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Posts Tagged ‘community’

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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A Heartfelt Goodbye

Have you ever had one of those moments when all of a sudden you realize that exactly what you’ve been searching for was always right in front of you? It’s like when there’s a word on the tip of your tongue; you know that the word’s obvious, and you know that you know what it is, and yet you just can’t think of it.

Last night I had one of those moments. My mother invited the family over our house for finger food and dessert so that I’d have a chance to say goodbye to everyone. Her side of the family was always big; there are always over twenty people at our family gatherings and upwards of thirty at Christmas. I’ve taken to calling it the ‘Crotti Clan’ in my head. We’ll all have dinner together whenever there’s an excuse to, although it’s hard for me to make them when I’m away at school. All of these people came over my house last night just because they wanted to see me one last time before I left for eight months, to let me know that I would be missed. Many of them used this as their last chance to ask me not to go, even though they all knew that I still would. Last night I realized that being asked not to go is one of the best ways to be told that you’re loved.

Sometimes I dread coming home to Scranton. I miss my bike. I detest having to drive everywhere. I’m the only person in Borders Café who insists on having her coffee in a mug instead of a paper cup. I’m out of my element. But my family is the exception to that. I know that they don’t agree with a lot of what I do (whether it’s being vegetarian or living on an ecovillage in India), but they care enough to ask why I do it, and even if they don’t agree with me, they still support me.

The irony is that I’m going to India to search for the secrets to community when so many of the answers are right here. The bond that holds my family together transcends blood ties. No matter what I do, who I become, or where I go, I know that my cousins and aunts and uncles will always be there for me if I ever need them. It gives me the strength to be who I am. I am incredibly blessed to have such a close family. Like I said though, our bonds transcend blood. Maybe this is part of the reason I’m searching for a lifestyle that makes it easier to create relationships like these. I want everyone to be able to feel like I did last night, to be able to leave a place knowing that they will be missed, and that there will be people who love them dearly waiting patiently for their return.

The Cousins of the Crotti Clan, at my Uncle Jack and Aunt Rosie's house for Christmas

The Cousins of the Crotti Clan, at my Uncle Jack and Aunt Rosie's house for Christmas

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