“All diseases begin in the mouth.”

~~~*~~~

There is nothing quite like bonding over bowel movements (or the distressing lack thereof) with complete strangers. Such was our second day and third night at the ashram.  Our mental condition had become manifest in our physical bodies. We were all holding on to something and the level of anal retentiveness had reached Freudian proportions. 

Three of my five roommates had smoked their last cigarettes before arriving and they were experiencing a fascinating array of agitated states resulting from nicotine withdrawal. Tensions were running high and a collective misery had settled down like a cloud of thick smoke obscuring our vision. Despite the directives from the guru to cultivate and maintain a positive outlook, the mood was anything but jolly.

“It’s too hot.”

“I don’t want to work in the garden in 90 degree heat.”

“How are 18 people going to use 4 bathrooms in 30 minutes?”

“The garden is full of bugs and dirt.”

“5:30 a.m. hurts.”

“I’m hungry.”

“I haven’t shit in 3 days!”

“I need a cigarette.”

“I want a hamburger.”

“I need coffee.”

“I have 800 mosquito bites and they itch like crazy.”

“There’s no hot water in the outside bathroom.”

“ARG! WHY DID I COME HERE? THIS IS THE WORST DECISION I’VE EVER MADE!”

“IT’S ONLY BEEN THREE DAYS AND I FEEL LIKE I’VE BEEN HERE ALL FREAKIN’ SUMMER!”   

Living communally with 20 people ages 3-66 from various countries (Israel, Puerto Rico, Belgium, Russia, Nicaragua, India, and the US) and walks of life is a lesson in patience, tolerance, forgiveness, humility, and compassion.

Beyond our room, the children were too loud, the high schoolers too lazy, the guru too knowing, the disciple too humble, the wife too kind and devoted, the student’s headstand too perfect (show off!). In short, everyone was getting on everyone else’s nerves. To make matters even worse, a new girl who had already been through the course joined our room and disrupted the established social order and existent group hostility with her serene presence.  She took the bunk above my bed and made my third night’s sleep even more restless than the first two. Each of her minute sleep shufflings stirred my own slumber. Over the course of the restless night, I regressed from human to spider psyche. Each twitch of her gossamer wings shook my entire web and made me want to encase her in silk, wait for her to die, and then eat her.  She stayed only the one night.

That first weekend the ashram was not a happy place.

Things began to change when our gracious hostess caught word of our mass constipation and offered us what became known as the “poo-poo tea.” The tea was good for digestion and cleansing the colon.  It worked wonders.  The 11 days that followed were a time of great release – in more ways than one.

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