After celebrating my birthday at the Taj Mahal, I returned this week to the charming, remote, extremely quiet Christian ashram in southern India where I have been staying for the past 2.5 months. On this dusty nine-acre hill are twenty-five scattered rooms, only two of which, including my own, have been occupied regularly in the entire time I have been here.
The ashram is overseen by a lovely soft-spoken priest, Anil, who is assisted by Joby, a jovial pot-bellied man in his first few months of priest training, and Beni, a bright 27-year-old tribal woman who does all the (amazing) cooking and has never met a chili pepper she didn’t like.
The trees here are overseen by small monkeys, who steal fruit as well as drying laundry with backward glances like naughty children checking to see if they’ve been caught. There are six wild turkeys who think they live here and two large dogs who actually do, Jimmy and Julie; and Jimmy is as naughty as the monkeys. Every afternoon like clockwork between 5:15 and 5:30 he can be seen running around with one of Beni’s pink flip-flops in his mouth while she’s inside the kitchen getting his dinner ready. She eventually comes out carrying a large bowl and walks one-shoed about 50 yards to his room where he’s waiting to trade her flip flop for his dinner.
Life in this southern ashram is very different than the nunneries in the north. There are no ornate temples here, but the chapel is a large, very cool rock cave. (LOVE the chapel.) There are no mountains but there are tall, shady mahogany trees and breezy palm trees and myriad fruits and flowers hanging from more than a hundred other trees. There are no villages to walk to. I’m not with friends or community. I’m alone with only the truth of myself, comfortably, and the routine of breakfast at 8, lemonade at 11, lunch at 1, tea at 4.
As for slightly less comforts, I bathe from a bucket every other day. I wash my clothes by hand twice a week. The ceiling fan in my room is my only relief from the 95+ degree heat — during the 75% of time the electricity is working.
The requisite job for all guests is daily gardening, and “my” spot is a large four-tiered brick triangular area with small white lilies and carnation-sized fuchsia and pink flowers that open almost exactly at 10AM and close by 4PM. In the simplicity of life here it brings me joy to get up every day and take care of these new colorful parts of life.
I might also mention that sometimes naughty Jimmy is out on a walk when I’m watering in the afternoon and delights in running full speed through the muddy garden bed to tell me hello. This too brings me joy, though I would also be joyful if he would learn to skirt the edges.
Today in my quietude I reflect on the fact that it was a year ago this month that the metaphysical event that became the basis of my 2016 tour took place. With the exception of my interviews and the three talks I did with my former therapists Margery Silverton and Rudy Bauer, I spoke exclusively about this event in which I was shown that the paradigm of our world is a perpetual cycle of self rejection that keeps us unaware of our connection to God. I was shown that all the systems of our world foster our living and relishing the good trumps bad story without anyone realizing this is what makes us deny our own and each other’s Divine nature.
This is why love has never been able to make our suffering go away, and why religions and political policies and economic strategies and world leaders have never led us to peace. We’ve been using all of these things just to try harder to make one part of us (good) make another part of us (bad) go away. When in fact, there is no good or bad. There is only love and the cry for love. And since we like to label our cries for love “bad”, that is what we inherently reject. Instead of rejecting our own or others’ pain — which is born of the Separation mindset and then perpetuated in the same way — we can answer its cry with the intention to honor it as an equal part of us, not to make it go away.
There was a woman in one my talks who asked me during Q&A, “Is it okay that I feel a righteous anger at all the people who support Trump?” I said, “You already feel that righteous anger, so why reject it? It’s not that you don’t want to feel it, it’s that you don’t want to own that you feel it. So you try to reject that feeling out of guilt, but then you judge yourself for actually feeling it, and then you judge yourself for judging yourself. You see the cycle? When we own what we authentically feel we give power to our truth, not to our rejection. The trick, however, is just to let our truth be after we own it.”
This last part is what people seem to struggle with most. We humans either attach ourselves to myriad “bad” feelings while denying their real source, or we attach ourselves to denial of both our “bad” feelings and their real source. Either way, we’re not allowing our authentic truth to just be.
In the movie Wild, there’s a great line that’s quoted from some writer that says, “Denying her wounds came from the same source as her power.” This is it, exactly. In my metaphysical event I saw Separation and Cry For Union as the same thing, all within the Source of real love.
In my 2016 holiday message video, my suggestion for the way ahead was to, “Feel what you feel authentically, then go be and do that which brings the greatest joy to your heart.” That’s what I’m doing here in this ashram. Feeling all of my truth, authentically. This, along with my writing, prayer, meditation and contemplation allow the joy in my heart all the space it needs.
Whether you are living simply or grandly, alone or among the masses, I hope you are allowing yourself to feel your own truth, and letting it be, graciously, as you do what brings the greatest joy to your heart. If you need some inspiration, you might consider a little jaunt to the Taj Mahal. There’s a LOT of joy there.
Much love to one and all. (P.S. – Click on the Videos tab to watch my new video on mysticism, God and love!)