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Posts Tagged ‘ashram’

Meditation

There are about an even mix of foreigners (mostly Europeans, Americans, Australians) and Indians here, but it’s the amount of foreigners that amaze me. This ashram holds a Hindu temple. It follows the Hindu religion. And yet it is open to people who have no interest in Hinduism whatsoever. It seems as if many people come here for the meditation and spirituality, for the inner silence that we all can reach if we just sit and stop thinking about every little thing.

That’s what I’ve been doing here mostly. You can call it meditation, silence, introspection, relaxation. It’s as if I’ve found something that’s so missing in the goal-oriented West. When your life is always about achieving something or attaining something, how can you ever live in the moment?

There was one exercise in the Meditation Class I took here that really stuck with me. Everyone in the class got up and just walked. We were supposed to focus only on our footsteps, walking slowly at first and then slower and slower and slower. As I focused on how my foot felt when it touched the ground, and then how my calf muscle felt when it slowly pushed away, there was no room in my mind for worry.

I know this sounds incredibly cliché, but since I’ve come here I feel so much lighter. I’ve approached everything here with an open mind and that was the essential first step. I’m still not completely sure what meditation’s all about, but when I sit here on the beach and try to let all stray thoughts slip from my mind just as the waves recede back out to the sea, I kind of get it. I feel how I’m connected to all of the trees and grass and people around me, and it brings peace into the knot in my chest where anxiety usually sits. It’s difficult to explain, because I’m just beginning to think about it in this way. But I’ll keep meditating and I’ll keep trying. For anyone else who’s interested, I recommend the walking meditation. You never know what you can realize about yourself.

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The Ashram

The posts have been sparce lately because I’ve been at Amma’s Ashram in Amritapuri on the Keralan coast.  Internet time here is limited to half an hour and I’ve been spending most of my time learning about meditation and observing the fascinating community that’s grown up around this woman.

There’s more community here than I ever felt at Auroville.  Whether this is because of the size of the ashram- thanks to ashramites being housed in high rises, you can walk from one side to the other in less than five minutes- or because of the common devotion to Amma that everyone here shares, I don’t know.  But I had a conversation with an ashramite who said that she’d lived in communities her whole life and now has been living here at this ashram for five years.  One of the major difference between ecovillages and ashrams is that there’s no consensus.  Amma has the last word on everything, period.  There’s no mediated discussion or talk of how the community will grow, but then most people only spend a few months here and then go home.  They don’t live here permanently, and their purpose for being here is inner spiritual growth, not socializing.  Although plenty of socializing does go on (something this woman complained about).

When I left Auroville, Priya left me with a nugget of wisdom: For a community to be successful, it needs to be united by work.  At this ashram, there’s a practice called ‘seva’ where everyone does two hours of volunteer work a day.  Seva varies from washing dishes to doing laundry to working in the recycling shop. Priya’s words seem to ring true here, where everyone is on the same level, working together and contributing to the ashram.

The environmental awareness within these walls is also pleasantly surprising.  The recycling is sophisticated- with food waste collected separately and everyone encouraged to use reusable bottles and bags.  Signs about conserving water and energy abound in the visitor dorms.  The ecology center shows environmental films twice a week.  Though this is a place for spiritual growth, awareness of our connection to nature seems to be a big part of it.

Well, I need to run!  I’ll be at the ashram for a while longer, and will try to post about some of the really interesting things I’m learning here.

Until next time.

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