Tag Archives: kerala

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

🙂

 

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

x

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