Mystical India – Ramana Maharshi
I was supposed to go on a work trip to Tanzania but it got cancelled. So I had an empty agenda, a ‘free’ ticket and a longing for sun. Then someone told me about South-India and that it was the perfect time to go there. So I booked. I have to say that India was never really on my radar. This idea of huge amounts of people and possible hygienically hazards put me off. However the more I am into mindfulness and meditation (non-duality), the more I am intrigued by its spiritual richness. It was an opportunity and I am very grateful I took it! This blog is about the randomness, spirituality, Ramana Maharshi and beauty of Southern India.
It started in Kerala
I decided to break my trip – 2 ½ weeks – in two. I started with a Holiday in Kerala and the second part I went more inwards (i.e. retreat). If you have been or heard of Kerala, check this link. I found it very complete with its amazing beaches, great (sea) food, huge tropical nature, lovely people and beautiful mountains. Although it is a bit more relaxed (touristic) I did experience India’s honking traffic, crowded trains and general randomness. I am in love with its ocean, as a child you can play, dive and swim with its waves.
There was a bit of confusion with my boat trip into the tropical backwaters (main thing to see in Kerala) and I ended up in the wrong hostel. Which was on the beach instead of in town, from where my trip started. But I soon learned there is nothing like ‘wrong’, you adapt and everytime I just went with the flow, something unexpected and amazing was my reward. In this case an almost empty and beautiful beach and affordable and clean guesthouse!
Then I went for the mountains (Munnar). Although the sea is always my number one, I love the simplicity and remoteness of mountain life. It has a natural ZEN / mindfulness feel. I mean there were literally 15 to 20 houses, I ate all the time at the home-stay and you just enjoy whatever is there. There were mainly Tea plantations and it was a relaxed and cool area. I was fortunate that the people of the homestay were very helpful and nice, I met great people (for example we did a yoga-meditation session on the rooftop whilst the sun was going down, nice he!) and the food was simple but good. Cooked by the grandma of the home-stay owner. The longer the trip lasted the more I started to enjoy it; I always have to find my way in the beginning. But the best was still to come!
I was recommended to go here (Tiruvanamalai) by various people and it was a special, spiritual and mystic place. I took the night bus and when I arrived I was a bit overwhelmed by the amount of beggars, honking, chaos in traffic and all these spiritual people. Once I found my way I got up early in the morning and walked up the holy mountain of Arunchala and when into the Ashram of Ramana Maharshi to read, meditate and contemplate on what I just red. Interested yourself to read something then check this link. This Indian mystic and one of the main teachers of non-duality, is attracting many people from all over the world.
Inspiration of the common man
Twice I had tea somewhere on a road stand and random people sat next to me and we start talking about philosophy, meditation and some general things. People wiggling their heads that they knew where Holland was, nice sweet lies). More surprising was a local common man who only speak Tamil, was also trying to explain the importance of Ramana’s teachings. A funny “conversation” followed.
In these kinds of things you feel that India is a special and spiritual country. Another example I met some students on the train and they showed me a book they were reading; how to bring our heart-spirituality (love) into the realm of business. These were normal Geography/business students. How cool!
I wanted to go on retreat and was hoping to arrange it from there and then. That went different then I hoped and to be honest I was a bit disappointed. Then I needed to face and let go of all expectations (which is also a major obstacle in my daily (work) life). I managed and just took it a step by step. Spontaneously I visited this Asrham I heard was nice and by change I ran into this group ‘Arunachala Laboratorio’ from Spain.
They were allowing me to join for the day, even though the program already started, and that I could even stay until the end if I wanted. I said yes and dove in. It was a bit scary at first, as their approach was much expressive then I am used; A combination of theatre, dance, creative workshops and in-depth talks. Looking back on it, it was one of the most profound things I have done. It opened me up to other people, it touched me to my core, released painful feelings I didn’t know I was carrying and made great friends.
A typical day
The program was intense. It was optional to start the day meditating on a hill looking towards Arunachala mountain. From 06.00 – 08.00 although you could leave whenever you wanted. Check the website’s first picture and you understand why I went every morning! Then there was breakfast (or if you didn’t go for the meditation there was also yoga). Following by various exercises to get you feel the core of who you are and at the same time confronting you how much we (or at least I) are attached to what other thoughts, other people and our own identity.
Our great teacher every time showed us that “we were not that” what we make of ourselves or what others things of you. We are the love, the space or awareness where it all experiences happen in. It was very powerful. Then lunch. Followed by music therapy (you could sleep/relaxed while people were making beautiful music) and a various workshops you could choose from. I took drawing lessons and a mud-crazy-exposing workshop. Then there was time to relax, a joint session or meditation, diner and often a celebration in evening (music or dance). Exhausted but satisfied I went to bed. The location, the Ashram where this retraite was held, is really worth re-visiting.
With much gratitude I look back on this week and the whole trip. I am determined to integrate the lessons of truly letting go of expectations (seeing that these are just concepts) in my daily life and just take life as it is. Let’s move step by step, follow life in its natural flow and trust it completely. I will keep you posted about the integration in real life, wish me luck 🙂