(Note: The dates on this post overlap with my January 5 post. That is because there were some important events that I didn’t mention in the previous one!)
Stopping Critical Self Talk
Visitors and residents at the ashram offer classes they think would be of interest to the visitors. It is a chance to raise funds for Amma’s humanitarian projects as well as give valuable information and experiences to those who take the classes.
The date and time of the class I was to teach on Stopping Critical Self Talk was changed four times so I had plenty of opportunities to practice patience, flexibility and detachment. I ended up holding the workshop on January 3.
When I taught a class two years ago 5 people signed up ahead of time. More registered the morning of the class. I think the final total was about 10. This year, the evening before the class 15 people had signed up and by the time it started there were 23!
Teaching here provides challenges I don’t face in Seattle because most of the people who attend Amritapuri classes are from Europe or other places around the world where English is not the first language. Conditions are also different because in India there is noise from the fans, and lots of noise from the street below; quite a change from teaching in America.
Attendees were very interested in what I had to say and participated actively in the various components of my class. They expressed a lot of gratitude for the new information and experiences. I was very excited and look forward to teaching again next year. I felt and still feel a lot of gratitude for the two friends who helped me with the logistics of running the workshop, and the emotional support their presence offered.
Cast Viewing of the Play
A week or so after each year’s Christmas play, everyone involved in putting on the drama meet to see the first draft of the play DVD. I love participating in that event. Since most of the cast weren’t able to see the play at the time it was presented this is their first opportunity to see the final production. It is always a time of laughter and celebration.
Below are some more play photos:
To see photos closer click on the gallery. To see the original photos I posted go to:
Then and Now
When I came to the ashram the first time in January 1990, there were a total of 30 Western visitors. At the height of the holiday season this year, i.e. December 2014, there were 1,800 Western visitors! Such a tangible example of the difference between then and now.
On January 7th I was in the dining room when people at the end of the room started standing up. I looked to see what was going on, but all I saw was more and more people standing. When the senior Swamis (monks) enter the hall to sing or if they walk up to us we generally stand up. But that doesn’t generally happen when they are just walking down a corridor. Besides, the number of people coming to their feet seemed bigger than a Swami’s presence would warrant.
I quickly realized it was Amma that was walking by! She was on her way to the auditorium stage to do some bhajan (devotional songs) recording. Seeing her in an unexpected way was such a nice surprise for us. It must have also been a surprise for the people involved in the recording. Minutes later, I saw three of the brahmacharinis (female monks) and one of the senior Swamis running for the stage. It must have been an impromptu bhajan recording! Amma teaches us to be like a bird perched on a dry twig, ready to fly at a moment’s notice. This looked like it was an experience in doing that.
It was also an example in the difference between then and now. In the “old” days it was not unusual for Amma to show up at any time. Now she gives darshan 14-21 hours on every public darshan day and spends time every other day doing scheduled activities with us. She is no doubt busy directing all of the humanitarian projects during a majority of her remaining time. We certainly still have spontaneous experiences with her, but it is rare to have her show up at unexpected times.
Preparing for the South India Tour
Early in the second week of January, the level of activity at the ashram skyrocketed as preparations were being made for Amma’s upcoming South India Tour. Everywhere vehicles were being loaded with the equipment and supplies needed for the tour. There are cities where 50,000 people or more will attend the programs on a given day. Imagine what it would take to feed that many people! Here is a picture of one of the pots they cook in!
High numbers of ashramites, as well as the local devotees will do the work required to organize and carry out the programs. Twelve bus loads of Amritapuri devotees will be part of the tour. All will work at the programs in one capacity or another.
A day or two after I wrote my January 5 post about the small Organic Gardens that have been popping up all over Amritapuri, I had an opportunity to visit two of the larger ones. Those are a fifteen minute walk south of the ashram. I had visited one of those gardens last year. Oh how it has grown! It started off as a tulasi farm but now contains so much more. I will be writing about it in detail for a GreenFriends newsletter towards the end of the month so will add the link to that article after it is published. For now, here are some pictures.
The other garden is called Amma’s Grace Garden. Amma’s goal is to eventually have all food served at the ashram be organic. The first step in reaching that goal is to have the meal Amma serves everyone at the ashram on Tuesdays be organic. This garden is producing a lot of the vegetables needed for that meal.