Friday, December 31, 2010

two zero one one

It's new years eve. I'm sitting in the internet spot with small lizards crawling up the wall beside me. Saradananda and I have extended our stay in Tiruvannamalai because all the hotels are booked in Madurai. We plan on traveling south Sunday morning.

While scanning the bulletin board at the chai shop across from the ashram, I noticed a small hand-written note that said: "Friend of Bill's? Let's share some experience, strength , and hope," with a phone number. So of course, I called it.

It was arranged that a rickshaw would pick me up at the main gates of the ashrama. A British gentleman, donned in gauze-y shawl and loose cotton pajama pants (what every westerner wears here) approached and said my name. So off I was whisked in Rickshaw, chatting happily with this new found "Friend of Bill's." It turns out that he is just visiting for a few weeks with his friend, the women with whom I spoke on the phone. It was her home that we were off to.

About a half hour into the bumpy ride, we arrived at a farm ten kilometers out of town. The farm is run by a lovely Tamil family. There is a small school house on the farm, where another Western ex-pat, whom I didn't meet, is teaching local children to use computers. I then met a very enthusiastic, British, Red-henna haired, and sari-clad woman. I was shown around the farm, introduced to the family, the three of us had tea, chatted, and then had a wonderful, small, and very powerful meeting. We sat with Arunchala glowing blue in the distance with tears in our eyes, as we marveled about the miracles that have taken place in our lives, and the series of events that had led us to that very spot.

I was invited to stay for dinner, which was a traditional Southern Indian meal, cooked by the girls on the farm (tomato rice, sambar, coconut chutney). Then I was sent home down the long, bumpy road to town in a rickety rickshaw, and am now filled with gratitude and wonder. What an extraordinary way to say goodbye to another year, and hello to infinite possibility.

Thursday, December 30, 2010


I have been in India eight days, and already I have had a small lifetime's worth of experiences. Right now, I am at the internet spot across the road from the Sri Ramanashram in Tiruvannamalai. It is an old ashram settled at the base of Mount Arunachala, a mountain thought by many Hindus to be the earthly manifestation of the god Shiva. Tiruvannamalai is a rather small town with a big ashram and a HUGE temple, a pilgrimage destination for many Hindus, as well as other spiritual seekers.

In Chennai, on Christmas eve, I prayed in the tomb, beneath the basilica, where the remains of St Thomas are interred. In Pondicherry, I was blessed by an elephant (after I fed him a banana and a lotus blossom), I was also able to stroke his velvety trunk. I watched the sun rise pink over the Bay of Bengal while drinking strong, sweet, Indian coffee. In Auroville, I was actually able to meditate inside the Matrimandir, a privilege usually only given to residents of Auroville (traveling with a connected Swami has quite a few benefits). And I drank chai with a handsome Kashmiri, who had a silver tongue and the eyes of a devil! Oh yes, and so far I've managed to survive some of the most terrifying traffic in the world. HONK!

The food is wonderful and spicy (even breakfast), though it does take a while to get used to eating with no utensils, only one's right hand.

India is beautiful and awful - terrifying, comforting, wonderful, peaceful, and disturbing. It is truly a land of contradictions.

Sunday, December 19, 2010


I'm nervous, and excited, and a little scared. Funny - not so much about being immersed in a different culture in unfamiliar surroundings as much as being challenged spiritually. I have been looking around the website of the ashram in Kerala where I'll be staying, and it really does seems to cater to folks with a much more advanced spiritual practice then I have (understatement).

I feel that I've done all I can to prepare for the trip; I've packed very lightly, I've made several drugstore trips, I've arranged for my plants to be watered and my pets to be cared for, and I've also spoken to all the folks who I usually talk to everyday about keeping active in a support network while I'm away. I have contact numbers and sunblock...

Yesterday I found myself intermittently acting like a jerk and bursting into tears for no apparent reason. Everything is prepared and I only need to walk through one moment to the next to have a new experience unfold for me. Now to breathe, admit powerlessness, and surrender. This is what jumping off a cliff must feel like.

Please, Oh great Remover of obstacles, allow me to get out of my own way so that thy will may be done.


Tuesday, December 14, 2010

right thinking

I've been feeling lonely lately. You know what I'm talking about. I have 440 friends on facebook, yet I've been finding myself scanning through names in my phone and not seeing anyone that I feel like talking to. Oftentimes I call folks anyway, just because I know that keeping in touch with people is something that works for me. I know that it feels good to get calls, so I dial even if I don't particularly feel like it.

Funny, I've been spending lots of time getting ready for this trip where, I think I'll be spending the majority of my time alone. Certainly, I'm not expecting for my experience of India to transform all aspects of my life like some magic spell, but I really am ready for a shift to happen.

I've been enjoying school, I love being involved in recovery, I find myself more at ease than I've ever been - everything is moving along at a nice clip and in the right direction, really, just fine, but there's that last little bit my will and my life that I can't seen to turn over and I'm not even sure I know what that is.

I'm trusting the Universe. I'm putting one foot in front of the other and hoping that the answers will be revealed. So I call when I don't feel like it (I may still feel lonely, but I get to talk to people), and I may even begin to act my way into right thinking.