Every year, as my trip to Amritapuri is winding down I think of a statement I read decades ago in a book by Malidoma, an African shaman who lives most of the year in the U.S. In the book, Of Water and the Spirit, Malidoma commented that he goes to Africa every year to learn from his elders and detox from Western civilization.
I resonated with that statement when I first read it, and I still do. For me, being with Amma, especially in India, is like taking a vacuum cleaner to my whole system. While the living and learning experiences may be difficult at times, I always see my growth when I return to Seattle. I am softer, healthier, and more able to handle the challenges that life sends my way.
When I went to India the first time, I loved it. In fact, during my first three visits, I cried every time I thought about leaving. Then there was a period, that lasted for at least five years, when I had a love-hate relationship with India. The heat and the never ending physical and emotional challenges were difficult for me to cope with. I felt on overload most of the time. Even then, though, I had a deep internal sense that it was very important for me to take that annual trip. I often used the metaphor, to myself and others, that it was like going to a doctor knowing the treatment would be painful.
Thankfully, that period passed, and for a long time now I have eagerly anticipated my yearly trip. I know that every visit will be filled with learning and adventure and that the challenges that come to me will help me grow.
It is my experience that being with Amma, whether it is in India or the U.S., increases the frequency and intensity of the life lessons that come my way, along with the ability to work through them at a faster rate. When I’m in the middle of an emotional roller coaster, the growly declaration that “this is going to be the last time I’m going to do this” inevitably goes through my mind. At least now I know that the thought is just a thought, and it will pass. I fully believe that it is important for me to continue going to Amritapuri each year, and that those visits will cleanse my mind and body, and feed my soul.
As I was preparing to leave Amritapuri this year, it occurred to me that once I retire I can go to the ashram whenever I want to go, and stay as long as I want to stay.
I almost always travel to Amritapuri in November and December, the busiest time of the year; a time when my son and daughter’s lives are filled with creating the Christmas play on top of their regular seva responsibilities. While I love seeing the play and being involved in play preparation, I am also faced with the reality that I can’t spend as much time with my adult children as I want to. When I retire, will I go to India at a different time of the year? Am I willing to miss the play in order to spend more time with my kids? Will I go earlier and stay longer? Will I go twice a year even though that would mean facing jet lag twice? I know those questions will be answered as my life unfolds.
For the last few years, I have felt an increasing desire to do panchakarma, an Ayurvedic therapy that provides deep cleansing and detoxification. Panchakarma was one of those things that I used to say I would “Never” do, but since I discovered that my high blood pressure and high cholesterol would eliminate several of the procedures I’m resistant to doing, I have felt more inclined to consider it. I have no doubt that the treatments would be in my best interest and the people I know who have done it have loved it. Maybe I would too.
If I do panchakarma, I would want to do it in Amritapuri, but I’m still resistant. I know the protocol involves staying out of the sun, rain, and wind and that I would be expected to keep the fan off in my room and to avoid other places with fans. That’s a big deal, considering I’d be in India. I also would be expected to refrain from doing seva, napping, writing, or reading. There are many dietary restrictions as well. Am I willing to make those commitments for most or all of my trip?
My biggest resistance is to the activity restrictions. As an over-doer I am stumped by how I would fill my time if I avoided doing all of the items on that list. Am I willing to give up blogging, working in the gardens, taking Tai Chi, and the other things I love doing in Amritapuri? What WOULD I do? Would I spend those weeks staring at a wall?
No doubt, I would be confronting all the garbage that is inside my mind. I would also be confronting my reluctance to simply “BE.” Am I willing to do that?
So, as I wrap up this year’s trip to Amritapuri, my mind is filled with questions. It is also filled with gratitude for all I experienced on this trip, and excitement as I look forward to discovering where the next steps in my life will take me.
Photo Credit: Amritapuri Facebook Page