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The Ashram Experience

By Arun Goel

Why experience Ashram Life?

Our faulty lifestyle gives rise to negative emotional states. This further leads to suffering.

We are becoming increasingly scientific and rational in our conscious thought. But we are unable to apply the same rationale to our subconscious and unconscious mind (i.e. 9/10th of our brain activity). This creates a conflict, resulting in negative emotions.

Clinical psychologists are themselves divided whether to tackle this conflict by catharsis OR suppression techniques.

Yoga offers a clear roadmap to overcome this conflict. For this, yoga has successfully classified the various causes of all suffering into – Ignorance, I-ness or Ego, Liking, Repulsion; and Fear of death.

Of these, Ignorance and Ego form the real basis of all pains and suffering.

In our “progressive” lifestyles, we are locking ourselves up more and more under the garb of independence. We increasingly shut out people as we move towards exclusiveness as opposed to inclusiveness. All of this serves to increase the duality – I v/s others – and makes our Ego even stronger.

We MUST understand that THIS is the root cause of all our mental and physical suffering!

An Ashram is the “temple” where this is tackled.

The Ashram

Ashram life emphasizes on an expansion of awareness. It enables one to overcome the Ego & gradually move towards a life of harmony.

Ashram life stresses on dissolving the “I”. But one must remember that this can be quite a painful transition, given our existing lifestyles. When you live in an Ashram, you are required to make a few adjustments in your way of living.

Every single situation that you will experience in an Ashram provides conditions for dissolving the ego. The situations create conditions for introspection or self-study (swadhyaya).

The word Ashram comes from Shram (labor). Labor forms the basis of Ashram life. Here the labor (struggle) is for perfection in ones thoughts, words and deeds. Ashram life enhances our personality by helping us realize our inherent weakness and providing an opportunity to change our outlook.

In Ashram life, everybody is a participant, not a guest. Anybody who wants to participate in the Ashram belongs to the Ashram and vice versa.

What to expect from an Ashram Holiday?

In light of the above, the phrase ‘Ashram Holiday’ itself is an oxymoron. If you’re thinking that you will be pampered with service… forget it! In fact, an Ashram experience is anything but ‘expecting’ service. An Ashram has nothing to give you in terms of material comforts.

We sometimes have guests complain that they felt lost in the Ashram – there was no receptionist to even receive them. That is precisely the point – the breakdown of the exclusivist mindset begins right from the word go. The “forced” interaction to help find your way starts breaking barriers created by the ego. When you reach out in this uncharacteristic way, it loosens our rigid mindset.

As you make your way to the room, you are struck by its modesty – even austerity for some. No carpeting, no air conditioning /heating and no TV… what the hell am I going to do? Is this what I paid for? – Again, that wretched mentality of expectation! While most adjust quite well, others are filled with agonizing thoughts such as this.

Welcome to the Ashram… Your transformation has already begun!

Every experience should prod you to witness it with awareness. You should constantly witness your feelings and try to go deeper by understanding why you feel particularly so. As you do such introspection on a regular basis, you realize over time that the fault is not in the environment or the people that you interact with. Instead the problems arise from within. The situation is only a catalyst to bring the deep contradictions to the surface.

The Ashram setting gives you a chance to experience and reflect on this. Consequently, the changes that take place within you are more positive and permanent.

Once you are settled in, you begin experiencing the immense positive energy that envelops the Ashram. Starting from the morning Aarti prayers on the banks of the holy Ganges River to your morning yoga class, the mind and body experience a unique freshness.

As a visitor, you have abundant free time to imbibe the spirit of the Ashram. The concept of Service (Seva) forms the bedrock of Ashram activities. While you, as a visitor, would not be asked to assist in Seva, feel free to contact the Administrator and express your interest to do Seva. Ashram Seva activities are the finest example of Karma Yoga – service without complaint or expectation of rewards. Witness with awareness the impact such activities have upon you – whether pleasant or otherwise.

You can also indulge in furthering your knowledge (jnana yoga) by spending time in the Library. The simple, balanced Sattwik meals, the Ashram activities and the environment… all of these help in developing harmony within you and filling you with a unique experience.

What we do at HealthAndYoga?

We understand the “culture shock” an Ashram can be, especially for the Western traveler. But it would be a pity if anyone was to lose this remarkable opportunity at self-discovery and evolvement because of the apparently strange living.

For this, we at Health & Yoga organize Ashram visits for the foreign traveler into India for a complete Ashram experience while buffering him or her from the so-called culture shock.

We have arrangements with some of the “best” Ashrams that cater to Western necessities such as attached baths and Western Style toilets – perceived as luxury by Ashram standards in India.

The Ashram rooms have a blissfully panoramic view of the mighty Himalayas or the holy Ganges River. The rooms themselves are tidy and clean.

With these ‘basic’ needs being met, you can imbibe the simplicity of the Ashram and the transformation it brings within you.

You are provided with a contact person, with whom you can liaison within the Ashram and you always have the comfort of getting in touch with us should you feel the necessity.

Lastly, we provide you interesting fillers during your Ashram stay such as river rafting, a Himalayan mountain trek and Ayurvedic treatments depending on your interest.

While all of this does help in converting your Ashram experience into a Holiday, you must understand that the true spirit of an Ashram visit lies in yoga practices, Service beyond self (Seva), Self-study or introspection (Swadhyaya) and learning constantly from the inner experiences.

To see some of the Ashram visits organized by us, Click here

It can safely be said that Ashram culture is a panacea for the modern world as it provides a uniquely positive environment that helps explode the seed of creativity that lies dormant within all of us.

In Peace & Happiness,

Arun
 


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