that I just learnt.
Apparently Amma had returned and played more celebratory Bhajahns into the early hours. I had totally forgotten she would but I was happy to get some sleep.
Monday 3rd September
I woke at 4.15 am for Archana, which is the chanting of worship to the Enlightened Being of Amma.
It is the ancient Indian tradition to follow the path of Bhakti Yoga, which is a discipline of worship from the heart to become enlightened too, like that Soul they are worshiping.
It is performed as a disciplined ritual each morning here at 4.50 am until 6 am.
Again, I concentrated on the sounds and vibrations of the chanting. By concentrating on the sounds and experiencing the vibrations in the body there was still a change in mind and body.This is how powerful chanting is and with the concentration practise it can definitely turn into a meditation and enlightenment, when the mind's attachments are released.
Everything we do in the stages of yoga, work towards a deeper unravelling of our attached mind to reveal the true nature of the clear mind's consciousness, bringing freedom into our body too.
After worship, I went to get some chai tea they offer outside to those who probably needed it after an hour's solid chanting!
It was still early and making use of the time I went to the cowshed to meditate on my own personal mantra, that Amma had given to me.
Again, the depth of immersion in meditation was very strong from sitting in this space of Amma's home as a child. It was very powerful and I can only describe it as your inner being which feels like a body of space getting bigger and bigger and the outer form of your physical body is gone! You feel this space has strength that no words can describe. Once you let go of your thoughts and the deeper attachments in your mind of believing you are a small existance of this cosmic consciousness then there is the emergence into the cosmic consciousness.
I was aware during meditation of my identity in body and my thinking mind and did realise I'm frightened to release too quick or too soon.
It does feel at times of being out of control and this is the ego part of our mind not letting go.
I also wanted to go to yoga (this is a desire and desires guarantee bringing a turbulance back into the mind)
Just as in the outside world you still have the distractions in the mind, here in the Ashram it is the same.
I arrived at the yoga room and waited for some time and then realised it wasn't on today because of the late celebrations of Krishna's birthday went on into the early hours of this morning. Everyone was having a lie in.
So I went down to the beach and sat on the big rocks again.
The waves were crashing up onto the shoreline and I could see a native man diving in under the waves and then saw him reappear with a big shiny fish in his bare hands. He would throw the fish up to his friend standing up behind the rocks. The fish was placed into a big bag. This went on for some time and it only took a minute or so for each catch. The current of the sea looked strong and for the man to see the fish under the turbulance of the wave must have been a feat in itself. He was very skilled and aware of the nature of the sea and where the fish would be under there. His breakfast was sorted.
It was now time for breakfast too, in the Ashram.
I went and ate and sat with a Columbian girl who I had met previously at a yoga class. She had lots of tales to tell me of her Ashram visits previous to this one and also she had been on tour with Amma in Northern India.
They travel by big buses and camp inside schools and various community buildings where they create services for people that can't get to the Ashram. Amma will give everyone Darshan (blessings), Satsang, (spiritual teachings) Prasaad (blessed food) Bhajahns (spiritual songs), also giving out personal mantras and meditation. This is as much as I'm aware of.There maybe more on offer but all is free of charge to anyone. This takes place nearly all over the world now.
She will be in the UK next week in Portsmouth, if any of you are interested. All details are on her website.
This lady from Columbia also could tell me of her insights and knowledge of how Amma's influence can deeply effect the people around her.
This time she travelled on her own, like myself. She now lives in Korea with her boyfriend and is in early pregnancy stage, even though you would not have realised as she had been doing as much as anyone else here with seva, courses, Archana, yoga, meditation and in this extreme heat and humidity too. I was surprised to think she had the energy to do all of this. But she wanted to speak with Amma about her pregnancy and get some faith around it. There had been a difficulty with conceiving and Amma guided her with that first so she now wanted some faith and guidance from now onwards. Partly to let go of fear of losing the baby now. Amma can see beyond any measurement of our confined lives and would not only help her to have faith but would ensure the baby would be fine.
Amma's belief and her work is to help everyone as she knows how life is hard as it is. She says if she can help then she will. Everyone who asks her is entitled to her grace.
I left my breakfast meeting with this lovely lady and went to the Myo Fascia Workshop. It was a three hour long class. The teacher was Spanish and spoke mostly English and then did speak some backup Spanish instructions for some other students too.
She had a pleasant manner and explained that Myo Fascia is a releasement in layers of muscle connective tissue that covers our body. It can be imagined to be like cling film which covers the body and when we are holding onto tension and trauma then this film will become tight.To describe the tightened tense effect of this tissue layer would be like you wearing a tight body suit with a tight hood. Because it is a mass of covering then it effects big areas of the body.
She took us through a series of slow movements, using props such as large elastic bands, balls, rollers, wooden skittles, which helped in releasing these sheets of tissue.
She made it clear that we could let out screams, groans, sighs, tears, laughter whatever that was trapped within, to allow the tension or trauma to come up to the surface.
It was interesting because there were only a certain few students who did groan, sigh out loud or made a noise. I wondered if they were really feeling anything in the class or if it was a chance to be vocal as it could be a quiet existance in the Ashram, if you donot socialise with others. But also it can feel isolating if you are not able to process emotions that come up. So maybe this was a class you could vocalise these feelings. However the daily chanting, yoga, singing Bhajahns or meditation also help to release too.
I didn't feel anything to vocalise and to be honest as much as I was immersed into the class I became aware that it didn't reach as deep as our weekly yoga class did at home. However, having a view from a different angle can lead you into your yoga practice with more faith and understanding of the power it has with working.
I became very sleepy in the class as it was very slow and we were lying on the floor doing the movements towards the end. The teacher's voice was mellow and the temperature was getting up too which added to the drowsiness.
After the session had finsihed, I was ready to refuel with lunch.
The Columbian lady was there again for me to sit with which was by chance. We had another catch up and always had something to share with eachother. Again as much as I enjoyed her company and time talking, I didn't have any inclination of latching on as a companion to do things together. I was aware this was a space and time for whatever had to be experienced for me and what I needed to develop and this was the same for others too.
After lunch we said goodbye and I went to the internet office to send a message to Meg and Fay. Everything was well at home and they were happy. It was good to share some news between us all.
I then decided to take a shower and get ready for meditation with Amma. This was the same meditation practice each time with the white flowers of peace being scattered over the world and sending healing white light. It is a visualisation practise of releasing compassion from the heart and then being at one with the compassion and love. Amma would sit in deep silence infront of us and once all the disturbances were released in the hall of maybe 3,000 people there, all you could experience was deep silence.
When you meditate with others, it intensifies the depth of the practice and also the power which is emitted outwards is increased and this then has an outward ripple effect to the outer world around you.
Imagine if everyone in the whole world mediitated at the same time. How that could change our lives and the environment!
After our meditation I had the evening meal with a Swedish girl who I was sat next to during meditation. She had already been staying at the Ashram a few weeks by now and had also been before.
She was introduced to Amma when she was a small child by her mother who is also a spiritual aspirant. She said she has been blessed to have had this young connection with Amma as it has led her to a deeper understanding of life and given her deeper enjoyment of living too.
She had travelled and worked abroad and was hoping to go to University when she returned to Sweden.
Whilst she had been staying at the Ashram she had undertaken Seva attending to Amma'a elderly mother.
Amma's mother lives in a house by the backwaters on the outskirts of the Ashram premises. (the photo under the bridge with the boat on the water is just infront of Amma"s mother's house.You can sense how divine it felt here, by the photograph)
Each morning she and another girl would clean the house, do washing and help with the general duties here. She said it was such a nourishing and rewarding experience, not only in helping with Amma's mother but every chore felt like a divine offering and she said she didn't mind not ever having a day off or being up so early every morning.
She doesn't get to do Archana or yoga or other morning activities but never felt like she was missing out.
She explained to me where the house was and said how it had such a strong sense of divine love there. This would be no other than Amma"s grace being present here, especially as it is her mother's home.
Amma would often visit her very early in the morning after worship. Her mother was bedridden now and she has Alzheimer's.
I've seen a video recording of Amma speaking to her mother and stroking her head whilst talking sweetly to her. The mother looks as though she isn't aware anymore of the outside world. But the way Amma engaged in her you would think otherwise. Amma never sees the boundaries and would speak to her deep within.
The Swedish girl left after eating her dinner to go to bed as she had to get up early again tomorrow.
I saw an English man who I had met when we went for the Pancha Karma talk. He was going to have a big detox at the hospital and he was going with his girlfriend aswell.
I joked and said I was surprised to see him as I'd thought he'd be laid up in a hospital bed by now. He said they were going for it in a couple of days time. I wished him luck!
I can imagine it will be very intense and not only physically releasing but also emotional and mental too. He was ready and willing and that's all you need, afterall.
Everyone in the dining hall seemed very cheery and chatty tonight. It felt like a social gathering and I could feel myself being pulled into this and losing the effect of feeling inner calm.
As much as I enjoy meeting others and learning from them and their experiences I was aware there's a fine line and then you get caught up into listening about their personal issues, or opinions start to be thrown around and inner annoyances arise.
The buzz in the air was strong and obviously there's not even alcohol involved but I could imagine if there was that influence too how the talk and chatter could escalate into deeper emotions.
For my benefit in keeping the inner to outer balance there needs to be a cut off time and get some rest for the brain and body.
Hence I was back in my room just before 11pm.
Tuesday 4th September
I woke up at 6 am this morning to go to yoga.
It was such a peaceful morning and I stopped on my way to the class to take it all in. The view across the waters, the sounds of nature waking up and the beautiful voices of singing in the distance, most probably an early morning worship.
I had already seen this sight a few times but it occurred to me today that I was able to be more conscious of it all. Generally, I am walking and looking but today I took my time and felt as though it was absorbed into me.
Even after the yoga class I walked down infront of Amma"s mother's home and sat by the waters edge appreciating this peace all around. I caught sight of the Swedish girl who worked at this house attending to Amma's mother. She called out to say hello and I said how beautiful it felt here and she agreed.
Today being a Tuesday in the Ashram, it is a quiet day and most of the seva duties were paused so the people could take part in meditation, Satsang, Prasaad and Bhajahns.
After meditation with Amma we listened to her Satsang, (- the spiritual guidance and teachings from the guru directly.)
I took out my journal and wrote as much as I could as she spoke so quickly. She spoke in her native language of Malayalam and one of the Swamis translated in English. She would speak in volumes at a time and he would remember everything she said.It was remarkable how he could say everything in English after listening to her.
One person from the crowd infront of Amma stood up to ask her his question. He asked if we would see a difference with the state of the world, in our lifetime? He said sometimes the effort is so much and it is difficult not to give up because there is no light being revealed.
She said that we must remember it is similar to climbing a mountain when we hold onto the rope.
The rope makes the climb attainable but most important is to have within us is the Divine Love.
When it is within us we are able to reach the top and overcome troubles.
This love will get us there and it will give us focus and help to overcome all sorts of obstacles.
She told a story about a climber trying to reach Everest. He carried a bag on his back and the bag resembled the ego with all the ego's identity. She said once the ego weight has gone from the bag and the bag is thrown away then he will reach the peak easier and quicker.
She said don't waste time, to put intense effort with the goal in mind.
She said it is our duty to help people even if they are in their karma, (their troubles)
She said we must keep on with our mantra meditation and always to find time to repeat it with the goal in mind.
Even when we are walking we can repeat our mantra with the count of our steps.
The discipline is very important.
We must be with the experience of the practice and not just have the knowledge.
She compared the pure consciousness within us like that of a seed under the soil. We must keep our efforts working towards allowing the seed to grow upwards into life. Just the same way, all our disciplined practice will allow the pure consciousness to be revealed.
She said there is so much distraction around us, like sugar falling onto the tongue. (how true that we are distracted by our senses and desires. And sugar is a big one! Although I know she used sugar as an example as a distraction in life).
She said keep everything in mind with name and form related to Krishna ( pure consciousness, the Reality) as everything comes from Krishna. To remember the Lord's name.
She said to put every action into an offering, to always think of the consciousness and not to be distracted.
Chanting of mantra is important
She described it as "the bullet proof vest of mantra" and you will always be protected.
She confirmed that by practicing Japa (repetitive mantra), prayer and meditation that we will always be protected, we will become strong and we will be taken beyond limitations.
She also expresses how "compassion actions" are important and how a charge of energy is used but from where that came from there is more charge that is created. The more it is used the more there is.
She mentioned about the floods in Kerala recently and said how people are coming together regardless of religion, differences and she can see a transformation, a change.
She said that being happy in the present moment is what is needed as life is like a picnic because it doesn't last forever.
She said don't get tangled up in life too much, keep yourself free, just as we keep ourselves safe in a zoo full of dangerous animals, we don't put our hands inside the cage.
She said all the factors are not always in our control, but once we make the efforts then Divine Grace will help.
This was as much as I could write down and although we know alot of the teachings, it is worth being reminded.
Afterwards Amma gave prasaad, which is food that had been blessed by herself one by one to a few thousand of us in the hall. It always tasted divine and gratefully received. It was beautiful to have this opportunity to share this time with her.
After we ate there would always be some children sat next to her that started to chat away on the microphone. One little boy who seemed to take centre stage quite easily would talk for a good twenty minutes or so. Amma would watch him, smiling away. Perhaps one day he will be taking Satsang. He was never short on words or songs to share with us. Unfortunatelyi I couldn't understand what he was saying as he spoke Malayalam. Even so, he was entertaining.
After prasaad, I went to the internet office to message home, then decided to go up to the village and I went into a beauty salon.
It looked like someone's house from the outside.
I was intrigued about going inside and yet doubted if I should be doing this. However, I was greeted by a lovely smiling young lady who welcomed me into her hair and beauty salon.
It was quite basic and functional and just this one lady who did everything. She sat me down in a chair and gave me a menu. I decided to get my eyebrows threaded as I had always wanted to know what that felt like and in the heat they had grown quite abit.
She laid me back on a head rest and got right on with it. Quickly, she took out stray hairs with two pieces of thread entwined in her fingers. It didn't hurt and half way through I wondered if she would take too much off as she didn't ask what sort of shape I wanted. Oh well, I was happy because she seemed to have alot of confidence anyway.
I looked into the mirror and was amazed how they looked. I didnt know I could have such defined eyebrows at my age! I thanked her and then asked if she could give me a hot oil hair treatment aswell.
My hair was awful here whilst staying at the Ashram.I felt sure I was on the way to having dreadlocks. With the water being soft, freezing cold and no lather from the shampoo aswell as the heat, humidity and sweat...many ingredients there for changing the hair texture!
I couldn't wait to put a brush through my hair, believe me. She said she has alot of people coming from the Ashram for this treatment, Im not surprised.
She gave me a massage too on the scalp, neck and shoulders and let the hot oil become absorbed into the scalp whilst she put some hot air from the overhead dryer onto me.
To finish off she blow dried my hair and it felt so silky and shiny and fairly normal to me again.
In total my session here cost me about £3.80. My eyebrow threading was only 40 pence! I gave her some extra money aswell as paid for my treatment.
We said our goodbyes and I went back to my room and tried to cool down as the salon was so hot and outside was intense heat aswell.
In the evening I watched and listened to the Bhajahns.
I sat next to a lovely Indian lady who lived in the Ashram, her name was Gita. She asked if I understood the Bhajahns and if I was a yoga teacher. She said she was soon to be teaching yoga here at the Ashram. She was beautiful inside and out. I felt touched by her beauty and care that she radiated. I will never forget her smile.
I had dinner with the Swedish girl who worked at Amma"s mother's house and a lady whom I had previously met. She was Canadian and it was a pleasant time eating with them.
Tonight I was in bed by 9.30 pm and content to do that.
Wednesday 5th Sept.
I woke up at 6 am to go to the yoga class, it was easy to be up for this time as opposed to 4.15 am for early worship.
It occurred to me that there had been already alot of processing within my mind and body with what I had experienced so far. So missing another hour of chanting wouldn't make me feel unaccomplished.
The yoga class was very similar in the poses and moves for each class that I had been to here, although it didn't matter as each time there was a deeper understanding of the inner realms of my body and mind. And being a teacher myself, it was a blessing to be taught and no one knew I was a teacher either. To become immersed into the postures and chanting of the mantra "Ma Om" internally became a peaceful insightful practice..
Afterwards, I had breakfast and caught up with some male visitors in the ashram for a change. I had met one who was a very sociable person and he liked to speak to everyone who caught his gaze. He started to tell me his background and how long he was going to be at the Ashram for. He was a character and he asked me if I had seen this sight or that sight (which were out of the Ashram itself) I told him I had seen the village, taken the river taxi boat but that was mainly all I had time to do. Also, I had been told by some of the people that were staying here that it was best not to travel alone out of the Ashram being a woman, as it isn't usually seen or heard of. On the leaflet given by the Ashram it said donot get too close to the villagers and be back in the Ashram grounds by 6.30 pm just before dark. This particular man laughed and said that was silly and of course you'll be safe. He and another man said "whatever, you must go and see the universities."
I could see the roof top of one of them from my accomodation block. It was off a road going up to the village.
So today, I did walk and visit the grounds of the universities here. I had to walk down a small road which had some cafes and phone shops (there were alot of mobile phone shops here) and some printing and computer places where the students could use. On the outside of the grounds were beautiful landscaped gardens. Infront of one particular university building was a grass landscape made into three Egyptian pyramids. The front of the buildings, with their glazed mirrored windows looked so luxurious. There were smart security men around and the students were going about their day, walking here and there. The atmosphere felt full of vibrancy, youth, potential, buzzing and happy.
It was common knowledge that they had the best equipment inside these buildings, the best lecturers. Amma's influence was invoked everywhere you looked, even the flowers and the plants were picture perfect!
On the outskirts of the grounds were some houses which were probably already there before the university was built. There were houses that looked so primitive and some that looked more luxurious. It didn't matter, as there belief is that they were here in the bubble of Amma's energy and in time they can rebuild their homes (on the same plot) as and when the affluence would arrive their way.
I walked in and around as much as I could to experience this youthful energy and take in the beauty of the architecture of these buildings. I had a slight feeling of being envious of these students and the opportunity they had.
For me, happiness is the key to learning and not feeling run down or unsupported. Amma gives so much in support to these students and knows everything about these students and their holistic needs in studying and life. She would be gutsy and strong and yet a guide to them.
I walked back to the Ashram again and had some lunch and felt somewhat different that I had ventured out of the perimeter that I had been accustomed to. It occurred to me that I was meant to meet the men at breakfast as they had more confidence than the women in travelling out of the Ashram.There is a part of me that "likes to break the boundaries" and I did notice this whilst being here. The day I went to the Beauty Salon felt like this as being a Tuesday, it was meant for having a quiet day in the Ashram for meditatiing or being in silence as much as possible. It wasn't meant to be a "spa day!"
Anyway to add to the university visit, after lunch I went to a place (they also told me about) called Dolphin Beach. I took a rik shaw from outside of the Ashram. There were always some waiting there, so they were aware of their customers being "asramites" and also they relied on the business from here. They also probably had the respect for Amma and she would pick up on any negative "vibes" from them too if there were any. So with this in mind, it made me feel safe enough to ask to be taken to Dolphin Beach and whilst I had a look around I asked the driver to wait for me and then to drop me back to the Ashram afterwards.
We drove down the small road onto the main road that ran parallel almost to the ocean and the village life on the opppsite side. It felt so fast as there was no sides to the riik shaw. I hung on and we swerved around the bends, the breeze was strong from the speed we were going. The driver beeped his horn before every bend and when every vehicle was in sight too! There were villages en route and people going about their chores and work. There doesn't seem to be a balance of work and recreation way of life here, it seems that the work ethic is more dominant. But the manner they work in is more leisurely than us. The blend of rest and work "as one!"
After about ten minutes or so we arrived at the beach. It wasn't how I had imagined it, there was an estuary to the right and some fishing boats were cruising back in. I'd say the boats were full of their catch as the eagles were hovering above and there may have been a vulture up there too.
I walked past this sight and wondered towards the side where there was a narrow sand strip.The waves were strong here, I'd heard that it was dangerous to swim here.
A stray dog started to follow me, it had a bad eye full of pus. I was wary of rabies and didn't want it to get near me. I tried not to give it any eye contact and kept changing my direction of walking to lose him. But everytime I changed my direction it would change his too. I couldn't shake him off. There weren't many people here either so it was only me in sight for now. I was starting to worry as I didn't want to agitate him in anyway. I just wanted to get back on the rik shaw and be gone.
A young couple came walking along and the dog started to follow them instead, so I managed to get away.
I didn't really see alot of the beach because of the dog but someone had said you are likely to see dolphins here, hence the name!
I took a couple of photos and hopped back onto the rik shaw with relief that I asked him to wait as there weren't any other rik shaws or vehicles in sight.
Back we went to the Ashram and I was actually pleased to be back. It started to feel so familiar here, like home.
I went to the internet office and messaged Meg and Fay back home, all was good there.
Then I walked to Amma's gift shop in the Temple and asked if I could do Seva here this afternoon.
They gratefully accepted. I worked on the door, I had to make sure people took their shoes off to enter and to leave their bags outside too. They were only allowing 20 people in at a time as it was a small space inside. So I would be counting people in and out, greeting them and saying goodbye and thanking them. It wasn't difficult but really sociable and I enjoyed meeting certain faces I had seen in and around the Ashram. Everyone was friendly, grateful and obliging when asked to leave their shoes and bags outside with me. It was such an enjoyable couple of hours and whilst here I could peer down onto Amma giving Darshan here in the Temple today.
Once the Seva had finished I went to the Ayreveda Shop to buy some gifts to take home and took them back to my room.
I then walked down to the beach and took off my shoes down there and paddled in the sea. The water felt so creamy, like soft syrup in texture, it was so unusual to feel this.
After I sat back on a rock and let me feet dry off and then wondered up to get Darshan from Amma.
Beforehand, whilst waiting to see her I immersed myself into a prayer and asked for some help as whilst staying here, I could see more where I needed help in my self growth and what holds me back in areas of my life.
Apparently Amma can feel your help through prayer and to ask for help is being humble. We can't control everything in life, as we know.
Afterwards, I went to the Western Cafe and met up with some familiar faces, I could feel a strong inner joy whilst being here and I realised it was a different feeling than I felt previous to having Darshan and my prayer. I questioned this feeling with the wonder of it being Amma"s help, my mind saw it could be a number of factors - was it being in the company with these friendly people right now or even was it a feeling of excitement of going home soon to see my family or just the appreciation of being here and being more present in my awareness. I felt it all and grateful that whatever it was I was in the experience of joy.
I was in bed just after 10 pm.
Thursday 6th September.
I woke early in time for the yoga class this morning and had breakfast afterwards.
There in the Western Cafe, I met up with two male visitors here at the Ashram.They told me yesterday of the places I should visit before I go home, which is tomorrow!
So after breakfast today they kindly took me to see a Temple which is situated on the outer edges of the Ashram.
To get there you have to walk past some village houses nearby the Ashram's gardens and the backwaters too.
We walked along a pathway through some houses and past a small river where there were some unusual birds swimming on the water, an eagle flying above and further along, a small calf sitting in some long grass enjoying the shade.
Some of the local villagers were working on their house doing some brick laying. I saw they were measuring up using a long piece of string instead of a measuring tape.The work they were doing looked superb even though their tools looked basic. In this heat too they would persevere.
As we approached one particular house, one of the men I was with said they had remembered this house was very basic not so long ago and now it looked so luxurious. Each year they try to improve their homes to bring them up to a higher level of standard. I couldn't believe that this house ever looked any different, you could not see any trace of what it was like beforehand.
We walked around some bends and passed a house where Amma's cousins lived as well.
Further along we met a fellow resident who was walking back to the Ashram, she had been doing her Seva in the Ashram's garden. She was wearing her long white clothes but they were now brown and stained from the earth. She looked so hot and this was an early morning shift she had done. The temperature and humidity really hadn't yet got up to it's maximum today either. I had heard it was fun doing the gardening but hard work.
We had planned to visit the garden and the resident elephant as well, as it would be nearby. I was excited to experience both as you know I am in awe of elephants and the gardens I heard were heavenly.
But first we stopped by to visit the Temple, there were gardens around the outside which we walked through and then we entered the Temple and were greeted by the priests. Before entering all male visitors had to take their top garments off and we all had to take our shoes off.
We could see there had been an early puja ceremony this morning, where they had burnt offerings and lit candles rang bells and chanted.
Amma had many temples built so as everyone could visit regardless of caste or religion to seek Oneness, to help with overcoming the obstacles in life.
As we walked around the Temple we could stop and worship and pray and take comfort in the offerings of the ambience and from the holy elements there.
We were warmly thanked for our visit and seen off by the main gates by the priests.
It was situated so as it could be reached by many villagers living nearby. This is how Amma would serve, so as everyone had the support. There are no divisions within her eyes.
We left the Temple and walked along past the backwaters edge where I saw another boatman and his boat taxi waiting for business. It seemed as though there weren't as many using this particular one but apparently he is busy enough and had been working here for some time and had also got used to some familiar faces from the Ashram.
We were now approaching some building works and the brick work was the same colour as the Ashram, with the familiar pinkish hue. Amma's Ashram buildings were all this colour, interestingly matching the hue of sunset and sunrise. They had the same familiarity as all the buildings in the Ashram and a healing quality too.
I was informed that this was an addition to Ashram accomodation being built here. It was big and a few floors high and amongst green foliage overlooking the backwaters.
The elephant was nearby eating palm leaves that were picked and put on the ground. She is called Lakshmi and is a teenager now. She was an orphaned elephant and very young when she came to the Ashram. One of the male visitors who was with me today said he used to play catch with her when she was a "toddler." He would throw a palm branch to her and she would catch it in her trunk and then throw it back. She often visits the Ashram and takes part in many puja ceremonies and symbolises Ganesh.
We didn't stay long as the person who was looking after her said not to go near her as she was eating.
We walked into the heavenly gardens and before you enter there was a small sign post saying if you use your senses you can see, hear, smell, touch the joy of divine creation here.
And oh my.... yes you could!!!! It was divine here. Every flower showed it's perfection and individual beauty, the leaves were interesting, so beautiful, many patterns, colours, twists, turns, heights, shapes and sizes.There were an abundance of towering trees offering some shade, underneath one palm leaf there was a bees nest tucked in close. Birds and butterflies sweeping by.
I really didn't want to leave...... there were some hidden seating areas where you could sit and "just be" This was a place where you could easily connect to nature, God ,Oneness and Bliss...
It made it very clear to me being here that in every creature or in anything of nature is a creative force that comes alive just as this universe has been created to an "aliveness". This is one of those places that really hits the "realisation button."
We didn't see the gardens where the vegetables were grown as one of the male visitors had his mobile phone with him and he got a call from one of Amma's Swamis.
The Swami said that there was going to be a wedding taking place in the Ashram today and could he be there to take some photos.
So we quickly got back and bought a pineapple juice from the juice stall to rehydrate as it had got so hot already and was probably only eleven in the morning and we all departed from our morning visit with eachother.
I then decided to sit in the main hall and watch the wedding ceremony. It was a small sized family compared to how big their families are over here.
The couple getting married offered eachother many gifts and each one was blessed by Amma.
There was alot of cheer and laughter throughout the ceremony between themselves and Amma.They gave alot of gold to eachother as well as garlands. The gifts were in abundance. Amma blessed them together as a couple and all their family were blessed too.
Afterwards they would have photographs taken around the beautiful sites of the Ashram grounds. It was so light hearted and enjoyable to watch.
I went off to my room to do some packing as today was my last day here. I took off my bedding sheets and took them back to the laundry office and got my deposit back.
That really made me feel strange as it felt like this was the end of an era being here and that I may not experience this again. I pondered this as I walked over to get some lunch.
I sat with the French lady who wore bright coloured clothes and flowers in her hair. (She is a trained Psychotherapist but only worked in casual jobs to earn enough money to come and stay here for a spell of time, a few times a year.)
We chatted alot over lunch about the integrity of yoga teachers, funnily enough. I don't know how we got onto the subject but she said she knew a teacher who was very humble and true to the yoga philosophy principles. She would never speak bad of anyone who didn't have the same qualities as she had. She did her work and would help others without any grimace. She would welcome anyone into her house and feed them. Her children would come home from school often and find a stranger at their table. She would speak to a homeless person and invite them home and let them have a bath, give them clean clothes to wear, feed them and help them on their independent way again and yet still keep in touch with them. She never had any bad experiences with these people either, which could have been a concern with having children too.
Apparently she has now passed on and she died so peacefully, chanting whilst she left her body without showing any sadness or grief, her family surrounding her.
This French lady relayed that "she knew there was nothing to be afraid of and not to be sad at this moment of departure" Her words were strong and powerful and she was only telling the story to me.
I told her it was my last day here and I was pleased to have met her. She asked for my contact details which I gave her. Whatever happens in life, you never forget certain people you meet along the way regardless of seeing them again or not, it didn't matter.
I left her to message Meg and Fay one last time from the internet office before I depart for home. I tell them I'm looking forward to seeing them, which was so true!
After I went to Amma's old house, the cow shed to meditate one more time and I meditated on the mantra Amma gave me whilst I was here. Again it was always so powerful here, I wish I could have bottled this power up and bring it home for you to experience (or maybe you already experience this power, Im not to know) but for me it's never been this intense as it was here.
After I finished the mantra meditation I went back to take a shower and write a letter to my room mate. She had gone away for a few days out of the Ashram to get away from some people she had found really annoying and needed a break from them.
I wasn't sure if I would see her before I left as my taxi was picking me up at 11.30 pm tonight. I wrote a letter saying how much I had enjoyed her company even though I hadn't seen her that regularly or even in daylight!
I finished writing the letter and went down to the main hall for the last Darshan.
I arrive at the line and bump into my room mate! Of all the people here and with the rare chance of seeing her after her trip away, we couldn't believe the coincidence. It was so lovely to see her and have the chance to say our goodbyes rather than leaving a scribbled note on the floor of the room.
We sat next to eachother whilst we waited for Darshan. She started to tell me why she had left for a few days and how she wanted to get away from some people she had found annoying in the friendship group she had met with, whislt being here.
She left the Ashram with two others and stayed in a resort down the coast only to find that the people she had been trying to dodge were also staying there at the same resort too. She said there was no way that these others knew that she was going there. This was the sort of coincidences that were occurring here in the Ashram all the time. I had heard other exepeirences too. Similar with my phone constantly freezing...all what was occurring was actually our lessons to learn. As they say "you can't run away from your problems they will only come after you"
My room mate said she had also felt left out with the two she went away with. She felt they left her out somewhat, of the trio. She had tried to bring it up with them and they said that if she felt uncomfortable then she must have the problem and not them. She told me she felt so bad and wanted to come and see Amma for some Darshan.
We talked alot and she told me how she had lost her father when she was only four years old and it had been only her and her mother as a family. Her mother didn't speak much of her loss or loneliness and they have done so well in life but she says being strong is all she knew and she questioned if that was right or not.
I felt a close bond with her and felt it right to say that it's okay to not feel right in a group here and maybe to do more inner work. Even Amma says to stay away from certain people. After a while we both became quiet and there wasn't that embarrassing silent feeling between us. There was just contentment there. We both had our Darshan and left but before going, she bought me some prasaad (blessed sweets) to take home for Meg and Fay, it was so lovely of her. We hugged tightly and said our goodbyes.
I left her and went to have dinner at the Western Cafe where I had a veggie burger and it was the best I've ever tasted. I sat with some people I knew and it felt so different, probably because it was my last meal. But I was sat with a couple from America and a Canadian too, and it felt like we were just socialising in a holiday resort and swapping stories and experiences of life.
I left whist conversation was in full swing, I didnt want to make a big thing about leaving so I just quickly said my goodbyes and went straight to my room to have a quick nap before my taxi arrived...
Friday 7th September.....leaving to go home..
Late Friday evening, the last person I managed to speak with was the Swiss girl who had been like my guardian angel throughout this journey.
Just before going back to my room to have a small nap and collect my bags for the taxi I walked down the long line of people waiting for Darshan. I saw her sitting about half way down and grabbed hold of her hands and told her how much I appreciated her friendliness and guidance throughout my time here. We both hugged eachother and said our farewells. It felt like I was saying goodbye to a really close friend. Neither one of us asked for contacts to keep in touch. We both knew deep down if we were meant to cross paths again, then it would happen. We cling to people already in life and experiencing less attachments here in the Ashram were already having an effect on me. It felt right to leave it where it was.
I was pleased that I had seen her to say goodbye, anyway.
I went back to my room and had my last nap on the matress on the floor and set my alarm to wake up just before 11pm. The taxi was picking me up at 11.30 pm.
I was frightened of over sleeping and of course didn't allow myself to go too deep into sleep. I really wanted to just get going now.
I was apprehensive about my journey home. I was having to travel in the night by taxi to Cochin airport which was north of the Ashram via the flooded regions.The airport had now reopened. My original ticket was to arrive in Cochin and depart from here too. But because of the bad flooding just before I was due to arrive I had to change my arrival airport to Trivandrum which was South of the Ashram. There were bad land slides and riverbanks had broken open, houses had fallen away into the mud. Lives had been lost it was devastating.
Amma had sent help to these people quicker than the government and was still helping in many ways. She has since heard there had been outbreaks of allsorts of disease, crocodiles were within the areas, rats, yet alone no food, clothing etc. She had been working around the clock helping set up funds, shelters, doctors on boats.
Anyway, others had left the Ashram to travel to the airport and had no problem so it will be fine I'm sure.
I got down to the main entrance and the taxi driver was there already waiting for me.
In I got and off we went....very quickly!
In actual fact it was "crazy fast!" The roads had bumps and holes anyway and so many bends through some villages. So I really didn't feel as though I was sat completely in one place for very long. I slid from one place to the other on the back seat. I just tried to "go with it and not become tense.
It had started to rain as well. We were driving through wet flooded areas and mud. It was dark and I couldn't see too much which could be an omen for my worried mind.
We travelled on roads that were single lanes but the driver often drove on the other side overtaking another car that was already overtaking. We were often driving three deep! How all three cars manage to get back into one lane when a car's headlights were facing us and not too far away, I will never know.
I tried not to look and kept my faith. It's as though they think for others aswell as themselves on the road to keep everyone safe. They are definitely quick thinkers and act quickly too.
About an hour into the journey, he pulled the taxi over to a road side. I look around us to see where we are. There are some small hut type buildings. He said he needed a "pee pee" and coffee. He asked if I wanted a coffee. I said no. So I stayed in the taxi while he left for about 20 minutes. He did his "pee pee" on the roadside! He then walked across the road into a cafe. I was grateful he was getting caffeine to keep him awake.
He came back and we eventually get onto the dual carriage way and motorway. However we still swerved and the horn was beeped at every available moment to warn others of him overtaking and undertaking or cutting in.
I started to see some sign posts for the airport, I felt relieved.
We arrived at the airport at 1.45 am. I go inside to see that I can't check in until 3.30.am. I was told by the Ashram to leave four hours to get to the airport so we must have been lucky with the roads and traffic.
The airport was basic and I would prbabably compare the size of it to Exeter airport. It was basic, clean and functional. I found a seat and managed to curl up on it and slept with my feet ontop of my case and used my hand luggage bag as a pillow. I slept well and managed to feel abit more awake afterwards. It wasnt long until we could check in. There were a few more single men passengers and families around me now. I noticed they travel with so many bags. On my return ticket I was allowed 40 kg on the way back but only 20kg out to India. They were definitely using up their quota on Kgs!
It was time to check in and we had to scan our bags and suitcases first and then go to the ticket desk to check in with our passport.Then through security and a passport check again by a security officer in uniform.
Then we had to line up and put our hand luggage through the scanning machine and the men and women separated and individually we had to go into a booth to be hand searched and with a scanner. Our passports were looked at again here.
After we came out we had to wait a long time to get our hand luggage off the conveyor belt from being scanned. They were very thorough even though they were slow.
I retrieved my belongings and walk into the departure lounge which was not very big and it overlooked the runway. I could see a cafe to the side of the lounge. I had some money left so I bought a chai tea and a cake to go on with. I then went to the seats and again drifted off to the most peaceful sleep even though it had started to get really busy around me. I woke up and it was soon time to be boarding.
This was going so smooth, I thought. I got up and stood in line and realised I was getting some glances my way. Looking around I realised I was the only white person here and the only woman on my own. Interesting!
I boarded the plane and was sitting in a window seat..The outside was still dark as it was a 5.45 am flight.
We took off and headed up along the east coast side of the country up to Mumbai. The morning light was starting to come through and I could look down and see the flooded areas. The river banks were no longer, instead there looked to be the size of big lakes covering the villages. The water looked brown. I felt for these people and I only knew a little of what the circumstances were down there.
The flight wasn't very long and we landed in Mumbai.
I knew my way around abit at this airport so when I came off the plane I walked over to the first security check in line and into the departure area where all the lovely shops, cafes, bars and restaurants were. Everything dazzled with colour and inviting appearances. I really felt somewhat on a different side of experiencing it all. I didn't feel the draw to go in and try anything or look at any of the shops. I walked through and glanced at it all and felt detached from it and yet appreciated the ambience.I did have a bit of change left over to use up and wanted to take some chai tea back to England. I went onto a Tea Shop and was talked through the different flavours there were. I settled with a bag which seemed to have all the flavours that were traditional.
I still had some change left over so I went to their Starbucks and treated myself to my last chai tea before leaving. I took it to sit down in the last departure seating area and drank the cup down slowly, really relishing the flavour and smoothness. It felt like it had a calming effect on the system and didn't fill you up too much.Just enough!
We were called up to get on the place via seat numbers and I was in the first batch on. I had already chosen my seat at the back of the plane in a window seat.There was an Indian man sitting next to me who acknowledged me with a kind smile. He seemed to know his boundaries more than the man I sat with coming out from Heathrow. The other man was Indian and asked me lots of questions about my trip which was fine but I felt it too much when he started to take selfies on his mobile phone and directed his lens to include me and then sent them on his instagram. I soon realised and he would do one after the other to try and get me in the background. Each time his mobile was held up at the angle he needed I would turn to look out of the window on purpose .He kept this up for about five minutes and in the end he either stopped or gave up.I felt it humiliating and I didn't speak with him again throughout the long flight.
So I was aware that I could have a man that felt it polite to speak or to get to know me. This particular man was a gentleman and was a very quiet and yet accommodating passenger to sit next to when I needed to go to the bathroom on a couple of occasions. We both ate and slept and did bathroom visits... no awkwardness experienced.
We were approaching the coastline towards Heathrow and I recognised the sea windmills in the sea which were just off the coast of Brighton. It seemed strange to see the difference of the view below especially when we were coming down low over London city. There is always a sense of pride within when I see the historical buildings here and the magic London holds. I notice the weather, athough it is warm for this time of the year I feel grateful it's alot cooler and with no humidity as well. I was defintely looking forward to feeling fresher in my clothes and not sweating and having to wear such long garments to cover the body.
We get off the plane and head for passport control and whilst waiting there I was asked by an Indian man how I felt because he noticed that all eyes were on me because I was the "alien" (the only white woman and travelling alone) on both plane journeys. I laughed and said yes I did realise and did wonder why everyone was staring. He said he noticed everyone looking too. He.asked where I was travelling to in England and wished me well on my journey home.
I got my suitcase quickly.and picked up the courtesy bus to my car which was in the long stay car park. (Heathrow)
Back behind my wheel I began to drive home. En route,I came to realise I was at such ease with the driving. Usually my shoulders start to tighten and one buttock cheek usually goes tight and then numb. I was driving and was at one with it with no thoughts about danger on the roads or feelings about getting home quicker to see the family. The difference was so recognisable and so much so that I didn't recognise myself. I did wonder if it was because I had been in the back of the taxi in India thinking in a minute I'm dead. And the way we drive over here in England was peaceful compared to the Indians. I don't know why, but I felt very present too, very much "in the moment"
However it was what it was and now I had alot to process from my trip.
Writing this blog has given me another chance of experiencing it all again.
I have remembered so much and have been asked if it was because I had written alot down in my journal? I wrote down snippets and the memories have flooded back so easily since writing this blog.
I felt daunted about being asked to write a blog as some of you know that I never was good at English Language at school and had to take my GCSE O Level five times! Even though I had passed all of my other O Levels, I could not pass this one. My dad asked if he was buying the Oxford Board as he had to keep writing cheques for my each and every attempt.
So I would like to thankyou for asking me and getting me to do this.
It will be on my website forever. I would have liked to have read someone's blog on their stay at this Ashram before I went. There isn't much out there on the internet. I appreciate that it is a personal experience and everyone's will be so different. But it may help to encourage anyone to go one day.
I do have some notes on a lecture I went to on the teachings behind the Bhagavadgita. I will post these soon.