Once I started sleeping around the clock, my body healed rapidly. I’m not back to normal but I’m getting there.
I’ve historically done a lot of seva but have never made other forms of spiritual practice a priority. One of my goals for this trip is to really increase the amount, and quality, of time I spend doing spiritual practices. Participating in the morning prayers, is an important part of that endeavor. They start at 4:55 am and last about an hour and fifteen minutes. They consist of chanting the 108 names of Amma, the Sri Lalita Sahasranama Stotram and the Mahishasura Mardini Stotram.
The last stotram is a tribute to Durga, who is considered to be the Mother of the World, responsible for the creation, preservation, and destruction of the world. Last week, the translation of one verse caught my eye and touched my heart.
O Mother! Even a simple sweeper in Your courtyard inherits all heavenly pleasures. Be pleased to accept my humble service and grant to me whatever You consider to be good for me.
I found a YouTube version of the Mahishasura Mardini Stotram that sounds very similar to the way we sing it.
I generally tend to run from one activity to another. I decided one way I would honor my intention to give increased importance to my spiritual practices is to slow down. After the morning prayers, a relatively small group of people stay to brush themselves with the smoke coming from the camphor flame after Arati is offered to the Kali murti. Instead of rushing out of the temple at the end of the morning prayers, I committed to myself to routinely stay and participate in that ritual. I haven’t done that for many, many years.
Another way I am increasing my sadhana (spiritual practice) is by learning Tai Chi. Today was my first day back in that class since I became sick. I loved it as much as I did the first week. The practice leads me into a meditative state, something I really need. I have no doubt I will continue the lessons when I return to Seattle.
Yesterday everyone that is going to be involved in this year’s play met together for an hour. Chaitanya told the story that is the basis for the play. I always enjoy being present for that introduction. As I was writing this portion of my post, there was a practice for the singers going on nearby. I could hear the music from my room. The songs are so beautiful.
When I was getting sick, it was suggested that I go swimming as a way of cooling my body down. That sounded like a good idea to me. I had long ago given away my swimming dress, so I went to the store and bought a new one. I had heard that the style had changed, and it was true. In the early days, it was a simple dress with straps and elastic at the top. When we were in the pool, the dress often billowed up above the water like a balloon! Now the dresses are a bit like pantaloons, without the elastic at the bottom. I hung up my new one so I could take a photo to show you.
As I swam around the pool, I had so many memories. The ashram built the swimming pool sometime in the mid to late 90’s. Amma used to take us to the pool; the women first and later the men. It was such a special time for us to be with her. I remember her pushing us into the pool one by one! During that time, Amma also gave swimming lessons to the brahmacharinis (female monks). In India, at least in the fishing village where the ashram is located, boys play in the sea but girls don’t, so the girls never have any opportunity to learn to swim. Many of the brahmarcharinis were very frighted at even the thought of swimming.
After playing with us, everyone would get out of the pool and Amma would swim by herself. She would lie on her back, in full lotus position, and go into a deep meditative state. Her body would then float around the entire pool without any muscle movement on her part. It was so beautiful to witness.
I also remembered Amma bringing village children to the ashram after the 2004 tsunami. The children were so frightened of the ocean since many of their loved ones had been killed during that event. Amma and the ashramites took the children to the pool, played in the water with them, and taught them how to swim. They learned to once again associate the water with something other than death.
I live in a small flat that has a main room, a small bathroom and a kitchen that consists of a sink, a cupboard, a counter and a propane burner! I eat in the various ashram dining areas but it is nice to make tea in my room occasionally and I love being able to add a cup or two of hot water to the bucket of cold water I use for my morning shower.
I’ve been noticing a new construction area that is located immediately outside of the north gate. I don’t remember what was there before, if anything. When I asked someone if they knew what was being built, I was told the international office is going to be moved there. Everything that is now on the fourth floor of the temple, i.e. seva office, computer room, information office, gift shop, etc. will move into the building the international office currently occupies. All of the rooms on the fourth floor of the temple will then be available to be used for visitors’ sleeping rooms.
The other big change that I discovered yesterday is that there is now a new IAM (meditation) hall and an Amrita Yoga hall. The rooms are located on the second or third story of the same building that housed the old Yoga Shala. They are huge rooms and are so beautiful. Three sides of the rooms are almost completely open to the outside, with netting to keep the birds out.
Amma usually takes us to the beach to meditate on Monday’s, prior to the evening bhajan program. It looked like it was going to rain tonight, so we met in the auditorium instead. When I arrived, Amma was already there and was talking about the flooding in Chennai. She had sent teams of volunteers to Chennai, right from the beginning, to rescue people from their houses and to provide food, clothes and medical care.
At the end of the meditation, Amma showed us a video of the rescuers releasing the water from the houses in order to free the residents. If I find that video, I will post it.
A Message from the World’s Astronauts
For many years, Amma has urged us to do what we can do as individuals and together to heal the earth. As I was reflecting on that topic last night, I remembered hearing about a video that was shown at the Climate Change conference that was held in Paris this week. In the video, the world’s astronauts sent an important message to those attending the conference. I was able to find the video and will use it as a powerful and moving way to end this post.
To see the earlier posts in this series go to: https://livinglearningandlettinggo.wordpress.com/india/