Ashram Life – Report from Ali in India

Dear Yogis,
I thought I’d catch you up with my life at the Naga Sannyās Ashram, near Barsana, India.

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As you can probably imagine, the routines and rhythms of ashram life tend to follow familiar patterns. After morning bath there is chai made with milk from local cows. After chai there is some type of work: painting the mandir, sweeping the floor, making a fence, tending to the garden and for me computer work (preparing my Masters Application).

Yesterday morning after ablutions (6am) I collected flowers to decorate the mandir. Selecting red hibiscus and frangipani, I spied two peacocks pecking through the chaff in the cleared field behind the ashram. Little kingfishers sat on the electric cable. White herons and little pipers pecked through freshly irrigated soil. The scene was quite idyllic. Later I found a peacock feather beside the mandir, which I gave to Guruji – he in turn offered it to a picture of his Guru Grandfather.

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I have just completed making a path from the main part of the ashram to the outhouse bathroom using cracked marble and local stone. I brought over a little spirit-level from New Zealand, which kept the integrity of the path intact, and used underlying clay to make mortar, wedging chopped hay to bind the grout. All the gardening equipment purchased from our Yoga Challenge donations – posted by the lovely Terese – has been well used. Guruji is enamored with the hand saw which cuts through fresh wood like knife through bread.

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The garden is currently supporting spinach, coriander, tomato, aubergine. I monitor the watering of the garden. First, I am trying to get everyone into the habit of recycling the water they use for washing chai cups and general hand washing by catching water in a bucket, which I throw onto the soil. Then, there is also the overflow from the water tank on the roof, which is now piped directly into the garden plot.

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We eat our main meal around 12 o’clock sitting in the kitchen on mats on the floor. Lunch is often comprised of roti and loki (long squash) from the garden, or veges from the market. There is also locally produced ghee, which is collected every Monday, and pickles made by Guruji to add flavour to each meal. The other day I made pasta with a tomato and chilli base, and fried grated potato patties cooked in ghee until golden brown. My ‘Western food’ was relatively well received.

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After lunch from 1pm-3pm is rest time. Keeping up with my afternoon naps is a real pleasure. Then I get up and do some more work, followed by a second wash. This is when I wash my clothes by hand.
Recently I have made friends with the cow man who brings his milk cows and buffalo along to graze in the late afternoon. There is a lovely young brown cow that I have taken a fancy to. Also I think the cow man finds it entertaining to have a western woman sadhu fawning over his cattle.

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Every evening we do the aarti ritual at the resident mandir. This is the time I think about sending prayers and blessings to people back home. After aarti we sit by the fire, which is a good mosquito repellent. The evening meal consists of a glass of milk, which I having been adding honey brought over from duty free.
Actually, the animal nightlife is quite fascinating here at the ashram. The wall behind the dhuna is patrolled by five or so large geckos. They are drawn to the varied insect population, which is in turn drawn to the 60 watt light bulb.

I normally go to bed at 9 pm and practice asanas in my quiet room

It is a simple life!
Yet, it astounds me as I gaze each night atthe broad arm of the Milky Way which stretches north to southhow the universe and life on our little blue planet seems to revolve along in a relatively ordered way. Chaos, which seems to be the domain of tectonic forces and human passions, almost seems absent from the perpetual flow of the night sky and our journey within it. Sometimes I watch satellites arc slowly across the sky. Sometimes I see shooting stars and wonder if they are just space junk burning up in the atmosphere … then I wonder if I should be less cynical and make a wish instead.Most of the time I am peaceful.
Hope life is treating you well and giving you everything you deserve.
Deep respect and loving care from rural India,
Ali (Yogini in residence)

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