I’ve been at the ashram for 2 weeks now – I had a few days to acclimatise myself and then I joined in a retreat for a week so it’s only just now that I’m finding the flow. It’s a lovely place. The ashram is nestled amongst the palm trees on a strip of land between the backwaters and the Arabian Sea. The sun rises over the backwaters and sets over the sea so I’ve been searching out my spots for practice. In a morning it’s the laundry roof top overlooking the backwaters for a sunrise yoga practice. In the evening it’s down to the beach for some meditation at sunset.
It’s not a quiet place – in a morning the birds are awake early making a cacophony of noise, the fishing trawlers are motoring down the backwaters heading for the sea and then there’s the sound of chanting coming from another ashram or temple across the river. The noise makes it harder to sleep in so getting up to go to the Kali Temple for 5am and chant the 1000 names of the Divine Mother is not so difficult. Getting up is the easy part –learning the 1000 names is the hard part, I’ve got a long way to go there!
The ashram has everything you need – food, snacks, a shop, laundry, fresh juice, fresh coconuts, yoga, meditation, although things are only open at set times! The ashram relies on seva – selfless service – people chipping in and helping with jobs. You can get involved with all sorts – for the first few days when I arrived I helped with food prep, chopping vegetables and then during retreat we did seva for the yoga studio. Now the retreat has finished I have a regular seva job serving chai at the café in a morning. It’s a nice seva as you get to see everyone as they come for breakfast.
The ashram is pretty relaxed at the moment while Amma is on tour in Southern India. There are less people here as a lot of people have gone on tour with her. When I say relaxed, that excludes the times when the free chai is served in the morning and afternoon – It’s a serious business getting in that queue and getting your cup or flask of chai!
My room is on the 10th floor of one of the accommodation buildings. It’s basic, shared accommodation but the room is at the end of an open corridor with a little balcony at the end where we can see out to the sea and to the backwaters. Being higher up also means there’s a nice breeze coming in off the sea. It’s pretty warm otherwise, 25-30C. I think it gradually gets hotter as we progress towards March/April time and then it gets wet and humid. Apologies to those of you in Scotland reading this – I believe it’s been pretty wet/snowy this last week!
There’s a bridge over the river into a small town – I’ve only ventured over as far as the ATM so will update you further on that when I’ve explored more. You can walk over the bridge or you can get a boat over. There’s a motorised boat or a traditional hand-poled boat. I opted to come back via the hand-poled boat, I did think I might end up swimming part of the way – it wasn’t the most robust looking of boats it has to be said, but the old Indian man knew the flow of the waters well to get into just the right spots to help guide the boat across to the other side!
There’s a real mix of people here – people who live permanently in the ashram, renunciates, people staying for a few months and people just staying a day or two. People from all nationalities, all ages, people visiting for the first time and people who have visited many times. It makes for interesting people to chat to and who knows whether your paths will cross again in the future.
It’s time to go get in the 4pm chai queue so I’ll leave you with this brief insight into ashram life & hope to be sharing further updates over the coming weeks.