‘I am so blissfully at peace’. This was my thought as I sat at the edge of the ashram staring at the rolling waters of the Ganges one last time. Taking in the white caps as the rapids broke over the “turquoise” blue water that was unlike any other blue I had seen before. Turquoise doesn’t aptly describe it. I understood in that moment why some yogis ran off to mountains to live a life of solitude. It is so much easier to create less noise when you have less stuff, when you have less connections. I also understood in that moment that honestly I could live without the connections that I have, but that I don’t want to. I had been too often reminded of the power of sharing energy here.
Phool Chatti Ashram granted me so much by allowing me to have so very little. Peace of mind, gratitude, appreciation, awareness, understanding of my own inner strength are just a few gifts I received while there. These words will be a little more personal to me, less about trying to share a teaching lesson, but since some of you may wonder like I did what ashram life is like, that is my motivation for sharing.
It was uncomfortable. Or at least it was at first for me. I have a lot more than many on this planet and I realized how many of those luxuries I take for granted and how many of them I could do without if I needed to or had no other choice. My new shower and tub was a small bucket and cup, but I was grateful to have hot water. I realized how little space we actually need to shower and how mindlessly I use water. I savored every single drop here because there was not much of it available. How many of us take for granted being able to turn on the tap, get water and actually be able to drink it or brush our teeth with it safely? You can’t do that here and so many places around the world. How ridiculous is that? How often do we forget to recognize what a gift it is that we do? Gratitude. I’ll admit I’m a picky eater. I have the luxury of making choices of what I buy, cook and order. Not here. You can’t run out to the store. You can’t ask them to make something special for you because you think you’re special. I ate things that I will probably never know what they were. Things I have outright refused to in the past and guess what? I learned to like things I never thought I would. Porridge with honey? I almost gagged the first morning. (I’m a weird food texture girl). Day 3, I was going back for second helpings. I realized how in a box my preferences kept me and how much I was limiting myself. And I know that pattern often goes way beyond food for me. How limiting we can be on ourselves with our supposed dislikes and likes. How much we miss out on experiencing because we have the option to say yes or no. Awareness. There were many other things; always damp sheets, a bucket washing machine, scorpions and lizards as roommates, no air conditioning, just to name a few that made me see how damn lucky I am to have what I have. Appreciation.
It was energizing. There was a beautiful connection to earth and to the other humans there that happens in the silence that we lived in. I’m usually a night owl, but there's something satisfying to wake up at 5:30am and slowly rise to life as the sun does and to go all day until 9pm and slowly drift to sleep as the darkness envelops the space around you. There is a beautiful connection to earth as you bathe in the water of the Ganges and she refreshes and soothes the heat and fire you contain. There is a beautiful connection to another human as you sit along side them and eat in silence, as you practice along them in silence, as you meditate along them in silence, as you walk and clean and do everything along them in silence. There was this ability to sit with, share, and absorb their energy and not be uncomfortable. To not have to fill the space like we often try to do. We could all just be. There was a beautiful connection as we joined vibrations and voices with each other while chanting and practicing kirtan for hours. There have been studies that show that we can affect the energy of another human. There was literally a buzz in my body when we shared those times of organized sound. It has happened every time I’ve taken part in chanting and kirtan at festivals or chant groups. I’m often brought to tears, to laughter, to joy and to dance. It can be the weirdest and most self conscious thing to do for the first time or the fiftieth and you may think you aren’t doing it right, but if you can let that go, it can be some of the most profound moments of connection you ever have. And you never have to say a word to anyone else, but you know them. Connection. It is so delicious.
It was peaceful. There is something to be said for the removal of noise. Cell phones, television, radio, internet, most of technology in fact. Even books in my case. I did no reading, although I did a lot of journaling. I was so calm when I didn’t fall into my sometime stories of comparing myself to others’ online lives. When I didn’t worry about having to keep a presence so that my students won’t forget who I am and I will still have a job when I get back. When I didn’t mindlessly stare at some screen and create some story about who they are or who I’m not and what I have or don’t have. I was so in the present because there was nothing to distract me away. Tasting each bite of food, seeing each butterfly drift by, hearing the always present gurgle of the Ganges, feeling each asana to the fullest, and smelling the muskiness of the incense. Presence.
Finally gratitude. Trust me, I know I am lucky that I got to leave my life back home for this time and dive into this experience and all the experiences that I do. Gratitude that I have the willingness to dive into uncomfortable situations and things. That I don’t shy away anymore. Gratitude that despite break downs and set backs at times in my life, I have an inner strength that gets me through. Gratitude that I have people back home who support and love me while I am doing these silly things that I do, especially my mom, who puts up with and spoils my crazy dogs. Gratitude for things that make life easier; clean drinking water, washer/dryer, heat/air, my local coffee shop, lol. That make life not as sufferable, but yet me and you often still find things to create drama and stir up shit about. Gratitude that I am in now a much more peaceful, content and strong place so that I can say fuck it when need be, that I don’t have to give my control to others to tell me what to do or who to be anymore.
Yoga has been my spiritual path. It’s not a religion the way I practice it since I don’t prescribe to any and never have, but it became much less about asana or doing anything the right way a long time ago. It has and still is my path to be a better person, a stronger person, a more content person and more at peace. My experience in India just helped solidify that I always have work to be done, but damn, I am in a much more solid place than the almost 7 years ago I began this new journey.
So, that’s it. A little narrative about me and my own experience with ashram life. If you have any questions, feel free to leave a comment here or email me. If you have any thoughts, critiques or criticisms, do the same. I am forever a student. If you ever wanna meet and chat about life, or yoga or anything, let’s do that. Let’s connect and much gratitude if you got this far.
I'll have more of my pictures from India, Rishikesh, Thailand and Bali on my Facebook page. Link is here on my site. Go check them out if you'd like :)