Living and Learning in Amritapuri, India: December 15-19, 2017

Sick or jet lag or both?

On my second day in Amritapuri, I developed a sore throat and the beginnings of a cold. I was concerned that I was getting sick but that wasn’t the case. I think it was due to a combination of jet lag and natural adjustment to being in a place that is 13 1/2 hours ahead of Seattle, with a different schedule, different climate, different water, different food and all the other differences. I slept a lot the next few days but am beginning to come out of it. I also had an acupuncture appointment on Monday and have felt considerably better since then.

Construction or lack thereof

On my third day, I noticed that something was missing. In all the years I have been coming to Amritapuri, the sound of construction has been constant. There were times in my early years when it lasted all night, although that hasn’t happened for decades.

When I was in Amritapuri in August, it seemed like there was more building construction going on than ever before. What was missing this time was that I hadn’t heard anything but a few minutes of hammering since I had arrived. No sound of rebar being cut. No cement mixer operating. No welding sparks. No construction sites to walk around or through.

I imagine there are probably new buildings going up not far from here but inside the main part of the ashram, the only type of construction I’ve seen so far is decorative, and that is a quiet process. Amazing!

Amma’s Birthday Tree Planting Project

This year the Pacific Northwest devotees planted trees as a birthday gift for Amma. We had planned to plant 64 trees since Amma was turning 64, but ended up planting 309! We devoted the December PNW GreenFriends newsletter to the project. Prior to my trip, I had a copy of the newsletter turned into a booklet. There are 12 devotees who participated in the project in Amritapuri right now. Some of us plan to give Amma the booklet on Thursday the 21st. If you would like to look at the stories and photos in that newsletter click here.

Play practice

Amma and the tour staff didn’t come back from the Europe tour until December 8th. The script and the music for the play had been completed prior to then but by the time everyone had returned to the ashram, there were only two weeks left to gather a cast and for the actors, musicians, dancers, and singers to learn their parts. Also the costumes, backdrops, props, power point slides that show the words in English and the Malayalam, and the sound and lighting plans had to be created. Everything has to happen so fast; it is always like watching a miracle unfold. The performance will take place on Christmas Eve.

I’ve continued going to at least one of the play practices each day. Prior to Tuesday, the cast was rehearsing individual scenes. On Tuesday, they practiced all of Act 1 for the first time.  I had seen the adult parts of that Act before but I’d never seen the children’s scenes. I was amazed by their performance.

Saraswati Garden

For part of the time that I was in Amritapuri last December and January, I worked at Saraswati Garden. On the 18th, I decided to visit the garden. As I came close to the entrance, I passed a  line of banana palms that I have photographed on my last three trips to the ashram.

December 2016:

August 2017:

December 2017:

I knew that banana palms last only one season, but I wasn’t prepared for what I saw when I walked through the palms this time. The main palm in these photos was at least 15 feet tall and approaching the end of its life cycle.

(Click on any of the galleries below to enlarge the photos.)

After passing the palms, I entered the garden. One of the first things I saw was a very unusual butterfly. I used a cropped version and three different camera effects in a mostly unsuccessful attempt to give you a better view of it. I looked up both Kerala butterflies and moths on the internet but didn’t see any that resembled this one.

(The photo from the top of this post is also from Saraswati Garden, as is the Wordless Wednesday post I put up earlier today.)

Prasad giving and prasad door monitor

One of my favorite activities when I am with Amma is to hand her prasad, the packets of sacred ash wrapped around a piece of candy that she gives to each person who comes to her for a hug. I wasn’t able to do that when I came here in August because I had broken my wrist in July. I felt sad about that loss but was pleased when I was asked to be one of the people to help facilitate the prasad line.

Each prasad giver hands Amma prasad for 3 minutes so it takes a lot of people to keep the line going for the 12 or more hours that Amma gives hugs in a day. The line starts in the auditorium as only six prasad givers are on the stage at a time. My job was to call people from the auditorium line every three minutes so the onstage line stayed full. In addition, I had to train anyone who hadn’t done it before. And, if there were not enough people in the auditorium line, I had to find people to join the line. Managing all of these tasks was challenging and I dealt with feeling incompetent. I felt relieved when, just before I flew back to Seattle, one of my supervisors said they all liked working with me and hoped I would join them again when I returned.

Soon after I arrived at the ashram on the 13th, I was asked if I was willing to be scheduled for the position. I certainly was. I was given a shift on Wednesdays and Saturdays. I missed the first one because I was feeling sick, but very much looked forward to serving in that way.

Not only can I help with the prasad line this time, but now that my splint is gone and my wrist is working I’m also able to hand Amma prasad myself. I did that on my second morning at the ashram. As is usual for me,  I had the sense of “home” “home” “home” going through my mind and body as I handed each packet to her.

 

To read the previous posts in this series click here.

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