Ashram Life

Many people who decided to adapt yoga as a way of life, have the desire to visit India at some point in their life and especially an ashram. The word ashram comes from Sanskrit āśramaḥ: meaning “penance, austerity”, but you can find much more there, if this is not sufficient for you, like a cup of good coffee (not this time, unfortunately) or a banana chocolate muffin. That sounds incredibly tempting even for a great India fan like me. Your roots you cannot deny. And also you should not attempt so, as you will end up stranded half way with anxiety disorder or depression. And why should you anyway? But about this topic some other time.

Amma (Amrtanandamayi Ma) meditating as a young girl
For three days I ripped myself away from my husband, my 3-year-old daughter and all household and yoga center responsibilities and went to the ashram known as Amritapuri ( also called: the ashram of the hugging mother (amma – in the local language Malayalam meaning “mother”). She removes people’s problems and suffering from her unconditional love and compassion. And this is transmitted by hugging.
While coming from an atheistic and utmost rational family, at first I thought this is one of the new age esoteric techniques. Do you know what I mean ;)? But we should never believe our thoughts are 100% true. And because my inquisitive nature and repeated visits and maybe also progress on the spiritual path, it all started making sense and the word love widely misused in the western culture developed into a feeling of joy and open heart just like a mother watching her child’s worry less play.

View from my “ashram penthouse” accommodation
And why did I choose this particular ashram for my “family holiday” away from family? Oh yeah, you might have guessed it right. In the main role capuccino and muffins. Okay, please have mercy on me. I have been in India since 8 months ?. Now seriously. As a foreigner living in India, I do admit that I like coffee and I do admit that I like muffins and I do admit that I like to socialize and I do admit that I like to travel alone as a woman and I do admit that I miss it sometimes……… I want to pick my nose, if I wanted to, without reading a report about it in the local newspaper the very next day. Just imagine: “Our respected yoga teacher Smt. Meeraji picked her nose 3 times yesterday at 3pm at the Vatanappally bus stop using her right index finger.” Ok, I’ll stop it for now, but I really feel this way sometimes. When I go out of the house all eyes are on me. Some days you feel like a superstar but some days you wish to be invisible and on those days you become the hit report for the local newspaper ?. And this is the reason why I came to Amritapuri – not to seek enlightenment, even though I don’t say no when it comes, not for Amma’s hug, but for the anonymity and space where you don’t have to be alert about the outside conditions and you can simply BE. And of course muffins and coffee is a bonus ??!

Morning and evening seaside meditation
I think that is why so many different people come to an ashram. There are Indian tourists coming to look at Westerners, there are western tourists coming to tick off one more spot on their sightseeing list, there are devotees of Amma dressed in white who tell you with a smile whenever you ask them any question: “Amma says, that…..”, there are widows, old people, sick people and lonely people seeking family and support in the ashram life, there are families with children who want to live differently than the mainstream. And then there is someone like me – a passionate yoga teacher and an amateur writer. They are all allowed to BE.
And there is also AMMA, even though not always physically present, you can see her executing her will through her devotees and if you are blind, there is always the Amma says,that….

Om amriteshwaryai namah