As I age, I find myself drawn to older people who can serve as role models in the aging process. I met a woman in Amritapuri whom I think of in that way. She lives a life of adventure even though she is well into her 70’s. The woman in this video is a very different kind of role model. I don’t see myself following in her footsteps, but I thoroughly enjoyed the video. I hope you do too.
Surrounded in Beauty
Amma’s ashram is located on a peninsula between the the Arabian Sea and the backwaters. The view from my room is of the backwaters. The photo above is of the Arabian Sea, which is a five minute walk from my flat.
A Fascinating View of Construction
When I returned to my room on Thursday night, I heard an unusual sound, the sound that men sometimes make in unison when they are doing heavy lifting or other repetitive jobs. (There may be a word for it but I don’t know what it is.) I looked out the window to see what was going on.
A structure in the courtyard, which I soon realized was one of two bookstore stalls that had been there for years, had been turned on its side. (I’d say each stall is around 20 feet long and 10 feet wide. The floor may have been made from concrete.) The men were now surrounding the second one and they were trying to push it over as well. Once they had accomplished that goal, the men returned to the first one that had been over-turned.
Some long rails were brought to the courtyard. The men laid two of them down 6-8 feet apart. Somehow, they up-righted the bookstall and got it onto the rail. (I think during the time it had been turned on its side, something had been removed from the roof.) Then one group of men pushed the bookstall, while another group of them pulled it with ropes. In so doing, the bookstall moved along the rails. Each time it reached the end of the rails, more rails were added. That process continued until the bookstalls reached the end of the courtyard. Then they did what it took to turn it 90 degrees so it could move in a different direction.
There is a new building in that area. The backside has a big slab of concrete, with pillars along it. That part of the building looked like a veranda to me. As I continued to watch, the men put the bookstall up onto the veranda. Once it was there, they pushed it to the end of the new building.
I left my room at that point, but when I returned, I discovered that the second bookstall had also been moved to the veranda. When I looked closer, I realized the bookstalls would still open onto the courtyard, they will just be part of a building now rather than free-standing in the courtyard.
I was thankful to have been given the opportunity to watch that process. (Note: I don’t take photos on the main ashram grounds. I hope you were able to “see” it in your mind’s eye from my description.)
Obtaining Wi-Fi was an opportunity for me to practice flexibility, persistence, equanimity, letting go and patience. While it only took a week to get my personal Wi-Fi system fully functioning, it sure felt like a lot longer than that to me.
I made some helpful discoveries because of the wait though. One day, I used the ashram computer room. There we have a 30 minute limit and the connection is very slow. It was helpful for checking my email but not for blogging. The next day, I walked over the bridge to town and found a travel agency that had computers I could use. The connection was a bit slow, but reasonable, and it only cost me 10 rupees for half an hour. (67 rupees= $1).
As I was walking out of that building, I noticed there were people working on their laptops on the porch outside. I realized the travel agency also had Wi-Fi, which is what I really needed. When I returned the next day, I found out that the speed was very fast. I used it for one hour, for 30 rupees, less than fifty cents.
Then someone suggested I use the Personal Hotspot on my iPhone. I knew I had one, but I had never checked it out. Once I set it up, I was shocked by how fast the connection was. The only downside was that it used a lot of data.
Waiting for the MTS Hotspot to be activated no longer bothered me. Between the iPhone Hotspot and the travel agency Wi-Fi, I had the ability to do whatever I wanted/needed to do.
As of Saturday morning, the MTS Hotspot process was complete, so I can now do computer work in the comfort of my room without using as much data.
Amma returned to the ashram around 3 a.m. on Saturday morning. I did not see her come but I loved knowing that she was here. As anticipated, the ashram began to fill with people as soon as she returned. Saturday night she led bhajans (devotional songs). She sang two of my favorite songs; Karunalaye Devi and Radhikesa Yadunatha. Needless to say, I was in heaven.
As I was writing this post today (December 4), I heard singing coming from the auditorium. Amma wouldn’t be holding a large public darshan on her second day back from the Europe and U.S. tour would she? Then I heard the bell that sounds when Amma is coming outside. I headed out to see what was happening. The post could wait!
It is now three hours from when I wrote the above comments. I never found out what the music in the auditorium was, because it became abundantly clear as I walked down the stairs from my flat, that Amma was in the temple. She talked with us for awhile and then led a meditation. Afterwards, we were told everyone could come for darshan (hugs).
The instructions kept changing. The first change was that the Indian visitors should go first and Westerner visitors could go afterwards. (That is because many of the Indians visitors come just for the day and the Western visitors are staying here.) When the Western line started, we were told people who were meeting Amma for the first time should go for their hug, and the rest of us should wait. Then it changed to anyone that wasn’t new and will be here on Wednesday should wait to get their hug on Wednesday. I was not surprised by any of this, but the possibility of receiving darshan that day had kept me in the temple with Amma, which is a good thing!
On the way back to my room, I ran into a woman that a man in my Tai Chi class in Seattle had asked me to give a message to. I found out that she is only here for one day and will go back to the U.S. tomorrow. If I hadn’t stayed in the temple all that time, it is unlikely our paths would have crossed this year. That kind of synchronicity is the magic of being in Amritapuri.
After my first visit to the gardens, I decided I would do short periods of work at the gardens throughout my stay. One day, I helped spread coconut coir in the garden beds; it is being used for mulch. I raked up leaves two other days. I laughed as I raked the small number of leaves, thinking of my yard in Seattle which I know is covered by big Maple and Magnolia leaves. The second day, I helped the other garden workers create a sitting area in the garden.
We constructed this circle for the center of the sitting area. The brick is salvaged from construction site waste. Yesterday, I helped Advait gather pieces of brick for future use.
One of the main purposes of the Saraswati Garden is to grow plants that can be turned into dye. Padma showed me some of the materials she has dyed from flowers in the garden.The dye made from the rose was mixed with alum. It looks mostly silver in the photo but when you handle it you can see tinges of pink.
I haven’t seen the actual plant that indigo dye is made from yet. Padma said the plant substance in the bucket is living and it can last for a long time. When she wants to use it to dye something indigo, she strains it. I watched as she sponged it onto the white part of a fabric, turning it bluish. I believe she said the indigo fabric on the right was silk.
Dye can also be made from avocado peels and pits. You can see both of those in the photo below. I haven’t seen any fabric dyed with avocado dye yet, but I understand from what I have read that the peel will produce a rusty red color and the pit will produce a light to medium pink dye.
Chaitanya is back
My daughter Chaitanya returned from Germany on Wednesday. It is wonderful to now be with both of my adult children. Chaitanya writes and directs the Christmas musical each year. Yesterday, she gave me the script and asked me to edit it. I love having the opportunity to read it ahead of time, and then to watch as the play comes alive once the practices begin. Sreejit and his friends have been working on the music for some time.
My Amritapuri Tai Chi teacher and her husband arrived several days ago. Yesterday, she talked to the person who organizes classes in the ashram. I should be able to start doing Tai Chi soon. I have seen the wait as a chance to practice patience, but I am excited, and so ready to start!
As far as I’m concerned, it is a miracle. I have had NO jet lag this year. When I travel to India in the future, I will definitely arrange for a layover in Dubai.
To look at previous posts in this series, click here.
My friends, Yashas and Ramana, and I have been meeting occasionally to practice and sing bhajans (devotional songs). This past Friday, Yashas asked if we could sing outside in a beautiful place when we met on Sunday. What came to my mind was a public beach or in my back yard with neighbors looking on. While I liked the idea of being outside, I was not up for being in a public space, so my first reaction was not positive.
Later, I began to think about the lot behind my house. That space would be much more private but it is filled with blackberries, ivy and morning glory vines. As I pondered that possibility, I remembered there used to be a secluded area under a cedar tree in that lot. I decided to see what that space looked like now.
It turned out there were actually two cedar trees, standing side by side. Most of the area was sloped but not all of it. We would be able to play the harmonium and sing there once we cleared out the dead branches and some blackberries. In time, we could even invite others to join us. The neighbors might be able to hear us singing but they wouldn’t be able to see us. That mystery could be fun for everyone.
My hope was that we would be able to see a tree I consider majestic while we sang, (I have since discovered that it is an alder tree and rather than being one tree with four trunks, it is actually two trees, each of which has two trunks.)
The next day, Yasas helped me with the clearing. We sawed off dead branches, cut down a few blackberry vines and generally cleaned up the space. We placed some of the leaves on the ground to sit on.
Sunday afternoon, I built a small altar. Finding a level place where it wouldn’t fall over was tricky!
When Yasas and Ramana arrived, we sat in the new sanctuary and sang and talked for three hours. We had a wonderful time.
And this was our view!
When I sent some of these pictures to Sreejit (my son), he commented that we looked like pagan hippies. Hmmm. Well I still treasure the hippie part of me (A Hippie and Proud of It), and my love of Nature is ever increasing. I will accept that label!
I suspect I will spend many more hours in this new sanctuary.