Greetings again from India. Sending warm sunny vibes to wherever you are in the world.
Three weeks into ashram life. I’m really getting into my seva serving chai in a morning. I also serve filter coffee, and other teas. There’s another window people go to for the fancy coffees (cappuccino, Americano etc), I’m not advanced enough for that yet! It’s really nice doing this thing in a morning – greeting everyone with a smile for 2 hours leaves me smiling for the rest of the day. Just as I started doing this seva I was reading a book (Blink, by Malcolm Gladwell) which reminded me about the physiological effects of our facial expressions on our mood – when we feel happy we smile, when we smile we feel happy.
I notice not everyone in the ashram smiles – some people come to my chai window in a morning looking a bit grumpy, in need of their coffee, chai or tulsi tea to pick them up. Others come frustrated with the system – you queue to pay and then bring your token to get your beverage of choice, possibly needing to queue again! The ashram teaches patience in that respect! A smile costs nothing and can help lift someone’s mood. You might never know the effect that your smile has on someone’s day. And who doesn’t want to feel happier? I on a mission to infect the ashram with smiling. There are some that know this secret already – Hari at the coconut stall, every day he has a smile on his face as he chops the coconuts for their water; The chai-wallah – proper Indian chai poured from a great height to mix the tea and milk (maybe I’ll graduate to that one day!); the Indian snack man serving sweet treats in a morning – this has now become my regime before my seva in a morning – chai and a slice of banana cake or a sweet banana fritter type thing!
Other news this week – I have found a little bit of beach where you can get down to the water and swim in the sea – hurrah. I go there most days after my chai stint. It’s really nice bobbing about in the warm salty water, especially after I’ve been standing for a couple of hours, it’s like a big warm salt bath!
My study this month has been about weakness of will and I have been thinking about it in relation to morning practice. As I said in my last update it is definitely easier getting up in a morning here – it’s warm, I don’t need to think too much about what to wear, the temple is only a 5-minute walk away, the laundry roof for my sunrise practice is just 3 floors down from my room. Some mornings though I wake up and think how little sleep I’ve had and, as I get used to the noise of the birds and the fishing boats, could just stay in bed for a few more hours. I could say to myself there are plenty of mornings ahead that I could practice. But I remember that practice requires consistency, and habit makes it so much easier. Some philosophers say that weakness of will doesn’t exist, rather that we fail to take account of the relative size of the immediate pleasure vs the longer term pain. I think this is true in some instance and we need to keep focussed on the longer term gain. Others suggest that we are just very good at revising our options – this seems a bit of a get out to me! A further idea is that when we are tired and our resources are depleted we switch from consciously making decisions to acting unconsciously out of habit and familiarity. The good news is though that we can anticipate when this might happen and put strategies in place to help us – e.g. getting organised the night before so you can just roll out of bed onto your yoga mat! So this week I want you to focus on the longer terms gains of anything you are trying to achieve to keep yourself motivated and strong-willed. The more we do this the stronger we become mentally so it’s a win-win. And if you can do it with a smile on your face…….. all the better 🙂