I have been spending most of my time on play related activities. As most of you know, I worked on sewing the costumes for a while and then switched to backdrops. I did not attend many play practices early on because there were so many different groups rehearsing throughout the day. I eventually asked Chaitanya which would be the best ones for me to attend. I went often enough to know that it was a powerful play, one that brought up so many emotions in me, mostly tears of one sort or another but also plenty of laughter. During one practice, I was crying and looked to the right and left of me and saw that all of the people nearby were crying as well. This play hits deep. (For those of you who don’t know, it is about the life of St. Francis of Assisi.)
The last three days, they have been practicing the play as a whole and I have attended all of those rehearsals. The first and third time was in the yoga studio and the second and fourth was on the stage in the big auditorium. They used all of the backdrops during the stage practices. The series of backdrops I’ve worked on are just plain, some are black and some are white, but there are MANY scene backdrops that are painted. Those are stunning.
The last time I wrote about this project (One Minute, One Hour, One Day at a Time) I was elated that all of the backdrops I had made were completed in a very different way than I had expected. Well the story didn’t end there!
That same night, I was given instructions to shorten all of the backdrops and to extend one from 20 feet to 34 feet. That necessitated me going back to Karunagappolly to get more fabric. After the additional material was added and it was time for me to shorten them, I decided to just pin the hem in case something else needed to be changed after the first stage practice. That was a very good decision because when we tried them out for the first time, it was obvious that the design didn’t work! That practice started at 10 p.m. and lasted until 2:00 a.m. I could see that big changes were needed, so I stayed until the end so I could find out what Chaitanya wanted me to do.
Knowing what was to come, I trouble getting to sleep and then woke up, exhausted, at 6:00 a.m. I had thought we had until the next 10 p.m. play practice to finish the redesign but soon discovered they were needed by 11:00 a.m. Clearly, this was another chance to practice “one minute, one hour, one day at a time.” I was so glad that I had decided to pin the hem rather than cut the fabric. Having the pieces still long made the redesign much easier.
Three of our costume seamstresses worked on the backdrop with me and two other devotees volunteered to help as well. The next hours were a process of two steps forward and one back (due to mistakes) but we finished them by 11:00!
This whole scenario reminded me of a story of a guru from long ago who had a man build a house. When he finished the house, the guru told him to tear it down and start over. That process of being told to build and tear down the house occurred over and over again for many years. At one point, the disciple had no reaction when told to tear the house down and rebuild it. At that point the lesson was over; he had learned surrender. Amma doesn’t usually work in ways that are that outwardly provocative, but I believe that situations like this one with the backdrop project are one of the ways I am being taught flexibility, persistence and letting go.
Last night was the second of the on-stage practices. It also lasted until almost 2:00 a.m. This time the stage lights were operating so it was much more like it will be tonight (Christmas Eve). I am excited to see the play in its fullness, with lights, sound, power point slides (with the lyrics in Malayalam and English), costumes, etc. It is a magnificent play.
I will say one more thing about the play for now. Just before the rehearsals were to begin, Chaitanya still didn’t have someone to be St. Francis. A man walked up to her and said he would be happy to participate in whatever capacity he was needed. He apparently is from Brazil and had just met Amma in Amritapuri in September. He had decided come back and spend Christmas here. He had no acting experience. Chaitanya listed the openings and gave him the script to read. After reading it, he told her if she chose to give him the role of Francis, he would give it his all.
So St. Francis he became, and he is doing an incredible job of it. I know Chaitanya feels like he was “dropped from the sky.” As far as I’m concerned, he totally embodies the essence of St. Francis. I have watched him outside of the rehearsals and I experience him as being the same in his daily life as he is when he is in the role.
One night I heard very loud “Swamiye Ayyappo” chanting coming from the courtyard below my window. It took me awhile to realize what I was hearing. When I did, I rushed to the balcony and looked over the rail. There was a HUGE group of Ayyappa devotees below, bigger than I have ever seen. They were briskly walking from the auditorium, where they probably had received Amma’s darshan, towards the ashram gate.
Many of them were wearing the black clothes I’m used to seeing, but not all of them. There were subgroups in many different colors. They all had packs on their heads, but the packs were bigger than the ones I normally see. The packs were also very colorful.
I wished that I was down in the courtyard to experience being in the midst of them, but they were walking so fast that I knew they would be gone before I could get down there. I decided to simply enjoy the scene from above. (For more information about the Ayyappa devotees and me click.)
I did feel sad about not being on the ground level though, and I also have a bit of sadness about not spending more time with Amma on this trip. At the same time, when I am here I feel very close to Amma whether I am in her presence or not. My priority at the moment is helping with the play and I’m okay with that. I will have time to do other things once the play is over.
It is nice to be in a situation where decisions and choices are so often between two or more good things.
I mentioned in an earlier post that they have recently turned Amma’s birth home into a meditation hall. When I walked into the building on one of my first days here, I felt drawn to a room that is to the left of the main living area. As I entered the room, the shakti (spiritual energy) felt so strong. I sat down and went into a meditative state (which is very unusual for me). Afterwards, I asked someone what that room had been in the early days. She said she didn’t know but would find out. About a week later, she told me that it was the room where Amma had rested in-between Krishna Dhava and Devi Bhava in the early years. No wonder I experienced the energy to be so powerful there.
A few days ago, I received an email from a friend in Seattle, letting me know that her college aged daughter wanted to do a Biology or Environmental Science internship in Amritapuri next summer. She asked me if I had any ideas about how to make that happen. I had just written a post about the college exchange and Amrita Serve volunteer opportunities here, but she hadn’t seen it (Living and Learning in Amritapuri- December 15-18).
This happened on the day I needed to go to Karunagappolly to get more fabric. While I was walking on the bridge to the mainland, I passed someone I knew was working at the college so decided to ask him for ideas. It turned out he knew exactly who I should connect my friend’s daughter with. He said she could probably work with the project that takes biofilters to the villages. He suggested I come see to him at the college when I had time. He would give me more information and introduce me to the woman in charge of that aspect of the program.
My trip to Karunagappolly ended up taking much less time than I expected, so I asked the rickshaw driver to drop me off at the School of Engineering. I got lost in the maze of corridors and ended up on the wrong floor. At that moment, the man I was coming to see walked by! We went back to his office and I learned more about the program. Both of our meetings that day seemed so synchronistic to me.
He had been with Amma when she went to the Vatican last month, so I was also able to hear stories about that experience. He also told me the Pope rides in a Ford Escort and that no one opens the door for him when he gets into the car. And the fleet of cars that are used for transporting Vatican guests are all Volkswagens!
As I was writing this post, my son sent me a link about the Pope confronting the Vatican leaders during his Christmas message to them. I consider that to be another synchronicity!
I have so much respect for this Pope and the changes he is making. And, after watching all the play rehearsals, I’m seeing how much he is like his namesake, St. Francis of Assisi. I am so glad that the Pope and Amma have now met each other.
My weekly Fitbit report arrived. I walked 87,401 steps last week, 38.18 miles. Wow!
I’m sure I could find much more to say about the last few days, but this is all that comes to my mind for now. It is Christmas Eve morning here. I hope all of you have enjoyable holidays. I know I will!