Living and Learning in Amritapuri, India: January 2-10, 2019

Sunset in Amritapuri


Towards the end of December, we were told there would be a transportation strike on January 2nd. During that type of strike there are no rickshaws, taxis and buses on the road. I imagine the trains are also grounded.

On that day, I decided to walk into Vallikavu, the town closest to the ashram. I remembered the strike when I noticed there were no rickshaws near the bridge that joins the peninsula where the ashram is located and the mainland. I had planned to walk to town anyway so the lack of rickshaws was not a problem.

The only forms of transportation on the roads were bicycles, scooters and motorcycles. There weren’t even any private cars. Private cars are probably not driven during strikes either. The businesses I passed were all closed. I noticed that there were no Indian women on the streets. That seemed really strange.

There was a big group of men on the street ahead of me. I’ve heard that transportation strikes can get violent, but happens when someone breaks the strike. I wondered if I should go back to the ashram but this wasn’t a group of angry men. When I got closer, I was able to see that they were buying or selling fish. Since the market was closed, selling it on the roadside was probably their only option.

Once I reached the center of the town, I discovered the only stores that were open were the pharmacies. I was relieved since one of those pharmacies was my destination. I placed my order and then returned to the ashram.

On January 8 and 9 there was a two-day national strike. (I don’t know if the January 2nd one was state wide or just for the district, but it wasn’t national.) It was called a transportation strike on the announcements here but I noticed on one flyer that the word “transportation” was crossed out and “general” was written above it.

When I walked to Vallikavu on January 8 (for reasons that will become evident in a later section of this post), my experience was completely different from the one on January 2. I saw one rickshaw and a couple of cars on the road that day.  I also saw several closed businesses on the way to town, but when I arrived at the center of town, I discovered that almost everything was open, including the market and some of the banks. The number of women on the street seemed normal.

I believe the January 2nd strike was about the current events in Sabarimala. The national strike on January 8 was called by the Central Trade Unions and was against the government. Twenty million people participated in that one. Based on what I saw in Vallikavu on the 8th, my guess is that people here may not be as dissatisfied with the government as people in other parts of India.

Ashram Visitors

The number of Indian visitors was significantly lower during the strikes. The people probably couldn’t get here, but there may have been other factors at play as well. The crowds were large during the week between Christmas and New Year’s Day so it would be natural for them to be lower the week after the holidays. Also, the fact that Amma’s South India tour starts on the 18th may have been responsible for some of the decrease too.

All of the darshan programs prior to the holidays were in the auditorium rather than the temple. I assume that was because there has been restoration work occurring in the area above the front stairs of the temple; there was no way for a crowd to enter the temple from the front.

When the number of people at the ashram decreased, Amma began to hold darshan in the temple. Everyone walks up and down the stairs on the east side of the building. That creates an interesting dilemma since the stairs wind and are quite narrow. Two people can’t go up or down two across without turning to the side to squeeze by each other. But it works. It is nice to have programs in the temple from time to time.

Being there always brings to mind these photos from my first visit to the ashram in January of 1990. I was in Amritapuri the week that the temple was used for the first time.

A separate trip to Vallikavu

When I ordered my medications on January 2, I was told to return on Monday, January 7 and I did. That was an interesting journey. I decided to stop by the optometrist to get my glasses adjusted. When I walked into that office, I was told that the technician was not there. Then I went to the pharmacy and was told that my medications had not arrived and to come back the next day. Then I went to Love Sugar bakery to get my first, and only, Chocolate Fantasy sundae on this trip. I was told that the person who makes the sundaes wasn’t there. I had intended to go to the School of Biotechnology to take photos of the plants, but I had forgotten to bring my phone, which meant I didn’t have a camera.

So, I had walked the 15-20 minutes from the ashram to Vallikavu, in the hot sun, and accomplished none of the things I had planned to do. At least I got some exercise. I returned to the ashram and went directly to the Indian store. I purchased and ate a Magnum Triple Chocolate ice cream bar that I had seen in the store earlier in the week. I was in heaven!

Watching the Christmas Eve entertainment

Generally, the people who perform during the Christmas Eve cultural events aren’t able to see all of the performances. Usually, we have a chance to see a video of the event at a later time. This year, we watched that video on January 8.

I had a chance to see the choir performance part of the video ahead of time and was upset when I saw how stiff I looked. My problems with remembering the words and my off beat clapping were also all too visible. I thought about not going to the viewing, but decided not to chicken out. During the viewing, I was relieved to discover that seeing the video on a screen from across the room was very different than seeing it up close on a computer screen. I like to think that no one even noticed me!

As I was writing this section, I discovered that some photos taken during the Christmas Eve entertainment are on now. I’ve put some of them below:

You can click on the gallery to enlarge the photos.

Letting Go Reflections


If you’ve been reading my posts from this trip you will know that I’ve been sharing information and experiences I’ve had regarding letting go. In the last week, I’ve been reflecting on what is NOT letting go. I believe if I’m feeling resigned to an outcome then that is not letting go. In those cases, it might be more accurate to say I am giving up and accepting the fact that I can’t have what I want. I also believe that if I have resentment about not getting something I want, then it is an indication that I haven’t let go.

I imagine Transactional Analysis theory would consider both resignation and resentment to be racket feelings, i.e. something that covers the core feelings of mad, sad, scared and glad. I think resignation could easily cover anger and resentment definitely does. Also, we can be attached to something through our anger and our fear, or to say it a different way, anger and fear may prevent us from truly letting go.

Preparing to return to Seattle

My trip is nearing its end. I’ve started the process of cleaning my room, putting away the things I leave here and packing my suitcases. I have also been doing the administrative work necessary to prepare for future forest restoration work parties once I get back to Seattle. Today, I met with a friend to learn more about Power Point. I’m giving a talk about our restoration project at Seattle University on February 12 and want to put project photos on Power Point slides.

I will probably get my last hug from Amma on this trip tonight.

To read previous posts in this series click here.

Amritapuri Christmas Play- Part 3

Surprise! I’m able to write the third post about the Amritapuri Christmas play after all. Enjoy!


As I’ve mentioned before, this year’s Christmas musical was about the nativity story as told by a 9 year old child named Grace. Grace was living in a school for girls. She is the second child from the left in the first photo below. She is wearing a blue dress.

In many Indian plays, the actors don’t speak or sing, they lip sync. The musicians and people singing or speaking for the actors are out of sight. In this play, they were sitting on the left side of the stage.

The children were amazing. They had practiced their roles so thoroughly that you couldn’t tell they weren’t saying anything.


In Grace’s version of the nativity story, one of the wise men came from Africa. She named him Tsabo Babatunde. Tsabo was very, very old. When he received God’s direction to follow the star to Bethlehem, so that he could welcome another great soul to the world, he obeyed.

Tsabo was able to talk to animals, and they talked to him. One of the songs in the musical was Come Awake Africa.

[Note: You can enlarge the photos in this post by clicking on the photo galleries. To hear the songs, click on the audiofiles.]


Joseph and Mary sang and danced with their friends before they traveled to Bethlehem.


One of the  most intense scenes of the play occurred when it was time for Mary to give birth and no one would give them the couple a place to stay. I think you will get a sense of the intensity by listening to the song. I still get goose bumps when I hear it.


An angel was present during the nativity scene. As you look at the photos and listen to the music know that she was 30-40 feet above the floor!


One of the most touching scenes was near the end when Mary let Grace hold baby Jesus.

Throughout his journey, Tsabo had visions of what the adult Jesus would do in his life. Those visions were enacted. The photo below is from one of the last scenes in the play when Jesus was talking about love.

It was a wonderful musical. I hope you were able to get a sense of that from the photos and songs in this post.

To read the previous posts in this series click here.

Amritapuri Christmas Play 2017

The Christmas play was last night and it was as wonderful as I expected it to be. Every year I think the musicals can’t get any better, and then they do.

The title of this year’s musical was Walking Beside Us. It was the nativity story as told by a young child living at the Rosenberg School for Girls. It will be a while before I will have access to the photos from the play but I will share a video clip of part of a scene from one of the very early practices now. I think it will give you a sense of what the play was like.

The child who was telling the story of Jesus’ birth decided that one of the wise men was from Africa. In this video clip the woman who plays that wise man (in the play she is a man) is dancing with many types of animals. You will also see her teaching the animals how to do African dance.

I look forward to sharing photos from the play itself so that you can see what the costumes looked like when they were finished.

It is either Christmas Eve or Christmas Day where all of you live, so I will end this post by saying “Merry Christmas!”

Amritapuri Christmas Play: The Loving Father

The Amritapuri Christmas play this year was based on Jesus’ parable of the prodigal son; with the main focus being on the love of the father. No  names are used in the parable, so for the play the father was called Jonas, and his sons were Jeremiah and Matthew. Matthew was the son who left home.

Here are a selection of photos from the production. (If you click on the gallery the photos will be enlarged.)

There were so  many beautiful songs. I’m going to share the audio from my two favorites. This first one, “I Search My Soul,” was written by my son Sreejit. In it, Jonas, Jeremiah and Matthew are singing simultaneously as they look within themselves.

Most of the songs in the play are original. There was one song though, that is commonly used by churches in plays about the prodigal son. Some of the words were changed to fit the script for this production, but it is basically the same as When God Ran written by Phillips, Craig and Dean.  The song is so moving. I still cry every time I listen to it.

I feel full of gratitude for everyone that worked together to create The Loving Father.

Thanks to Chaitanya who wrote the script and co-directed the play.


Thanks to Devapriya who choreographed the dances.


Thanks to Devika who co-directed the play with Chaitanya and played the role of Jesus.

Thanks to Jani who spends countless hours designing and sewing the costumes.

In most plays in India, the actors are not actually talking or singing. There is a group of musicians and singers who sit to the side of the stage who provide the instrumentation and the voices. So a special thanks to all of the musicians and singers who worked night and day to create and learn the dialogue and songs for this production.


And of course endless thanks to all the actors and dancers as well as those who sewed costumes, translated, created props, prepared power point slides, and set up and ran the lighting… and to anyone I forgot to mention.

To see all of the posts in this Amritapuri series, click here.

Living and Learning in Amritapuri, India: December 23-25, 2016


Be Like a Bird Perched on a Dry Twig

I’ve mentioned before that Amma teaches us to be like a bird perched on a dry twig, ready to fly at any moment. That lesson has been front and center for the play cast during the last three years.

Five or six years ago, when the play was on a darshan day, Amma said to hold it on the auditorium floor since she would be using the main stage for darshan. The participants built a small stage for the performance.

In December of 2014, Christmas Eve was again on a darshan day. Since the cast believed the play would be on the auditorium floor again, they were very creative in how they built the stage. It had three levels so that three scenes could take place at once.

Amma is asked where she wants to hold the play 3-5 days before the event. In 2014, they were shocked when she said that she wanted them to perform it on the main stage. She would finish darshan early, and watch it with us. While everyone was delighted that Amma wanted to watch, they only had 72 hours to adjust all the backdrops and choreography to fit on the smaller stage.

In 2015, the play was once again on a darshan day. While they knew they couldn’t count on it, they planned for the play to be on the main stage since Amma had wanted it that way the previous year. Days before the performance, she told them they would need to use the auditorium floor since she would be giving darshan on the stage. Everyone flew into action, building a stage for the auditorium floor and adjusting everything that needed to be adjusted. That year they just took it in stride, seeing it as the opportunity for growth that it was meant to be.

The December 2016 play would normally have been on a non-darshan day but,  since it was a Leap Year, it ended up being on a Saturday, another darshan day. This time the play was planned so it would fit on either the stage or the auditorium floor. The leaders kept in mind that Amma could come up with an unexpected third alternative and that is exactly what she did. When asked where the play should be held, Amma informed them she would let them know on the day of the program.

While they were jolted by this response, they went on preparing the play, envisioning it in both places. The day before the event, thinking Amma, because of the size of the crowd, would most likely choose to hold the play on the auditorium floor, they installed the lighting and the backdrop. The gigantic backdrop was rolled and hoisted 30-40 feet above the auditorium floor.

On Christmas Eve morning, Amma was asked once again where she wanted the performance. She said she would decide later in the day. They still didn’t have a definitive answer at 6:00 p.m.

It soon became obvious that Amma wanted to see the play with us, so the backdrop and the lights were taken down around 7 p.m. I heard that it took 30 people to remove the huge structure of lights and carry it to the main stage. Both items were then reinstalled on the stage, while Amma was giving darshan.

Soon the cast were in their make up and  costumes. All the props were ready to be put on the stage. Nothing else could be done until Amma finished darshan and the stage was cleared.

Darshan was over at 10:30 p.m. It usually takes hours to do the play set-up but they accomplished it all in an hour; the play started at 11:30 p.m. and proceeded without a hitch. The music was wonderful, the acting was wonderful and the dancing was wonderful. Never has one of their plays gone so smoothly.

The cast had handled all of the challenges with such grace, knowing that everything they experienced had purpose. What a lesson it had been in flexibility, persistence, patience, non-attachment, equanimity, and being like the bird perched on a dry twig.

I will write more about the play in a future post, but for now I will share some pictures I found on Amma’s Facebook page today. They will give you an idea of the quality of the costumes and backdrops and even glimpses of the acting.

The story was about Jesus’ parable of the prodigal son, with the emphasis being on the loving father. The first photo is of the father, the second Jesus, the third of one of the piggies, the fourth is a village scene and the fifth is of the prodigal son in despair.

After the play, Amma sang some songs and led a meditation. The photo below was taking after we sang a very rousing bhajan. She often ends those kind of songs by saying “Mata Rani Ki Jai” (Victory to the Goddess/Divine Mother) over and over and we respond “Jai” (Victory) each time with arms up. That is what you are seeing in this photo.

If you look closely you can see Amma. (The picture also shows you what the auditorium looks like and gives you a sense of how many people were present.)


Amma ended the evening by passing out Christmas cake to the thousands of people who were present. What a day it had been.

Prasad Giving

When I arrived at the head of the prasad giving line on Christmas Eve, Amma started hugging people faster. Our “shift” for handing Amma the candy and ash she gives to each person who comes to her for a hug lasts either two or three minutes. Usually the prasad giver only has the opportunity to hand her a few packets. Because she was going fast at that moment, I was able to give her many packets. I had a lot of fun.

I handed Amma prasad again on Christmas day. This time when I reached her, the person who was being hugged asked Amma a question. Amma had lots to say so I was able watch. I didn’t get an opportunity to hand her packets during my time, but I didn’t care. It was nice to be so close to her and after all, I had handed Amma so many packets the day before.

Karunalaye Devi

When I left the stage where Amma was sitting, one of the brahmacharis (male monks) started singing Karunalaye Devi, a song I mentioned in a previous post. Hearing it again felt like a gift.

When I returned to my room, I looked to see if the song was available on YouTube. I was surprised to discover that Amma has a YouTube channel that contains videos of many of her songs.

A version of Karunalaye Devi had recently been uploaded. The singing takes place in the Amritapuri auditorium, but there are also darshan scenes from  her Indian tours. The man in the photo below is Swami Amritasvarupananda, one of Amma’s senior swamis.

Christmas Surprise

The afternoon of Christmas Day, I participated in the play cast celebration. It is always so much fun, and, considering all the challenges, they had even more than normal to celebrate about. At the end of the party, we heard that Amma had said any ashram visitor who hadn’t had darshan during the previous week could come for darshan that night. Since the crowds are so large at this time of year, we hadn’t even considered going until January.

It made for another late night, but it was so worth it. What a wonderful Christmas season it has been.

To see all of the posts in this Amritapuri series, click here.

Dancing Together

Every year, during the Onam festival, the Western residents in Amma‘s ashram in Amritapuri, India, create and perform a dance. It always contains a large group of people and many different segments. This year, for the first time, my daughter and son danced together during one of those segments. I haven’t seen the performance yet but I have seen some photographs. I am so proud of them.

(BTW, plays and dances in Amritapuri are always done barefoot.)





When You Feel Like Darkness Has You Bound


I love watching the path my mind takes when I am determining what song to use for the Song Lyric Sunday challenge. I start by thinking about what songs would address the theme for the week, but I often don’t end up there.

This week the theme was protest songs. The song I used for my second week of doing this challenge was We Shall Overcome so I considered some of the 60’s protest songs. But then my mind went a different direction. I thought about two of the Blues songs my son Sreejit wrote some years back. I listened to them both, but as I was considering them, another song came to mind.

My daughter Chaitanya and my son Sreejit live at Amma’s Amritapuri ashram in Kerala, India. People for all religions come to Amma, and all religions are respected. For the last seven or eight years my son and daughter have been very instrumental in creating the Christmas play that is performed on Christmas Eve each year. Chaitanya writes and directs the plays and Sreejit and his friends compose most of the tunes. The plays are in the style of Broadway musicals.

The particular play that came to my mind was performed in 2012 and was titled God is Able. The setting was a Southern style Gospel church. Sreejit was the preacher! The story line covered the stories of Moses leading the Jews to the promised land, Rachael being healed by touching Jesus’ garment, and a fictional account of the heart of an angry store keeper being healed. I never will forget the moment in the play when the stage doors opened and our sparkling “Gospel Choir” became visible. It seemed like everyone in the auditorium did a collective gasp. Part of the reason I remember the gasp and the thunderous applause and shouts that followed our song so well is that I was part of the choir!!!


The song I have chosen is Dear God. The tune was written by Sreejit and the lyrics by Chaitanya.  It is not a protest song but it is a song that is very relevant to times of darkness which is often what proceeds protest.

The mp3 recording and the lyrics are below.  I hope you enjoy it as much as I still do!

When you feel like darkness has you bound
And you can’t see any way to get out
There’s a power which surrounds us all
Through God anything is possible

Never fear
Never let your doubts draw near
With courage face all that comes
Put your trust into God’s arms
He’ll protect you from all harm
His love will carry you on through

Dear God, hold us tight never let us leave thy sight
Dear God, fill our soul with your love make us whole

Sreejit singing above the choir:

God is able to calm the wild storm
God is able to make the weak strong
God is able to bring change within
God is able to do all things

Living and Learning in Amritapuri (December 27, 2015 to January 2, 2016)

Musicians with vocalists standing behind

In an earlier post, I shared pictures of the actors and scenes from this year’s Amritapuri Christmas play, “Blessed Art Thou.” In this one, I will focus more on the musicians and vocalists. Their work was magnificent.

In many, if not most, of the plays in Amritapuri, the musicians and vocalists are off stage. The actors are actually lip syncing when they appear to be speaking. They do such a good job of lip syncing many who watch the play don’t realize that they aren’t speaking, unless they know that this practice is traditional in Indian dramas.


Sreejit coordinates the group of musicians and vocalists. He and his musician friends start writing tunes as soon as one year’s play is over; long before they know what the next year’s play will be about. They write many tunes during the year but only a small fraction of them become part of the production.

Here are some of my favorite songs from this year’s play.  Two of the tunes are original and two aren’t.

Sabbath dinner
Sabbath dinner

Part of this song is in Hebrew.  It is traditionally sung in Jewish homes on the Sabbath. I think it is so beautiful.


Mary yearning for Jesus to return home

My favorite song in this play is “Each and Every Night.”  Mary, mother of Jesus, is singing about how hard it is for her, as a mother, to wait for Jesus to come home again.


John the Baptist
John the Baptist

The John the Baptist song was written and sung by Puneet Gabriel McCorrison.  He is the person on the right side of the photo at the top of the post.


Satan tempting Jesus
Satan tempting Jesus

This music and song is about the 40 days and 40 nights that Satan tempted Jesus.  If you listen closely you will hear both the voice of Satan and the voice of Jesus.  Sreejit is the voice of Satan!  He is also in the photo at the top of the post, sitting on the left side.  During the play, Sreejit played the harmonium and was the voice for both Goliath and Satan.


While there were many other songs in the performance, I believe these four will give you a good sense of how much the musicians and vocalists contributed to the play’s success!

New Year’s Eve

I was super busy on December 31. I left my room at 7:30 a.m. and didn’t make it back there, except for a few minutes, until 8:30 p.m. By then, I was so sleepy I couldn’t keep my eyes open. I knew the New Year’s Eve events would last until around 1:30 a.m., so decided to get some rest.

I slept from 8:30 to 10:30 p.m. When I woke up, I could tell that the entertainment portion of the evening program had already begun. I arrived at the auditorium in time to see a group led by Sashwat, an Amrita TV camera man. Two or three years ago he had surprised so many ashram residents by doing a rap performance on New Year’s Eve.  This year, I sat on a table to the side of the hall and was able to see well. The singers and musicians were all sitting on the floor, as is typical in India.  At one point a member of the group stood up and led several rap songs. He was the same man I mentioned in an earlier post, the one who practices Kung Fu moves on the beach! I was so surprised.


That group’s performance turned out to be the end of the entertainment program. Thursday was a darshan day and Amma continued to give hugs until just before midnight. She then led a meditation and a Lokah Samastha Sukhino Bhavantu (May all beings in the world be happy) chant. Next came her New Year’s message. Amma talked about a variety of topics.  Among them were 1) welcoming the new year with joy and alertness, 2) compassion, 3) facing obstacles and 4) protecting nature’s harmony. You can read excerpts from her speech at:

Afterwards, Amma led several beautiful bhajans (devotional songs) and then did a Badaga dance. The crowd loved it all. The picture below was taken after one of the more rousing songs.


Following the bhajans, Amma served payasam (sweet pudding) to the thousands of people in the hall. She poured the pudding into cups and they were handed down from the stage on trays.  Devotees then passed the cups of pudding to the people behind them until everyone had one. (Some of the brahmacharis also helped pour the payasam.)

After that, Amma left the hall and the devotees began to clean up. What a wonderful New Year’s Eve it had been.

New Year’s Day

Each year, about a week after the play, the cast get together to watch the newly created play video. It is always so much fun to watch it as a group. This year the viewing was on New Year’s Day and, as always, there was lots of laughter and applause.

That evening I went to the beach to meditate with Amma. On the way, I noticed one of the devotees who often represents the ashram was escorting a man and woman to the meditation. A young woman was walking nearby and when she saw the male visitor her jaw dropped in amazement. She came up to him and said she was a BIG fan of his. She turned around saying she couldn’t wait to tell her mother he was there.

I had no idea who he was but was definitely intrigued. Later I found out it was Russell Brand. I rarely see movies or watch other kinds of shows so I didn’t know anything about him. When I did an internet search, I discovered he is a British comedian, actor, and activist. I also learned he wrote an article about Amma last year so I looked that up as well. I was impressed with what he wrote. Many of his words were funny, but a lot of the things he wrote about Amma were profound. If you want to read his article you can find it at:

Time with Amma

In my last post, I had said I was going to make being with Amma a major priority for myself during the following week since she would be leaving on her North Kerala tour soon. While I did not always keep that commitment, I did make my decisions around use of time carefully. I think that was the life lesson, i.e. to make plans but be willing to let them go when it seems important to do so.

I received my last hug from Amma (for this trip) on December 30. I love it when Amma laughs while she hugs me. This time, it seemed like she held me for a long time while talking and laughing with the people who were nearby!  What a great ending for that part of my trip


One of the two elevators in our building has been out of service for a week or so. On New Year’s day there were so many people waiting for the elevator, I decided to walk up the stairs. There are fifteen flights of stairs to climb in order to get to my room on the fifth floor.

As I trudged up the stairs, I remembered I was carrying something for a friend living on the NINETH floor! I would have waited for the next elevator if I had remembered that, but I decided to just keep going. The celebration is that when I reached the eighth floor my pulse was 103 beats per minute (per Fitbit). On the nineth floor it was 105. A few months ago my pulse was 150 when I leisurely walked around a flat track at a park near Seattle. As far as I was concerned, for it to stay that low after climbing up 27 flights of stairs was worthy of a big celebration!  I am so much healthier than I was when I arrived in India five weeks ago.

There is more I could say, but I will save it for another post.  I hope that you all had a wonderful holiday season and wish you a very happy new year.


To read the earlier posts in this series go to:

Living and Learning in Amritapuri (December 22-26, 2015)


Be like a bird

Amma says we should be a bird perched on a dry twig, ready to fly at a moment’s notice. She is really good at giving us opportunities to work on that lesson. Last year, since the play was on public darshan day, we expected to present it on the floor of the auditorium instead of on the stage where Amma is hugging people.  The play was prepared with that plan in mind.

Then on December 20, Amma told us that she would stop darshan early so she could watch the play with us.  That meant that the play would be on the stage.  The backdrops were WAY too long for the stage and would all have to be altered. The stage was smaller than what had been designed for the auditorium so both the acting and dances had to be reworked to fit in the smaller space. It was amazing how well the cast worked together to make the changes.

The same thing happened this year, but in the opposite direction. We had prepared to present the play on the stage and three days before the event Amma said since the crowds were large, she would be giving darshan on the stage. Therefore, the play would  be performed on the auditorium floor in front of her.  That way she could watch it while she was hugging those who came to receive her blessing.  Again many aspects of the play had to be reconfigured. The cast was used to this type of challenge by now, so they laughed and cheered and began to make the necessary alterations.


Once the costumes were made, they all had to be ironed. It took four for five people many hours over a three day period to accomplish that task. One day, I was irritated because the only iron available to me was so heavy. It reminded me of the heavy irons from centuries past, the ones that were placed on a stove to get hot. I learned to tip the iron onto the fabric rather than pick it up each time I moved it.  Once I got my technique down, I discovered that it was actually the best iron of all of them. It was so heavy it seemed like it flattened many of the wrinkles through its weight! It was a good lesson in remembering that there is a lot I don’t know and my judgments may be wrong.

Christmas Eve

The day of the play finally arrived. The last rehearsals had gone well and everyone was ready.

There is only one story in the Bible about Jesus as a child. This play was about what Jesus might have been like when he was growing up, as well as what it might have been like to be his parents, siblings or friends. It also contained scenes about John the Baptist and about the 40 days and nights Jesus was tempted by Satan. While Jesus is known as a peacemaker, he also challenged the traditional religious teachings, so that area was addressed as well.

At one point in the play, Joseph told the children the story of David and Goliath. Our Goliath was a 12 foot high puppet! A man was inside of the puppet carrying him on his shoulders. As I’m sure you can imagine, Goliath was a major attraction!

The play was absolutely wonderful. The singing, dancing and acting were remarkable. (You can click on any picture in the gallery to enlarge them all.)

After the play was over, Amma gave her Christmas message and then we all received Christmas cake. If you are interested, you can read Amma’s speech at:


Very late on Christmas Eve, big groups of Indians started arriving and on Christmas day the crowd was huge.   That evening we went to the beach to meditate with Amma and the whole time we were there people continued to come. I have never seen that many people on the beach at one time.

At 6:15 or so we returned to the auditorium for bhajans (devotional singing). There were so many people that everyone couldn’t fit in the auditorium. It has been quite a while since I’ve seen the auditorium that full!

Play cast celebration

On Christmas day the play cast had a party. Devapriya and Chaitanya had prepared a funny skit. Goliath was part of it as well. Sreejit was Goliath’s voice. I took some pictures so you could see Goliath close up.

Morning prayers (archana)

I had started staying in my room during the morning prayers and reading one of the chants in Devanagari (Sanskrit) script during that time.  At first I did that was because I had lost my archana book, and then because I wasn’t waking up in time to get to the temple before the prayers started. It was also a way for me to practice my Sanskrit. One day this week though I was awakened at 3:30 in morning, by the computer! I hadn’t logged out, but I had closed the cover and everything had turned off.  I had left the internet stick inserted but it was off too. At 3:30, the computer started making noise.  When I looked to see what was going on, there were lights flashing several feet around it. That had never happened before and I was mystified. It was as if the computer had turned itself on. I couldn’t go back to sleep so decided I was “supposed” to go to archana in the temple, and did.


December 26 was a challenging day for me. I was very triggered by several things that happened in the early morning. Soon thereafter, someone approached me and asked if I would like to take a picture of an insect. I went with them and was very intrigued by what I saw.


I chose to believe that being given the opportunity to see this creature, which I think was a very young praying mantis, was either a reward for weathering the challenges, or something to lift my spirits. Since that day ended with more triggering events, I was very glad when it was over.

Tai Chi

A positive thing about the 26th was that we had two Tai Chi classes! I am so in love with that process. We’ve had two teachers working with us. Dave returned to Canada a few days ago and Stephanie will leave on January 2. I will miss learning from them but look forward to practicing what I have learned on my own, and hopefully will find another teacher when I get back to Seattle.

I can already feel changes in my body from doing it. It seems to me that my body is more relaxed, that my posture has improved and that I am looking straight in front of me instead of down. I look forward to seeing if it has any effect on my scoliosis.  Most important though is that it brings me into a meditative state.

Time with Amma

I have been so busy since I’ve been here that I haven’t spent much time with Amma.  She leaves January 5 on her South Kerala tour  and I will be gone when she comes back to Amritapuri.  I am going to make sure that I go to the beach meditations on Mondays and Fridays and will hand her prasad (the candy and ash she gives everyone she hugs) every darshan day!

I can’t believe that there are less than two weeks left in this trip.  I wonder what other lessons and experiences will come my way before I leave.

Living and Learning in Amritapuri: Jan – 7, 2015


(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!

Kanji Making

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.


Organic Gardens

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.