Ahymsin Newsletter: Yoga is Samadhi

Heat Wave Diary

by Joanne Sullivan (Divya)

Every evening here at Sadhaka Grama, Swami Veda sits with us for an hour of silent meditation. Sometimes, he sits in his private chambers, though he usually sits physically with us in the initiation room. Sometimes it feels the same. It is good to have him with us---physically or not. Often when there are new people he wants to know who they are. He might write on his slate or he might speak with them from silence. Often he rests in meditation afterwards and we do not try to draw his attention outwards.

Tonight after evening meditation, he said some things for the new students which ring true for all of us.  He asked someone if they were enjoying themselves. Then, in speaking with another, he said, “Don’t think of this as a vacation. Use your time here to build a foundation for practice. Then when you get home make a sankalpa (a firm resolve) to continue your practice daily….What you are getting now is the ABC’s, not a Ph.D. Go home and build on it. Then come back for the next step.”

It has been unusually hot here lately. Today the temperatures eased up to a high of 37C (nearly 99F), but later in the week it is projected to be around 41 C (nearly 106F). Normally there is a gradual temperature shift into summer. But this year, March and April were unseasonably cool with some unexpected rains.

Then suddenly –a heat wave.

Some people have wondered how one fares in the heat. Here are a few things I can share with you. I usually drink 4 or 5 glasses of water upon rising. I try to remember to drink 2 to 3 liters of filtered water per day. Lately I have been getting up earlier and enjoying the freshness of early morning, going outside to water the garden and do pranayama. Before our gurukulam students, Alan and Maria, left to resume their lives in Switzerland, Alan somehow managed to mobilize me and I am once again enjoying hatha yoga, something I had been stonewalling for a long time.

Today my sleep was off and instead of self-flagellating that I missed morning meditation, I went to the Meditation Hall late to do hatha and sit. Afterwards, I took pleasure in going through some of the chants in the SRSG manual, absorbing the English meanings as I sang in Sanskrit. I had forgotten some of them and was greatly affected by singing them with the meanings in mind. Then I went back to check my pronunciation and found some that I had been mispronouncing some words. I found this all quite edifying.

Cold baths or showers are also exhilarating. Sometimes I sing when the mind is particularly uncooperative. This song from Godspell is not usually in my repertoire but it just popped up one day and singing it softly quickly changed my emotional tone:

Day by day, day by day, oh, dear Lord, three things I pray.
To See Thee more clearly.
Love Thee more dearly.
Follow Thee more nearly day by day….

The first few years I lived here, I had no air conditioning, and I noticed that I unconsciously slowed my breath down to better manage the heat, especially when walking out in the full sun. It helped a lot. Now there is air conditioning in the meditation hall and other meditation rooms as well as in the cottages, though I know people who are not too bothered by the heat, like one tapasvin (one who practices tapas) who just arrived from Varanasi where temperatures recently soared to 50 degrees Celsius (122 degrees Fahrenheit). She was happy to swap a spacious, air conditioned cottage for a simple room with no air conditioning and lots of meditation and quiet self-study. For another friend, new to India and our ashram, I raced ahead of her and her granddaughter to put the air conditioning on in the room where they would soon have a basics class. In addition to their both having scoliosis, which made sitting straight and still hard enough, I did not want them to feel the full assault of the heat.

Mrs. Dixit has been making cool lemon-sugar-salt water for the gardeners each day in the late morning. This is good for replacing electrolytes. A few times, I have offered them watermelon or a cool drink. It is concerning to see them working out in the hot sun, but they seem to be just as cheerful and steadfast as usual. I think our gardeners are incredible.

Despite the heat, there are many pleasant surprises: A kingfisher with its whole back a rush of sparkling turquoise appears. Or a red flame tree, stunning in itself, shimmers with tiny sunbirds of iridescent teal-black, fluttering in and out, sipping the sweetness and the profusion of red. A flight of chartreuse parrots or parakeets bursts from a tree against the sunlit blue. Sometimes in my cottage I hear the one-note call of an elusive bird whose sound makes an arc straight to anahata, the center of the psychic heart. I still don’t know what it looks like. If I open the door, everything goes still.

Then there is the pleasure of friends who seem to appear out of nowhere---surprising people I have never met before and some I have not seen for months or years-- yet to me, with many of them, it is as though they have been here all along.

One friend occasionally sends me powerfully inspiring books, things I never knew existed, and lately I have been indulging in more reading than usual.

The day before yesterday, a package arrived. A friend in Germany had been to the place of St. Francis of Assisi, Italy and had sent me a package with 3 small boxes of different licorices, some marzipan from Germany, one with a whimsical note that indicated it was for me and another marked “for Mr. Veda.” There was also a Swiss dark chocolate bar with lavender and blueberry mousse. Just looking at that last item was exciting enough, and I decided to give it to Swamiji and his team who work so hard around the clock.

So there are still the cooling effects of nature, of practice, of presence and friends who deepen the experience of what it is to be alive. Yes, there is much for which I feel grateful.

Editor’s Note:

The chants from the SRSG Handbook to which Joanne refers are called prayers in the Himalayan Tradition and can be found at this link: http://ahymsin.org/main/practice/morning-and-evening-prayers-in-the-himalayan-tradition.html

The song from Godspell quoted is Day by Day. Its refrain follows a prayer ascribed to the 13th-century English bishop Saint Richard of Chichester.  To listen to the 1971 original Broadway cast recording: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dWQEUzOACm4

Submitted on 4th June 2015



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