My First Experience of Ashram Life, India
I remember I had no idea of an ashram or about the life in ashram prior to my very first trip to India. The term “ashram” was so vague for me that I had to Google the term to understand the meaning of it. What made me travel to India and spend 6 weeks in an ashram?
Sometimes back, I had heard of a guru, who apparently can heal people out of deadly sicknesses and transform the lives of thousands who meditate along with him. He is able to manifest objects with a subtle movement of his hand and able to perform miraculous actions. When I heard of these stories, I simply thought if such a man truly exists as the stories tell and if he is alive on the Earth at the same time as I am then, I have to see him with my own eyes.
I can still recall how natural, easy, and familiar it felt to me, to be in the Indian ashram environment. How easily I surrendered to the different/several strict rules of the temple like waiting for hours for the entry into the main temple area, sitting on the floor in queues, and waiting for the Darshan (meeting a highly evolved being) to start. I just felt like I am in my second home and have already been here before on several occasions. I felt as if I have sat here earlier with hundreds of others, I have sung devotional songs in Sanskrit along with them before. Although, the fact was it was the first time I ever heard or witnessed these types of spiritual practices.
It makes me nostalgic to think how I got accommodated to the presence of altars, statues, burning candles, and smoking incense. All the pieces of my memories around every building and at significant meeting points began to form a puzzle. All of it started making sense of my taste for the Indian interior design, my desire for decorating my home with objects from the East. It felt like I am finally back home, and with that, I started understanding myself.
I remember I used to wake up around 3 a.m. waiting eagerly every morning to visit the sacred temple. I couldn’t really wait to get ready and make my way towards the temple so that I could be amongst the first ones to reach the spiritual area and get to spend more time in that peaceful atmosphere. The temple gates opened around 6 a.m. in the morning and all the devotees used to start queuing up from as early as 3 a.m. So, staying longer in the bed seemed like missing out on opportunities to enter and spend quality time in the temple. I reminisce days when I reached 4 a.m. and missed out the chance to get an entry into the inner circle of the temple. As there were numerous devotees trying to reach the pious area and queuing since as early as 3 a.m. in the morning, reaching 4 a.m. was already too late for me to get an entry. I remember how much I appreciated the mild climate when all the windows could be left open during the days and the nights. I felt like being amidst nature even when I was behind the walls. The only difference was rather than being locked down around or by nature, I was locked within the thick walls of those building which equally made me feel like I was in nature.
Then suddenly I realized that how little or no connection I have had to nature. Only when I suddenly noticed the fragrance of the flowers in the ashram garden, the beauty of the Indian trees, the birds, the natural sound of the little insects around sunset and sunrise – I realised that I did not pay much attention to nature in general, before.
I remember that towards the end of the 2nd week of my stay in the ashram, I discovered a new sensation in my body, which was a result of the healthy routine in the ashram on a regular basis. The organic and healthy freshly prepared diet, thrice a day in breakfast, lunch, dinner made me feel content, relaxed, and balanced. I was amazed to experience this new feeling where I never felt the urge of snacking in between meals or craving and overeating. I just started following the routine of eating on time as much as I need and I completely felt pleasant and at ease.
I never really had the issue of being overweight before. However, following a healthy diet routine created a balance and I came to an optimum weight where I really didn’t pay attention to how much I eat each time, yet reach an optimum weight. I eat only when I need and as much quantity I need.
Is this really so easy? Does it really take only so little effort to feel at home in my body, to feel happy, at peace, and at the same time powerful? Does regular food intake matters so much? I was surprised by this experience as it was totally new to me and moreover, I never learned about proper diet either.
I also remember the fact that I was just able to sit quietly and meditate for long hours. Actually, I could not wait to get to the meditation hall and get myself into the practice. Most of the times, I wished I was able to stay longer in the hall than the scheduled activities allowed.
To be honest, I was very new to meditation. In fact, I did not have a regular meditation practice and meditation seemed to me, an act of sitting with closed eyes and waiting for something to happen.
I also remember that pretty much after the very first hours of my arrival to the ashram, I started feeling like enjoying the benefits of the meditation -even without any technical engagement into meditation practice. Without having any previous reference point, I really don’t know where those sensations of heightened awareness, slow internal movement without physically being slow, the experience of being in my physical body and at the same time seeing myself from outside as I am in my physical body; came from. I just learned after a number of days that meditation can take a person on a plane where one feels light, one feels like flying, and also experience sensations such as the above.