I wanted to leave this morning. I thought I’d cut my stay here short and head into the city for a few days before my flight out on Tuesday, but something in the sudden rainstorm as I sat for breakfast in the open-walled pavilion convinced me to stick it out.
I’m at an ashram about 30 km outside of Pune, and it’s everything I should love. A climate that I adore — warm and wet and lush. Cool and breezy in the evenings. A secluded place, with verdant hills and jungle as far as the eyes can see. Birds sweetly chirping all day long, with only the rare sound of a small car or two passing occasionally on the village road. The silence here feels surreal compared to my recent noisy stay in Jaipur. Driving in, I was amazed to see men from the village working the rice fields in the traditional way, with a massive bull pulling the plough. Beautiful, and like something out of another era.
Despite all of this, I’ve felt lonely here. It’s monsoon season in India, which is technically the perfect time to do a meditation retreat as the constant rain supports going inward. However, monsoon is also the low season, which means I am the lone guest on this huge campus, with only the company of a small staff and the meditation teacher. I’m finding it odd that a few years ago, another version of me would have been beyond delighted to have this jungle paradise all to myself, and I’m wondering what’s changed. Perhaps it’s because I’m the furthest I’ve ever been from home, and being here alone makes that fact inescapable.
There are pluses, though. The food is a carefully selected Ayurvedic menu, and absolutely incredible. They make a curd (or, as we call it, yogurt) from buffalo milk delivered fresh every morning, and it’s one of the most amazing things I have ever tasted. The meditation teacher, (or Acharya) is incredibly kind and patient with me, and I suspect he is as glad for my presence here as I am for is. He’s a middle-aged American, full of stories and wisdom from his travels in the US, Italy and India. The Swami who founded this ashram recently passed away, and as he was the heartbfeat of this community, most people who visited and lived here in his lifetime have since moved on. The Acharya is hoping to somehow revitalize this place, as they have acres upon acres of land filled with empty apartments, and he has a longing to see community here once more. I think it would be unfortunate if that didn’t happen, but somehow, I suspect it will.
My little room is sweet, with pictures of the gurus on the windowsill, including Jesus and Krishna, which I love. It is, however, extremely humble, so much so that I gasped upon walking in. I suspect this will happen a lot on this journey, and I’m laughing that not even a year ago, I thought my hotel rooms for $70-$85/night on a trip to Costa Rica were a steal. In India, that’s more than I’ve budgeted per week for lodging, though I’m paying a little more here as full board is included with the stay. I will say that there’s something special about living this simply which allows me to appreciate my life back home more than I ever possibly could have before, and has already drastically changed my views on money and what I really need in this lifetime.
I’m unsure of what the next few days will bring, but I’m glad I’ve decided to stay. If my loneliness lingers, it’s likely best to lean into it and allow it to become yet another teacher on the path. My meditation practice has deepened with the Acharya’s gentle instruction, and it would be a shame to leave before I’ve completed the course. Something else also speaks to me here, a whisper woven into the raindrops, bird songs, and fleeting glimpses of sunlight. What it’s saying, I haven’t yet discovered, but perhaps with some patience, it will reveal itself.
Where I’m Staying:
Ananda Kriya Yoga Ashram
$18/night for a very simple room, private bathroom, and three full Ayurvedic vegetarian meals + evening chai break daily. $7 (one time fee) to add on personalized meditation instruction, but daily community meditation sessions are free. Full free access to a wonderful spiritual library throughout your stay.
Recommended, especially for the gorgeous scenery and amazing food. However, be aware that you may be the only one here during low season, and that the single rooms are very basic and a little run down. They have apartment-like suites that are much nicer for a few dollars more per night.