Sun, Water and South Indian Spirituality 

Kia Ora! I am writing this post at the end of my first week in India. I have so many thoughts, feelings and experiences that I’ve been exposed to in such a short amount of time – so it’s hard to articulate them in a manner concise enough to make this blog post enjoyable. So I will start with explaining the atmosphere right now.  I’m currently lying on floor bed at the Isha Yoga foundation. The bed is made up of two yoga mats layered on top of a Lino floor, a thin makedo brown mattress- a blanket and a thin white sheet as my top sheet. It’s about 7.30am and I can see the sunlight peeking through the drawn curtains. There is a slow stillness in the room. In the background the birds are chirping alongside hints of a call to prayer. But in here it’s silent.  My roommates and I slowly waking up, enjoying the delicate moments of lull. 

Our journey in India started out in Puducherry, a city in the Southern state of Tamil Nadu. The streets are bursting with the most vibrant colours, and the building are remnants of the colonial French history. Nature is weaved in among the buildings. Trees and plants grow shamelessly, as if to protest against the carefully crafted buildings. 

Our first spiritual encounter occurred when visiting the Ashram of Sri Aurobindo. In the journey to this Ashram we were briefed on the life of Sri Aurobindo and what an Ashram is. No description can portray the feeling and emotion of walking into the Ashram. We were all silent, barefeet and curiously looking around the sights around us. Nature pulls in all your sense; the birds chirping, the familiarity of cricket chirps and many other unknown creatures. We walked over and laid our heads on (what I know now to be) Sri Aurobindo’s tomb. Afterwards we sat on the ground covered by the most beautiful flowers and trees, silence still floating in the air in harmony with natures soundtrack. 

When you’re in India, it’s advised to copy what the locals do so you don’t stick out or accidentally do something disrespectful. So there I was, cross-legged, palms on my knees with my thumb and index finger touching, eyes shut, trying to connect and experience divine consciousness. I don’t think I felt that. When you’re sat there trying to take everything in, your brain – well, at least mine – is so busy trying to understand everything you’ve just seen, as well as some leftover thoughts from life back home. But, after 15 or so minutes of somewhat forceful concentration, your mind starts to clear, and there is an immense sense of gratitude, happiness and calmness. 

In the chaos of everyday life and busyness in India, it is so much easier to cherish moments of peace and silence. Similarly, yesterday – 10 hours away from Sri Aurobindo’s Ashram at the Isha Yoga Foundation, we were enticed into doing a “dip.” This dip entails one to walk into a sort of pool of very cold water for seven minutes. This dip is aimed to “increase receptivity to the energies of the Dhyanalinga,” which “straightens out pranic imbalances, enhancing physiological and psychological wellbeing as well as heightening spiritual receptivity.” Again, I’m not sure I felt that. Instead, whilst walking in, my body was shocked by the instant change in temperature that you have no choice but to succumb to as you walk down the stairs into the pool. However, similarly to the Ashram, after a few minutes, your body adapts to the temperature, providing room for a clear headspace. After seven minutes of serenity, you leave the pool feeling a sense of calmness and peace.

I find it fascinating to realise just how simple humans are. A bit of silence and exposure to plants, water and all other forms of nature can slow down a racing mind and provide peace. It seems silly to realise this halfway across the world when New Zealand has an abundance of all these elements – but maybe that’s the point.

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