Living and Learning in Amritapuri, India: December 8-11, 2016

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Tai Chi

We’ve had three Tai Chi classes so far. I so appreciate having the opportunity to take the daily class. In 2015, it lasted an hour; this year it is 1 ½- 1 ¾ hours. Needless to say, I’m in heaven. Being able to do Tai Chi near the beach with beauty in front and over me makes it even more wonderful.

Seva

Devotees are encouraged to do seva while they are here. Seva means selfless service, i.e. volunteer work. There is a seemingly endless number of seva opportunities at the ashram. Think about the fact that five thousand devotees live here and there may be a thousand, or more, visitors every day.

Closer to Christmas there will be 1600 Western visitors plus thousands of Indians. Imagine what it takes to feed and house them, and you will get a sense of the amount of work that needs to be done.

My seva has taken an unexpected turn. For many years, I have helped sew the costumes for the Christmas play. I have experienced an increasing amount of resistance to that job over the last few years, but have continued to do it because the work needed to be done and I wanted to support Jani who is in charge of the costumes and Chaitanya who produces the play.

A few days ago, two friends of mine invited me to join the Sanskrit class they are taking. I had stopped studying Sanskrit about eight months ago. The Indian students learn so fast, since their native languages have a lot of Sanskrit in them, so no matter how many times I take the classes, I reach a point where I am unable to understand the teacher or the students (the classes are all taught in Sanskrit).

My friends’ invitation re-ignited my desire to learn that language. I knew there was no way I could add anything to my schedule without giving something up. I was also concerned about how I would fit in the significant amount of homework the teacher gives.

As I pondered this situation, I started ripping out Velcro from old costumes. My head was lowered as I used the seam ripper on the tiny stitches. My neck started hurting and before long I had a painful headache. All of a sudden, I was flooded with, “I DO NOT want to do this work (i.e. sewing) anymore.”

My desire to stop was stronger than my desire to help Jani and Chaitanya. I told both of them what I had decided. Neither of them was upset that I was not going to help. I was filled with relief and felt so much lighter. (I generally have no trouble saying NO but this situation was an exception!)

I’m still deciding about the Sanskrit class. I have the homework for the next class and will see how long it takes me to do it. The class meets for an hour on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays.

Now that I have stopped sewing, I will spend time every day working in the Saraswati Garden. I am very excited about that seva.

Schedule

My schedule is becoming more settled.

6:00-7:30 Wake up, shower, clean room, do laundry, check email, check CNN, check blog, work on blog posts or other computer projects.

7:45-8:30 Breakfast

8:45 -9:20 More of the above

9:30-11:30 Tai Chi (every day but Tuesday) I consider Tai Chi to be my form of spiritual practice.

12:30- 1:00 Lunch  (On Tuesday Amma comes for meditation, question and answers and then serves lunch. That process generally goes from 11:00-2:00.)

1:00-2:00 Watch play practice

3:00ish-5:00 Saraswati Gardens (If I take the Sanskrit class I will start earlier and leave earlier on those days because it is a 20-minute walk to the class.)

5-6 Sanskrit class on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday

5:30-6:30 Meditation and Q and A with Amma at beach… on Monday and Friday

6:30-8:30 bhajans (singing)

8:30-9:00 dinner

9-10:00 check email, work on blog

10:00 or 10:30 bedtime

Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday are Amma’s public darshan days. They start around 10:00 a.m. and can go until 1 or 2 the next day; they rarely end before midnight. My goal is to give Amma prasad and/or spend some time watching her at some point during each darshan day.

Breakfast visitor

A Kingfisher bird was perched near the table where I had breakfast yesterday. I thought it was stunning. I found a photo to show you on Wikipedia.

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White flowers of peace

Every time Amma leads a mediation, she asks us to visualize white flowers of peace falling onto every person, animal, and plant on earth. When she does that, I always think of all the beautiful white flowers I have seen in Amritapuri.

Saraswati garden

I love the path that leads to the Saraswati garden.

In a previous post, I mentioned that the garden staff had tried to harvest turmeric root earlier in the week but when they only found a few small roots they decided it wasn’t ready. The next day, they realized they needed to dig deeper. When they did, they found lots of roots; roots that were ready for harvesting.

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Yesterday, Padma cooked and then sliced them. When I went to the garden today, I saw that she had set them in the sun to dry.

Some days I work in the garden and sometimes I help Padma with the dye project. Twice, I’ve gathered and petaled marigold flowers.

One of the items they are making in the Saraswati center are prayer flags. If I remember right, the material at the top of the photo below was dyed with marigolds, and the one on the bottom was dyed with turmeric. img_5021

The last two days, I’ve helped research ways of making paint from marigolds.

Christmas Eve play

The play preparations are well underway. There are rehearsals going on all day, from morning to late at night. (Play participants also do their sevas so they have a very full day.)

Individual scenes are being rehearsed now and then the week before Christmas they will all be put together. I have watched at least part of a rehearsal every day, and when I am in my room at night, I can still hear the singers practicing. For a few minutes tonight, I watched the cast practice one of the dances.

The backdrop for the play is being painted on the porch of the Saraswati garden so I have been able to watch that process as well. I think it is beautiful.

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To look at previous posts in this Amritapuri series, click here.

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6 thoughts on “Living and Learning in Amritapuri, India: December 8-11, 2016

  1. again, thanks for sharing Karuna. so wonderful to experience vicariously Amritapuri. Have been thinking of Lalita, who I know has been in the silent retreat. love, Priya

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I am hearing a lot of self care and being in choice in your words. I like the way I see you exploring what you enjoy, is meaningful/nurturing to you and also doable. I like the flow of your schedule and a sense that it is held lightly with T’ai Chi being a priority and an important part of your spiritual practice.
    I want you to know that I a greatly enjoy your posts from Amritapuri. In reading them I feel homesick for the first time since I left!
    I do not miss the heat at all though, nor the crowds. And yet there is something about the rhythm of life, the extraordinary beauty, the lushness, the flowers and birds that are so moving and tender to me.
    Thank you for taking me back there.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The heat is not like last year. It is more “normal” for this time of year. It is cool in the morning and during the night. The crowds were big on Saturday and Sunday but not so big on the first Wednesday and Thursday after she returned to the ashram.

      I’m glad you feel a bit homesick. I hope to spend time with you here again in the future! 🙂

      Like

  3. I’m s glad you are doing things that you enjoy. The garden help as your seva makes so much sense…like a continuation of your dedicated task back home. And I love that you share what you do and what you have learned. Marigolds for dye, must be a rich colour!

    Liked by 1 person

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