Like 99.9% of women my age visiting India, I have seen/read/dreamed of Eat Pray Love. This was my first introduction to the idea of an Ashram: a bustling haven for spiritual seekers who congregate under an organization to experience austerity and enlightenment. I pictured my days filled with chores – scrubbing floors in silence while I contemplate the unknown, surviving on only half a chapati and a glass of fresh goat’s milk, learning to meditate for three hours at a stretch and leaving the place able to sit in that freaky asana where your legs are over your head.
Our ashram experience found us. It popped up on the sidebar of Workaway, where we had been finding all our wwoofing hosts. It turns out that Shri Jasnath Asan (Asan = Ashram in the local language) is an ashram with a bit more of a lively turn… here’s what I leaned about ashram life:
#1: It’s NOT quiet.
Between the constantly honking horns (Indians honk their horn to say “hello cow, I see you” or “I’m passing you Mr. Scooter” or apparently “It’s sunny today” and also “I see a truck!”), the loud ding of the bell in the temple when someone enters, 8,000 birds chirping happily and the hordes of laughing children running about the place, you aren’t going to experience silence during your practice here.
#2: You are too busy to meditate
Speaking of your meditation practice, forget finding those three hours to float away on a wave of white light. It’s far too busy, with too much to do, to find the time to just sit there. And if you are the type to get FOMO then you are even more in trouble. There is always, and I mean always, something going on. Satsang with the Guru, henna on your hands and feet, chai tea at a neighbour’s house, a walk to the sand dunes, a festival to honour the Goddess…
#3: You can eat until you pop
You could probably stay at Shri Jasnath for 15 years and never get tired of the food. There are endless combinations of spices and textures to keep you coming back for more, and Kapil will happily refill your bowl. If you’ve followed my Instagram you know I am absolutely in love with fresh produce, so eating Papu’s cooking has been a real joy. Marc and I lost a tiny bit of weight here, but that’s it… because we can’t stop eating Papu’s meals… (recipe for Papu’s famous Aloo Gobi here)
#4: Socializing is encouraged
Far from the vision of silently working until I drop, every day is spent chatting, smiling, laughing with the other volunteers at the Ashram – Indian people from afar, from the village, foreigners like us volunteering while traveling. The neighbourhood kids instantly adopted Marc as their home-boy and he has spent a good chunk of time playing volleyball with them (and taking selfies).
#5: You are pretty comfortable
Neither of us experienced Delhi-belly. We have reasonably comfortable sleeping quarters (after we moved into a room with air conditioning following a near nervous collapse due to heat) and the whole place is clean. Besides that, the grounds are beautiful and there is a wellness centre/spa which we got some good use out of. Yes, really. There is a spa.
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