Sunday, January 31, 2016


There is a prayer we say here at the ashram:

Aum Lokah Samastah Sukhino Bhavantu 

I first heard it back in Santa Cruz when one of my yoga teachers at Divinitree would end all of her classes with it. It means: May all beings from all worlds be happy and free.

But what exactly does it mean to be happy and free? Considering the prayer was most likely derived from a lost Vedic text (it's not found in any existing text), it probably means unattached from those things that cause suffering (pretty much everything) and free from the cycle of birth and death.

I have met some of the happiest people here at Amritapuri--completely high on the energy of the place. I have also seen some of the most miserable people in my entire life. Ashram life is not the easiest, but you're always well taken care of. You can come here and never ever need to leave. Everything is here for you--shelter, food, work, friends, a library, a hospital, the beach, little shops, all kinds of classes. A simple, but full existence.

They say this isn't the kind of ashram that will whip discipline into you like many ashrams will. (There is absolutely nothing you're required to do here). They say it's a purification ashram--the type of place you come to face all those things that will help you progress on your spiritual path. They say you don't have to seek these things out--just being here, you will ultimately face them. People flock here not only to live in the presence of a living spiritual master, but to face those dark parts of themselves (fear, anger, jealously, impatience, all things ego). It's like moving to a very small town full of people looking for trouble.

It's fascinating to be in the middle of it all, to hear people complain and talk about the lessons they learned that day--dealing with their seva assignment, never finding solitude or privacy, the store not being open when they need something, the slow internet, the constant unwavering noise from construction and birds and ongoing activities in the village across the river, etc, etc.

What's so interesting is that it's exactly like life outside of the ashram. The only difference is that people pay attention to the lessons in their circumstances and take it to heart while they're here. Being close to Amma magnifies it for them. But is it making them happy? Is it making them free?

Not too long ago, a woman in my seva group exclaimed, I miss Spain! I miss my solitude in nature, my fluffy bed, my fluffy sofa, my fluffy cat! She shook her head and gazed longingly out over the backwaters from the rooftop where we work. How long are you here? I asked. She shrugged and told me she had been here for a month and that her visa was for 6 months. I sure hope I'm not here that long, she said. Does she not realize she could leave anytime? What's keeping her here and miserable? Is she waiting around for some sort of spiritual awakening from being miserable?

I really wanted to tell her it doesn't work like that. But I didn't. We are all on different paths, but all aiming for the same goal. We all want to be happy and free. We just have different ways of approaching it.

What does happy and free mean to you? Are you happy and free? If your answer is no, what would it take for you to be happy and free? And if your answer is yes, what is it that makes you happy and free?

While you're thinking about it, here's my invocation to you:

Aum lokah samastah sukhino bhavantu

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Miracles in Chaos

Life here at the ashram is rhythmic and chaotic. It is magical and mundane. There are visitors and renunciates here with stories of miracles and blessings. There are people here with backpacks just passing through. Each person along his path sucked into the mystery that is Amritapuri.

I eavesdrop on conversations in the gardens, at mealtimes, and on the beach. Amma works on you, one woman whispers to another. She teaches you those lessons you have not yet learned. You learn to face those things you can't or won't. She will challenge you. Amma saved my life, I heard another woman say.

I came here intending to stay 3 months, a man in my seva group tells me. That was 16 years ago. Why did you stay? I asked. Because Amma told me to, he said. Why did you come here? I asked a young girl from Paris as we were sitting down to dinner. Because of all the stories, she said. I just wanted to feel that kind of energy--the first time I met Amma in Paris I fell to my knees and wept so I knew I needed to come here.

Have I been challenged in the week or so I've been here? Have I felt the energy? Have I experienced any miracles?

Each day I practice yoga as the sun rises over the backwaters. Each evening I sit on the beach and watch the sunset over the Arabian Sea. I have no where to be but here. I have nothing to do but write and be with myself. The challenge is wrapping my mind around the fact that I have no where to be but here, that I have nothing to do but write and be with myself.

The energy I feel is the rush of stress pouring out of my body and mind. I had no idea how uptight and burnt out I was until I suddenly wasn't.

The miracle is that I'm here. The miracle is that everything I prayed for, that everything I put intention into over the past 2 years has manifested. I believe that we co-create our lives. I believe that we can tap into the infinite and make anything possible. I know because I've done it so many times before. (That string of miracles that's gotten me here). Keeping that equilibrium of always moving toward the resolve while releasing it. The difference this time is that I was so aware of it as it was happening.

Being able to manifest something so specific in an otherwise seemingly chaotic whirl of existence is a miracle, and to string together those miracles found in the chaos to create meaning is also itself a miracle. Or as Carl Sagan used to say, "If you wish to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first invent the universe."

From ashram talk to cosmology all in a single post.

What miracles have manifested in your life? When you reflect on where you've been, can you see the string of miracles?

Monday, January 11, 2016

Curiosity Driven Life

On my first night here at Amritapuri, not even yet checked-in, the most curious thing happened.

I was standing in front of the main temple chatting with a woman from Australia who had also just arrived when a small, strange, elderly Indian woman walked up behind me and latched onto my arm and began pulling me. And when I say strange I mean strange in the sense she had one lazy eye and a spark of insanity in the other. I could have easily been sketched out by the whole scene, but I chose not to be. I didn't resist. I let curiosity take over. I let her pull me up the stairs and into the temple. We didn't stop there.

She kept going up and up and up--five flight of stairs and down a couple winding hallways before she let go of me and disappeared behind a door. On the way up, I noticed the temple was much more than a temple. It was full of shops, a library, and offices for anything you could possibly need including astrology, massage, and Ayurvedic counseling. I probably would have eventually found these places on my own over time, but it was kind of magical to be swept away and inadvertently shown by a woman who possibly may have been a character in the Dark Crystal.

Curiosity has led me to lots of fascinating (and not so fascinating) places in my life. It's opened me up to possibilities I would have never known existed if I hadn't kept following. It's also led me to some really dark places where I learned some of life's toughest lessons. Curiosity can bend us and break us open. It can heal us and liberate us. Without curiosity, how would we learn and grow? How could life possibly enchant us if we don't let curiosity in?

I have always led a curiosity driven life, and I've let curiosity lead me here. Where has curiosity led you? Where would you like it to lead you?