My friend and I took a mini-vacation to the woodsy Monroe, NY Ananda Ashram, because my friend really wanted to experience an ashram. But I wasn’t really sure why I went. I felt guilty for going away when my fiancée just moved in. I felt guilty for leaving my parents just when their parents were moving in with them. And I felt that I didn’t even deserve to spend on a mini-retreat when I was not working this summer and had my days to go to Yoga classes and make my own retreat if I wished. The thing is, I didn’t. I was filling my days with errands and email. It was an eye-opener witnessing how many thoughts of guilt I could have in a minute. I knew it was self-made torture and yet it was hard to let it go. I let it go successfully in the classes I took and the conversations I had with the new friends I met at Ananda. I learned so much from the Yoga class. There was a beautiful closing of looking at your hands and realizing they were Gods hands and a prayer of doing something to help others with these hands. The wonderfully sweet instructor told me it was a poem that was in a book entitled, “Love Poems From God.” I would love to find it and use it in my classes. Then I was really inspired and intrigued by the Chi Gung class we took which had especially challenging breath work that left you tingling from head to toe. I thought Chi Gung was slow – ha ha, was I mistaken.
Sitting as a guest in an ashram is such a treat. I have been to Yogaville, but most of my experience with ashram life is in practice for the future Yoga Life Society ashram. I have wonderful memories of singing songs to myself while washing dishes and nervously but successfully leading the 7am morning meditation. So I felt a little odd not having to do anything but get my own food, sit and eat. We sat next to very interesting folks who have been working with or coming to the ashram for decades. They told me that Swami Satchidananda had lived on these very grounds for three years. I didn’t know that! He was pictured near the altar in one of the meditation rooms. I don’t know why but that made me very happy. I felt a sudden deeper connection to the place.
In the evening we listened to a brilliant Jazz band with a vocalist that was part Billie Holiday and part Krishna Das. Rev. Kim Lesley’s soulful singing was like nothing I had ever heard before. What a fun evening. The best part was seeing the little two year old girl, with closed shaved hair and a little pink dress on scurry up to the stage to clap and turn to the audience and say, “Daddy!” Her father was the saxophonist. She was so cute.
Hmmm, thinking back to sitting in the woods, I remember telling myself I have to do this more. I have turn off the computer and go out into nature more. This weekend I hope the guys at Ananda are all in the pool because being in nature means just dripping in sweat. But I bet they are all enjoying themselves anyway. A little sweat is good for you, body, mind and soul.
Now I highly recommend going away, ignoring any “guilt” thoughts and Ananda is a very affordable trip. It’s nice to have people cook healthy vegetarian food for you and then sit in meditation with you twice a day. There really is an energy in the room when so many are meditating at the same time. I could really feel the earth shake when somebody sneezed. And if someone shifted on their cushion, the energy shifted as well. It was as tangible as a breeze.
Ahh, taking time out for oneself. Very important and now I have rededicated myself to a real meditation practice. (I have been sitting but not long enough to quiet the mind.) At Ananda I was reminded of what true Peace feels like. It’s a softly bubbling up inner smile that helps you float in nothingness yet at the same time be a part of everything. Mmmm.