As I was saying, the whole ashram experience seemed like a really bad idea those first three days. One fella politely excused himself from the whole experience, left, and was never heard from again.

The rest of us settled in for the long haul and tried our best to adjust to the restrictive guidelines (no drinking, smoking, drugs, sexing, meat, or caffeine) and intense schedule.

Each morning a bell chimed at 5:30 and the groggy bathroom shuffle would commence.  By 6:00 a.m. we were all cross-seated in a candlelit room for morning meditation and satsang. The day dawned in silence broken only by the sound of cocks’ crows drifting in through the open windows. Around the time the horses awoke whinnying at the world we began our chanting.  The guru’s lecture started at 7:00.  We discussed pretty much everything there is to discuss in these  lectures: food, sex, Sanskrit, anatomy, selfless service, breathing,  bowel movements, movies, recipes, books, energy, the universe, chakras, tantric yoga, devotion, rap stars the guru had met including 50 Cent, personal finance, the Bahamas, drugs, drinking, disco, smoking, dreadlocks, work, marriage, land surveying, meat, fasting, divorce, children, Jesus, Krishna, Allah, amen, Om, computers, gardens, Truth, chiropractors, compassion, heaven, hell, reincarnation,  meditation, asasnas, pranayma, chanting, ahimsa, charity, kapalabati, zen, enlightenment, the gunas, ayurveda, karma, dharma, ishwarapranidhaana, swaadhyaaya, satya, asteya, aparigraha, hatha yoga, karma yoga, bhakti yoga, raja yoga, jnana yoga, nada yoga….and a bunch of other words with a lot of a’s in them.  The list goes on and on.

At 8:00 we did our morning asana practice for an hour and a half, which gave us about half an hour to get settled in for breakfast at 10.

Following breakfast we had the option to spend an hour practicing karma yoga (i.e., selfless service). I spent three days of my karma yoga in the garden, one making mango pie, several in the kitchen on dish duty, and some cleaning bathrooms and/or the floor.  A few words are warranted about the garden.  The garden initially elicited romantic notions (at least in my mind) of nourishment, health, happiness, and wholesome earthy sustenance.  The reality of the garden was this no doubt.  The reality of the garden was also mud and muck and heat and stinky stuff and weeds and creepy crawly things with wings and pinchers and stingers that ran and jumped and flew out at you without warning. It was the most difficult work I’ve ever done in my life.  It was amazing and horrible and wonderful all at once.  Yoga is the union of opposites.  In the garden, things started making a lot more sense.

The Lovely Noelle

From noon to 2:00 we had free time.  Some folks spent this time studying and practicing for the class they would teach.  Others spent it sleeping or showering.  I usually went on walks or contacted the outside world with reports. On day five, three of us broke out of the ashram during our free time to hit the store down the street.  

Who knew a grocery store trip could be THIS exhilarating?

The afternoon hours were comprised of lecture followed by another hour and a half of yoga. Dinner was served at 6:00. We had another round of meditation, chanting, and lecture from 7:30-9:30 at night. 

Something must be said here about the mangos. I’d never had a fresh mango hot off the tree before this experience.  It was mango season and there were mangos everywhere and I ate them like a maniac.  I ate them for breakfast. I made them in pies. I ate them in pies for breakfast. I ate them for dinner. I ate them at random times during the day. 

Mangos Mangos everywhere!
Mango pies

Then I discovered I was allergic to mangos.  I broke out into a rash.  My lips inflated to three times their normal size, which prompted one of my roommates to exclaim, “Wow! People pay big money for lips like that!” So one of my karma yoga periods was spent at a medical clinic to deal with my mango madness.