Friday, July 31, 2009

2009 07 31. Friday.

2009 07 31. Friday.

Got suckered in by an apparently fake American "sadhu". There's an American guy here about 35 years old who runs around dressed like an Indian sadhu (he even wears the brahmin sacred thread which I'm guessing annoys the hell out of some Indians). He cornered me in a conversation (he was doing all the talking) and then casually asked for 10 rupees for some yogurt. Being a soft-hearted (and often soft-headed) guy I said sure. A few minutes later one of the admin office westerners said not to give him any money because he often begs here and Amma has requested that no one beg at the ashram. Learned my lesson. Felt a little foolish.

Feeling kind of moody and vaguely annoyed today. Not sure what's going on. I definitely have to be extra aware and mindful not to get identified with the moodiness. In the past I would get pulled into it very easily. Now I think I can keep from getting pulled into it while still feeling it fully. Challenging practice! When I'm in this mood my mind wants to fight against things and generally be a pest.

At the Amma Arati they've been playing this drum with a strange sound. Sounds like a Jew's Harp. A very twangy sound. Its strange but I also like it quite a bit.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

2009 07 30. Thursday.

2009 07 30. Thursday.

After the compost work today Lakshmi's mahouts (elephant handlers) gave her a bath. They had Lakshmi lay down on her side while they sprayed her down and scrubbed her with some coconut husks. It was really interesting watching Lakshmi lay down all the way on her side. She seemed to be totally enjoying the bath! Looked like she was in bliss. I was going to take a picture but I left my phone in my room. Darn! I think Lakshmi will be here for a while so I'll probably get another chance soon.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

2009 07 29. Wednesday.

2009 07 29. Wednesday.

Saw a dragonfly buzzing around my room. Yay! If I understand correctly, one of the main things they eat is mosquitoes. So I will treat the little guy like royalty.

I was washing some of the compost buckets after the work today when I heard the nearby clinking of some heavy chains. I glanced up and the was Lakshmi right there in front of me! She could have reached out with her trunk and grabbed me. Her handlers had moved her near the wash area so she could grab the hose and get a drink. I figured she was safe so I casually finished my work and then gave them the hose. They turned on the water and handed the hose to Lakshmi. She popped it into her mouth and drank contentedly for a few minutes before dropping it.

At one point at the compost work today I was with 3 of the yellow robed brahmacharis (yerbs). They were laughing and joking and telling me stories about when they were younger. Apparently one of them was a wandering begging sadhu in the north of India for a number of years before meeting Amma and for some time afterwards. One of the yerbs pointed to Mukhunda (who's also a yerb) and told of how when Amma first met Mukhunda, She said "I want him!" and then took him right away to Her room and gave him deeksha (mantra initiation). It would be great to sit down with the yerbs and hear stories of their spiritual adventures before and after meeting Amma. I bet they have hours and hours of fascinating tales.

Shortly after that Gerhard came by and said that Amma is giving darshan in the Temple. Cool! I quickly finished my work and walked quickly to my room and then discovered that I lost my door lock key! Poo! I don't want to miss darshan! So I went to the admin office and they said to write down the serial # of the lock and take it to the Indian Accommodation office. I did and the guy there reached into a big jar of spare keys, looked around, pulled one out and handed it to me. I thought it would be a minor miracle if it actually worked. It did! Wow. I quickly got a shower and got to the end of the darshan line. Only about 40 people ahead of me. I chanted my mantra and about 10 minutes later was in Amma's sweet arms. Ahhh! Amma whispered 2 or 3 "My Darlings" in my ear, handed me a small packet of vibhuti (sacred ash) and a piece of prasad candy and let me go. Wonderful. I then waited in the line where Amma was going to walk back to Her room. A few minutes later She walked past and I got to touch Her right hand. Then I popped Amma's prasad treat (orange flavored hard candy) into my mouth and went back to my room. I think westerners who live here are usually allowed only 1 darshan per week. I'll have to check. I put the vibhuti into a small container. Gotta remember to use it!

I went to the Amma bhajans in the big hall shortly before Amma Ararti. The Arati was very nice. They turn down the lights and wave the camphor fire in front of Amma during the song. With a thousand or more people in the hall the energy is very nice. The compost work sometimes keeps me busy till 6pm or more but I'll see if I can make it to bhajans when my backlog of work gets taken care of. Still trying to catch up after getting behind when I was sick.

One thing about living in a building with a metal roof and no sound insulation is that when it rains its really really loud. Forget about trying to sleep. Like trying to sleep in an oil drum being showered with steel ball bearings. Maybe I'll get used to it. There's only about a month or so left of the monsoon season anyway.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

2009 07 28. Tuesday.

2009 07 28. Tuesday.

There was Amma satsang this morning in the Temple. I came in around 11am and the Temple was packed! No surprise. Luckily, I was able to find a little spot on one of the back stairs where I could get a good view of Amma. Amma came around 11:30am and led us in a guided meditation which was really nice. I was feeling a lot of bliss. Wow. Then Amma did something that I thought was a little unusual. She asked if anyone would like to give a little spiritual talk. Two of the yellow robed brahmacharis gave nice very short talks. Then someone asked Amma "What is love?" Amma replied "You will know when you start loving." Maybe its just me but I think Amma is tired of fielding vague, vapid questions. Then someone asked how Amma can be aware of all Her children and know their troubles and pains. Amma said its just the same as we're constantly aware of our billions of skin cells. If one tiny section of our skin gets a pinprick, we know it immediately. In just the same way, Amma said She is aware of all Her children and if any of them are in pain, She knows immediately. I thought that was a really good analogy. Then Amma served lunch. For some reason, the men got served first. I got in the long line and it was wonderful to get to the front and have Amma gently push a plate of food toward me. Jai Ma! Thank you, Amma. While eating my prasad lunch I was feeling a lot of gratitude toward Amma and the opportunity to work at Her ashram and practice Her mantra.

Later on at the compost area I asked one of the yellow robed brahmacharis if it was strange for Amma to ask someone to give a spiritual talk. He replied that Amma seemed to be moody and preoccupied at the satsang. (I was a pretty good distance from Amma during the satsang so I couldn't see Her facial expressions.) I asked him if Amma became moody when She's aware of some upcoming troubles in the world. He said yes.

Feel a lot better today. And my mood is better. No more "Pissy pants Advait" as one of my Amma friends in Virginia likes to say. Was able to work at the compost.

There were 5 yellow robed brahmacharis (yellorbs) helping at the compost work today. Wow. All of them were wonderful. Very cheerful, funny and great workers. Not sure why the compost is popular with them. Maybe Amma is sending them here so they can get a first hand look at how the food waste is getting turned back into healthy compost. Maybe She wants them to get familiar with it so they can start doing it at their locations. I think most of these yellorbs are based at other Amma centers around India. Sure would be great if all of Amma's centers could start composting!

With the pack of yellorbs there it was no surprise we had extra treats for the post pile chai party. They brought payasim. Yum! And some alma fruit. Kind of sour but they told me it was very healthy, packed with vitamins, minerals, etc. Maybe the perfect thing to help me recover from my little flu bug. I stuffed myself. Mmmm. They offered me some of the last of the chai but I had to refuse. You definitely know I was stuffed. They chatted away happily in the late afternoon sun, laughing and joking. I was the only westerner there, sipping my chai, looking at Lakshmi the elephant pee and poop (wow!) and enjoying the cool, overcast day.

Monday, July 27, 2009

2009 07 27. Monday.

2009 07 27. Monday.

Slept till 8am. Sweaty and feverish most of the night but started feeling a little better around dawn. Took a shower. Brrrr!! This little flu bug has put me in bit of a sour mood; I'm annoyed with whole ashram and all its little inconveniences.

I rested most of the day and felt good enough after lunch to go to the compost work. A few weeks ago as an experiment we built a compost pile on a chain link fence to see if that would make it easier to turn the pile. A few days ago I suggested to Mukhunda that when we turn the fence we get it videotaped so Peter Ash back in America can see it. So today Mukhunda brings the ropes and an Indian guy with a fancy video camera. They push me in front of the camera to explain the whole thing since it was my idea. The camera starts and I start explaining while occasionally coughing and hacking in the most horrible way. Jeez! I hope to god they can edit that stuff out. Pretty horrible. So I string 5 strong ropes through the fence and call over some of the Indians to pull. I get everyone lined up and, with the camera rolling I say "Pull!" Everyone pulls mightily and in about 45 seconds Voila! Its done! The fence rolls up and flips over the whole pile (about a ton), pretty as you please. Total success. Cool. I say a few final words for the camera and Cut! The other Indians and Mukhunda are very happy. Hopefully he's happy enough to get a lot more chain link fence so we don't have to do the backbreaking work of turning the piles by hand. The Indians are now doing all the work of turning the piles. Turning the piles in addition to managing their construction would be too much for me. My energy level is usually pretty good but not what it used to be.

I was still too tired to do the main compost work so I spent most of the time putting the earthworms back into their bin. For some reason a lot of them had crawled up into the burlap cover and I had to gently put them back. I'm now an expert worm handler! I have to trade some emails with Peter Ash to figure out why the worms are coming up. We made sure they had plenty of food and moist straw.

On the way to dinner I saw Amma for the first time since She came back. Jai Ma! She was in the big hall leading bhajans and I came just in time for the Amma Arati. Amma looked radiant as always in Her bright white sari surrounded by all the bhajan players and singers. The hall was packed! The big difference seemed to be that a lot of the male students were there. They never before came to the bhajans in the big hall while Amma was away. What a difference from a month ago when it was just a small group of guys for bhajans. Lots and lots of westerners and Indians now arriving at the ashram. Now I can really appreciate the luxury of having a room all to myself. A lot of the westerners will get packed in 3 or 4 to a room. The Indians will pack even more into a room but they're used to it. For most of them its totally not a problem.

I had a quick dinner and collapsed into bed. Feeling better but still a little weak and congested.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

2009 07 26. Sunday.

2009 07 26. Sunday.

Got up around 6:30am and went to the kitchen at around 7am for some chai (didn't have any, Poo!). On the way I saw Amma's beautiful white Mercedes. Amma's back! Turns out She came back around 6:30am. Her equally beautiful Mercedes RV was also parked nearby. Both cars are not actually Amma's. Some rich devotee has loaned them to Her. In the past some rich devotees gave some fancy cars for Amma to use, but Amma just turned around and sold them to get money for Her charities.

I got a letter from my Mom in Richmond, Virginia. In it she says there's a small town in Finland called Kerela (my Mom was raised in Finland and I got a lot of relatives there). Be funny if India Keralites were descended from some long lost colony of Finnish Viking explorers. Or vice versa... (smile).

The fluorescent light in my new room isn't working, so I dropped off a note at the electrical repair office. To my huge surprise, some guy came by about a 1/2 hour later and fixed it. Wow! That was really fast! I wasn't expecting to see anyone for at least a few days.

I had a nice, intense talk with Svayam about spiritual life while waiting in lunch line. We were kind of making the same points in different ways. I was saying something like the goal of sadhana is so we can more and more deeply embody the truth that we already *are* everything we're looking for. He replied "Yes. Yes. Of course. But we must learn how to do that in a world full of difficult choices and difficult life circumstances." His point seemed very obvious to me so I just said "Yes. Yes. Of course. That's all just the leela of life. We do the best we can and surrender the rest to Amma." And from there we would go dancing around in more verbal circles. Kind of useless but also fun. I really like Svayam and enjoy sharing with him. He's a very thoughtful and smart guy. It seems that Svayam loves having a westerner to talk to who resonates with his ideas and outlook. He's deeply passionate about serving Amma and moving toward awakening.

I got real feverish this afternoon. After lunch I went to the hospital for a few tests. They told me to come back at 3pm when the doctors arrive. I went to the compost area to tell them I wouldn't be there and spent a brief moment getting them started on the work. I was too tired to walk back to my room so I laid out some sacks on a table at one end of the compost area and slept till about 2:45pm while the usual compost crew worked around me. Then I went to the clinic and waited to see the doctor. I was too tired to sit on the bench, so I sat on the ground in front of the bench and laid my head down. It was actually fairly comfortable. I had a sudden loud coughing fit and spat out some mucus. The Indians next to me jumped away quickly! I smiled. Now I had the whole bench to myself! Then I finally got checked out by the doctors. 102 degree fever. They gave me some fizzy medicine and a session of menthol steam inhalation to help clear out the lungs. Then I went back to my room and slept and sweated till dinner. I got up in time to take a cold shower. Yuch! Pure torture taking a cold shower while in the grip of a fever. I should have asked the doctors for a note to get a hot shower. Definitely have to do that next time I ever get a little fever. Then went to dinner (not much appetite).

At dinner I was looking down making a note in my Palm when I suddenly hear this French voice say "Please, would you like some?" The eccentric, slightly crazy French lady is just about to scrape some of her food onto my plate. "No!" I say and yank my plate away. She looks at me like I just refused a piece of gold. Jeez! She is one wacky lady. As she shuffled off to pester some other people I remembered that it is through people like her that Amma tests our patience and compassion. I smiled and resolved to try and always be compassionate toward her, even if she is totally loopy. I appreciate her cause she'll give me some good stories to put in the blog.

Came back, brushed teeth and collapsed into bed. Didn't set any alarms. Some Indians chattering away down the hall but not too bad.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

2009 07 25. Saturday.

2009 07 25. Saturday.

With the Indians keeping me up late I got up late after 6am chai. Just for the heck of it I went to the kitchen to see if the chai pot was still available. I walked into the kitchen and one of the young Indian workers saw me and, without any prompting from me, pointed to the chai pot. Cool! That was nice. I gave the young kid a smile and filled my cup. Apparently its totally OK to come late after chai and help yourself. Now this is my kind of ashram!

I saw Helena the nurse and she looked at my foot and said its pretty much all healed. She's a European nurse at the ashram medical center and is very sweet and thoughtful. She really embodies Amma's compassion. She took good care of my foot and helped make sure it healed properly. I can't place her accent. Perhaps Danish or from one of those small western European countries.

I discovered that there's no x-ray machine here at the ashram medical center! Closest x-ray machine is about 30 minutes away. I'm putting out a call to any rich Amma devotees to explore getting an x-ray machine here with the proper support equipment. Lots of people here getting banged up all the time and it would be great if they could get properly diagnosed. So you rich devotees get together and see what you can do. Would be a great service for the ashram.

I decided I need to move again. The Indian families on both sides of me are totally sweet and filled with Amma's love, but they have a hard time keeping quiet at night. I went to the admin office and found a room down the hall that is located between 2 single western ladies. Perfect! I'll take it! I got the key and started to move my stuff. Since its just down the hall its a pretty easy move.

I always try to be very, very polite and accommodating when I deal with the admin office. Its staffed by some very nice young western men (mostly from Europe) and they have A LOT of power when it comes to deciding where you will stay and other things. Definitely want to stay on their good side if you ever come here. Believe me, it will pay off. They can do you a lot of nice little favors if you have a good relationship with them. Just another example of my always scheming mind at work.

Before I came here I bought a really nice Leatherman multi-tool. It has turned out to be unbelievably handy and useful. Definitely one of the smartest things I brought here. If you ever come here make sure and get one. You will be very happy you did. I also got a small version of the Leatherman with a lot of smaller tools. Just as handy. Make sure and get both. I use them every day.

As I was moving my stuff down the hall Shakti Prasad's Mom saw me moving and asked me about it. I tried to be very polite and said I sleep early so its best I move so she and her kids don't have to always worry about waking me up. She's been with Amma a long time and radiates a lot of peace and joy. Very sweet presence.

The new room is definitely more quiet. Yay! having just a little more distance between me and the Indians really helps. Can still hear them but now not so loud. When I crank it up full blast, my ceiling fan drowns them out just enough.

Friday, July 24, 2009

2009 07 24. Friday.

2009 07 24. Friday.

This morning I heard the Indians next door to me leave their room so I went out and tried to very politely ask them to please talk a little quieter during my sleeping hours. They were very polite and nice and said "Yes, we will do so." I spoke to the teenage boy and his name was Shakti Prasad (a very nice and composed young man). Turns out he's one of Amma's "Shakti Prasad" kids that's written about in Amma's biographical book series "Awaken Children!" 10 volumes so far and counting. Wonderful books. Definitely recommended reading. Gives lots of insights into Amma and Her teachings.

The story is that Indian parents who weren't able to conceive would come to Amma pleading for Her grace to have a child. Amma would give them a blessed banana or something like that to eat and some other instructions. The parents would faithfully follow the instructions and not long after would conceive a child. I think they were all male children. Like elsewhere in Asia many Indians strongly prefer male children. There's a big problem India with the abortion of female fetuses to the extent that in some areas there's a serious shortage of marriage age women. Now in those areas there's a demand for female children! Very ironic. I think the Indian government outlawed the practice of abortion based on gender but I think its still prevalent. Its been a few years since I heard a news story about the practice so maybe the situation has changed. There were (still are?) lots of private ultrasound clinics that can determine fetus gender.

One of the Shakti Prasad kids had a gestation period of 16 months! Can't remember which volume of 'Awaken Children!' this was detailed in. When the doctors did an ultrasound of the mother's womb at about 10 or 12 months into the pregnancy, they just saw a hazy white cloud! No fetus at all. After 16 months the mother gave birth to a totally normal baby boy. Just one of the thousands of miracles that happen around Amma. Speak to any Amma devotee and you'll probably get a story of some miracle or other. I tend to be a skeptical scientific type, but hearing directly from devotees about Amma's miracles has made me a believer.

This morning I had to go to the compost area to get something and I saw a funny sight. Lakshmi the female elephant was there as usual, chomping away on a pile of palm leaves and bouncing her head. Nearby was a western woman looking at Lakshmi. As I got closer and walked by the western lady, I could hear her singing a Ganesha bhajan to Lakshmi. I thought that was very cute! For my non-Hinduphile readers, Ganesha is a very popular Hindu god who has the head of an elephant, the body of a human and a big fat round belly. He's the deity who removes obstacles. Do a google to read the story of Ganesha. Its a wonderful tale. I think Lakshmi was more interested in getting some bananas than in hearing any Ganesha bhajan.

Amma is returning on Sunday so there's been really frantic cleaning and repairs going on all over the ashram. Everyone, especially the brahmacharis and brahmacharinis, have been working like crazy getting ready for Amma. Definitely anticipation in the air. I look forward to seeing Amma, but I'll also miss the quiet and small crowds when Amma's physical form isn't here.

The Indian family on the west side of me (the ones I spoke to) were delightfully quiet but now the Indians on the eastern side were making a racket as I was trying to sleep! Jeez! The Indians here seem to have very little concept of respect for people who may be sleeping. I had to get up and tell them to please speak quietly. Luckily, with Amma's grace, I was able to compose myself beforehand so I was able to talk to them politely. They were also very nice and said they'll be more quiet. We'll see how it goes. If I can't get decent sleep here I'll probably have to move. Yuch. Moving is a definite pain. The Indians here are almost all wonderful people but it seems their culture has very different values when it comes to respecting quiet. Its very common (in fact, almost universal) for wherever you go in India for some local temple to start blaring recorded devotional songs at 5am. I mean really, really loud! Like rock concert loud. Some sleepy, bored temple priest apparently has the right to wake up hundreds of people who are trying to sleep. Since the Indians grow up with this, it seems they're totally used to it and completely don't mind. Be interesting to talk to some of them about this issue and see what they really think. India will take a step toward maturity (IMHO) when people here start to demand laws about disturbing the peace. But I'm an overly sensitive outsider from a different culture, so bear that in mind also. I think the law here is quiet from 11pm to 5am. After 5am, anything goes.

Keep in mind whenever I rant and complain about Indian ways, I totally realize there's no end of things I (and others) could complain about regarding America and the West. My complaints hopefully help communicate some of the flavor of living here (and also communicate my hang ups, of which there is an endless supply).

It can be said that the propagation of American consumer culture is helping to destroy the planet, while the prorogation of Indian Sanatana Dharma (aka Vedic culture aka authentic Hinduism) through saints like Amma, Sai Baba, Mahatma Gandhi and many others is helping to save the planet and evolve human values. Buddhism can be considered an offshoot of Sanatana Dharma and is also greatly helping to uplift human consciousness. So Indian culture (like any) has its shadows (which provide good grist my little blog) but the bright side of Indian culture is huge and critically valuable at this point in human evolution. Sanatana Dharma, evolved for the modern world, is showing how to create a harmonious planet and guiding us into our next stage of evolution. Sanatana Dharma combined with the best parts of Western culture (scientific/technical innovation, respect for individual freedom, respect for the rule of law) is a wonderful combination. These are generalizations and like all generalizations, don't capture all the details and nuances.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

2009 07 23. Thursday.

2009 07 23. Thursday.

Moving day today. Yuch! What a pain. I miss the E building! Got everything into the new room (ground floor). There is absolutely zero sound insulation between the rooms in this building (the "L" building, L for loud). Next to me is an Indian family and my goodness! they never stop talking! Non-stop extremely rapid fire loud chatter for hour after hour. Jeez. Must be a really complicated issue. Hopefully they'll give their jaws a rest when I try to sleep. In the hallway is a sign that says "Please Keep Silence". I'll have to make a copy and tape it on their door.

At dinner today they brought out a pot of chai. Wow. That's unusual. Never seen them offer chai at dinner. For me it was a total tease. I can't drink any caffeine at night so I had to skip it. The American guy I was with in the dinner line said the same thing; caffeine keeps him awake. But he took half a cup anyway. Maybe he's more addicted to chai than me!? Didn't think that was possible.

As I was getting into bed tonight the Indian family next door finally settled down and I was able to fall asleep. I was going to get up and ask them to please talk quietly but they quieted down.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

2009 07 22. Wednesday.

2009 07 22. Wednesday.

Today is my 2 month anniversary back here. Feels good. Enjoying the work and sadhana and being surrounded by so many wonderful and a few wacky Amma devotees. I'm learning more and more that the eccentric devotees are the ones that test my mindfulness, patience and forbearance. I have a feeling that Amma watches me (and all of us) carefully thru the eyes of the eccentric and difficult devotees.

The internet was down this morning after breakfast so I couldn't do some compost work (I have some research to do and some emails from Peter Ash to respond to). So I had some rare free time before lunch. Yay! I went to one of the stores and bought 2 different kinds of malas and made a "Sri Yantra" mala. This is a mala where the beads correspond to the pattern on the Sri Yantra mandala. After an hour I got it all made and tested it and discovered I messed up. Poo! and Grrr! I had to redo it and now its fine. I can now use it to chant 108 reps of my Amma mantra while visually moving thru the Sri Yantra mandala. The bigger beads on the mala are cues to make sure I'm at the right place in the mandala. For me its a good way to increase my focus while chanting my Amma mantra.

Today was Mukhunda's birthday so, in addition to the usual chai and treats after compost, the Indians brought some payasim. Yum! The other Indians there had fun teasing him and they had a great time laughing. Mukhunda is usually at the compost work, telling us to hurry. He likes to work fast. He's always saying "What's next?! What's next?!" He gets impatient when I tell him to hold on so the pile can be layered properly. If they're not layered properly they don't decompose right and can start to smell. If I wasn't there I'd hate to see how the piles would turn out.

I was really pooped all afternoon and evening after the compost work. I think the antibiotics I'm taking for the little infection in my foot are sapping my energy levels somehow. Also seems to give me a little headache. I set my watch for an extra hour sleep and fell blissfully into bed. Ignoring my slightly pounding head I slept like the newly dead.

Monday, July 20, 2009

2009 07 20. Monday.

2009 07 20. Monday.

At the dinner line today I was talking with Gerhard, a really nice yoga teacher from Austria. One of the other western guys came by and said "The Indian Cafe is open!" That's a place where you can get really good Indian food and treats for a really low price (its only open once in a while when Amma is here and on some other special occasions). Gerhard asked me to join them but I said "No, costs money." I'm trying to be very frugal at the ashram. He said "I'll treat you!" I hesitated and said "No, I'll just eat here." He shrugged and went off with the other guys to the Cafe. After a few minutes I thought "What the heck. Let me join them." I went over and asked Gerhard if he was still OK treating me. He smiled and said "Sure!" So I got a really delicious masala dosha and a little sweet pastry (20 rupees total). Yum. We had a nice conversation about the deeper spiritual benefits of yoga practice. Really enjoyed talking with him.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

2009 07 19. Sunday.

2009 07 19. Sunday.

This morning I took a bin of rice cleaning water to the compost area to make some EM. One of the cows (the one they tell me is unpredictable and a little crazy) is lying down on the path to the shed. I parked my cart at a safe distance and was wondering how I was going to carry the heavy bin to the shed. Just at that moment a young Indian worker comes walking by. Perfect timing! I motion to him and he quickly helps me carry the bin to the shed. Then walks away, stepping within a few inches of the crazy cow. The cow just totally ignores him, looking half asleep and happily chewing her cud while laying in the dirt. I think I'm slowly getting used to the cows.

At lunch today I was at the head of the line chatting with one of the other Americans who was also there. They brought the big food cart and, in addition to the usual stuff, set out a pot of of idlis (delicious steamed rice flour discs that look like little white UFOs). At the ashram there is really big fat Indian guy who seems to have some mental problems. He waddles his huge belly up to the idli pot and starts filling his plate. One of the Indian servers starts yelling at him in Malayalam, apparently telling him to wait. The fat guy just ignores him. Then one of the other servers claps his hands very loudly right in the fat guy's face and yells some more. That seems to get his attention, but by this time his plate is filled with about a dozen idlis (two make a nice meal for me). The fat guy waddles off, staring hungrily at his huge pile of idlis. All the time this is happening the American guy and I are laughing, commenting and joking about the whole scene. Very funny.

Uh-oh! Time to move! Amma is coming in 3-4 days and they told me I have to more into another building soon. I was kind of expecting it so not much of a surprise. I will miss the E building! Its very nice and comfortable. I'm moving into a ground floor room which may mean lots of mosquitoes. Yuch! Some of the other guys have to move also and they were complaining bitterly about the mosquito issue. Amen brother! I'm with you.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

2009 07 18. Saturday.

2009 07 18. Saturday.

I woke up feeling good and asked about getting a ride back to the ashram. They said the next ride back doesn't leave till evening. That's just great. I can either pay out-of-pocket to get back on my own or twiddle my thumbs at AIMS all day. I didn't feel like hanging around so I grabbed an auto-rickshaw to Ernakulam North train station. Once there I got my ticket for an express train heading south to Kayankulam (the stop closest to the ashram). Fare was 92 rupees (about $2) for the 3 hour train ride (on the train no one ever asked to see my ticket). After getting my ticket I went to the surprisingly clean and neat little vegetarian canteen at the station and had a delicious masala dosha with sambar (20 rupees, about 45 cents). Then I waited about 1/2 hour for the train, chanting my mantra, watching the endless depressing rain, the crows picking at the garbage between the tracks and the sweeper ladies stooped over in the gray drizzle walking back and forth making a rhythmic "Swish Swish" with their stick brooms. I complain about the rain but, in actuality, anything that cools off south India is a reason for celebration.

The train is MUCH more comfortable than taking a car with its non-stop bouncing and blaring horns. And the train has a bathroom! Yay! On the 3 hour bus ride up they didn't stop for a bathroom break or even ask if I needed one. Typical. On the train were lots of people dressed up in spiritual clothes. Lots of long malas, vibhuti marks, sandalwood and kum-kum tilaks, mantra shawls, etc. Looked they were all going on some kind of pilgrimage. The train was pretty packed when I got on. I sat near a Indian couple with two young kids about 3 and 4 years old. One of the kids couldn't stop staring at me while his father was trying to feed him some Cheetohs. I smiled at the kid and pointed to the Cheetoh. The kid ignored my pointing finger and continued to stare at me. The father just smiled. He was a really cute kid with a shaved head and a big sandalwood tilak between his eyebrows.

I found a sleeper berth up high, climbed up and had a nice snooze for an hour or so. At one town (Chennugar) not far north from my stop *everyone* got off. Must be the pilgrimage site. I basically had the whole train carriage to myself then. I did some mantra and recitations and it was nice to be in my own space. Watching the countryside, feeling the breeze from the open window and enjoying the smooth train ride. The chai wallah came by with his usual call of "Chai-uh! Chai-uh!" and I paid my 5 rupees (10 cents) for a nice hot cup. And had another one when he came by again 15 minutes later. I hopped off at Kayankulam and hopped onto an auto-rickshaw to the ashram. About a 20 minute ride with lots of bumps and bounces and blaring of horns. In addition to the usual Hindu stupas (small structures with a statue of a Hindu deity) lining the road I saw what appeared to be two communist stupas, complete with hammer and sickle. I think Kerala is one of the last places on the planet that has an active and successful Communist Party. If I'm not mistaken, the Kerela Communist party controls the state government. And apparently they're pretty smart and work well with local businesses.

And then at 1pm I was home! Yeah! Felt great to be back at the ashram with all its familiar sights and sounds. I was just in time for lunch so I stopped at my room, dropped off some things and went down for rice, curry and buttermilk. Yum!

The whole trip to AIMS was basically a waste of my time and money (about 400 rupees travel costs to get back). The whole thing could have been handled with a fax and a 15 minute phone call. But when one of the yellow robed brahmacharis here tells you to do something, you kind of have to do it. Mukhunda is always very polite, but he has a strong leadership type personality and you can't really argue with him. The trip was, of course, also Amma's will so I was happy to go, even if it did seem to be a total waste.

I'll let you know how the cart turns out. May come back as some contraption totally unrecognizable and useless. I put a lot of notes on the drawing so hopefully they'll take the time to read them.

At the compost area Lakshmi the elephant is usually there, chomping on palm branches, bouncing her head non-stop and watching the workers walk by. When it started to rain during the work today Lakshmi got still and seemed to go into some kind of meditative state while standing in the rain. At one point she held a big palm branch over her head like some kind of umbrella. Cute!

About a week ago I got a little scrape on my right foot and it got a little infected. I showed it to the ashram doctor a few days ago and he said it was clearing up, just give it some rest and keep it clean. The foot was still swelling up a little so I was a little concerned. When I went to AIMS I showed it to one of the doctors there and he said pretty much the same thing; rest and keep it clean. After the compost work today, Aduren looked at it and said I should show it to one of the nurses. I went to the little ashram hospital and showed it to one of the western nurses. She was very nice and got me fixed right up; cleaning out the old scab and putting on a proper dressing with antiseptic. This tells me that for little scrapes and cuts, go see the nurses. They'll actually do something and not just say "Rest and keep it clean."

Friday, July 17, 2009

2009 07 17. Friday.

2009 07 17. Friday.

This morning I don't hear any Archana chanting going on so I figure they're showing another Devi Bhava videocast. So I do the 108 Names in my room and go down for chai shortly before 6am. I wait till about 6:10 and still no sign of chai. Hmmm. Strange. I've never seen chai come late. Up on the stage in the big hall the guys are chanting Archana so I go there and wait a little longer. 6:20 and still no sign of chai. On the screen they're showing the closed drapes of Amma's stage room where She changes clothes for Devi Bhava. I've got some things I wanted to do this morning so I'm getting a little frustrated. At 6:25 I think "Well screw this. I'll get my own chai." Then it hits me that that is a horrible thought. I mentally make a quick apology to Amma. My mind can go to some real crappy places sometimes. Yuch! I gotta watch it carefully. I went to one of the little shops next to the ashram and got my chai.

At breakfast I saw the iPhone guy and returned it. I was in a better mood so we had a good laugh about the whole thing. Turns out he remembered about the alarms as he was going to bed. He didn't know my room number so he couldn't come to tell me. He said he felt bad about that. That, of course made me feel much better. He said he actually needed to get up at 3:30am to go to a special 4am puja that he had paid for. He woke up at around midnight thinking it was around 3:30am. He got dressed and tried to get to the puja but the doors are all locked until about 4am, so he figured he was up way to early. Then he slept late and didn't get to his puja till about 4:30. He said he pretty much stayed awake the whole night worrying about the alarm waking me up and being late for his puja. By this time I was feeling much much better and actually starting to feel a little sorry for the guy (just a little; it passed quickly). I asked if he had a watch or something else and he said the only gadget he had was his iPhone, no watch or anything else. Unlike me; I've got about a dozen different gadgets with me, half of those have some kind of alarm function.

A few days ago Mukhunda requested I join him on a trip to AIMS (the big Amma hospital located in Kochin about a 3 hour ride north of the ashram). Mukhunda was going on some special pilgrimage for a few days and he wanted me to see one of the AIMS metal shop people to get something built (I had made a drawing for a custom cart for the compost area). So after the compost pile work today I had to rush back to my room to take a very quick shower, pack and get on the bus. About 9 other junior brahmacharis were traveling with Mukhunda. They started the bus trip with a strong recitation of Amma's 108 Names but it petered out about half way thru so I just finished reciting it quietly to myself. The Indians spent the rest of the ride just chatting and laughing in Malayalam and I just enjoyed being in my own space. I was the only westerner on the bus. The ride quickly got kind of boring so I just tried to keep chanting my mantra while watching the monotonous Indian scenes go by. In Kerela one place looks pretty much like any other; green fields interspersed with mostly run down trashy shops and houses (kind of depressing). Here and there are a few clean shiny shops selling new cars or fancy furniture. The ride was the usual: lots of bouncy roads with lots of potholes, constant blaring of horns and the usual game of chicken with oncoming traffic when passing a slower vehicle. Its the monsoon season so it was nonstop rain all the way up. It got chilly and I put on an extra t-shirt.

We finally got the AIMS around 9:30pm (past my usual bedtime) and I met the metal shop guy and some other old Indian geezer who apparently made all kinds of off-color comments cause Mukhunda and the other person there seemed embarrassed by him. The old geezer was asleep when we came into the room and I felt sorry to wake the old guy up. But apparently he's a good metal worker. I wanted to explain the particular features of my drawing but they said just give him the drawing and he'll do the rest. I shrugged and gave it to him. I wouldn't be surprised at all if the cart comes back a lot different and a lot less useful than what I designed. Oh, well. Sometimes I've experienced the Indian aversion to having things explained carefully. Then Mukhunda took me to the canteen and got me a meal (onion dosha with sambar and a cup of sweet lime juice. Mmmm!). Then he abruptly left and I was totally on my own. I shrugged again and found my way back to the dorm rooms. The mattress was thin and on a hard surface, but somehow I slept comfortable through the night. Definitely a small miracle. Usually I find it impossible to sleep on any kind of hard surface. Amma's grace!

Thursday, July 16, 2009

2009 07 16. Thursday.

2009 07 16. Thursday.

At the compost work today Svayam spontaneously said to me "I think Amma sent you here to keep me company." I asked him about this and he said he often gets frustrated with the Indian mindset which can be very conservative and averse to free thinking, emotional openness and respect for individual differences. Svayam is a very sharp guy who was taught in a Kerala Catholic school. He may have picked up some western sensibilities there. There are quite a few Catholics here in Kerela. Svayam is a very thoughtful and sophisticated person, with a personality more in tune with some western sensibilities. Like me he is a pretty introspective guy. In America there are many many people who've been through therapy and have learned the value of looking at one's own personality dynamics. I've done a lot of this over the years. Not in formal therapy, but in meditation and at many many group meetings to discuss and process feelings and explore how to overcome old dysfunctional personality dynamics. I love being in dialog with other conscious people who genuinely want to explore inner growth. Inner growth is a big part of Hindu culture, of course, but its done in the context of their religious tradition. Generally not in an open, free sharing, free thinking group therapeutic way. I would be interested to see how many Indian people would be in tune with the American style of inner growth through group meetings, facilitated dialog and similar ways of exploring personality patterns. At a typical American meditation group, from what I've seen, the majority of people have been in single or group therapy and have worked on overcoming personality dysfunctions in one fashion or another. I wonder how the average Indian would respond at a meeting to explore and process feelings and emotions in an open and free thinking way? It seems that Svayam would enjoy something like this. At some point I may ask him about it.

Svayam said that in Indian culture, especially in the more rural areas, cultural norms can take precedence over individual preferences, and stepping outside the norms can have significant family and societal repercussions. Probably less so in the big cities. Definitely one thing I loved about America, I could totally find my own way pretty far outside the American mainstream with no significant repercussions from family or society.

At dinner, one of the American guys I know gave me his iPhone and requested I charge it overnight (his voltage transformer was broken). I said sure and plugged it into my outlet before going to bed. I've got a good voltage transformer and very good surge suppressor. Well sure enough at 3am the iPhone alarm went off. I tried to turn it off but it was password protected. Since I was annoyed I tried to guess the password and got it on the second try! Pretty lucky. I tried to turn off the sounds but the alarm went off again about a half hour later. By that time I was ready to throw it out the window. Grrr! I was thinking of all the mean things I was going to say to the guy. He's actually a very nice guy and helps out sometimes at the compost area. So that tempered my frustration a bit.

To top that off someone else's loud alarm down the hall also went off a few times around 4am. Double Grrr!

A really strong wind came in suddenly as I was falling asleep. I could feel it shaking the building just a little bit. Really strong and loud! There were lots of unsecured windows and doors banging away throughout the building.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

2009 07 15. Wednesday.

2009 07 15. Wednesday.

Yesterday I misplaced a spade that the metal shop had specially cut for the compost work (we needed a sharp pointed spade to dig into the thick ayurveda waste). This morning I met Chirandu next to the E Building and we talked about making more EM for the compost work. While we were chatting the door to the ashram store opened and one of the young Indian brahmacharinis (female celibate renunciates) who works there was holding the spade and saying "Please get this!" I slapped my forehead and suddenly remembered I had left it in the store. I exclaimed "There it is!" Chirandu called to the brahmacharini and said "You should charge him for keeping it!" I responded: "Yes! I have no shraddha (mindful awareness). She should hit me with it!" The brahmacharini smiled bashfully, waggled her head and said "No. No. That would not be good." I smiled and took the spade. If she knew my karma she'd do me a favor and whack me upside the head with it.

Lakshmi the ashram female elephant was at the compost area again today, chained to the same palm tree and happily crunching through a big pile of palm leaves. During the work we were running low on cow slurry (mix of cow dung and urine). I asked one of the workers to get a shovelful of cow dung so we could make more. He asked "How about elephant dung?" I said "Sure! Why not?" Instead of a shovelful, they brought back a whole bin full. He asked me with a smile "Will this be enough?" I laughed and said "It'll last us the whole week!" When an elephant poops, get out of the way! After looking at it more closely, it turns out elephant poop is not good at all for slurry. Its very, very fibrous and dry. Unlike cow dung which is moist and wet and great for making slurry. With a gloved hand I grabbed a chunk of the elephant dung and sniffed. It had almost no smell at all! I was very surprised. It had a very faint, almost pleasant sweet smell. Strange. I broke it open and it was basically nothing but almost dry fiber. They feed Lakshmi lots of treats and fruits so maybe that's the reason for the nice smell. Never thought I'd get to explore and compare the dung of large animals!

There was lots of food waste at today's pile and one of the usual workers wasn't there, so it was taking longer than usual. It was 4pm and I asked Mukhunda if we should stop for chai or keep going? He got all excited and said "Keep going! Keep going! What's next?" He frantically pushed us to finish the pile and we got in done in another 1/2 hour or so. A lot of work! I was really pooped. When it was all done Mukhunda led us in the usual compost pile blessing prayer then we all went to take chai and cookies. They had a big bag of cookies and I happily stuffed myself while sipping not-so-hot sweet chai. It had cooled down while we were frantically finishing the pile. The Indians were polite but I could tell they didn't like having lukewarm chai. I was too tired to care. It was delicious!

From my volume calculations on the piles, it looks like we're making about a ton of compost per day. It'll probably grow to about 1.5 or 2 tons when Amma arrives. If we're not careful we may start running short of space! The stackable compost boxes I want to get built should fix that. It takes a lot of work to turn the piles by hand and I'm thinking of ways to do it more efficiently. If you got any ideas send 'em my way.

My energy levels seem to have come back up to their usual levels. For the first 6 weeks here I would often feel quite tired, especially in my legs. The last few days I've been feeling better. I've started putting some ghee (clarified butter) in my chai and food. Maybe that's helping. I think also it took a while for my gut bacteria to adjust to the new diet, so maybe they're now working again at full capacity and well adapted to ashram food and water.

I met Svayam at dinner to go over some of the compost notes. I said I enjoyed managing the work and told him to give me feedback if I get too bossy or pushy during the work. He smiled and "You're doing fine. The problem is you're too easy going and flexible. In my experience Amma likes to put people in charge who are difficult to work with, so other people can get used to that. Don't be surprised if Amma moves you away from managing the compost work!" He's been here a long time so he definitely has lots of experience in how things work here. On the other hand, Murtena (a westerner) runs the recycling center and he's definitely very easy going and flexible, but that work area is all staffed by westerners. I think Svayam is referring to the ashram work centers that are staffed and managed by Indians. Amma has said She wants some western men to be in charge of the compost area.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

2009 07 14. Tuesday.

2009 07 14. Tuesday.

This morning after breakfast I had to go to the compost shed to get some items. The cows were in the field but luckily the path to the compost shed was pretty clear. I'm only slowly getting used to walking near the cows by myself. If I'm with someone else its no problem.

This morning I went with Br. Mukhunda and Aduren to the wood shop and metal shop to get some items made for the compost work. I had some drawings they wanted to get made. Since Mukhunda is in yellow robes and has been here 20 years so he can easily ask to get something done and they'll do it quickly. The wood and metal shops are pretty big operations! They're doing a lot of new construction around the ashram and they need to make all kinds of metal and wood items for all of it. Structural pieces, furniture, windows, doors, frames, you name it and they can make. I got to see the main pile of wood chips where we get our supply for the compost area. It must have been about 20 feet tall and about 100 feet in circumference at the base. Many tons of wood chips! We'll never run out. We use a lot of wood chips for the compost so it was good to see we essentially have an infinite supply.

Lakshmi was in the compost field all afternoon while we were making today's compost pile. She spent the whole time with a rear leg chained to a palm tree bouncing her head up and down and apparently happily chewing on a big pile of fresh green palm leaves. At the chai break one of the yellow robed brahmacharis fed some of the delicious puff pastries to Lakshmi. I didn't say anything but I was not happy to see them feed my our treats to the elephant! As long as they didn't give Lakshmi any of the chai I guess its OK.

As I was wrapping up the compost work they told me to go over to the kitchen area and talk with Dr. Aravind. He's a PhD agricultural scientist for one of Amma's universities in Tamil Nadu. We had a nice talk and he told me about all the composting he's doing at his school. He said he only does organic farming. Cool! There's a small but growing interest in organic farming in India. He'll be a good resource when I start doing soil testing and other data collection on the compost piles.

Monday, July 13, 2009

2009 07 13. Monday.

2009 07 13. Monday.

I'm spending a lot of time recently making all kinds of drawings for various equipment for the compost project. I've drawn up simple designs for a compost cart, a stackable compost box design, a spinning compost sifter, some hooks for hanging tools, specialized hand tools, etc. I enjoy making the drawings. Reminds me of long ago when I was an engineer for the US Army and drew up all kinds of things.

Had a fun chat with with Svayam today at the compost work. We were dumping some very wet yogurt food waste into a pit filled with water (if the food waste is too wet, we can't put it on the compost pile unless we mix it with tons of wood chips). Svayam was joking that the pit could be our secret swimming pool. I told him that Amma would kick us out if she found out about it. Svayam paused for a second, lit up with a bright smile and said: "You know. It would good if Amma kicked us out!"

"What!?" I replied, "How in the world would that be good?"

"Think about it. What would happen if we got kicked out?"

"I'd go crazy being separated from Amma, of course."

"That's just it. We'd spend the whole day crying and yearning for Amma to take us back. We wouldn't eat or sleep. We'd just cry for Amma. That's perfect devotion! With that kind of devotion, we would merge with Amma in no time!"

I laughed. He was exactly right!

In the hot afternoon sun we smiled and walked back through the muddy ruts to the compost pile. The crows behind us hungrily dived in and slurped up the old yogurt, squawking and fighting.

As I was walking back to my room from the compost work I saw the elephant (Lakshmi, a female) coming up the path along with two of her handlers. In the big hall one of the dogs (wisely keeping its distance) was barking madly at Lakshmi. All I was thinking was "Dear God you stupid dog. Please don't spook the elephant!" I quickly changed directions and took a different route to my room, giving Lakshmi a wide berth. Lakshmi apparently was totally ignoring the dog. Good. Lakshmi and the dog have both been here a long time so they're probably totally used to each other, and like to play their little games.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

2009 11 12. Sunday.

2009 11 12. Sunday.

At breakfast today they had uttapam and thin noodles. Pretty good. I got a little of each and as I was sitting down one of the Indian men who takes care of the cows said "Why do the westerners pay for their food when we serve such good breakfast here?" I was in total agreement. I replied "The westerners are always scared about not getting enough protein. Its their obsession." He just waggled his head and went back to his breakfast. Its rather unusual for one of the Indian men I don't know so well to spontaneously speak to me.

On a tangential note, I realized that this Indian man was an Indian cowboy! I had to smile at that.

I was waiting at the head of the lunch line today when an old Indian lady came nearby. I motioned that she could get in front of me and she did. Soon about 7 other old Indian ladies came and bunched in front. I was in a good mood so I didn't mind. A minute or two later one of the servers saw them all bunched in front and started speaking to them in a strong and serious tone of voice. Then the old ladies grumpily shuffled away to one side. Apparently he was telling them they shouldn't get in front and had to wait till the usual people got served. The Indian servers here don't mess around when it comes to proper serving order.

While eating my lunch there was a young European guy next to me. Across from the European guy was an older very dark skinned Sri Lankan man and I often see this man and the European guy chatting. This time they were eating in silence which was great. I was enjoying chanting my mantra. After about 10 minutes the European guy interrupted the nice silence to say to his older friend: "I was supposed to keep silent today." I nearly burst out laughing. Of all things one could say to interrupt the silence that is about the funniest and most ironic!

After lunch I had a nice chat with Chirandu, an older gray-haired British man. He's one of my favorite people here. Funny, gentle and great sense of humor. Here's lived here a long time, about 10 or 12 years. He works a lot but is always quick to smile and crack a joke. He has a self deprecating humor that I resonate with.

At dinner I had a nice talk with Eduard, a dark haired young guy (about 22 years old) from Portugal. He's only visiting the ashram for a few days. He's been traveling to different places in India volunteering at orphanages and other places. He says his main thing is teaching music. He was very interested in my experience with spiritual practice and my connection with Amma. He was genuinely curious in getting a sense of my inner world when it comes to all this spiritual stuff. That is just the thing I like to find out about other people and I was happy to tell him all about my experiences. He had done a little meditation and was interested in learning about my experiences with it.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

2009 07 11. Saturday.

2009 07 11. Saturday.

I got all my compost prep work done yesterday so I had the whole morning from 6-9 to do sadhana. Very nice. In the dark dim pink light of early dawn, I was the last one in line for unsweetened chai (always much shorter than the sweet chai line). When I got to the chai pot there was still plenty left so I signaled for the server to give me a full cup (for the cup I use that means about 50% more than the usual serving). The signal is to just keep holding out the cup until its full. This particular server (an Indian man) seems happy to give extra chai so I felt comfortable getting more. The sweet chai line was still very long. I went back to my room, sipped chai, scrubbed and rinsed my seva clothes soaking from yesterday, sipped more chai. Then I did some mantra, the 108 Names, the Lalita Sahasranama Stotram and then the IAM technique. Felt very good. When I do my mantra mala I figured out a way to do the 108 repetitions that also matches and corresponds to the lotus petal and triangle pattern on the Sri Yantra. I wouldn't be surprised if this pattern is also described somewhere in one of the tantric scriptures. Let me know if you find the reference. I have a very nice color laminated version of the Sri Yantra. All the time I'm doing sadhana I have the "Om" track from Robert Gass's "Om Namaha Shivaya" CD playing from my laptop speakers. I actually keep it on repeat for the whole day. Its the best recorded version I've come across of the "Om" chant.

Special Treat Alert No. 34,719: (Yes, yes. I see you rolling your eyes. I totally sympathize; these are getting out of hand, even by my estimation.) Today at breakfast I sat where I could keep a sharp eye on the serving area because I discovered if I'm not paying attention I could miss some treat that appears. Well, it paid off! I glance over there and I see they've brought in a new pot and set it on top of the chapati box (which itself is a nice treat but not a favorite of mine). My pupils dilate as usual and I try to act casual as I grab my plate and sprint stroll over. Looking inside the pot I see its full of deep fried something-or-others. Lookin' good! All I care about, of course, is that its deep fried. That means greasy and tasty! I was raised my early years in far eastern Kentucky after all, where deep frying has been raised to a high art form.

I definitely miss those beautiful Kentucky mountains, especially in the evenings as the darkness comes into the hollows and valleys with the sky still showing some deep blues, purples and reds. The lights of small houses peek through the dark trees lining the small streams of clear mountain water that run nearby. A lone rusty old pickup truck runs up the side of a mountain on some unnamed dirt road, its lights almost lost through the forest. A single light illuminates the dirt and gravel parking lot of some small ancient diner; 2 or 3 old cars parked in front. The door opens and some sad country song from long ago is briefly heard. The heavy old man in faded overalls crunches through the gravel puts on his raggedy baseball cap with the name of some livestock feed company on the front. Crickets and frogs fill the dark evening with their own songs. He drives slowly home. Just in the next valley; not far. He wonders if she will be there.

Back at my seat I ask the Indian man next to me what it is. He speaks English but in such a thick accent all I hear is "(something something) onion (something something)" Hmmm. Instead of an onion ring it sounds like it may be something like an onion blob. Shape I not care. I finish my regular breakfast and bite into it. Yum! Rich, lots of onion flavor, doughy and just the right amount of spices. Greasy and Delicious! Double Yum!

After breakfast I went to the big Amma Ayurveda College across the backwaters. On the other side of the walking bridge I hired one of the auto-rickshaws waiting there to take me (20 rupees, about 45 cents). On the way, in typical Indian fashion, he also stopped and picked up a family of 4. Now the auto-rickshaws are built for 4 passengers max so one of the family members had to sit on a lap. I was crammed into one corner but it was OK cause its an open vehicle so there was lots of breeze and airflow. And I'm real skinny and don't take up much space.

I had to go to the College to check out their situation with the Ayurveda waste. They make a lot of ayurveda medicine at the College and generate about 300 lbs of waste a day. This waste is wonderful for compost so I wanted to meet the people in charge of handling it. I want to get a little shed built so the waste is kept out of the rain. Right now they just dump the waste in a grassy field behind the College.

After I had collected the info I needed I went to the reception desk to try and find out how to get a ride back to the ashram. The receptionist was telling me where to go to get an auto-rickshaw when a young Indian man appeared. I made an assumption and asked "You're the auto-rickshaw driver?" The man smiled gently and said "No. I'm one of the doctors here." I laughed and apologized. He also smiled.

After the compost work during the chai and snack break I had another nice talk with Mukhunda and Aduren. They've both been with Amma about 20 years and have lots of experience here. I asked them if they ask Amma about their health issues. They both said that, in general, they don't mention their health issues to Amma unless they're pretty serious. They said that in their experience, if they mention a health issue to Amma, She'll often take on the issue to heal it quickly. They said its better to absorb the karma themselves so they can be done with it. If Amma speeds up the healing, they may have to experience the karma themselves at some future time or in some future life. On the other hand, if there is a strong, clear inner pull to mention the issue to Amma, then that should be followed. There's no strict rule; each devotee has to do what they feel is best.

Friday, July 10, 2009

2009 07 10. Friday.

2009 07 10. Friday.

I'm usually the first one to the afternoon compost seva so I can round up the materials we need so we're all set when the food waste comes. We were just about out of cow urine so I grabbed some buckets and trooped over the cowshed in the warm sunny early afternoon to get more (come to think of it, I never thought I'd be writing a sentence like that. I go from bookkeeping/accounting to collecting fresh cow dung and urine to spread on food waste. Curious the twists and turns life can take.). At the cowshed as I'm dipping the buckets into the urine collection trough I'm watching them train a new milker. Apparently milking the cows is primarily done by westerners. This time they were training the French guy I met back on Sunday, June 28th. One of the long term Indian cow caretakers was trying to show the French guy how to put the automatic milker on one of the cows. At the same time the calf of this cow was totally getting in the way. It wanted to be close to Mom, of course. So each time he tried to get the milker on the calf would move in and bump him. The Indian man was trying to show the French guy how to move the calf out of the way, but the calf was not interested in getting moved and the French guy was getting kind of nervous trying to get the calf and cow to cooperate. I definitely have a lot of respect for all the people who work with the cows. I was nervous watching the scene cause I was imagining at any time the calf or cow could kick with the back legs. That could easily kill you or severely break some bones.

At dinner today Francine (a very nice Italian lady who helps a lot at the compost area) and I were talking about Swami Jnanamrita. I told her I have this strong and compelling spiritual attraction to him. She smiled, waved her hands and said "Oh. Of course! We all do. We call him the Swami of Eternal Youth. Everyone is in love with him!" Swami J is about 45 years old but looks much younger. So apparently I'll need to get in a long line when they finally let us massage his feet and stare at his smile and eyes.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

2009 07 09. Thursday.

2009 07 09. Thursday.

I stopped by the western cafe to mention something to Murtena. He was having breakfast and I was standing next to him leaning over. As we were talking I suddenly heard a "whoosh!" and felt something drop on my head. Then an instant later a piece of toast fell into Murtena's breakfast plate, splattering food onto his bright white shirt. I quickly look up and see an eagle flying away. Apparently the toast it was carrying broke and fell. The eagle probably a second before had swiped the toast from someone's plate. With a sad expression, Murtena looked down at his splattered white shirt. Being Murtena, he just shrugged and took it all in graceful stride. He's probably seen the eagle swipe food a hundred times. Visions of me taking careful aim with a 12 gauge wide scatter shotgun flashed through my mind. Settle down Advait, its no big deal.

Someone later told me its not an eagle, its a kite. Looks exactly like a bald eagle to me.

Things have been kind of calm the past few days so I've been feeling good. Sometimes the good feeling will rise up kind of strongly and I'll almost feel a little hyper. I've experienced this many times. Now I'm watching it as carefully as I can and that seems to tone down the hyper energy, but the good feeling remains.

Today I finally got my official boy's computer room pass (signed and stamped, no less) from the ashram admin office. Now I can pop in there anytime and wave my pass around like I own the place. Cool.

"OK everyone. Here's my official pass. See? I'm just going to use this computer here."

(next scene is a shot of everyone else totally ignoring me)

While catching up on email in the boy's computer room I started hearing some Michael Jackson songs. Curious, I look behind me and see some Indians watching what appears to be a Michael Jackson retrospective video on YouTube or something similar. Kind of strange but I just go back to my work. After about a half hour I surf over to Google News to see if there's anything interesting going on (usually not). Then I see some headlines about plans for Michael Jackson's funeral. Wow. That's a surprise. After some more searching I discover he died back on June 25th. Wow. Almost 2 weeks ago. Apparently a prescription drug overdose. The parallels to Elvis are kind of spooky.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

2009 07 08. Wednesday.

2009 07 08. Wednesday.

Special Treat Update. (You're probably getting tired of these, but I'll throw in another because, well . . . its *my* blog darn it.) OK, so I'm waiting in line at breakfast and I see a special pot along with the usual breakfast pots. Cool. Maybe some idlis or uttapam or something. Nice but no big deal. I'm in the front of the line so I'll definitely got some (but definitely not seconds; there's a *long* line of starving young wild-eyed Tamil laborers behind me and they can pack away any special breakfast treat like nobody's business). I glance over and I notice they've also brought out a chai urn. Wow. Double cool. I mentally make a quick assessment of my backlog of bad karma and decide that, if I was smart, I would skip the chai, skip breakfast altogether and lay face down down naked on a huge nest of fire ants in the blazing sun. However, I am demonstrably not smart (surprise!) so I decide to have some chai after my meal (if there's any left . . . unlikely). Then, after I get my food (including the first special treat which was some parotas, Mmmm!), I see they've placed another big pot next to the chai urn. Hmmm. This could be interesting. I go and take a look and see inside a large quantity of something dark that looks like coffee. I ask one of the Indian men nearby what it is and he says something in Malayalam. I think to myself "I don't gives a revolving rat's behind what its called. I just want to know if its sweet or not." So I ask "Sweet?" He gives me a vigorous head waggle with a bonus hand wave and says with an annoyed expression "Yes. Yes. Sweet. Sweet!" Triple cool. That's all I wanted to know, dude. Now go take a Valium. I pull out my cup and fill it with the mystery liquid within which is floating bits of spices of some kind or another. After I say my food prayers and settle in I ask one of the Indian men next to me what the dark liquid is. I tip my cup so he can see it and his eyes light up. "Oh! Its jaapi! Ginger, jaggery (dark palm sugar), pepper and other spices. Very good for the digestion." I think to myself "My digestion is fine, dude. I just want to satisfy my sugar addiction." I take a sip and Wow! Its really good! Spicy sweet with a strong taste of ginger and pepper. Yum! Note to my devotee friends; this jaapi stuff looks like its easy to make. Grab the recipe off the net and take some to the next satsang. You'll be a hit.

As I'm eating my delicious breakfast interspersed with sips of luscious jaapi I hear the Indian man next to me say in Malayalam to his friend "(something, something) Thich Nhat Hanh (something, something)". My ears perk up so I ask him "You're talking about Thich Nhat Hanh? The Vietnamese Zen Master?" He looks at me and says yes. I mention that back in 1996 I did a 6 week retreat at Thich Nhat Hanh's center near Bordeaux, France (some of the most beautiful countryside on the planet, IMHO). The Indian man is very curious and starts asking me all about it. I tell him what I know and we have a nice conversation. Brings back memories of the years I meditated with and helped organize the DC Thich Nhat Hahn group from 1991 to 1997. Its where I developed and deepened my passion for meditation and inner work.

After my meal I get some more jaapi (there's plenty left) and, on a whim, test and see if there's any more chai. Yes! Comes out in a pretty weak stream, though. So I end up with a cup of half jaapi and half chai. A match made in Vaikuntha! (google it)

With my cup of ambrosia, I saunter over to the Western Cafe to sign the morning register book. There's a brand new rule that anyone living alone (no roommates) has to sign a register book to confirm you're still alive or can at least pitifully drag your feverish behind to the register book. If you don't sign every day, they'll dress up in black suits and black sunglasses and come a knockin' on your door. Just kidding about the black suits, but I was told they will definitely pay you a visit. "Hi, just want to see if you're still alive. Buy us a cup of chai and we won't tell anyone you're not signing the register book, you sorry excuse for a devotee." Maybe they're running out of useful work at the Ashram Admin Office. I wouldn't be surprised if the rule came from Amma. Actually its not a bad idea because quite a few devotees here live alone and if they get sick or something, someone should check on them. Maybe they'll find some devotee in deep profound meditation only minutes away from full enlightenment when suddenly Bam! Bam! Bam! "Hey! Open up! You alive? Got any chai?!"

"But I was only minutes from full enlightenment!" you cry out in existential advaitic despair.

"Hey! You know the rules. No enlightenment without official ashram authorization. Get the form and get it signed and notarized. The yellow copy goes to the Enlightenment Approval Committee and then the Committee to Endlessly Discuss and Probably Reject the Decisions of the Enlightenment Approval Committee. Should only take a few maha-kalpas."

Little do they know that on the way to enlightenment you have gained the siddhi of turning noxious petty bureaucrats (and most lawyers) into small glow-in-the-dark mice especially attractive to cats and sea eagles.

Some small frantic squeaks are heard outside the door as you sink back into blissful meditation.

(footnote: Of the thousands of different siddhis, this is the only one approved by sadgurus as actually speeding up the devotee's path to ego-dissolution and enlightenment.)

Had some nice longs talks with Mukhunda and Aduren during the chai and snack break after the compost work. Aduren is a short, bald and very nice Indian man from Andhra Pradesh who often helps with the compost. He's also a pujari which means he's been trained to lead various complex Hindu rituals. I say we had a talk but it was almost all me listening to them share. I asked Mukhunda how he came to meet Amma and he told me all about the earlier master he had who helped guide him as a young man and who then led him to Amma. I asked Aduren how he learned to be a pujari and he talked for about an hour about all kinds of incidents from his life. The talk only ended when another Indian man came by to talk with him. I was glad cause it was getting late and I was pooped. I really liked learning more tidbits about Indian culture and spiritual life.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

2009 07 07 Tuesday.

2009 07 07 Tuesday.

Today is Guru Purnima. In the Hindu lunar calendar its the annual day when devout Hindus in India and around the world celebrate and honor their guru. As you can imagine, its a pretty big deal here at the ashram. This morning I was told that there would be no breakfast served. The only food would be the prasad they serve after the morning Guru Purnima ceremony. Prasad is blessed food (usually something sweet) that is offered first to the guru or temple deity and then offered to the people attending the ceremony. The main ceremony started at around 8:15am. I was doing some of my morning sadhana and got to the ceremony in the Kali Temple around 8:45am or so. It was packed. In the front was a beautifully decorated chair with a big picture of Amma that was draped with flower garlands. One of Amma's senior ocher robed swamis was leading the ceremony, seated on the floor, chanting and throwing flowers petals into a big heap in front of the chair. I think deep under the heap of flowers were some sandals that Amma may have worn at some point. I've seen that at other Amma ceremonies. Then they sang some bhajans with the speakers cranked up way too loud. Ouch! You guys wanna make my ears bleed or something?

Then we all got in line to throw a few flower petals in front of Amma's chair and bow down. It was a long line and the older, really short Indian man behind me was pushing at my back the whole time. Its an Indian thing, just part of their culture. I was about 18 inches taller and apparently that was highly annoying to him. Or maybe he has a fetish for tall skinny western men. More likely he was just very eager for his chance to offer flowers to Amma's picture. If someone is annoying me because they're crazy for Amma, well . . . perhaps that's OK. My Amma friends back in the US annoyed me all the time; I should be used to it by now. (Hey Sanatan and Jagadish! How can I intensely practice patience and forgiveness when you're not around?) Being in a good mood, I just took the old man's constant pressing against my back as one of Amma's little tests of my patience and forgiveness. I usually fail these tests in spectacular crash-and burn fashion, but this one went OK. Purely Amma's grace. Putting up with all the zillion things that annoy me may help to make a small dent in my towering mountain of smelly putrid karma.

I finally got to add my handful of flowers to the big heap in front of Amma's picture and bow down. Jai Ma! Maybe it was just the energy of the crowd but I got a nice feeling when I got close to Amma's chair. Perhaps the nice feeling was because the location where we bowed down was right where the senior swami was sitting leading the ceremony. More and more I think the swamis definitely have some special spiritual energy that they keep mostly hidden. I'm scheming of ways I could get to massage their feet. Any ideas?

Then I went to get my prasad. It was about 10am and I was pretty hungry. I know, I know . . . always thinking about my stomach. Well, it does a lot of hard thankless work digesting all the food I cram into it so I like to give it a treat when I can. They gave us a ball of some dark brown sweet, a small cup of hot sweet pudding (payasim) and some sweet crumbly yellow treat. Looked like crumbled laddus. Really good! Definitely better than the dry tasteless communion wafers we got in Catholic church when I was a wee laddie. (To any Catholic readers: just a little teasing fun. Now go say some Hail Marys for reading this heathen blog.)

On the way back to my room I was surprised to see the very nice Korean guy who lives on my floor with a plate of Indian food. I asked "They're serving breakfast?!" He smiled and said yes. He has a beautiful smile. I went to my room, grabbed my bag and plate and got a nice hot plate of watery rice and some unidentified lightly spiced yellow curry. When I went to get a second helping of the curry, all the food pots were gone. Oh, well. No problem because the prasad was also digesting nicely in my belly so I had enough jammed in there to hold me till lunch.

I'm looking through some of the recent entries and see my blog has gotten slightly boring (maybe more than slightly). I've been really busy with the compost project and haven't had time to add some of the spicy flourishes I like to add to the entries. Things may get worse cause when Amma gets here there will definitely be a lot more food waste to compost.

("Spicy flourishes" translates to "stuff I make up".)

Monday, July 6, 2009

2009 07 06. Monday.

2009 07 06. Monday.

I had a lot of emails to send to Peter and some other people about the compost project so, for the first time, I took my laptop to the boys computer room. Very cool! I plugged in the ethernet cable and Bam! Fast free internet. Sweet. I downloaded some overdue patches for Windows and some other programs and took care of all the emails. I was waiting for someone to ask me if I had permission to be there so I could reply in a haughty tone of voice "Excuse me sir, but Swami Jnanamrita has granted me permission to do my seva work here. Now run along please. I have important work to do." I would then wave my hand in a dismissive fashion as only someone with my depth of fetid ego can do.

At lunch soon after I got my food and sat down, I noticed that some of the other people coming to the table had some kind of deep fried something or other. I finished my meal and went to see what I was. A young Indian brahmachari in white was handing them out from a big square metal pot. When he saw me he gave me a smile and put an extra big one on my plate. I still couldn't tell what it was. I got back to my seat and cut it in half with my spoon. Looked a deep fried banana. I bit into it and sure enough thats what is was. It was really good. And really hot! There was no extra sugar, just the sweetness of the banana. I pointed to it and asked some of the young Indian laborers seated next to me what it was called. They all just gave me a blank look and went back to their food like I was a Pakistani spy asking for Indian nuclear secrets. I shrugged and enjoyed the rest of it. Nothing like a little hot sweet greasy fried treat to put me in a relaxed mood.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

2009 07 05. Sunday.

2009 07 05. Sunday.

This morning I was working in the compost area at around 6:30am filling up some garbage bins with wood chips to prepare for the afternoon food waste. In the early dawn semi darkness it was very peaceful and quiet. Some of the wood chips had gotten wet and the bin was pretty heavy. I was pulling it across the field when suddenly, out of nowhere, I hear this Indian voice next to me say "Please. May I help?" Christ on a cracker! Scared the living poop out of me! Where did he come from?! I jerk my head around and see next to me the Indian guy who wired up some of the lights at the compost area a few days ago. I said in a quiet voice "Jeez. You scared the crap out of me." He apparently didn't understand what I said. He just grabbed the other handle of the bin and we carried it together to the compost area. In a moment or two my heart stopped racing. When we put the bin down he gave me a nice smile and continued toward the ashram. Next time I see him I'm gonna put a little cow bell around his neck.

On the way back to my room I stopped by one of the water taps near my building to wash my feet. But one of the older Indian guys had attached a hose to it and was watering some of the many potted plants around the building. I went to him and gestured if it would be OK for me to use to hose to wash my feet. He waggled his head and handed me the hose. As he was giving it to me, he sprayed water all over my pants and casually walked away. I'm sure it was an accident but I go really pissed really fast. I washed my feet and tried to get myself settled down. I was very seriously thinking about "accidentally" spraying him. I was actually going to but he had turned off the water by then. Which was actually very lucky for me. Would have been terrible karma to have sprayed him on purpose. It took the rest of the day for my anger to settle down. I keep telling myself to just laugh when stuff like this happens, but my anger just shoots up. Very frustrating. Only thing I can do is keep watching it carefully and gently.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

2009 07 04. Saturday.

2009 07 04. Saturday.

When I got to the lunch line today the wind was blowing hard and it looked like it was going to rain. The Indian laborers were lined up so the line ended outside rather than in the big hall. I didn't want to get rained on so when I got to the back of the line I called out and waved my hands for the Indians to curve the line inside. To my surprise, they followed my directions while giving me curious looks. Cool; it actually worked. It was then that I noticed that the line was pretty short and the sky was quickly clearing up. My impromptu line direction was totally not needed at all! I bet the Indian kids had a fun time laughing about the incident during lunch; waving their hands to imitate my movements. I felt a little silly, but its a feeling I'm used to. Like an old friend I visit often.

Friday, July 3, 2009

2009 07 03. Friday.

2009 07 03. Friday.

I went to the compost field today at around 8am to do get prepared for the afternoon food waste but the cows were already in the field. No way I was going to work with the cows there. They were tied to trees that were right next to where I wanted to work. Since the cows don't know me I didn't want to take any chances. So I just went back to my room and worked on some other tasks.

At breakfast I saw that one of the young European guys who helps take care of the cows had a fresh cast on his left wrist and hand. I asked what happened and he said one of the cows shook its head while he was taking it back to the cowshed. The cow's horn slammed into his finger and broke it. Ouch!

On the way back to my room I shared the elevator with the young Norwegian guy who milks the cows at 4am. I asked him how safe or dangerous it was to work with the cows. He said that it can definitely be dangerous. He said one time one of the cows charged him and bumped him strongly in the ribs. He said he was lucky he didn't break any ribs. Also one of the cows stepped on his foot once but he was standing in soft sand so his toes just got bruised. If he had been standing on anything solid all of his toes would have been broken. I told him I now have a lot more respect for his courage in doing that work. He smiled and said the main thing is to be aware at all times and really pay attention to the cows. He said if you look carefully, you can tell when they may kick or charge and you can get out of the way. He said you can scare them when they charge and they'll usually stop. The word "usually" stuck in my mind in a rather frightening way.

Between the one guy getting his finger broke and what the Norwegian guy told me, I think I'll just go to the compost field right after morning chai at 6am and work for an hour or so. The cows get there around 8 or 8:30am. I'll do my morning sadhana afterwards.

At dinner this evening a big clump of about 15 older Indians where crowded around the food pots just before they were going to serve. I was at the head of the main line. Just for fun I called out to the group of older Indians: "Any of you speak English?" They all ignored me except for one older man who looked at me with a blank expression. I said "If you guys make a separate line here, we can alternate getting served. That way there won't be a big crowd blocking the rest of us." He listened and then just turned away as though I hadn't said anything. One of the German guys right behind laughed and said "Well, at least you tried!" I smiled back and said "Maybe they think getting in a line is bad karma!"

After dinner I saw the seva guy I had pestered yesterday about the situation with Murtena. I apologized to him and said the matter was settled when I spoke with Murtena and I shouldn't have pestered him. He was very gracious, smiled and said "No problem. I also should have spoken to him." I felt better. Its a good lesson on the value of leaving well enough alone. Sometimes I forget.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

2009 07 02. Thursday.

2009 07 02. Thursday.

I wanted to get some info on local places to do soil analysis and they said to speak to Swami Jnanamrita. Svayam went with me this morning to Swami J's room and he went right in. Wow. Apparently he and Swami J have worked together a lot. Svayam called for Swami J and a voice came from behind a door at the back of the room. Then Svayam said "He's on the toilet. It will be a few moments." Oh, thats just great. Now I'm pestering my beloved Swami J while he's trying to use the bathroom. I ask Svayam if I should come back later. He waggles his head and says "No. No. Please be waiting here." Swami J then comes out wearing only his top and greets me with a smile. He doesn't appear annoyed. Good. I ask about the soil analysis and he gives me another name to contact. Then I ask him if its OK for me to use the boys computer room for my compost seva work and to keep in contact with Peter Ash. He waves his hand, waggles his head and says "Sure. No problem." I give him a namaste gesture and we trade some big smiles and I take my leave.

Later that morning Murtena came to me slightly flustered and asked why I haven't been at the garbage sorting seva. I replied "I told the seva people a few days ago that they wanted me full time on the compost seva. Didn't they tell you?" Murtena replied "No. No one told me." I was frustrated that they didn't tell him and I was frustrated at myself because I also should have told him. We spoke for a few minutes and I said I should have told him, but the seva people should have told him also. Murtena, being a very easy going guy, said "OK, no problem. I'll start looking for a replacement." I felt frustrated about the whole situation and I was beating myself up a little bit for not doing the right thing and telling him. And I was also frustrated with the seva people for not telling him and not getting a replacement like they're supposed to.

A few hours later before lunch I saw the main seva person and asked him why he didn't tell Murtena about me moving to compost seva. He got defensive and shot back asking why I didn't tell him. The conversation could have gone straight downhill but (with Amma's grace) I caught myself and steered it back to a more reasonable place. We both agreed that we should have told Murtena and left it at that. Afterwards I was feeling frustrated at myself again because there was no real reason to pester the seva guy about it. I had pretty much settled it with Murtena and I didn't need to bring it up with the seva person. I was thrown off kilter the rest of the day and felt annoyed with myself about the whole situation.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

2009 07 01. Wednesday.

2009 07 01. Wednesday.

Since I'm no longer doing the 7am veggie chopping, it was nice to have some time for a longer meditation after my IAM practice. The combination of morning alertness with some chai buzz makes for very nice meditations.

The compost work happens in a field in the afternoons. The 8 ashram cows use the field in the mornings for grazing, pooping and meetings to discuss hay commodity futures (looking good during monsoon season). Since I may need to work in the compost area in the mornings I want to meet the cows and let them get to know me. Since I've only hung around cows once or twice in my life, I'm pretty nervous around such big animals. I went to the cow shed in the afternoon and the western lady there (I think she was French or Belgian) very kindly introduced me to the cows. She said 3 of them were pretty gentle, two were slightly rowdy and one was really crazy. I made a very clear mental image of the crazy one (brown spots on the forehead) so I could give it a clear berth at all times. And 2 of the cows were just very young calves (very cute!). It was very nice petting the 3 gentle cows and the calves. I'll try to visit them once in a while so they get to know me better. I said to them "Hey, I'm a vegetarian just like you guys!" I have this fear of some crazy cow breaking its rope and stomping me into the dirt, leaving me flatter than I already am. But other people walk past them all the time so I guess its OK.

One nice thing I'm discovering is that I can now pee in public a lot more easily than I ever could. Sometimes around the ashram I'm working and there's no bathroom nearby. I have a VERY bashful bladder, so peeing in public has always been pretty much impossible for me. But now, for some reason, its easier. I'm able to go to a corner of the garbage area or a corner of the compost and pee pretty easily. Peeing in public is definitely a required ability if you go on an India tour with Amma. The buses have no bathroom so all bathroom breaks just happen on the side of the road. I went on one short India tour with Amma and it was a REAL problem for me. Somehow I survived, but it was no fun at all. I'm saying lots of prayers that Amma will get a bathroom bus for Her future India tours.

Definitely more food waste appearing at the compost area. More and more people are arriving since Amma will be here in about 3 weeks. I was pretty exhausted after working on and directing the building of today's pile. It takes a lot of concentration and mental energy to direct everyone as we build the piles. We do it pretty quickly cause everyone wants to get done by 4pm so we can have chai and snacks on time. Definitely takes longer when there's more food waste. Have to build more layers in the pile, and it has to be layered correctly for the food waste to process properly. I'm trying to find the right balance between being easy going and relaxed on one side and yet being very clear, direct and efficient on the other. Not easy. Being the boss doesn't come natural for me. Maybe that's why Amma guided me to this work.