It feels like ages since I’ve written here. It’s only been — how long? A few weeks? Less than a month. Time, apparently, is only an illusion created by the mind. So say the Yogis.
Tomorrow I’ll be leaving this place you know nothing about. Destination: Unknown. More adventure than any sane man could ever want. Further proof, as if any were necessary, that I’m not one.
Self-deprecation is all very well and good. But when it comes right down to it, I have to admit, I’m pretty OK. It’s not an easy thing to comes to terms with. Here in the Ashram, for the first time in my life, something very strange happened to me: Through no fault of my own, everyone seemed to take me for a positive, cheerful person. And this inspite of the past month having been far from carefree, from my perspective, as you may know. I find this absolutely amazing, and wholly heartwarming.
Of course, everyone here is so nice. They’re always saying all these nice things, and I try my best to keep up. It’s really very nice. Of course, this place brings out the best in people, and the best in me. This place I am soon to leave. What will happen then?
I want to give you an idea of what this month has been like, but routine never seems like good writing material. Be that as it may, let me give you an idea of what my daily schedule has been like:
5:30 – Wake up bell
6:00-8:00 – Satsang (Meditation, chanting and a lecture or musical performance)
8:00-10:00 – Yoga class
10:00-10:45 – Brunch
12:00-13:00 – Lecture
13:00-14:00 – Individual work with the Yoga teacher (optional)
14:00-16:00 – Main lecture
16:00-18:00 – How to teach yoga
18:00-18:45 – Dinner
18:45-19:45 – Karma Yoga (Kitchen duty)
20:00-22:00 – Satsang (same as morning, but more exhausted)
And that’s a full day’s work right there. One day a week is for rest and study, which means I only had to attend both Satsangs and my Karma Yoga, too. The rest was fully booked.
What this means, if you read between the lines, or if I just go ahead and tell you, is that I spent anywhere between 2 and 5 hourse a day learning The Truth. As I see it, this technically means I was brainwashed. I didn’t mind, most of the time, seeing as I’m such a positive person, but even I must concede that, without a doubt, brainwashing it was.
And much of it was really fascinating. My philosophical side was reawakened, and immediately engaged at high gear. Which inevitably leads to frustration, of course, because philosophy never goes anywhere, but people do, and once they do, it’s no longer philosophy.
Whereupon I did my best to take in as much as I could, reserving judgment. Which is a skill I totally possess now (awesome, right? [“That word has been utterly degenerated. It used to mean awe! What a wonderful emotion!” –Father William Meninger, Satsang speaker])
So I took it all in a scholarly fashion, which I find suits me well, growing wise in lore (This goes out to all you wizards out there.)
…”So are you saying that Lord Siva is both a single wave and the entire ocean?”
I could only shrug at this. You see, all of existance is the ocean… No, wait, let me back up a little…
“Am I lifting my hand right now?”
You kids at home can join Swami Brahmananda for this little experiment. All you have to do is lift your hand. Of course, you must suspect, as all us teacher trainees did, that this was a trap.
“Let’s see: What needs to happen in order for me to raise my hand? An electric signal has to be sent from the brain to the hand. Am I the brain? Am I the signal? No. Then all the muscles need to contract. Am I the muscles?
“But it’s not just within my body that things have to happen. The gravity, air pressure, oxygen and CO2 levels need to be exactly what they are. In fact, it takes the whole universe, just to move this hand. So am I moving the hand? Absolutely not.”
A word about Swami Brahmananda: he is Israeli, along with almost 90% of the ashram staff. And whoever isn’t Israeli, is Canadian. So please scroll up, and revise your reading to include a distinct Is-ra-aeli accent in the above. Add a deep voice, too.
But wait! some of you must be thinking. Who says I’m not the brain? Who says I’m not the hand? Well, you see, if you cut off your hand, would you still be you? I mean, look at it this way: There’s a knower, the knowing, and the known. The knower can’t be the known, right? Do you know your brain? Yes. No, wait… See, anything that is impermanent is not absolutely real. There’s no effect without a cause, and no cause without an effect. So, all of apparent reality is just like the waves of a single ocean…
“It is all very simple,” says Swami Brahmananda.
So, one of my first projects, when I get back, is to gather a group of clearheaded people (or just people) to try and make a legible analysis of Vedantic philosophy as it was taught to me. Because, actually, a lot of it is very beautiful, and very wise. Of course, when I say it’s wise, I simply mean it reaffirms my own ideas. So it’s all a lot of self-flattery, really. How un-Yogi of me!
“Hey!” I call out to Tattoo Lou as she passes by. I just gave her that name right now, she doesn’t know about it. Her bluish dreadlocks swing as she turns to answer.
“What’cha up to?”
“I’m writing,” (she didn’t ask, I know,) “I’m trying to condense this whole month into one blog post, but it’s completely impossible.”
“Yes. It’s good, it helps you process, you know?”
“Don’t worry about getting kitchen duty,” I counseled Emery on her first day at the Ashram. By this time I was an expert. I had been here for a full three weeks. Time flies…
“It’s actually the best. The people are awesome, and you get the Secret Snacks. Plus, every now and then, there’s the spontaneous burst of Karaoke.”
“You’re kidding, right?”
“Not at all. Right, Kristin?”
“So,” I asked, “what do you want us to sing?”
“Mama! Just killed a man…”
“We’ve already done Bohemian Rhapsody.”
“Jonathan was in his tent, and heard us, and was singing along.”
“How about Disney?”
“Yeah, we can do Disney.”
And we did.
Emery is quite the singer, herself, by the way. And thus did the Kitchen Concert commence.
Today may be the end of the road for the Kitchen Quartet. I’ll be bidding farewell to Emery, Kristin (“Happy bubble!” -Emery) and many other magical people. I’m going to miss them. I’m going to miss the Ashram’s green trees and blue ocean. I’m going to miss Yoga every day. I’m going to miss being brainwashed. I’m going to miss the kitchen, and the food (Yum!). I’m even going to miss getting up at 5:30 in the morning. And I say this with a very joyful heart. Dare I risk overburdening my blog with any more of this touchy-feely stuff? Maybe just one quote:
“If our friendship depends on things like space and time, then when we finally overcome space and time, we’ve destroyed our own brotherhood! But overcome space, and all we have left is Here. Overcome time, and all we have left is Now. And in the middle of Here and Now, don’t you think that we might see each other once or twice?”
That’s from Jonathan Livingston Seagull. And it’s very Yogi indeed.