i'm in the gold country for the holidays.
i've been purposely slowing my life down. i've been so whirlwind busy: traveling for months, figuring out housing (moving out, moving in), getting adjusted to new housemates, reconnecting with my lover and friends from the bay area, and then packing everything up again to take off for the gold country.
i'm up here for almost 2 months. been here 2 weeks now.
i've been doing consulting work for an ashram up here. (not ananda village which i visited and wrote about this summer - i would NEVER work for them. i just found out the founding guru is a convicted sexual predator and a financial fraud.)
i lived at the ashram for a week while i got to know them as an organization. they follow p. r. sarkar, a renaissance man/guru, who was a prolific writer.
they found out about me after i wrote another ashram in the bay area, which was listed in the WWOOF directory, and contacted me to do some work for them.
it was not easy being there, far away from the excitement of the big city and from the basic pleasures to which i've become accustomed. but i came away with a lot more insight about yogic philosophy, PROUT economic theory, vegetarian sentient yoga diets, and the didis (e.g. nuns - the word means "sisters") and dadas (brothers or monks) who live the monastic life.
i summed it up this way in a post i made to my burner camp listserv:
"i must say that after a week at an ashram where the yogic nuns remain
celibate, do not watch tv or have working internet, avoid chocolate, eggs and
meat, my first impulse was to have wild sex with the first kinky
passerby i found, eat gobs of pastrami, fry my breakfast sunny side
up, and consume mass amounts of ghirardelli. i accomplished most of
it within the first 24 hours.
still looking for that kinky stranger though...."
oh and i forgot to add "watch internet porn." i'm just soooooooooooo not an ascetic!
and i honestly feel sorry for people who are. i wish i could shed my judgmental ways, but after reading about their diet and following it for a week, i wondered: how can some religious leader declare mushrooms, garlic and chocolate a sin????? wtf?????? didn't whatever creator/life force/god/dess you believe in give us these wonderful treats????
i don't get that and i don't think i ever will.
i did not make a good ashram guru follower. i tried to join in to the worship services a couple of nights but chanting while facing a picture of a man just doesn't do it for this feminist. they were good hearted, compassionate, hard workers. the leader played guitar and sang and led us in meditation each night. but i just found no inspiration in it, unlike what i've felt at buddhist temples, or pagan rituals.
they had an odd custom which struck me as very funny. they'd cook up a delicious dinner, indian ayurvedic or chinese inspired dishes (the nuns were from malaysia and taiwan) - often with vegetables from their garden and always with exotic spices. the smell would be so enticing and it would be all hot and ready to be eaten; then they'd let it sit there while they left the kichen to go chant and meditate, letting the food get cold. perhaps they only did that while i was there; they are in a very isolated rural community so they cooked each meal for me. but i found that very strange. perhaps a ritual of self denial? a practice of delayed gratification?
i was absolutely thrilled to leave the ashram. after living a life of christian service and always putting myself last as my fundamentalist religion proscribed for women, i'm just not interested in committing any more time to delaying my gratification. i've been seizing life by the collar and dancing till dawn and grabbing all the gusto i could get for 2 years and it suits me!
i do balance my hedonism with buddhism, goddess worship, pagan ritual, and an occasional dose of eckart tolle or some other new age writer. and i find that very meaningful.
but i found myself pitying these nuns. they seemed quite unhappy. behind their smiles and courtesy, they seemed so negative and frustrated with their work most of the time. my heart just ached for one of them; she told me she'd spent months and months nurturing lambs on the small farm there only to have them eaten by a mountain lion - on her birthday.
i longed to share with them my path of following pleasure - of hedonism - but felt that would have been very arrogant so i remained silent except to cheer them on for the work they'd done.
which is pretty amazing: in a primarily white, christian fundamentalist rural county, they've managed to create many outreach programs and educate the community on indian philosophy. that's no small feat. plus, they have a beautiful river reclamation project there and they've recruited many local environmentalists to work with them.
they are busy making their corner of the world a little more non-violent, a little kinder to the animals, a little more healthy. there's a lot to be said for that.