Adapting to Life at an Ashram

Trip Start Mar 02, 2006
Trip End Apr 06, 2006

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Where I stayed
What I did
Yoga, Meditate, Swim!!

Flag of Bahamas  , New Providence Island,
Saturday, March 4, 2006

On the recommendation of another good friend, I take a tiny ferry (a row boat with an outboard)  across Nassau Harbor to Paradise Island. Our boat is dwarfed by enormous, multi-story cruise
ships which dominate the scene, towering above the tall, spindly pine trees on PI. Crossing the busy harbor is a bit like playing dodge ball in the water, with all manner of floating obstacles in our path, be it large ships, tiny craft like ours and even makeshift immigrant boats from Haiti. One hopeful migrant passes us with homemade sails, made of billboard posters. The larger than life photographs adorning his canvas made him unforgettable to me, never mind any authorities. I secretly hope he makes it to where he wants to go, whether that be here in Nassau or the short 90 kilometers/55 miles northwest to Miami.....

As I step out of the boat on the brightly painted dock on the other side of the water, I enter another world at the Yoga Centre. Peaceful, serene, painted with the familiar Bahamian colors (pal Suzy had her house in Baltimore these colors for a little bit of home) I quickly realize I am not in Kansas anymore......I immediately think, hmmm what have I gotten myself into?? I was warned ahead of time about all the restrictions at this place - no caffeine, alcohol, or
meat, which I was actually looking forward to, for detoxing my overstimulated, over stressed out body.  All this I could handle, but as it turns out, there was no water and protein
either! Ok, there is water available, but you have to buy gallon jugs from the gift shop......a fact of life of a small retreat center on a small island. As for protein, I'm not sure what the issue was here. With all the yoga, I really needed it. Just give me some PNB in the am and I'm good all day! Next
time I'll bring a jar.......I recommend packing some snacks to have on hand... I packed Clif Bars to munch on as
there is a huge gap between waking at 5:30am and eating breakfast at 10:00am. Very good move!

Fantastic yoga instruction in the classic tradition is mandatory. However, two two-hour sessions a day outside in the lush climate, either on a covered, shady platform overlooking Nassau Harbor, or in the sunshine on a deck at the beach isn't too tough to take. Indeed, what a glorious way to greet the day! Doing yoga while gazing at the waves and breathing in ocean air is definitely a little slice of heaven on earth. Each class challenged me a little more, as at this point in my yoga life I had not mastered headstand, and a number of poses left me awestruck, such as peacock. The instructors were from all backgrounds and ethnic groups. U.S., Canada, Germany, UK, Bahamas. The Indian teachers were the most fun, and the most challenging. One Indian man would gently laugh and guided me into a pose I never thought I could get into, then he'd look at me, and smile the most fantastic smile. It was a month of pure relaxation, learning, opening and joy. I
enjoyed the early morning and evening satsangs and devoured the lectures, which were on everything from Ayurveda to The Meaning of Dreams to Yogic Philosophy. I literally felt my mind expanding and my heart opening. A momentus shift occurred for me while at this peaceful land and seascape, camping out in the Bahamian spring. My first three days at the center, I was a bit freaked out. My head had been spinning, my stomach adjusting to the new diet, but mostly, for someone who grew up Catholic and thus ever skeptical of organized
religion, I found the ritual and schedule eerily similar to Catholic
ceremony. I overcame the urge to call Suzi and have her pick me up at the dock, and I'm forever grateful, as what I was learning here reiterated and confirmed my self-education of the last few years. The meditation, yoga practice, lectures, people, and the beach I walked everyday were inspiring, profound and yes, I know it's cliche now, but even life-changing. By sheer luck, fate or divine will, my time at the ashram coincided with
a Teacher Training program. I'd never thought of doing one before, but I befriended a few of the students in the course. I witnessed the rigors of their efforts, the volume of study, listened in on a few lectures and empathized as I saw them fulfill their duties of karma yoga. As a result, at the end of my time there, I decided I wanted to undergo the same.

As I said, the ashram is a thin slice of heaven. This is as literally true as it is figurative. The property extends from the harbor to the ocean, with Nicholas Cage's small beach house as neighbor to the left. He's never there, so he's a great neighbor!! Unfortunately on the other side, the ashram is being crowded out by the gargantuan hotel Atlantis, which purchased the old Club Med property and now is the abutter on the other side. Having built a monstrous addition means thousands of people will now share the lovely crescent sands of PI's once uncrowded beach.  Add to this the nonstop sounds of Nassau Harbor, and the ashram is struggling to maintain its own in a world of chaos. Camping out at
night there was a lot of boom, boom, boom of the bass from the party
boats. Next time I'll bring earplugs.....

But in another way, all the
commotion in the harbor and the overkill stimulation of Atlantis, was a neat reminder why I was there. How do we maintain our center amidst all of life's chaos?? Yoga teaches us how. All in
all, the ashram is a fantastic escape from the everyday world, and is still a beautiful property  with lush vegetation and colorful cottages. And many new friends I hope to see again....If you can, I recommend booking one of the beachfront cottages, an ayurvedic consultation and a massage. You won't regret it!!

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