It’s finally happened. After four months without leaving the orbit of Arunachala, I have broken free of the gravitational pull of the mountain and made it to Chennai as planned.
I really did expect to do some short trips outside Tiruvannamalai at some point in my visit. It just never happened. For the first two months, I felt no desire to go anywhere else; then by the time I was starting to get restless, I either had weekend plans, too much work during the weekdays, or was having enough intermittent issues with my digestion that the idea of a long car, bus, or train ride to anywhere didn’t really appeal. The last two weeks I was mostly just trying to tough it out, and not that interested in expanding my horizons any further. But it wasn’t without some worthwhile moments.
A new look for Bhagavan
One thing that happened was that Matthew and I finally launched the redesign of the Sri Ramanasramam website. When we first arrived we had volunteered to do a few little informal fix-ups on the existing site, but then we ended up going down a sort of rabbit-hole where everything we fixed seemed to reveal another dire issue, and eventually the only thing that made sense was a bit of a reboot. There’s still room for improvement, but I’m quite pleased with what we were able to do given the circumstances.
A new look for me
Another thing that happened is that I did a spontaneous avante-garde photoshoot with a professional photographer. (What, doesn’t everyone do this when they come for a spiritual journey in India?) I met Leela of Sheryl Sapphire Photography at a local restaurant, and we got on like a house on fire. She suggested we put our creative brains together and see what fun we could have on a photoshoot. We came up with several possible locations, like an abandoned temple near the main road, and a lotus garden on the other side of the mountain. But on the actual day of reckoning, both of us were feeling pretty low-key from heat and indigestion. So we ended up exploring the garden near where she was staying – which turned out to be perfect, because we had the quiet and the privacy to really play with some ideas and outfits. She happened to have a tragically ripped dress she had been meaning to repair, and we found a handful of dead bougainvillea to match, and we just had a hell of a lot of fun with it all.
This was truly what I needed at this point in the trip. I’d been feeling pretty down about my body, between my guts and my wrist both acting up, and the heat starting to get to me. Posing and exploring ideas with Leela helped me feel better about being in my body, and see some beauty in myself again, not just a whining puddle of sweat and discomfort.
A gut feeling about chicken
I started feeling stronger the last few days before leaving. This was in no small part because Matthew bought us a chicken. I’m not normally a big meat-eater, but I’ve also never been purely vegetarian, and in the past four months I had only had meat twice. I suspect what happened to my digestion was partly that I got some kind of bacterial or parasitic thing, not enough to show up on the crappy hospital test, but enough to affect a body that was lacking protein and probably some other random nutrients.
And by “bought us a chicken” I have to add that the chicken was alive when he bought it, and shortly afterwards, it was not. This is how things work around here. I’ve always thought that if I’m going to eat meat I should be able to face its death; I wasn’t there to witness it myself, but Matthew thoughtfully presented me with a video that I hadn’t asked for. (He also thoughtfully offered to let me post it on this blog for you, but I wasn’t sure my readership would be so very keen. Please accept this sea turtle instead, which died of natural causes as far as I know.)
Back to the chicken: it’s strange to be aware of an animal that died specifically for me, not just in a typical restaurant or supermarket where it’s impersonal. I did my best not to take this for granted, and appreciate its unwilling contribution to my own body’s needs. And I don’t think I’m totally out of the woods yet, but I did start feeling significantly better from that point on. Thank you, dear bird.
From Krishnamurti to Krishnamurti
This blog started with my one-month stay at the Krishnamurti Educational Centre of Canada. I consider this to have been the first real step in my travels, as it was my first time living somewhere away from the Lower Mainland. And I truly loved that place, wandering around the shores and fields and forests and lovely old buildings.
Right now I’m at Vahanta Vihar, the Krishnamurti Foundation of India, where Matthew and I are staying for a few days before I head off to Japan and then back to Canada. I hadn’t expected just how much of a sanctuary it would be after the intensity and energy of Tiruvannamalai, and even of Sri Ramanasramam. It’s green, quiet, lush, lovingly cared for. The people are welcoming and the food is delicious. Parakeets and crows clutter the trees; on the ground, red and black firebugs dotter about and the occasional mongoose slinks by. The feeling here is very much like the KECC in Victoria, an informal nature preserve alongside a well-stocked library, though in general the library is bigger and the nature area smaller.
It’s a wonderful place for me to regroup and prepare for the leap out of India in a few days – and into a place that’s as close to India’s opposite as you can get on this planet…