Update on Practice in Accepting Change and Letting Go

In my June 8 post, I shared my concern that the stairs near our Greenbelt site were being painted. I had come to the conclusion that it was a good opportunity for me to practice both accepting change and letting go.

When the stairs below ours were finished, I thought the optical illusion was cool but another concern arose. Our stairs are much smaller and closer together than those. I wondered if the bright paint would be overwhelming. I decided to stick with my decision to consider it an opportunity to not worry; to let go and accept whatever change came my way.

The stairs closest to our site were to be painted on Saturday. That afternoon, I decided to check it out. I was delighted with what I saw. The colors are beautiful. Instead of painting the sides of each step, like they did in the area below ours, the painters painted the cement border that goes between the various landings. They also painted the “bench” at the top of the stairs. (I put bench in quotes because it used to be the mount for a bulletin board.)

I’m so glad I decided to see this experience as a “lesson” rather than worrying or fretting about it. I couldn’t be happier with the results.

New Book: Out of the Fog

My son Sreejit has published a new book of his poems. This one is called: Out of the Fog: 30 poetic musings on the world to which I cling. As always, Sreejit’s perspectives on life and living are thought provoking and well worth reading. Sreejit describes his newest publication in this way:

Perspective shapes our truth, our vision, and the way we move throughout this world. Our beliefs are filtered through the experiences that we’ve had and the weight that we allow these experiences to carry in the shaping of our truth. The world becomes illusion when we realize that every creature sees and understands it from different vantage points. Our world is all about perspective. The one written about here is mine.

He has also republished two of his intriguing and captivating novels.

A modern tale, an ancient mysticism, a universal love. Overcome by the weight of his failure to live up to the world’s standards of success, Ballard Davies decides that there is only one solution. He gets in his car and drives. He drives away from everything and everyone that he knows, in an effort to just start over. He doesn’t care where he’s headed; he just wants another chance to get it right. What he finds is beyond his imagination, as he befriends an eccentric cast of characters. From the divinely inspired to the rationalistic blowhards, everyone becomes a part of his journey to begin again. But there is still one problem – he cannot escape himself. What will it take for Ballard to overcome his own self-imposed limitations and live the adventure he feels he deserves? This is the journey he now travels, down a path where truth, love, desperation, honor, the forgiving and the righteous, the mystics and the scientists all battle for the chance to be given the foremost spot in the realm of his mind. Will the pain of loneliness and separation prevail, or will Ballard find something to live for?

 

Traversing a world based on perspective, with the force of our own illusions propping us up, what would you forsake to know the truth? Two families, separated by continents, are wrapped up in the same timeless struggle – to be more than the sum of their parts. Join them as they seek to solve a mystery that goes beyond the limits of our physical reality. With time never on our side, the question arises: what would you give up for freedom?

You can order these three publications and more on his Amazon.com author’s page.

Visiting the Seed-Saving Farm

I talked about my challenges in finding the Seed-Saving farm in my last post and said I would tell you more about my visit there in a separate post. That time has come!

When I arrived at the farm, Lokesh, the volunteer who manages this project, told me that in Kerala they can grow four sets of crops each year. Since they had just finished harvesting the last crop and were only beginning to prepare for the next one, he was disappointed that he couldn’t show me more.

While I thought he shared an abundance of information with me, I found a delightful video on his YouTube channel that gave me a sense of what would be like to participate in this community gardening activity.

The soil on the farm, and in most, if not all, of the land in this area is very sandy and of poor quality.

At the seed-saving farm, volunteers are making charcoal by burning coconut husks. The charcoal is then turned to powder and added to dried cow dung and dirt. Charcoal is used because it holds in nutrients. The first video in this post had a segment where the devotees were adding the charcoal to the dung/dirt mixture.  In the video that mixture was put into pots and then seeds were planted in the pots. The mixture may also be spread on the land and covered with cut up coconut palm fronds or mixed with other kinds of mulch.

Ideally, Lokesh would like to have seven planting fields on  this 13 acre property. At this point, they are working primarily on an eggplant field. So far, the volunteers have dug 100 holes and filled them with mulch. They add more mulch and other soil enhancers, such as the charcoal mix, as the mulch breaks down. While I was at the farm, there were two women cutting up coconut fronds to add to that area.  Sticks surround each space that will eventually hold a seedling.

Another part of the farm is dedicated to producing tapioca. Tapioca is easy to grow in Kerala and it usually doesn’t need to be watered. In this farm, a plant called cirra is often grown under it. (Note: I’m not sure of the spelling of cirra.) Chaitanya told me later that cirra is one of the many forms of spinach that is grown at the ashram. There is also a red leafed plant that is being grown. In some of the other gardens, it is called red spinach and used as a vegetable. Lokesh told me it is actually a form of amaranth.

One part of the property had ridge gourds growing. I had never seen anything like them. When I read about them, I learned that they can grow up to 13 inches long. I believe the ones I saw were longer than that. I also saw remnants of pea and bean plants.

There were several nurseries at this farm. The first photo shows echinacea seedlings. I don’t remember what the other ones were.

I’m realizing that I haven’t said anything about seed-saving at the Seed-Saving farm. They are indeed saving seeds but as I understand it, part of that process is knowing how to select the right seeds and also how to grow plants that will produce healthy seeds. I know from this visit and my visit last year, that Lokesh is doing a lot of experimenting to determine how to provide the most support to the plants so that they create the best seeds possible.

On this visit, he told me that he had been given an old Kerala type pumpkin, a pumpkin that is very rare. He used four plants that were grown from that pumpkin; two of them he grew as they were and the other two he crossed with a pumpkin from the agricultural university.  The pumpkins that grew from the old Kerala pumpkin seeds looked like this:

The ones that were crossed with the university pumpkin had similarities to the old Kerala pumpkin, but also differences.

Lokesh explained that he was crossing these varieties because when a vegetable is grown without diversity it becomes very weak and will eventually “fizzle out”. By crossing them, he will be able to develop a stronger strain of pumpkin and then will eventually breed out the university strain. The new plant will produce a pumpkin that will have the characteristics of the old Kerala pumpkin that gave it its superior quality, but it will be a much stronger plant. That process is called back dropping.

This video will give you more information about this topic:

I was fascinated by two other things I saw on that day. One was a structure that provided water to a group of plants, one drip at a time. To use it, you put a bucket of water in the tub that is at the bottom of the structure. I don’t understand exactly how it works but I know that when a machine is turned on, air is pumped intermittently in a way that causes water to be pumped from that bottom tub into a container at the top of the structure. The water then drips down to the plants below it, over a week’s time.

The first photo shows the plants and glimpses of the structure I don’t know what the main plants are, but the big ones with the long leaves are tumeric plants.

There is a well located next to the plants. Water from this well is used to fill a tub at the bottom of the structure.

The next photo shows the top part of the structure. Lokesh turned the machine on when I was there. I think some water will begin to pool in the blue-gray part after it runs for a while.)

This photo shows the body and the bottom of the structure. You will notice that the tumeric plant is drooping. That plant starts to die when it is ready to be harvested. We checked in the soil around it and could feel big tumeric bulbs.

I’m going to end this post by telling you that Lokesh is creating a blacksmith shop on the property. He is inventing all sorts of things there. His most recent invention is a power hammer made from an old bicycle!

Below is a video that shows how he made the hammer. There are several other blacksmithing videos on his YouTube channel, as well as videos on many other interesting subjects.

As I imagine you can tell from my post, I thoroughly enjoyed my time at this farm and look forward to going back there the next time I am in Amritapuri.

[Note: I apologize for any mistakes I may have made in relaying the information I learned that day. These subjects are all so new to me.]

To read the previous posts in this series click here.

Living and Learning in Amritapuri, India: December 20-January 2, 2017

I have been writing individual posts about many of the things I have experienced over the last two weeks but decided it is time for me to update you on some of the other parts of my day-to-day life in Amritapuri.

Temple Music

The loud music from a temple in town played from 5 or 6 a.m. until 5 or 6 p.m. my first weeks here. I learned that the music came from a Narayana temple that was in the midst of a 41-day festival. I had no idea when the festival started or when it would end. One day last week, the music began as usual but it was MUCH louder than it had been the other days. It reminded me of the time in the early 90’s when the music coming from that side of the water started at 5 a.m. and lasted until 2 a.m. the next day, day in and day out. While the music had been loud this year, it was nowhere near as loud as it had been back then. I had even enjoyed listening to it when I was in my room. But I did not enjoy the blasting music that came into my room on that early morning last week.

The following morning, I slept later than I had slept since I’d been here. It wasn’t until someone else mentioned it that I realized there was no music coming from town. The 41-day festival was over! They must have played the music louder on that last day to mark the ending.

Equanimity

When I started this section I labeled it construction. Soon it became obvious that I should change the heading to equanimity. Amma teaches us to strive for equanimity in all situations. I have had plenty of opportunities to practice that lesson on this trip.

This has been the first time in the 28 years I have been coming here when there was no construction noise. That quiet ended a few days ago when workers started making the stair railings in my building higher. The railings had already been raised on the first four floors so they started this time on the 5th floor, my floor. So for the last few days I’ve been dealing with the sound of an electric saw cutting through metal pipe. I have NOT been feeling equanimity.

Notes:

1) After I finished writing this part of my post, it occurred to me that they had finished my 5th floor railing in one day and the pipes have still been being cut on my floor. Is it possible that they are using the 5th floor as their staging ground and the racket will continue until they finish all 16 floors?

2) I went to lunch shortly after writing Note 1. While I was there, I was griping about the noise and the possibility that it might not end for days. When I returned to my room, the saw, the workers and most of the pipe was gone. I don’t know if they’ve already finished the job, moved higher up in the building, or just stopped for the day. Regardless, if this was a test, I flunked it.

The other area where I have struggled to maintain a sense of peace has centered around having ants in my flat. For the most part they are not a big problem now, but when they come back in large numbers, I have no equanimity.

Christmas play

I promised I would publish one more post about the Christmas play but that is not to be. In the past, I have been able to get play photos and audio recordings of some of the songs but that is not possible this year. I will put some of my photos from the rehearsals in this post instead. As you look at the pictures, keep in mind that the cast had only 15 days to make the costumes, backdrops and props; learn the acting roles, dances, songs and musical accompaniment; make power point slides in English and Malayalam; and figure out the sound and lighting and much more.

When I meet people by watching them rehearse for a play, I tend to think of them in relation to that role forever. This year, I find myself doing that with the actors who played the gorilla and the giraffe. I saw the person who played the giraffe on the bridge to Vallikavu yesterday and asked him if he missed being a giraffe. I told him I’m likely to continue thinking of him in that way. He laughed.

Seva

I have been handing prasad to Amma on most darshan days and doing the prasad assistant seva twice a week. I love those sevas. In addition, I have cleaned rudraksha seeds twice and plan to do it again. I’ve also been helping Chaitanya in the cafe in the morning, making the pancake batter and helping getting everything needed for the orders, such as putting honey, butter or peanut butter on toast or adding oatmeal, ragi porridge or hash browns to orders. I then pass the plates to the person who gives them to the customers. Sometimes I cut up tomatoes, wiping down counters or do other tasks. Last night, I helped keep the bakery and the cold drink counters stocked. I’ve been enjoying participating in this way.

Rudraksha seeds

In the past, devotees climbed the rudraksha trees to harvest the fruit. During that period, I remember seeing volunteers separating the fruit from the seeds and then brushing the seeds clean. I learned this year that, at some point, they realized they were harvesting the fruit before it was ripe. Now they wait until the fruit ripens and falls from the trees. After the fruit falls, the animals and other critters eat the fruit. Then the garden staff can just pick-up the seeds from the ground.

Once the majority of the fruit has been removed, the seed is soaked. After soaking, any remaining fruit is much  easier to remove and the seed can be brushed clean. It is still a painstaking and slow process but much less so than when they were dealing with unripened fruit.

Funeral

I attended a funeral last week. I always feel honored to participate in that experience. It is unlikely I will be in Amritapuri when I die, but every time I see a funeral, I think of how wonderful it would be to have Amma at mine. While I love that image, I fully believe that she will be there to meet me when I pass no matter where I am in the world.

Synchronicity

I love the increased level of synchronities that happen whenever I am in Amritapuri. I remember two from last week.

The first one occurred on Thursday. In the early evening, Amma told the person in charge of Western tokens he should hand out more darshan (hug) tokens. He gave one to the person sitting next to me, but didn’t say anything to me. I wasn’t feeling the need for a hug so I didn’t think twice about it. As I watched more and more people I knew lining up for a hug I began to feel the familiar longing… but I also felt tired. I started to walk towards the cafe but decided to not go that direction because I might run into the person handing out tokens and if I did, I would have to make a choice. I turned instead to go to my room and instantly walked into him. So much for avoiding putting myself in that position. He offered me a token. I laughed and took it… and had a wonderful darshan.

On Saturday evening, I was passing out plates of food in the cafe when Chaitanya told me I could leave early. I was surprised that someone was taking over for me and wondered if I had done something wrong. That didn’t seem at all likely, but it went through my mind.

As I walked out of the cafe, Swami Amritasvarupananda was singing Manyukal Mutum, my favorite Swami Ayyappa bhajan. There was no doubt in my mind that this was one of the synchronicities that are so common for me here. I sat and listened to the rest of the song. When it was over, I walked out of the auditorium only to find three Ayyappa devotees standing in front of me. They were the first I had seen on this trip. I believed this was no accident. (To learn more about my Ayyappa experiences from the past, read Story 2 and 3 in Overcoming Myself.)

To read the previous posts in this series click here.

We Had a Great Month Thanks to You

Last night, Sreejit posted the summary of his Rage Against the Machine event. He did it in a new way in that for each post he included a quote and one of the comments that a reader made. I think that is a valuable way to help new readers choose which posts to look at, so I’m passing his summary on to those of you who read my blog.

The Seeker's Dungeon

We made it.  30 guest posts in 30 days.

As you may have noticed, the Rage Against the Machine series was not so much about rage as it was about figuring out how we can be productive global citizens, and what we can do as individuals and collectively to make this world a better place.

Everyone brought different perspectives – including the ever present To Rage or Not to Rage question – and different issues to the series.  One of the most pleasant surprises was that not only were the guest posts exceptional, of which I’m grateful, but we had a lot of interesting discussions in the comment section.

So, to recap the articles that you might have missed, or to remind you and encourage a second look, I will share both a snippet from each article and also one comment from the discussion, to give you a taste of…

View original post 5,577 more words

The End of a Powerful and Informative Event

At 5:00 a.m. this morning, the last entry in The Seeker’s Dungeon Rage Against the Machine Month was posted. The posts by 30 guest contributors were all so different from one another and each person had important things to say. I looked forward to reading a new post each morning and am sorry the event is over.

Some of the event instructions were:

Your post doesn’t have to be about the United States or even politics, but should be about what is keeping our world in darkness and your own solutions for shedding light. Talk about where your own passions lie, your own causes, and the glass ceilings you are trying to break on through.

I’ve listed all of the posts below so that you can read some or all of them. I suspect you will find them as thought provoking as I did.

 

The Rage Against the Machine Contributors:

 

 

Day 1: Thank You for Your Service Mr. Trump by Kevin (Rudran) Degnan

 

 

 

 

Day 2: Pistol Shots at the Past by Levantine

 

 

 

 

Day 3: Creating Light in the Darkness by Karuna Poole

 

 

 

 

 

Day 4: Rage Against Racial Prejudice by Sanaa Rizvi

 

 

 

 

 

Day 5: Let’s Choose Love by Mark Paxson

 

 

 

 

Day 6: An Unexpected Journey by Jagati Olson

 

 

 

 

 

Day 7: Letter to the Editor by Vince Horan

 

 

 

 

 

Day 8: The Dictatorship of the Clock by Carl D’Agostino

 

 

 

 

Day 9: Lost and Found by Lori Bonati

 

 

 

 

 

Day 10: Anecdote or Antidote to Rage by Kathie Arcide

 

 

 

 

 

Day 11: Earth Grief by Sherry Marr

 

 

 

 

 

Day 12: Searching by Oliana Kim

 

 

 

 

Day 13: Instead of raging… love and compassion by Leigh Gaitskill

 

 

 

 

 

Day 14: The Hip Woman by Ana Daksina

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Day 15: On Being a Lady by Kripa Gressel

 

 

 

 

Day 16: Hear Me Roar by Trevor Washington

 

 

 

 

Day 17: I don’t understand… by Amy

 

 

 

Day 18: Stemming the Tide by Amar Gressel

 

 

 

 

Day 19: Into the Depths by Chitanand Nass

 

 

 

 

Day 20: #BeKindToElephants by Monika

 

 

 

 

 

Day 21: Finding A Way by Bertie Hutchins

 

 

 

 

 

 

Day 22: Fated by Rebel Willing

 

 

 

 

 

Day 23: The Trauma Lives for Years by Sreejit Poole

 

 

 

Day 24: The Skin I’m In by Dr Noreen Nguru

 

 

 

 

Day 25: Enough is Enough by Jessica Cypher

 

 

 

 

Day 26: Coming Out by Elmari W.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Day 27: What Sort of Men by Gary Maxwell

 

 

 

 

Day 27: Just One Word by Sonya Kassam

 

 

 

 

 

 

Day 29: Rectitude by Tobe

 

 

 

 

Day 30: The American Dream Needs an Update by Hugo Groenendyk

 

 

 

 

 

Living and Learning in Amritapuri, India: September 12, 2017

When I planned my trip to Amritapuri this year, I made a priority of being there during Krishna Jayanthi, the day Krishna’s birth is celebrated each year. In my early days with Amma, I found myself crying deeply whenever I sang or listened to some bhajans (devotional songs). When I checked out those bhajans later, I discovered that almost all of them were Krishna songs. I didn’t know anything about Krishna from my conscious mind, but clearly some part of me did.

I have been at Amritapuri on Krishna Jayanthi twice before. An important part of the celebration is a procession that goes from the ashram to a nearby Krishna temple. The group sings all the way to the temple. When I participated in that procession in 2003, I was in bliss the whole time. The second time I was at the ashram on Krishna Jayanthi, my back went out just prior to the celebration and I wasn’t able to walk in the procession.

This year, for me, Krishna’s birthday was a time of bliss, a time of sadness, and a time of challenges. Prior to booking my trip, I had done an internet search for the 2017 date of Krishna Jayanthi in Kerala. August 14 was the date that came up. I booked my trip for August 9 so that I would have time to get over some of the jet lag before the big day. Continue reading “Living and Learning in Amritapuri, India: September 12, 2017”

Weekly Photo Challenge: Waiting

There have been very few geckos in my room (in India) this year. I have missed them. The ones I have seen have been very small, about a third of the size of the ones I see in December. Maybe this is the time of year they are born.

A few days ago, when I was lounging on my bed, I looked up and saw a baby gecko. It was less than two inches from its head to the bottom of its tail. My photo didn’t turn out very clear so I decided to share it using a PicMonkey effect called Edge. That effect allows only the outline of the object being photographed to be visible. Do you see the outline of the little gecko? I really like how the photo turned out.

The gecko was located just below the place where the ceiling meets the wall. I watched it for some time. I was struck by how long it stayed in one place. I knew geckos eat insects so I decided it was waiting for one to come near. The only insects I’ve seen in the room are mosquitoes so it was probably waiting to eat one of those. The gecko was more patient than I was, so in time I stopped waiting for it to move and left the room.

When I returned an hour later, the gecko was in the same part of the room, but it had turned the other direction; it was facing south instead of north. The gecko continued to wait. I continued to watch it periodically. I didn’t have the patience to be waiting quietly to see what happened next.

About an hour later, I noticed the gecko start to walk down the wall. My half-hearted attempt at waiting was over! I decided I would video the gecko’s descent. The problem was, I had to get closer to do that. And when I moved in, the gecko stopped. It looked like it was watching me, waiting for me to go away. I waited for some time but once again, the gecko had more patience than I did. Eventually, I stopped waiting for the opportunity to take a video and took a still photo instead. I decided to use the PicMonkey Frost effect on this one.

I could learn a lot about patience from a gecko, if I was willing to wait long enough to learn it! But I guess that is a learning in and of itself.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Waiting

No Forest Restoration vs Forest Restoration

These timelines profoundly affected me when I saw them at the Green Seattle Partnership Forest Steward training that Ananya and I attended last March.

 

I choose to do whatever I can do to make the second timeline the reality.

Honoring My Inner Wisdom

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I published a new post, Honoring My Inner Voice, on The Seeker’s Dungeon this morning. I hope you take a moment and head to the Dungeon to read it!

While you are there, take a look at the 365 Days on Living and Dying event under the Guest Posts tab. Sreejit is still welcoming submissions for that offering.