I can’t pretend to be a gifted writer, but I will tell you about my life here at Anand Prakash Ashram as I experience it.
“Yoga is not intended to be taken dogmatically, and aspirants may interpret and practice according to their understanding and experience of the scriptures and teachings” -YTT manual
What a powerful phrase for me at this point and in this place. We were by the Ganga last Sunday evening celebrating Aarti – a Hindu celebration of the Deities at sunset. They were all chanting “Hare Krishna” and I wasn’t feeling it. I love me a good kirtan (a Sanskrit word meaning to sing) as much as I love singing along in church (which is a lot for those of you who don’t know me well). I love being able to sing without feeling like people are judging my out of tune singing voice. I love sending happiness and good intentions out into the community. I always enjoy assemblies with positive goals and attitudes (be it a church, temple, party, or charity event). This one felt different. I didn’t have enough context. I don’t speak Hindi or Sanskrit so I don’t understand what is being said and I don’t have google at my fingertips to read up on this Aarti party thing. I will interpret the teachings slowly. I will not beat myself up for not wholeheartedly participating to something and I should make notes on what to research when I come to a place with World Wide Web access.
Teacher training started bright and early this past Monday morning. I woke up with a gravity defying leap out of bed. Not due to excitement (though I was thrilled), but because of the bell! The 5am wakeup call sounds more like a fire emergency. At least it does for me because my room is right beside it. I’m sure my fellow classmates sleeping upstairs on the 2nd and 3rd floor don’t have the same terrifying awakening. My roommate and I already have a morning routine. We barely know each other and yet we silently make it work (in the ashram we keep quiet from 9pm to 9am). My routine consists of placing the blankets neatly on my simple bed and fluffing my unfluffable pillow. I fill my neti pot with warm water and Himalayan rock salt and cleanse my nose in preparation for pranayama (breathing techniques). I brush my teeth with filtered water to avoid chancing a digestive upset (see questionable street lassi). And the I have my bucket – not a bath and not a shower – a bucket filled with (thankfully) warm water. I finish off by dressing myself in white clothing as is requested by the ashram dress code and head upstairs to the yoga hall. Yoga with Vishva-ji is so simple and so delicious.
Speaking of delicious – the ashram food. OH.MY.GOD. Last time I was at an ashram it was barely spiced chickpeas for breakfast lunch and dinner. Or some other kind of pulse. This ashram is amazing! So after yoga I race and get my assigned plate, bowl, and cup from my room and sit on the floor in the dinning hall. I salivate as I wait for the buckets of delicious foods to come out. My favorite so far, breakfast samosas stuffed with bananas. It’s like a banana turnover! Lunches and dinners are equally riveting for me. I love the ghee (clarified butter) that gets drizzled onto everything at my request. Those of you who know me know how fond I am of butter. A dear friend came up with a saying for me “The fatter the better”. Everything is so delicious I don’t feel the need to sneak off the ashram for any other treats.
Except for my adventures here at the Internet cafe. They make a lovely mixture of honey, ginger, and lemon. Sweet, sour, and spicy. I make this at home all the time but there’s something more delicious when someone prepares it for you for 25 rupees (approx 50cents). Don’t get me started on their masala chai! Starbucks ain’t got nothing on these guys with their artificial chai lattes! I sneak off here a couple evenings a week to keep in touch with my people.
During the day our time is taken up with lots. After breakfast we partake in Fire Puja (a ritual around a sacred fire – and contrary to what my 5 year old little brother thinks, no, there are no marshmallows). After this we are busy with training (I’m learning lots!) and in the evenings we sometimes have kirtan, satsan or a transformational experience activity. They keep us quite busy and I like it otherwise I would find myself thinking of all the people I miss at home. The days are long but I’m bursting with energy!