We’ve been put on the 11th floor of one of the large tower blocks at the Ashram, which makes for a great view but a hell of a lot of stairs to climb since there is only 1 lift operational that takes a maximum of 5 passengers at a time. The silver lining there is that Nix and I have lots of time to chant Ram Nam on the way up ;) And there is an occasional breeze on the stairs which is non-existent in the lift.... And it improves our health. So there are actually 3 silver linings. Bonus.
It’s quite odd being back as we have to readjust to the Amirtapuri way of doing things and being around a lot of Westerners, but we know from our past experience that once we surrender and participate we will get on just fine. There are less people than there were at Xmas/New Year, although that still makes about 3000 more than there are at Anandashram ;) We arrived yesterday morning and signed up for Darshan with Amma a few hours later. It was quite a challenge to stay awake in the bhajan hall since the temperature is very hot at this time of year, and we had no sleep on the train at all the night before, but we managed it. As we waited a group of Japanese Buddhist monks on stage played chants from the Prajnaparamita. The only instruments used were a bamboo flute and their voices. It sounded otherworldly and was highly conducive to going inward. I quietened down whilst we slowly snaked our way along the queue and asked Amma for assistance in the way I thought best:
“Please help me surrender to God’s will, please help me to see all beings and all things as one with God at all times, and please help me to overcome my weaknesses.”
I repeated this continuously with as much sincerity and concentration as I could muster. The last time I asked Amma for help it came in quite unexpected and challenging ways, so asking her to help me surrender to God’s will made me feel somewhat nervous, but as Swami Ramdas says fearlessness is essential to walk the path, so here goes....
After receiving Darshan one of the line assistants told me to go and sit directly behind Amma on the stage, so I walked behind her, sat on the floor, crossed my legs, closed my eyes and continued to repeat my call for assistance continuously for the next 3 hours. I had pain in my back and legs, and my mosquito bites were screaming for attention as well, but after some time both subsided whilst I repeated my request to Amma. It was a similar experience to chanting Ram Nam and helped me concentrate myself and go inside. If it hadn’t I would never have been able to sit cross legged on a marble floor without any sort of cushioning and without moving for several hours. I think Amma’s presence had a lot to do with that too. I kept thinking of the many trials and hardships Ramdas and all other Saints had gone through to move forward on the spiritual path and how insignificant my pain, discomfort and efforts were in comparison. I also reminded myself how fortunate I was to be sitting behind a realized being and how I should make best use of this time to go beyond the pain and discomfort and continue to ask for help with all sincerity. I need to move beyond myself and do so without delay.... Time to become zero. Nix tells me that she went through a very similar process in asking Amma for assistance. It’s great that we seem to both be thinking and experiencing in similar ways during this journey.
I didn’t sleep much last night. My bites flared up after midnight and kept me awake until morning. This provided me with another opportunity for Ram Nam (and calamine lotion). This morning we signed up for Seva – Nix will be chopping vegetables and I will be sweeping the Bhajan Hall and dining areas. As we walked back from signing up, we were called by a Nun to help her clean several thousand book covers from the Ashram printing press. Seva was evidently destined to begin earlier than we had planned ;) She told us it would take half an hour. It took 2 and a half. But then again, the Nun was Indian, and I should know better – along with queuing, time and distance estimates are not strong suits for Indians. However, the additional time allowed for more Ram Nam ;) As I sat singing to myself and cleaning covers, it occurred to me that Amma was already helping me surrender to God’s will by putting me on this detail. I also remembered exploits from Swami Ramdas’ autobiography that illustrated his total and cheerful surrender to Ram’s will. Time for me to do the same in this small way. Earlier, as we had been waiting for the Seva office to open, we watched Ashramites sitting across from us folding leaflets and I commented to Nix how I would like to be put on that duty this time instead of composting. I thought it would be a suitably repetitive and non-conversational job which would allow for chanting Ram Nam easily. There was also the added incentive of being indoors and not having to deal with cow shit in the heat and humidity ;) I got my wish sooner than expected in the form of the book covers ;)
The Ashram has fixed up the pool at the bottom of our block. I think that the drowning incident in December was a motivational factor in this. There are now signs up all over the beach warning people against swimming due to the strong rip tides. I’m off to jump in the water now and seek some relief from the heat and this perpetual itching. Unfortunately for Nix the Ashram rules dictate that she has to wear a smock type dress whilst swimming, so she’s going to stick to showers. In many ways guys have it easier in India....