Living and Learning in Amritapuri, India: December 24-27, 2018

Photo Source: Amma’s Facebook Page

Christmas Eve Program

This was the first time in ten years that we’ve had a Christmas Eve program in Amritapuri that consisted of many different performances instead of a play. It was such a fun and enjoyable night.

One performance was done by a group of about 20 young children dancing to Little Drummer Boy. Most of the children were between four and seven years old. There were little boys with drums, little girls in sparkling white costumes, tiny children in sheep costumes, shepherds with staffs, and some slightly older children who played the roles of Mary and Joseph.

Two Western groups sang or played beautiful Christmas carols.

Two Indian groups, dressed in exquisite costumes, performed high energy Indian dances.

A Chinese dancer did a style of dancing I hadn’t seen before. I was in awe of her dance and want to see more of it.

Another performance was about a man who had given up his heart to worldly things. The dances showed the progression of his life from childhood on. At one point, there was a rewind and all the dancers moved through his life backwards. His life was then replayed showing what would have happened if he hadn’t given away his heart when he was young. It was such a creative and fun enactment. I had a great view of Amma at that time. She had such a big smile, from beginning to end!

The next to the last performance was a reflection on Jesus. Sreejit was a preacher in the piece. He wrote the lyrics, some of which were spoken and some were sung. There were dancers and actors playing Jesus, disciples and villagers. My favorite lines in this performance were:

His greatness was protected
because the Lord’s light
within it was reflected.

And when he looked at you
he didn’t see social status.
When he looked at you
he didn’t see black or white.
He didn’t see man or woman,
good or bad

All he saw was his family
in God’s holy light.
When he looked at you…
When he looked at you…

This is his story
he came to win,
he came to forgive
the world of its sin.

This is his story.

The last performance of the night was our choir’s song.  I will be talking more about the song and my experience in later parts of this post. For now, I will say that I believe we sounded strong and that the audience enjoyed it. I feel privileged to have been part of the group.

All of the performances were outstanding and well received. After they were over, Amma gave her inspiring Christmas talk.

The spirit of Christmas is sharing and caring. Let us not be focused on our lives alone. Let us look around a little and see the needs of others as well. Even if you are able to help just one person, then you have made a difference. If we can do this, that would be the real Christmas celebration. -Amma

If Amma’s talk is posted online, I will give you the link in a future post. Afterwards, Amma sang three bhajans, the last one being the always rousing Mata Rani. Then, Amma, and her helpers, distributed chocolate Christmas cake to everyone present. That is always a highlight of the evening program. The Christmas Eve program was over about 1 a.m. on Christmas morning.

[Note: As I wrote this section, I was aware that I said more about some groups than others. I had seen the groups Sreejit, Chaitanya or I were involved in practice several times so knew more about those performances. Also, since I was in a performing group, I sometimes only got glimpses of a performance.]

Will You Be There?

In my first Living and Learning in Amritapuri post from this trip, I told readers that I would tell you the story behind the choir’s song after the performance was over. I didn’t want to mention it before because I didn’t want to spoil the surprise.

During a Devi Bhava on the 2003 Summer Tour early in the tour, a group of staff members sang Michael Jackson’s song Will You Be There? They moved their outstretched arms back and forth like a wave as they sang. Amma loved it; in fact, she called for the song to be sung every Devi Bhava for the rest of that tour.

Amma’s 50th birthday was on September 27, 20003. As the September day approached, people from all over the world poured into the ashram. Amma called the group to sing Will You Be There every day. All of the westerners joined in. I remember a photo taken of us when we were doing “the wave” in the temple. There was a sea of white, and me who, as always, was dressed in colored clothes. I have such fun memories of those experiences

That song hasn’t been sung here for years, maybe not since that time 15 years ago! So it was fun to think of performing it for Amma again, this time by a choir.

I would love to have a tape of our song to share with you but I don’t. So instead, I will share an amazing YouTube video of Michael Jackson singing it!

Wedding

On December 27, Amma married a couple who have known Amma since they were young children. I have known the parents of the groom for many years. It was a beautiful and heart felt wedding. Towards the end of the ceremony,the bride handed Amma a poster of herself when she was about three years old. It was a picture of her being held by Amma during a Devi Bhava. Amma held up the poster for everyone in the auditorium to see. The moment was so touching to witness, as was the entire wedding. I had been invited to the wedding feast so I enjoyed participating in that as well.

Letting Go Follow-up: Christmas Eve performance

In my last Living and Learning in Amritapuri post, I said I was going to let go of my need to be able to sing the words of our choir’s song perfectly and let the fact that I couldn’t sing, clap and move at the same time be okay. Instead, I would do my best to relax and have a good time.

I had a chance to put that resolve to the test at the practice on the afternoon of the 24th. I was reasonably successful in accomplishing those goals. My endeavor was aided by the fact that during the practices one of the lead singers stood in front of me and when the song started to go fast, the dancers and actors from many of the performances came on stage and stood in front of the choir. That was quite okay with me since it meant I was hidden.

When we performed the song that night though, the lead singer didn’t end up in front of me. I gulped when I realized that since I was in the front row of the choir, I would be in full sight. but let my hesitation go. I was able to get more of the words right than I had the past and most of my movements and claps were okay. At first, I had difficulty clapping on the 2nd and the 4th beat but at those times I didn’t let my incorrect “claps” make sound. I was really glad I had agreed to participate rather than quit. I would have been very upset with myself if I had given up.

Letting Go Follow-up: Tai Chi

In that same post, I had said I was going to let go of my desire to be practicing the Tai Chi 108 form and focus on all that I was getting from the class as it was. I laughed when in class the next day, the teacher taught the first part of the 108 form I had been wanting to do. That happens so often. When I really let go of what I want, I often end up getting it!

Weather

The weather has been very hot for December. This week it has been in the high 80’s and all of next week it is supposed to be 90 degrees. Thankfully, there are so many fans now. I remember all of the years when there were no fans in the auditorium. I’m sure glad those days are gone.

It rained two days this week. Again it was heavy rain. One of them was during and after a choir practice. It was raining so hard that I stayed and watched the next practice to avoid getting drenched. By the time I ventured outside, I had to wade through water that was 3 inches deep in places.

 

To read previous posts in this series click here.

 

I Feel Grateful and Blessed

I dealt with numerous challenges yesterday… and this morning. Today, those challenges have been resolving one after another.

just after 8 a.m., I looked out of my dining room window and saw sunlight streaming through the trees. At the same time this was happening, it was raining. The sunlight made the raindrops sparkle. My photo doesn’t do this experience justice, but I hope, along with my words, it gives you a sense of the beauty I witnessed.

Then I got into my car so I could drive to the bakery to pick up the pumpkin pies I’m taking to a Thanksgiving dinner later in the day. As I drove out of the driveway, the first thing I saw was a beautiful rainbow. I parked the car so that I could take another photograph. The rainbow was already beginning to fade when I snapped the picture, but I think the photo offers a glimpse of its beauty. Fifteen seconds later, the rainbow was gone.

I feel grateful and blessed.

Happy Thanksgiving to all.

Inspirational Videos

Sreejit sent me the link to a video yesterday. I loved it:

This morning I played it again. As I was doing that, I noticed another video by the same group. When I listened to/watched it, I got goosebumps. By the end, I was teary.

What a good way to start my day. I hope these music videos also brighten your morning/afternoon/evening.

A Day of Transitions: October 28, 2018


Yesterday was a day of transitions, major transitions. At the hub of it all was the fact that I turned 70 yesterday. While it could have been a day when I reflected on the past, it was not that for me. Instead, my reflection was about the fact that, from my perspective, I’m in the last stage of my life.

I have long been aware that tomorrow is not promised, that today is where I should put my attention. That sense is even more heightened now. I have no way of knowing whether my last day on this earth will be two days, two years or two decades from now. It could be shorter, or it could be longer. It is important that I make every day count and not put off to tomorrow the things that are important to me.

That momentous birthday was not the only transition that occurred yesterday. My birthday each year, is the date by which I have to renew my R.N. (Registered Nurse) license. And every two years, I also have to renew my ARNP (Advanced Registered Nurse Practitioner) license by that day. Both license renewals were due yesterday and I did not renew them; I had decided this was the year to let them both expire.

I have loved being a Clinical Specialist in Adult Psychiatric and Mental Health Nursing, or, in short, a nurse psychotherapist. I have loved accompanying hundreds of clients on their healing journeys. I will miss the clients I have worked with in the past, and miss the ones I would have met had I chosen to continue to do that work. But I believe that that time in my life is over.

Yesterday was a quiet day. I talked to my grown children, Sreejit and Chaitanya and had breakfast and watched the Seahawks game with Al, my ex-husband. Later in the day, I answered the Happy Birthday messages from my friends who saw the birthday notice on Facebook or already knew that it was my birthday. I talked with one of my past co-therapists on the phone and worked for a while getting ready for the upcoming Greenbelt planting work parties.

I usually don’t do anything in the evening, because I am tired by then, but yesterday, during the late afternoon, I remembered that a friend was leading a kirtan at a place in Greenlake. (A kirtan is a group experience of devotional singing done in a call and response format. Many of the songs are in Sanskrit.) I have wanted to go to one of her kirtans for a long time but have never done it. In that moment, I knew that this was the day for me to go.

Before long, I drove to Greenlake and soon thereafter was sitting on the floor of the studio listening to and singing the glorious music. I have longed for that experience… and now I was having it. My “monkey” mind was more silent than it has been for a long time. I sensed that this was yet another transition point.

Another highlight of that experience was that the song that was sung before the closing chants was one that has been important to me since the mid-eighties. It was part of my own healing journey and I have shared it with clients at some therapy intensives and on this blog. My heart soared as I sang it once again.

Yesterday was a day of transitions. I look forward to experiencing what this stage of my life holds. I know it won’t always be easy but I believe it will all be important.

Heavenly Creatures

Sreejit’s Friday reflections are getting more profound every week. This is my favorite of them all.

The Seeker's Dungeon

When I was 16, my guru gave me the name Sreejit and I immediately went to the courthouse to change it legally. Everyone in my school knew the reason for the change, so I didn’t have to explain it. When I joined the workforce, people would constantly ask me where my name came from and I wouldn’t want to go into the details because that would require a longer, deeper discussion. I hated the presumptuous question of, what is my real name, because that would require and even longer and even deeper discussion. They were asking a simple question and I developed a simple answer for it. “My Dad is black and my mother is Indian,” I would say. “Oh cool,” they would say. A simple question, a simple half-truth and we’d all move on.

As we call our guru, Amma, or mother, it wasn’t a full lie, but was…

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Finding Light in the Darkness

Sreejit from The Seeker’s Dungeon has started posting reflective articles every Friday. I am finding them very interesting and thought provoking. His reflection this week was about finding light in the darkness.

The Seeker's Dungeon

Somewhere along the way, The Seeker’s Dungeon turned into a yes-the-world-is-fucked-up-but-there’s-a-light-at-the-end-of-the-tunnel blog. When I started out, I mostly wrote boy-it-sure-is-dark-down-here articles. As the blog grew, I developed a need to be ok with the darkness. I needed a reason for the darkness. It couldn’t just be that it’s damn dark in dungeons. No it had to be – whether through death, or enlightenment – we’re serving our time, and at some point we’ll be released into the light, and the purpose would make itself known.

But, ‘at-some-points’ are like ‘tomorrows.’ Eventually we have to be ok with today. We have to be ok with a journey, just being a journey. We all want to get somewhere. We can fight, and need to fight the injustices in every direction, but for the sake of our heart, we have to accept that darkness is part and parcel of the human experience.

Sometimes…

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Now Available on Google Play

Digital copies of Sreejit’s four books are now available on Google Play. (Using that process, the books can be downloaded and then read on a computer.)

Where Love Meets War series

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?

 

 

The third novel in this intriguing and captivating series, Willow, will be available in the not too distant future.

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The other two books Sreejit has placed on Google Play are collections of his poetry.

Out of the Fog: 30 poetic musings on the world to which I cling.

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.

 

 

 

Gypsy Soup: A Collection of Poetry

Cover artGypsy Soup is a reflection of the frailty of human intention, as well as the power of the human spirit. 

 

 

 

 

 

Consider checking them out at: https://play.google.com/store/search?q=sreejit%20poole&c=books

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.