September 7, 2012
I think I should do another Blog-a-Day Challenge. I am entirely out of the habit of blogging, and I need something to get me over the resistance/fear that accompanies creating. Plus there’s been so much amazingness going on in my life these past few months, I feel guilty not sharing!!! (I’ve ditched most of my general guilt, but I still haven’t managed to completely shake the blogging guilt…)
So I’ll do a blog-a-day starting today and going through September 20th, when I leave my home of the last month and a half for a trip to Florence and the Ligurian coast.
For the last three weeks I’ve been renting a room with two lovely roommates about 5 kilometeres from the Ananda center here in Italy. We’re an international bunch, me being from the states, one roommie, Calypso, hailing from Greece, and the other, Luigi, an Italian native (obviously… Luigi). A Portuguese woman named Lakshmi normally occupies the three-room apartment; she’d been house-sitting but is moving back in next week.
After a year and two months of Nomad Living, the thought of committing to stay anywhere for more than a month at a time brings up some issues for me. Though I don’t want to keep traveling forever, and I don’t actually enjoy the act of traveling, I haven’t entirely shaken the itch to keep moving. But life here at Ananda is pretty close to my dream life. I’ve got a community and group of close friends who already feel like family. Everybody meditates and does yoga. The community is working towards self-sufficiency, and I’m helping to launch the Academy of Art, Creativity, and Consciousness. I’m speaking Italian every day. The air is fresh. It’s beautiful. It’s quiet. My house is in the countryside overlooking olive groves, and our neighbors make home-pressed olive oil from their orchards, which we can see from our bathroom window.
For now, I’m happy here. Very happy! Yet at the same time, not entirely sure I’m ready to commit to staying… I feel I still need to be following my bliss and inspiration, and I don’t want to confuse myself and my path by making commitments to other people and becoming entangled in their plans… So, I’m sorting through some things, figuring out which is the voice of fear and which is the voice of my soul.
August 18, 2012
I’ve been here at Ananda for a month, and it’s flown by. It’s beautiful here, and I’ve been meeting new people every day. Most of them thought they knew me or had met me before, that odd sense of familiarity – what is that? Is it the knowing of a prior lifetime? A soul recognition, a soul resonance? Is it a product of my Irish/English face, the genes that have spread around the globe? Is it merely my love for people in general, my work at being open that causes them to feel that we are closer than strangers normally are, that I accept them like an old friend would?
My days at Ananda usually begin around 5:30am. Recharging exercises (a series of breathing and muscle tensing exercises), kriya yoga, and meditation at 6am or a shorter one at 7am, in the temple or the yoga hall. Breakfast served at 8:45am – homemade yogurt, fresh baked bread, honey, oatmeal, cream of rice, corn flakes, fruit, coffee, tea… and, occasionally, unfortunately, Nutella. I cannot NOT eat Nutella if it’s within eyesight.
While here at Ananda I participated in the ‘Yoga in Action’ and ‘Service is Joy’ programs, so for a discount on room and board I volunteered around 20 to 30 hours per week, washing dishes, peeling potatoes, vacuuming the large dining room, cleaning bathrooms. We were given a few tips on working joyfully that were actually quite effective, so I almost always enjoyed the work – I even learned to scrub toilets without minding. This for me was quite interesting. I feel like I didn’t really learn to clean the house growing up – searching my memory banks (which are fairly sparse on childhood memories), washing dishes, cleaning windows, washing the car and taking out the trash were some of the chores I remembered doing. I don’t remember ever actually cleaning the house or bathrooms, so I think for those reasons they were always chores I’d avoided after growing up. Through this work at Ananda I learned (and practiced) cleaning efficiently, without negative feelings or resistance. The daunting concept of cleaning has become more manageable.
Sometimes in the morning we would have Sadhana meetings with Tony and Namasia, the two directors of ‘the Service is Joy’ programs, during which we would meditate and discuss spiritual readings and topics – part education, part therapy. During ‘Yoga is Action’ we were allowed to take one of the courses offered at the center – I did “How to Live With More Energy” and the incredible art workshop with Dana Lynn Anderson “Painting from the Heart and Soul”.
Lunch is served at Ananda at 1:30pm. Vegetarian/vegan, always a salad bar and fruit and steamed veggies and rice and then the day’s offering – gorgonzola pasta or stuffed zucchini or a lentil dish. I’ve been eating entirely too much as I always want to try everything, and the fresh bread is so good.
Afternoons are more work or class, yoga and meditation around 5:45pm, dinner served at 7:30pm. Most evenings there’s something to do after dinner – kirtan music and dancing, a talk about art or community, a concert by the resident cellist or a visiting violinist.
There are about 150 people who live here in the Ananda Community, and anywhere from 30-100 guests who stay at the retreat center. So there are always people around to chat with and new people to meet.
Everything is in Italian and English, which I absolutely love. I’ve gotten to translate a few times – in a yoga class, in a meeting. It’s a skill I’ll have to practice more – it’s challenging to be talking at the same time someone else is an trying to keep up – but I enjoy it.
Sunsets here are amazing. In 30 days I think I only saw one sunset that wasn’t spectacularly vibrant reds and oranges. And the views are 100% Italian – rolling hills, patchworks of fields, green trees, stone houses.
April 20, 2012
The Chacra (little ranch) I live on is surrounded by small mountains/large hills, so there’s a nice hike in any direction you head in. Yesterday I decided to do a sunrise hike. I woke up at 6:30am and did Vipassana meditation for one hour, then bundled myself up (temperature’s in the 40’s F at night) and put my iPod, journal and Kindle into my bag.
I listened to a Philosopher’s Note on my iPod as I headed east, walking through the dry riverbed behind the house and past the Mapuche school. The Philosopher’s Note was on the book ‘The Power of Habit’ by Jack D. Hodge.
“It’s often said that habits are hard to break. This is an inaccurate statement. Habits aren’t broken; they are replaced. In other words, you replace, not erase, bad habits. This is an important distinction because if we are to change a bad habit we must carefully consider which habits we are to replace it with. Purposefully choosing new habits to replace old habits will greatly increase your chances of changing bad habits.”
So I decided to replace my habit of staying in my warm bed with taking a sunrise hike every morning. Until it starts snowing, at least.
The sun rises late here, a little after 8am, so I needed something to get me out of bed earlier – I like to get up at 6am but when it’s dark and cold out, I’m not very motivated to climb out of my Cocoon. (I literally sleep in a Cocoon, this awesome travel sheet/sleeping bag liner thing that my friend Anne gave me. It’s stretchy, so I close myself up in it to keep the mosquitos from biting my face; it’s much more comfortable than trying to keep myself covered with a normal stiff sheet all night!).
I hiked for about 30 minutes until I found a nice rock-topped hill to perch on. I wrote my three morning pages for ‘The Artist’s Way’; I read an entry from ‘A Daily Dose of Sanity’ by Alan Cohen as the earth tilted the sun into my eyes.
While I’m living here in the middle of natural beauty and space and fresh air, I’m going to make sure I get the most out of it!
I have more photos I want to share, but the crap internet connection would only allow me to upload this one; issues uploading photos has been my main delay on blogging lately. I’m hoping it’ll be easier for me to upload to a Flickr account; will keep you posted!
“Life is a fatal adventure. It can only have one end. So why not make it as far-ranging and free as possible.” – Alexander Eliot
January 27, 2012
Guess where it is?
I’m surprise it wasn’t in India… but the next most logical spot: San Francisco.
I remember how delighted I was to see a sign for a “Meditation Room” in the Albuquerque airport; a yoga room is even better! I’ve been tempted to do yoga in airports before, especially with all the traveling I’ve done in the last year, but I never managed to summon up the cojones to do a downward dog in the passenger waiting area.
How did this happen? The director of SFO has been practicing yoga for 18 years, and after hearing someone make an offhand remark that they had everything but a place to do yoga, he made it happen.
And, it’s free to use! They even provide mats.
The world is a-changin’!!! I look forward to the day when it’s normal for everyone to meditate and do yoga, just like everyone brushes their teeth and showers.
LAX has gotta be next.
*Thanks to Mariana for sending me the article!
January 24, 2012
A few years ago, I started meditating.
At first it was for 5 minutes at a time. It was hard. It was uncomfortable. It wasn’t enjoyable. My mind blabbered, my knees hurt.
Over the past few years, after numerous classes and stopping and starting again, I’ve built up to a practice of two hours a day – one hour in the morning and one in the evening (that’s on my good days; I don’t always hit the two hour mark).
I’ve experienced the positive effects in my life – less stress, less anxiety, a better feel for my emotions and my body, more awareness of the ways I’m crazy and destructive, a better memory, a stronger ability to savor and appreciate life.
In the society we’ve created, with its pressures and multitasking and addictions and smartphones and ADHD, meditation is the single most important thing a person can do for their well-being, happiness, serenity and sanity.
And more and more, there are scientific studies backing up the physiological benefits. Finally, science is starting to figure out why the spiritually-minded have been espousing meditation for centuries.
If you can’t find meditation classes near you (google around), you can begin with these free guided meditations, starting with the 5 minute one:
But I’d really recommend classes. It gets you more comfortable with the practice, and doing it with other people is more motivating than struggling to sit there on your own.
Funny how terrifying just sitting there, breathing, can be…
January 6, 2012
As the bird has got two births – one birth coming out of the mother’s womb and the second birth coming out of the shell of the egg – so does a human have two births.
“Like a bird born of its mother encased in a shell, my first birth was shrouded in the darkness of deep ignorance. A bird’s second birth is its true birth – when it breaks the eggshell and emerges into the light. Just as the little bird blinks its eyes when it emerges from its shell into the sunlight, so was I astounded when the dark layer of ignorance was penetrated for the first time and I glimpsed the rays of true understanding. Indeed, the darkness of ignorance is darker than the absence of light within an eggshell or the womb.”
“Human life becomes meaningful only when one breaks the shell of ignorance and becomes established in wisdom, just as a chick breaks through its eggshell and emerges into the light.”