Tag Archives: ashram

Locked Down in Paradise

It is now 4 months since I arrived in India.  January seems like an age ago and it feels like I have been here forever. My plan had been 3 months here & see what it leads to……hmmmm!  When I arrived the ashram was very busy getting ready for Amma’s South India Tour, then it was really quite for a few weeks with so many people away for the tour.  Mid-February the numbers had swelled again as the tour returned and then March numbers started to gradually dwindle as new visitors were no longer allowed into the ashram.  Mid-March we were only allowed to go out of the ashram for essentials – the bank or pharmacy – but we could still go across the road to the beach.  Then complete lockdown, across the whole of India.  The ashram closed its doors completely to all but supplies.  Over the last month there’s been a further dwindling of numbers as people take repatriation flights back to their home countries.

I now haven’t been out of the ashram for 2 whole months.  Fortunately, the ashram is large enough that there is space for everyone to move around – maybe not with a 2metre distance – and there is sunshine, amazing views over the backwaters and to the sea and we have delicious food (I haven’t cooked a meal in 4 months!).  Whilst I can’t go anywhere I am not considering myself ‘stuck’ here.  Anything but.  I feel very blessed indeed to be here at this time.  Amma normally has a very busy tour schedule and is not usually at the ashram for long periods of time so to have this time is truly a gift.  I have been learning loads, being completely immersed in Eastern philosophy, the Bhagavad Gita and vedanta and also finishing off my Psychology and Philosophy degree with the Open University – thankyou coronavirus for my end of module assignments being cancelled!  Lockdown gave me time to focus on my last two assignments over April.

Ashram life is not all love and light – whilst that is what everyone is aspiring to, every day in the ashram brings you something to work on! Someone to challenge your inner peace, situations to see how you react/respond!  There are plenty of opportunities for self-development.  I’ve shared a room for most of the time here and not every roommate has seen me as a gift from the universe, likewise I’ve not seen every roommate as a gift from the universe either!  There’s also the uninvited roommates – bees, mosquitos, moths, geckos – to contend with!  And the heat.  It has been beautifully sunny but hot, and now the rainy season is definitely here.  Mother nature has been treating us to fantastic lightening shows most evenings, but now they are accompanied by torrential downpours, and they are becoming more frequent.  The downpours don’t last too long but a whole lot of water leaks out of the sky in that short time, and they are becoming more frequent.  I can see why Kerala is so green and lush.  Of course, after the downpour everything becomes humid – if you didn’t get soaked in the rain you’ll soon be soaking from the humidity after.  With that amount of rain it takes a little while for it to drain away so some wading is required too!  It’s great to see and experience the change in season and weather.  I don’t think I ever would have chosen to come to Kerala during the wet months!

I’m missing teaching and coaching.  Trying to find ways in which I can share some teaching online, however, struggling to find a place where I could film from.  My internet connection isn’t very stable either to be able to run an online class – guaranteed to have you holding plank for more than a few breaths, I’m not sure anyone is going to appreciate that!  I am still exploring though so watch this space.

I’m not sure how long I will be here for – Lockdown across India has been extended until the end of May.  There’s speculation of international flights starting back up in June – but who knows!  The Indian Government is extending visas for 30 days from when international flights resume, fortunately I haven’t needed to go through the visa extension process, so far – some people are on their third visa extension process!  It looks like I will be here for at least another month or 2!

Despite all the uncertainty I feel very content here.  It has its own craziness but it feels like being in a bubble from the rest of the craziness of the world.  We don’t know what the world will look like a week from now let alone in 6 months time but one thing is for sure – we need to get used to living with uncertainty.  Nothing is permanent, nothings stays the same for very long and we are seeing that more than ever now.  Being in the present moment and acting with compassion are therefore essential.  It’s how we should be but I know how difficult it can be, especially when there is so much fear around.  So we have to put in the practice, witness our thoughts and weed out the negative and destructive ones, adopt a mindset of curiosity rather than judgement when you do spot those negative and destructive thoughts.  Let go of the ego that wants to control so you can be more open and allow for the good stuff that is there underneath all of the madness.

Om Shanti




India is now in its third day of lockdown and the ashram is mirroring what is going on outside.  While the people in the ashram have been pretty much isolated for a while now the government and health department have concerns over the number of people here and so did an inspection today.  Checking to ensure that similar procedures are being followed to the rest of the country in lockdown. “2 metres” is becoming a new mantra!

I’ve been speaking to a few people this last week about change – we are going through a period of unprecedented change in the world just now and we need to start doing things differently.  For some, change is not comfortable but it is part of the cycle of life.  Yin and yang, as one phase ends a new phase begins.  Sometimes change is within our control, sometimes it is not.

I was speaking to one person here at the ashram, dissatisfied with her life currently and wanting a complete change.  I asked her what she was doing about changing her life – she said she couldn’t do anything.  She was due to fly back to Germany this week but due to the lockdown and cancellation of flights coming in to the country she isn’t going anywhere just yet.  So she’s frustrated, she feels stuck, she misses being able to go to the beach here too.  She’s worried about losing her job if she has to stay here longer.  I asked her what would happen if she lost her job, what would she do?  She said she would look for a new job.  I suggested that this might be an opportunity to make changes to do something different but she didn’t seem convinced!

I know so many people in similar positions, they just keep doing the same thing over and over again yet still wanting things to change.  And then something happens that forces them to make a change – some recognise that opportunity to change, others just keep on trying to do the same things and getting frustrated, angry, hankering back to the ‘good old days’

For some, they are not looking for change, they are quite content breezing through life when something forces change upon them.  Again they have two choices – some adapt, seize opportunities to do things differently, others need to be pulled along, some with gentle leading, some dragged kicking and screaming.

How do you react to change?

What is happening in the world right now is making us all sit up and take notice that things have to change.  The planet needs to take a breath and we need to think how we can do things differently so that we look after the planet and each other – live in a balance.  I am heartened to see people starting to make changes, some stepping out of their comfort zones to do so.  Businesses forced to make changes that previously they would have said weren’t possible.  But rather than just trying to live as normal a life as possible is it time to create a new normal?

I know you are already having to do things differently to normal but what are you going to consciously change or do differently this week?

How do you want your life to be?  What one thing can you do this week that makes a difference to your daily life and takes you a step closer to how you want to live your life?  Change doesn’t need to be a big bang and often isn’t.  Making one small change every week can amount to big things over time.  Times like this can feel overwhelming and like we don’t have any control but you still have so much freedom to make choices – choosing to eat healthily, making exercise or meditation part of your daily routine, learning something new.  How many times in the past have you said “I wish I had more time to do x, y or z” Now we have time at home are you using it to do any of these things?  There are so many possibilities and this is a big opportunity to shake your life up and reshape it.  Don’t just do what you’ve always done but in a slightly different way.  Take time and think, then take action rather than just reacting.

For some of you learning or developing your yoga practice has been on your list of things to do & I am delighted to see so many fantastic yoga teachers I know offering their classes online.  I know for some this has meant stepping out of their comfort zone but they are adapting and finding new ways to do things to help people maintain their practice and stay fit and healthy. I’m not able to offer classes online just at the moment (other exciting things are being worked on!) so I’ve listed some fabulous teachers below who are live streaming their classes.

For those of you reading my blog that worry about going to a class in person because you’re ‘not flexible enough’ etc, no excuses now you can try in the comfort of your own home.

Stay safe and well

Om Shanti


Yoga Classes Online:

Julie Hanson & Karen Naismith @ Seasonal Yoga Academy

Carla Webster @ Prana Yoga Studio

Alison o’Donnell – Easy like Sunday Mornings, Sundays 9.30am – Text NAMASTE to 07771 867582 & Alison will send you details

Mark RussellKridaka Yoga

Feeling Contented – Santosha

It’s a few weeks since my last update from the ashram.  I was due to be coming back to Glasgow later this month but this last week I took a decision to extend my stay here.  With so many travelers to the ashram there has been a lot of consideration about risk of coronavirus and last week the ashram stopped accepting new visitors and there is no public darshan with Amma.  This means there are a lot less people at the ashram – relatively speaking! – and so quite a unique and interesting time to be here I think.  I have been feeling like a limitless sponge over the past few weeks as I learn and experience more here and don’t feel like I’m done yet!!  So flight has been cancelled and I’m staying 🙂

I feel very fortunate to be able to stay – a lot of nationalities can only stay in India for 3 months at a time, for the UK it is 6 months.  There are a number of people that need to leave the ashram due to their visa requirements and for a while at least will not be able to come back.  As for everyone in the world it’s creating a lot of uncertainty but it’s time to put into practice putting our fears aside.

I’m missing everyone back in the UK so keep sending me your news.  It’s lovely to hear what everyone is getting up – I hear the hot topic is toilet roll shortages, please use it wisely!

We are moving into the raining season here.  There is a torrential downpour some mornings around about sunrise and it is quite humid.  I think the humidity is to increase.  When I arrived I could put laundry out to dry in the evening and it would still dry quickly, now there is a window of opportunity during the day to get it dry, if you miss this window it just stays damp!  And you have to do more laundry because it is so hot and sweaty!  The humidity is also an issue for getting my hair dry – that same window of opportunity!  It’s kind of just like being in Glasgow really but warmth with the wet!

Diet is also on my mind at the moment with me staying longer.  To be honest food is always on my mind!!  There is a lot of choice of food at the ashram – Indian and western options.  I mostly eat Indian food for lunch and dinner but I still can’t get used to curry for breakfast.  I’ve discovered ragi pancakes – ragi is a grain like millet and makes really good pancakes.  It’s got quite a lot of nutrients in it, including iron which is very much lacking in this Indian vegetarian diet.  I have it with some fruit – bananas, mango, papaya or pomegranate and some jaggery syrup.  Jaggery is used here instead of sugar but mixed in water makes it is a bit like golden syrup.  There’s plenty of lentils, chickpeas and beans in the curries but a lack of green veggies so spirulina is coming to the rescue.

In the evening you can get Dosa for dinner – a thin pancake stuffed with spiced potato curry & served with sambal (a sort of thin spicy gravy) and coconut chutney or Puri – a deep fried puffed up flatbread.  Here it is usually served with a chickpea curry.  I think Puri is absolutely my favourite thing at the moment, but it’s not the healthiest!!

There are a lot of snack options too – Samosas (yum), paneer or curry puff pastries, vada – a savoury spiced donut – I sometimes have with curry instead of rice

There is also lot of sweet food available in India but it’s very very sweet – coconut naan (a Danish pastry type thing with coconut and candied fruit. Ada – Cooked rice soaked in sweet stuff then wrapped and steamed in banana leaves.  Fortunately I don’t really like these, although I have been trying everything purely so I can tell you all about it.

Ragi Pnacakes with mango and banana


Samosa and paneer puf pastry

I would have more pictures of food but either I’ve eaten it before I remember to take a picture or it doesn’t look nearly as good as it tastes!

I have good food, sunshine and still have my comfy pillow – Santosha! (contentment)

Om Shanti


Craving silence, a comfy pillow & contentment

I’ve had to embrace earplugs this week. The constant noise through the night – birds squawking, dogs howling, fishing trawlers, doors banging, the fan whirring. I long for 8 hours of uninterrupted sleep. I long for a comfy pillow rather than my awkward combination of hard ashram pillow & meditation cushion that I currently have!  I long for just a few minutes with no noise.  There are moments of ‘quiet’ in the morning, at the beach at sunset, but when I am ready for sleep everything seems to be making a noise!  Some weeks it feels like I’m getting used to it, and then it’s like everything is conspiring to keep me awake!

Life is full of extremes – always too much or too little of something. I feel like Goldilocks this week, nothing is quite right.

There is always something we desire. The mind will seek out something that isn’t right. Some days here it is too hot, but it’s then so welcoming to feel the breeze. If I was in Scotland I would be feeling too cold & would be dreaming of sunshine, of spring, of lighter nights. Our minds will always seek out the negative if we let it, there is always something to disturb us, to stop us feeling content.

We do have a choice though, dwell on the negative, what is lacking in our lives or opt for gratitude, focus on the good aspects. Pain is a motivator to take action so it’s not about putting on a smile & white washing over the negative feelings. Recognise what you have control over – change the things you can & don’t waste energy complaining about those things if it is in your power to change them. The things we can’t change we need to learn to accept. We can complain about them over and over but it’s such a waste of energy, think about what you could use that energy for instead, what could you achieve with that additional energy.

What desires are disturbing your contentment?  What can you change and what do you need to accept let go of?

I started writing this blog on Monday & this morning (Saturday) I found a very nearly new, super comfy pillow in Ram’s bazaar – the ashrams second hand store. I am so so happy!!!

I am content – for the moment!

Om Shanti

Fi 🙂


Sunrises, sunsets & smiles

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 🙂

Om Shanti


Blue Skies & Backwaters

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.

Om Shanti