Since Amma was on the North Kerala tour, my last days in the ashram for this year were relatively quiet. As soon as she left, I started cleaning up my room and storing my belongings. I also worked in the cafe, and had some special time with Chaitanya and Sreejit (my daughter and son). In addition, I reflected on my trip as a whole and pondered changes I would make once I returned to Seattle
You might remember that my Tai teachers had returned to their respective countries. Dave departed just before Christmas and Stefanie left soon after New Year’s. Our class had decided to practice on its own, but a man we met just before our instructors left volunteered to teach us. He was a very kind and knowledgeable man, but his style was so different from what I was used to. Among other things, he taught us about 1) chakras, 2) giving gratitude to our organs for serving us year after year and 3) how each of the moves related to either bringing chi into our body or sending it out.
Like Dave and Stefanie, he often showed us how the movements we were doing related to the martial art form of Tai Chi. The information he shared was fascinating and valuable but we stood in one place while listening to him talk for an hour or more each day. My swollen feet didn’t do well with that. I tried sitting on the ground or on a step from time to time but that didn’t work for me either. He used quiet guided imagery a lot. I became agitated, wanting to be doing the beautiful Tai Chi moves. The rest of the class was thoroughly enjoying his class, though, so I began to think about dropping out.
I noticed my body was beginning to get stiff and was reverting to the way it had been before I had started the Tai Chi classes. One day, I decided to go to the beach early and practice the movements I had learned. I enjoyed doing that so much. That practice was followed by another day of standing still for over an hour, so I decided to drop the class.
Each morning until I left the ashram, I took the elevator up to the 15th floor of the building I live in and then walked up to the roof. As I did Tai Chi on the rooftop, majestic eagles flew over me.
(I realize some of you may not be able to access the slide show so I will post one of the photos below.)
During the last two days of my stay in Amritapuri, I purposely left my camera in my room and experienced the eagles for myself. One day there were six of them flying over or near me! That truly felt like heaven.
As my time to leave the ashram approached, I started doing computer searches to look for teachers in Seattle. I plan to take my time in choosing a new instructor. Dave had suggested we look for teachers whose movements flow and who has noticeable chi themselves. I added another criteria to that list. I want a teacher who emphasizes practice over theory.
There is one Tai Chi story I have meant to tell you in past posts but kept forgetting to do so. I have shared many photos of the beautiful beach where we held the class. What was also true about that beach is that we were learning in an area which was used as a parking lot during Amma’s public darshan programs. On those days, there were as many as four large buses and numerous cars parked in “our” area. That space was also the thoroughfare for pick-up trucks and bicycles going to and from the food composting center. We definitely had plenty of practice in staying flexible and patient. The whole scene became funny at times.
Another subject I haven’t mentioned at all is my love for the Seahawks. I have had a life time distaste for football but all that changed in 2013 when I became an avid follower of our Seattle team. I love the sense of community supporting the team brings to Seattle, and our whole region for that matter. Last year I purposely woke up early when I was in India to “watch” some of the games. (I say “watch” but that really means I was watching the score.) This year I was content to just look at the scores when I woke up, but the team was still very much on my mind. I would be returning at the same time the playoff games started. In fact, the first play off game would take place when I staying in a hotel in Dubai, so I planned to “watch” it there. (Photo Credit: Ginny Gensler)
I decided to make a photo gallery that represents many of the highlights of my 2015/16 visit to Amritapuri:
Time with Amma
Time with Chaitanya
Time with Sreejit
Time with Akshay
Sunrises and sunsets
Writing my migrant farm labor series
Costumes with Sumati
Costumes with Jani
12 foot high Goliath puppet
Saul’s army with David
John the Baptist
Jesus is home again!
(Hover the cursor over pictures to see the captions; Click the gallery to enlarge the pictures)
There are, of course, many other people with whom I had special times on this trip but have no picture of them to put in the gallery. I will keep the photo below separate from the gallery since I didn’t take it in Amritapuri. It portrays a pancake I made when I returned to Seattle; one that was inspired by the breakfasts my friend Lalita created each morning. I appreciate her positive modeling of healthy eating and all of the wonderful conversations we had during that meal. The pancake I made is topped with yogurt, pomegranate, bananas, chia seeds and hemp seeds. I will eventually look for ragi flour and try to replicate the cafe’s ragi pancakes!
January 17 Epilogue
I left India on January 10. On the way back to Seattle, I stayed 14 hours in the Dubai airport hotel and did indeed follow the first Seahawk playoff game while I was there! When I was still at the airport in India, I was thinking about the game and noticed that Skiddles were being sold there. I’ve never had a Skiddle in my life, but I knew one of our players often talks about them (I think they are one of his sponsors). I decided to buy a package of Skiddles as a symbol of support for my team. When I mentioned I had purchased them to Sreejit and Chaitanya they both told me how bad they were for my teeth! I thought it was funny to get that kind of feedback from my kids.
I arrived in Seattle on Monday morning and on Wednesday morning checked out my first Tai Chi class. I liked the class but I want to experience some other teachers before I make a decision about an ongoing classes. I have picked classes to attend on the 19th and 21st.
I spent this weekend attending a Sanskrit workshop. I love being with the Samskrita Bharati family but in the future I will remind myself not to participate in a workshop so soon after my return. (I’m still only sleeping 2 or 3 hours a night due to jet lag.) My friend Yashas took the workshop with me and he loved it. That really made the weekend extra special for me. Hopefully in time we will be able to speak Sanskrit together. (As an aside, the 2nd Seahawks playoff game was during the workshop. I know I was not the only person in the room who was surreptitiously glancing at their phone to check the score. We lost. Bummer.)
My visit to India was challenging but I learned so much and will be eternally grateful for the opportunities I have been given. Thank you for reading my posts and in so doing taking the journey along with me.
To see the earlier posts in this series go to: https://livinglearningandlettinggo.wordpress.com/india/