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Friday, September 16, 2011

Celebrating Onam

Tuesday morning I woke up at 5.30, went to the compulsory morning meditation (which is something I really enjoyed doing). It was followed by an hour of chanting and singing… something I enjoyed doing, only to a certain extent. Either way, all was well. Afterwards, morning tea by the ‘tea tree’. Always the best part of the day. Time to talk with everybody, just before the first yoga class. And what was coming from my mouth, on that particular hot Tuesday morning, was that I was leaving. Yes... It was starting to happen. My time at the Sivananda Ashram in Neyyardam had surpassed its peak and there was no reason left for me to stay.

The ‘peak of the week’ was experienced on Saturday afternoon. It was the Onam holiday; the biggest annual festival that’s celebrated here in Kerala, every September. The hype that’s generated can be compared to Christmas back home. So it’s huge. The locals basically dress-up in traditional costumes. They either partake in parades or are the spectators. They dance, sing and be very merry… drinking too much and feasting for a days. The ashram was asked by the nearest town of Calicut to partake in the parade, which was held on Saturday afternoon. So there’d be a decorated truck to represent (and advertise) the ashram. And on this truck, they needed some of the guests to perform yoga practise. A few were approached, and I was one of the 3!!!

And so, I found myself, on Saturday afternoon (the 10th) on the back of a decorated lorry, with Anna (a Dutch girl) and Meri (a Spanish girl), doing yoga practise, with hundreds and hundreds of locals standing along the sidelines totally ‘gobsmacked’ to see 3 western girls in the annual Onam parade. At the point, I’d only been in the country for 9 days… and only 10 days out of China… But there I was, participating in the biggest festival, as a yoga demonstrator. I couldn’t believe what was happening. But I just went with it. No nerves, just ‘focus’ and concentration so as not to fall from the truck whilst standing in ‘forward bend’… and the many other poses.

What a day it turned out to be. And the ashram even got first prize in the parade… out of the 40 odd participants. How cool was that! So, no wonder that was ‘the peak of the week’. We were shattered afterwards though. It was such an extreme change in environments, going from a peaceful place, where we’d often forget to be in India, to being the centre of attention in such a festival, all within the space of an hour.

However... as shattered as we were, the daily schedule still continued the next day: 4 hours of yoga, meditation at 6am, afternoon lecture and karma duties to do… The atmosphere had changed. The majority of the guests were becoming restless. Everyone had been 'tempted' by life outside of the ashram and they were suddenly feeling the pull towards the Indian commotion. It was difficult to ignore the restlessness… when you’re apart of a group.

So, with the change, I too became restless. But was wary of not becoming influenced by others, when making a decision whether or not to move on. I ignored the tempting plans others were making. And wondered what did I really want to do. I knew my time in the ashram wasn’t going to last. I knew that there was only so much I could take, when it came to chanting songs of devotion to a guru, who I’m not a follower of. I’d learnt throughout the first full week that I can respect a guru, but I follow my own path, in everything I do… I’d learnt that this particular style of yoga (being Hatha yoga) was nice. But it wasn’t the style I wanted to 'cling' to. I’d learnt that mantra’s are nice and calming, but only to a certain extent. I’d learnt that my body was tired after the change from China to India, with all the travels in between and it wasn’t getting any rest. I’d learnt that I’d been in need of western contact, and this is what I’d received. I’d established them so far, that the connections would remain throughout the rest of my travels… or for however long intended.

This all started brewing on Sunday. And within 2 short days I figured that what I’d enjoyed most, I could work on. It was the meditation. I wanted to experience more of that. As well I’d realized, throughout the week, that I was almost unable to look back on China. So much had happened and every experience felt to be so delicate and precious and each encounter needed my 'processing time'. The setting in the ashram wasn't allowing my mind to do this and I found that the yoga was only adding to my experiences… I wasn’t properly stopping and taking a breather before charging off in the Indian world. So… by speaking with people and being reminded of what was on offer here in Kerala, I decided to apply for do a 10 day meditation course.

More to come :)

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