Monthly Archives: August 2012

Friday free day already

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Finally it was Friday again – which meant a day free of growling yoga classes, Satsung, meditation and Pancha Karma treatments.

The ashram had organized a trip to Kanyakumani, a town 2 hours south of the ashram, which is said to be the southern most tip of India where 3 oceans meet. So to say that I was joyful to be out of the ashram for a day is the understatement of the week. Getting onto the bus at 6AM to go see and do something different was such a delight. Now don’t get me wrong – I don’t hate Ashram life. Quite the contrary! However being up at 5AM every day to chant songs about deities and then sit still for an hour on the cold concrete gets old quickly.

Our first stop was at the Padmanabhapuram Palace, located in a small village called Padmanabhapuram 65 kilometers from Trivandrum. This was the summer palace built by an old king of Kerala in typical ancient Kerala architecture.

The palace walls are adorned with ancient murals that date back to the 17th century. The ancient relics include a royal seat made out of elephant tusk with Chinese engravings, an ornate musical bow in mahogany, colored windows, beautifully painted and carved rosewood ceilings, secret lookout points for the palaces royal woman and a clock tower which houses a 300 year old clock, which still keeps time. It made me want to be a princess back in the day and I kept imagining running through the old halls and secret pathways within the palace grounds.

From there we headed to the Suchindram Temple. The temple from the outside is a wonder and I’ll let the photos speak for it, however the inner sanctuaries of the temple were a lot to take in. Essentially the temple has a bustling market happening inside, with every person trying to sell you an offering to offer to the deities/ statues inside. It made me feel incredibly uncomfortable and I was happy to be out of the ‘sacred’ place. I am learning aspects of Hinduism that I had not comprehended and as open as I am trying to be, the idea of idealizing a deity doesn’t sit well with me.

Our final stop was Kanyakumari where we caught a ferry out to the Vivekananda Rock Memorial on the rock called Sri Padhaparai. The ferry in itself was an adventure. We queued up to board the boat, and just before we were about to board, we were instructed to pick up an emergency lifejacket from a massive pile on the dock (‘just in case the boat sank’).

The memorial was a temple built in honour Swami Vivekananda who is said to have meditated on this rock for three days in the early 70s. It was said that he gained enlightenment after the 3 days and was sent home with a clear message that he was meant to move to Chicago to go spread the word. I had a big laugh at how similar this was sounding to another religion I know, and I seriously doubted the validity of his message – Chicago is such an arbitrary place to be sent to. The temple was pretty impressive to behold, especially due to the difficulty encountered building it on solid rock.

The other rocky islets was home to the 133 feet (41 m) tall statue of Tamil saint/poet Thiruvalluvar, one of the biggest statues in Asia, completed in 2000. It really is a sight to be seen.

All in all, it was a wonderful day out and about.

Moment of the day: one of my new Asian friends from Hong Kong was asked not to take photos in the temple. “No problem, I take photo with my mind” and with that she squinted her eyes and said “click” – you have to love Asian tourists!!

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Ashram news: week 2

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A friend recently told me that his sole rule to blogging was to be brutally honest. I realized that most of my blogs thus far have been the happy-go-lucky days of my trip. So I made a vow to report the good, the cringe worthy (those who know me well know that these happen too often for me to recall) and the moments that are defining this trip for me (amazing or horrid).

Lucky for you – today seems to be one for the cringe worthy column. My Pancha Karma detox seems to be doing more than just loosening my muscles. Who knew that with a little bit of body work – a whole range of emotions can be felt shortly after the treatments. On the evening after my first oil massage I cried during a ‘feel good’ DVD we were shown about Swami Vishnudivananda (the ashrams founder and guru). The DVD was simply about his life and his devotion to gaining world peace. I’m generally not a very emotional person and this took me by surprise.

The next day while pulling my body into a shoulder stand during my asana yoga practice, a memory took over me. It took over in a manner I would expect an ex acid/ LSD addict to re-trip years after their last hit, when an acid crystal along their spin snaps causing the drug to rush through their blood stream and hallucinations as vivid as the day they first took the drug. The memory was of a very drunken night in my late teens after a VERY bad breakup with the first love of my life. On the night in question I walked around his parents garden, hawking like a wounded wolf at 2 AM in the morning. This stalker memory left me cringing while trying to hold my yoga pose AND then from deep within me came this insatiable laughter. Laughter so strong that I had to leave class.

I had been holding onto this shame about my reaction towards having my heart ripped out of my chest at the tender ages of 16 and at that point I realized that I had been holding onto such useless emotional baggage. I do just thank God that his parents weren’t home that weekend, but I can imagine the emotional trauma his sisters must have experienced listening to the psychotic girl in their garden who couldn’t handle rejection quite yet.

The point I’m trying to make is that life does not need to be taken so seriously and I’m actually looking forward to more whole hearted, sore tummy, crazy demented laughter which I know I have in store for me. There are a few more of those memories about to be unleashed (I have been known for some pretty bazar and stupid behavior) and I’m so ready for them. Just for the record I do handle breakups much more gracefully nowadays;)

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Day 4: hello Pancha Karma treatments

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So today I started my Pancha Karma detox and todays treatment was a dry powder massage followed by a sauna where the powder mixed with sweat turns into a clay type substance. What I hadn’t realized was that the clay gets wiped off with a cloth and you’re only allowed to wash it off at night – so you basically spend the whole day feeling dirty. The warm evening shower (well bucket wash down) feels like bliss. According to my plan I’m not allowed cold water on my skin – so I have warm bucket baths at the clinic during the powder massage stage. It’s only 3 days so I’m not overly worried.

Onto brighter news – last nights Satsung was held in the special temple where we made offerings of red cumin powder and flowers to the divine mother. It really was a very special Friday evening. I’m still struggling with sitting cross legged for such a long time – but I’m hoping it gets easier. Chanting is DEFINITELY not my thing – but I’m trying to show the ashram respect and take part in it… Note to self – read website carefully when signing up for things.

Onto funnier news – during a relaxation posture about 30 minutes before the class ended, I completely fell asleep – apparently it included twitches and a little snore! I haven’t been that embarrassed in a while – so blaming the detox… Hehehe

Namaste friends and family. Wishing you all a peaceful weekend!

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Free day – whoooopi

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It’s day 3 and it’s Friday so it means we have a free day. We’re told that Satsung is optional (which it isn’t really – because the first lecture was on ‘tapas’ (no not the awesome Spanish kind – its not giving into temptations like missing Satsung kind). Well anyway I decided that as a present to myself I would sleep in to a whooping 7:30am.

The plan was to head out to the Elephant Sanctuary 11km away from the ashram and what a pleasure it was to go and get out. We bathed the Eli’s, saw 2 babies – 7 month old little ones whose mother had been poached (poaching seems to be a universal problem which is so sad) AND ride an ELI!!!! I was so excited I could have wee’d in my pants!!

I think I’m starting to get into the swing of things… Making amazing friends – which is always cool!

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Ashram day 2

To be completely honest – I’ve only been here for 2 days but it feels like I’ve been here a week. Time seems to be dragging and I’m still trying to be non-judgmental about the place.

If you are sensitive to language and crude images you might not want to continue reading any part of the ashram sections.

I’m homesick as fuck!! I’m settling in more and more, but (and it’s a pretty BIG BUT) I’m starting to question why I decided to run away from my life and come exploring. Was it my mom dying? Or things not working out in relationships? Or maybe my intense confusion with my choice in career paths?

It could have been anything really. Given the alternative – no I would not like to be trapped in an unhappy relationship, no I would not like to be at work – so I guess this really was the next best option.

From the people that I’m meeting, this limbo stage seems to be a pretty normal thing for someone my age. So I tell you what! I’ll give it a chance. I’ll try see if I can settle into this uncomfortable place I find myself in, with the hope that my head will settle, heart relax and soul unwind.

I have been trying to put my finger on what it is that unsettles me. I haven’t touched cigarettes or alcohol since I’ve been here – or meat for that matter (and I’m really missing meat). Is it the crazy chanting at an ungodly hour (“Hari Hari Krishna” on repeat for what feels like an hour)? I thought it might be sitting cross legged for a good deal of time (meditation, chanting and meals) – which is not the most comfortable way to spend your time. It’s not the 4 hours of intense yoga a day – that I really enjoy. It’s not eating with my right hand only – I have only made a few boo boos but am enjoying not using utensils. It’s not the new friends I’ve made – they’re all very interesting. So what is it?

I think it’s the long periods you have to yourself, and all the uncomfortable thinking you do. Looking at yourself and really seeing who you are and learning to accept that. Who knows – I might get used to this but I’m definitely going to give it at least 2 weeks chance.

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First few days – some pics

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Here are some pics of our first few days in India…

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