A Day in the Life of the Ashram

It was a dark and stormy – morning. Ok, ok a really hackneyed opening sentence but I couldn’t resist! It is stormy, and it is true that perhaps dull would be more accurate; the thunder has been rolling since about 05:30 and the rain doesn’t look like it will let up anytime soon. Of course none of us have umbrellas and I left my hooded down jacket in Delhi – there seems to be a bit of a theme here – in Tamil Nadu it was the ear plugs…

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Waiting for the sun to clear the Bodhi tree so we can warm up.

Anyway, this gives me the perfect excuse to curl up and read or as I’m doing now – add some commentary for a posting. There may or may not be photos – the power is flickering madly.

Normally life starts pretty early – meditation at six followed by an hour of yoga at seven but this year with the unusual cold very, very few people are sitting in the glacially cold meditation hall – all that marble is marvellous in the heat of the summer when its 40+c., at 7 c. – not at all! We also don’t have a yogini this year so we are let off that as well. Breakfast is a eight – hot tea and sweet porridge, sometimes a cornmeal mush or chickpeas with lots of ginger.

Gudrun and I repair to our verandah to chase a slim beam of sunshine; after nine the sun clears the big bodhi tree and we bask in the warmth and light like a pair of old lizards shedding layers and layers until our bones belong to us again. Then we do any where from half to an hour of yoga – gotta love the app store! I have been having problems with sciatica for the past six months or so and I’m finding the stretches and strengthening exercises not just helpful but more like mandatory if I don’t want to feel and I suspect look, like a geriatric.

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Gudrun doing a fine balancing tree pose.

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Afternoon yoga, not a bad warrior pose if I do say so!

The ashram nursery school children come most mornings to sit with Swamiji and recite their mantras “Om Namo Bagavatah” – usually bellowed out with great enthusiasm and then a rapid recitation of 1 to 10 in English while jumping up and down. Very cute indeed. The teachers line them up in little rows on yoga mats and then proceed to pick them up and shift them around like some arcane board game – no idea what the purpose is….treats at the end are involved of course.

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“Om Namo Bagavatah”

Satsang nominally starts at 11:30 and it is basically a Q&A session with Swamiji. I don’t often go – after several years a lot of what he has to say is familiar territory so that time is quite often devoted to reading something inspiring – I’m reading Brené Brown’s new book, “Braving the Wilderness: The Quest for True Belonging and the Courage to Stand Alone”. Fabulously insightful and I highly recommend it. Gudrun has just finished “The Book of Joy” by the Dalai Lama and Desmond Tutu. That one is now on my ever expanding reading list.

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Swamiji at Satsang looking suitably wise.

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Satsang with the rest of us looking rather less than wise.

We swap tidbits and small stories which resonate and wax slightly philosophical. We often try to solve the world’s weighty questions – lately we’ve been a bit obsessed with the question of “what the hell is this golden stuff which keeps plopping down on us from clear skies?” Now according to Google and an Indian Apiarist, those pretty golden spots are bee poop – they overstuff themselves with the mango pollen and I guess some (actually quite a lot) leaks out! Bearing in mind that we aren’t talking about the pollen they collect to make honey…. I’ve also been focused on capturing some photos of a family of large kites (couldn’t decide for quite a while if they were kites or some kind of eagle but I think the forked tail says kite) who’ve taken up residence in one of the tall trees hereabouts – bloody difficult I must say – my hats off to birders!

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Wild honeybees nesting from the bottom of the Bodhi tree branches.

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This is a hornbill attempting to eat the dog’s morning porridge. Think of Aesop’s fable of the fox and the stork.

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One of the kites, who seems quite curious about me too.

Lunch at one is definitely the main meal of the day and always has my particular favourite – freshly made curd/yogurt. Last years nascent cow herd is in full swing this year – a big container is delivered to our kitchen every morning and by some alchemical process becomes the next days’ tangy curd. I wish I could take a “mother” home with me to make my own but it isn’t at all feasible – and I haven’t a clue how to make the stuff anyway. Bananas and tangerines are often also on the menu – I am not a particular fan of the bananas we get in Toronto – too often they have that weird metallic taste but these ones I could eat forever. The rest is variations on the theme of lentils, rice (always caldrons of white rice), potatoes and more chickpeas – sometimes a carrot and cabbage salad. Sometimes too a dessert but its usually an incredibly sweet Indian treat which makes my teeth ache – so a pass for me.

Dinner is smaller and often a reprise of leftovers from lunch. Gudrun is following this intermittent fasting protocol – you don’t eat anything after four until breakfast the next day – so no supper for her. I’m not nearly that disciplined but I’m finding the sambhar which is supposed to be poured over rice works very well as a small cup of soup for my dinner. I think in defiance of the cold or possibly in defence against it, cook is lacing everything with lashings of ginger and garlic – big chunks which set your nose running and make us all stinky! I sincerely hope I have a pleasant surprise awaiting me when I step on the scales back in Delhi! Between no wine for six weeks and all this vegetarian food for the same duration – I SHOULD lose a couple of pounds wouldn’t you think?

Afternoons are quite tranquil (well more tranquil – none of this is exactly stressful – which is the point of course), more reading, naps are practically mandatory, yoga again after tea and the ever elusive “is the WIFI up?” when trying to connect with the rest of the world. Sometimes we walk down to the Ganga and stand up to our knees in the river hunting for the little clay offering dishes from people’s prayers or pujas. This close to the headwaters, the river is quite clear and full of brahmin ducks, herons and fish. We saw one lone wild boar which is unusual as they live together in sounders – I think that is the correct word – a herd or group or pack (tho’ apparently older males can be quite solitary which seems to be the case with this one).

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Down by the Ganga finding puja offerings.

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A lone wild boar being escorted across the Ganga by Brahmini duck.

Evening meditation is much more well attended although we have one Spanish man who immediately starts snoring as soon as we all settle in – I’m sure snoring in his room would be much more comfortable but….? Dinner is at seven and then everyone wanders off to their rooms. There isn’t as much socializing this year as its just too damned cold to hang around outside but it has allowed me to curl up on my bed by eight or so and read for a solid couple of hours – what a luxury. That’s when I dig into “trashy” novels or SciFi/Fantasy or just plain old good books! Thank goodness for Kindle.

The nights are sometimes challenging – there is a dog (not our very Zen ashram dog) across the lane who seems to feel he must defend the entire countryside from all evils – all night. I don’t know how he can bark that long….but at least this year the farmers haven’t been setting off firecrackers all night to drive away young leopards and the local temple has been pretty quiet most nights. Then we start it all over again. So life here is very gentle, very restorative and soothing to the soul – I love it!

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She is the resident ashram dog, looking out over her domain from the roof.

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Aurovalley in the late afternoon.

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Beauty and light.

4 thoughts on “A Day in the Life of the Ashram

  1. The Ashram looks beautiful. A true picture of peace and tranquility. And as always, great pics. 🙂

  2. So lovely reading your blog, Kim. Seems like an idyllic life you’re leading there. I love reading this.
    Love, Shar.

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