There's something about Aurobindo...I've only been here for a short while, but there's something very captivating about this experience. Yesterday I went on a tour of the Ashram Departments which are many and varied, everything from weaving to Ayurvedic medicine. It was me and a bunch of friendly Indian families. It's hard to tell, since the ashram is scattered and has no real scheduled group time, except for meals which are also open to those outside the ashram and an evening meditation which is, like everything else, completely up to the individual to attend. Judging from these occassions most of the ashramites are Indian, there's a mere smattering of foreigners and most are older. In other words, a completely different demographic from the singles scene at Sivananda ashram in Kerala. What I'm finding most interesting is that although the only scheduled 'spiritual' activity I'm engaging in is the evening meditation, I find myself in such an incredible space, far more meditative than the 24/7 ashram immersion I experienced previously. Part of this might have to do with the fact that I'm on my own and for all intents and purposes on a silent retreat as I only really talk to the occasional staff member to request a mosquito net (hallelujah! I have 40 mossie bites on my right hand alone! 40!) or some such thing. But mostly it has to do with the Samadhi shrine. I'll try to explain. One of the Ashram's buildings used to house Sri Aurobindo and the Mother when they were living and its pretty open courtyard now holds their remains beneath a huge acacia tree. But there's something more to it than a lovely flower festooned shrine. The minute you walk into that courtyard the atmosphere changes. I can only describe it as being under water. Very quiet (and this with a constant stream of people coming to pay their respects), difficult to breathe, near impossible to think. It's like an instant deep meditation. I go as often as possible and leave unwillingly. I'm currently reading a biography on the Mother, a French woman of Turkish-Egyptian parents who was married to the Impressionist Henri Morisset. She lead a remarkable life by anyone's standards and I feel a very strong kinship with her, since we share many life events -- from a birthday (well almost) to living in Japan to memories of being drawn into deep spiritual contemplation at the age of 4. I also really appreciate the rational dogma/ritual free approach to spirituality. There's no chanting, no dress code, none of the Hinduism that's usually part of an ashram.Sri Aurobindo said: 'This ashram was created with another object than that ordinarily common to such institutions, not for the renunciation of the world but as a centre and a field of practice for the evolution of another kind and form of life which would in the end be moved by a higher spiritual consciousness and embody greater life of the spirit.' This has been my experience. I am impressed, at the deepest meaning of the word. The Mother put it this way: 'Once the union with the Supreme is realised, one must bring down that realisation to the external world and change the conditions of life upon earth until a total transformation is accomplished. In accordance with this aim, the Sadhaks (devotees) of integral Yoga do not retire from the world to lead a life of contemplation and meditation.' For those of us (me!) who love to escape reality, this is a toughie. For those who call for a more proactive engagement with the World (my wonderful hubby :), here it is. I plan on visiting Auroville, the community established by the Mother, this afternoon. posted by Charisse at 9:55 AM Wednesday, January 10, 2007 Charisse Location: Kerala & the Andaman Islands, India Citizen of the World, hopeless romantic and dreamer, in love with it all.