Life on a Yoga Retreat | Living in an Ashram in Vrindavan, India
“The purpose of yoga is to become balanced in your mind.” — Babaji
We arrived in New Delhi on February 24th. It was about 10 of us hanging out at the baggage claim, all of which I had just met at the airport.
We were all super eager to experience our first moments in India and after making our way past immigration we instantly wanted to feel ‘overwhelmed’ *typical eager Americans*. As we rolled our luggage to meet the driver, we gazed around and a few of us even said out loud “I’m still not feeling overwhelmed with the noise, the colors, or the smells. It feels pretty calm.” Well, lo and behold that was just the airport experience. After a 4-hour car ride South, one bathroom break, and another stop to help someone change their tires we make it to the Jiva Institute in Vrindavan- our home for the next 9 days.
We were greeted by adorable stray puppies hanging out by the ashram and our wonderful host who studies at Jiva 6 months out of the year with Babaji (Satyanarayana Dasa). The next 9 days were filled with morning meditation, rooftop yoga, amazing vegetarian food prepared at the ashram, site seeing and excursions, lectures with Babaji, conversations with people studying at the ashram from all over the world, an interesting Indian massage, Vedic Psychotherapy, lots of monkeys, stray cows, cars honking, rickshaw rides, drinking chai and loud chanting via megaphones. And yes, the ‘overwhelming’ feeling definitely rolled in once I realized the car honking never stops, and the monkeys like stealing glasses and bags.
It’s difficult to articulate what exactly happened intellectually and spiritually to me. It was beautiful to immerse myself with so many devoted yogis living and studying in Vrindavan- most of which have never even done a downward-facing dog. If there’s something I know about myself it’s that I love to learn. I love sitting in lectures and taking notes from someone that knows more than me. I love learning about philosophy (i.e. yoga philosophy), I love learning about myself, and I love learning and observing others. And that’s exactly what I did. Every day was filled with insightful wisdom, new conversations, new inquiries, new food! The list is endless of ‘first times’.
The last day at the ashram was unexpectedly emotional for me. All of the staff hung out downstairs with us, we played music and drank our last bit of chai together. Once we had to officially say good-bye, I started to tear up. Everyone there made it feel like home.
“Live in society and have a role to play. Perform your duty and use yoga. Act in wisdom not ignorance.”
We arrived in NYC bright and early on March 6th and in the beginning it was difficult to acclimate to my surroundings. I had this new lens of awareness. All of my normal day tasks felt different- partly because I was jet-lagged but I felt this deeper perspective and this different way of looking at myself and my mind. Now, six weeks back that feeling has dwindled down a bit, and it’s so easy to get wrapped up in the rat race of NYC and forget about my spiritual path. But the awareness is still there….This is only the beginning.
To be Continued (whenever I return to India)
The remaining of the post will be a photoblog along with some of my favorite quotes I wrote down from Babaji’s lectures. And if you’re curious about any of the excursions or of my other experiences- reach out to me! I love talking about this.
“Whatever is in your head is what you do to others. If there’s war in your head, you’ll do that to others.”
Care For Cows
“Spirituality is the change of consciousness and the change of awareness. It is an inner transformation. Anyone can do external transformation”
“When you are an aware being, you no longer become completely immersed in the events around you. Instead, you remain inwardly aware that you are the one who is experiencing both the events and the corresponding thoughts and emotions.” – The Untethered Soul
Sandipani Muni School
Samskaras: “These impressions are the guiding programs, like a software computer, that move each persons which means all the thoughts, feelings, emotions, likes and dislikes depend on all these impressions. It’s very important a child is taken care appropriately, especially by the first few years of the child’s life.”