First I want to say thanks to my dear friends and family who have sent me comments and emails about my blog…  And for keeping up with me in general… Every time I see a comment or an email from you guys, it makes me feel loved and like I’m right there with you again… It’s really helping me out here in the world alone, so thank you and keep it up!

Mornings start early here with the 4:45am bell… This is not your typical, in room, “Good morning ma’am, this is your scheduled wake up call” in a cheerful voice, sort of thing… No, no, this is an actual brass bell (loud clanging!!) centrally located on property, that a gentleman manually rings at key times throughout the day to summon us all.  Where is the freakin’ snooze button people??  Seriously!!

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I crawl reluctantly out of my bed, and open the door to hear the morning Arti, which is one of my favorite Indian traditions.  Arti is a Hindu prayer sung every morning at 5am (and evening), down by the Ganges River, among other places, and the music travels long distances down the river and up the mountains on either side where my ashram is.  Anyhow, I search my wardrobe with my eyes half shut, and find some clothes to throw on.  Even at 5 in the morning and in the middle of nowhere India, I still feel the need to make sure I choose the perfectly coordinated t-shirt to go along with my yoga pants… and put on make up, no less! Really, Eryn, really?  Do you think anyone gives a damn what you look like?  Get ahold of yourself! 

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I actually am pretty proud of myself – I have shed almost all of my western morning rituals.  High five me!!  Yes, I am bringin’ back the high five… no fist bumps for me, thank you!  Not that I was ever the pageant queen with lots of hair, make up or skin care products, but it still is a shift in thinking to lose those things that American women are so accustomed to.  I don’t even have a hair dryer!!  What, Whaaaaat??  (Yes, Cheryl Ann, I am sorry to report, I will be having a bad hair day in every single photo from now on… Ha!)

Once I’ve stumbled about and found something to wear, I find my toothbrush and make my way into the bathroom to brush my teeth, careful to remember NOT to use the sink faucet.  Bottled water Eryn, bottled water…  Don’t forget!  I think I will tie a piece of colored yarn around the faucet so I don’t get out of bed one morning, half asleep, and forget – that water is no good!  No good!!!  Hmmm, we actually bathe and do dishes in drinking water back home when it is so precious here… How spoiled are we!! 

Off to meditation I go, in the darkness of the morning… Meditation goes from 5:15 to 6:15, then off to yoga from 6:30 to 7:45 where we, Ommm, shanti, shanti, shanti, and I take my first downward dog in India.  Venkat, the yoga instructor says to the class, “Morrre straight your arms… Morrre straight your back… Morrre straight your legs…  Ok, ok, I am morrre straightening my legs!!  After yoga, we make our way to the dining hall for breakfast and chai tea… Ahhh yes, (I’ve been up for 3 hours!!), finally, chai tea…  We all slip our shoes off before entering the dining hall and take a seat.  We say a little Hindu prayer before eating, most of which I can hardly pronounce, much less understand, and finally… we eat…

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So I’ve made some new friends already… That’s the cool thing about ashram life – everyone is friendly and mostly like-minded…  And, no one’s in a hurry to go anywhere or respond to urgent emails, etc., so it’s always easy to actually sit and have a real conversation with someone… Huh, what a novel idea!  There’s George, he’s a retired structural engineer from Switzerland so we have lots to talk about!  (Never met a structural engineer I didn’t like!)  Then there’s Yumi from Japan and her travel companions – but Yumi left yesterday and her friends do not speak English, unfortunately, so limited conversation there.  Yumi and I talked for a bit Sunday though, and she mentioned a neighboring country to Nepal, Bhutan, where people are 100% happy… I said, “What do you mean 100% happy?”  She said, “Yes, everyone there, the whole country, is 100% happy – they’re known for it”…. Hmmm 100% happy, I must go there!  Before she left, Yumi introduced me to Kaioki, another Japanese woman who is staying in the guesthouse right outside the ashram and she speaks some English… we met for tea yesterday.  Then there’s Poonam, my new Indian sister.  She came right up and introduced herself to me, very interested in having an American girlfriend, I think.  Poonam is 27 and lives with her parents in a town several hours from Rishikesh – she is here studying yoga and meditation for an extended period.  She seems very nice and has invited me to visit her at her home in the town of Chandigarh.  Oh, then there’s my new friend, Venkat, the yoga instructor.  He’s a very interesting fellow and we talk daily about life, philosophy, cultural differences… and yoga, of course.

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Me and Venkat – Don’t worry, that’s red chalk on my face from the Holi festival

But here’s what you really want to know…  How are the accommodations…  And have I been sick yet.  Am I right?  That’s what you want to know?  Ok, ok…  Well, it’s no 5 star Mandarin Oriental, I can tell you that… I did not choose my room from a fancy, well designed website with an, “accommodations”, pull down menu, selecting King Suite, Queen Luxury, etc…  And the cuisine does not rival the impressive, Sunset Key, Latitudes, although it is pretty tasty stuff (most of the time), their presentation leaves much to be desired… How snobby does that sound?  Geez, who really cares how your food is presented anyway?  I don’t…  I mean, if these are the things we’re concerned about in life, we seriously need to reprioritize…  And, no, I’m happy to report, I haven’t had any of the typical stomach related issues (yet).  Yay!!

However, comma (that comma’s for you Jerry!), I do have my own room and bathroom…  Yay!!  I even have hot water for my shower… Double Yay!!!  Plus, as an added bonus, it’s kind of like I’ve booked the safari room at Disney because I have monkeys running all over the place and jumping from tree to tree… Now, you do have to watch yourself around those monkeys… They will come up right next to you and steal food from you – happened to me already! Hmmm, maybe I should’ve gotten that rabies shot after all.  And you do have to keep your screen doors locked or they will come visit you in your room…  “Don’t look now, there’s a monkey on your back…” George Michael, 1987?? song… Anyone?  Anyone with me?  I digress…  On top of having my own room and hot water, I also get 2 yoga and meditation sessions a day (if I like)… It’s a peaceful, calm, relaxing, safe environment, with guarded entrances, where I can have interesting conversations and chai tea on rooftops overlooking the Ganges River with super cool people from all around the world…  Oh, and men slave in the kitchen all day cutting up hoards of veggies (this is a vegetarian city, by the way) and cooking meals for us 3 times a day, and they provide afternoon tea and cookies! (Those are the other 4 occasions we hear the bell ring)   A slew of men slaving in the kitchen all day to prepare my meals – Muahahahahaha that’s good stuff!!  All of this for 14 American dollars a day!

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Ok, ok… Do I have air conditioning?  Ummm, no…  Although they do have rooms with AC, but this time of year, it’s not needed… Is my bathroom nice?  Well, no, it’s pretty gross, now that you mention it… Do I have to worry about strange flying things in my room at night?  Well, ummm, yeah, ok, sometimes… but I only see them when I have my computer screen on in the dark… and they’re all little!  What about malaria, is that a problem?  Well, probably not this time of year and at this elevation, but it could be a slight possibility… Do I have to worry about not getting water in my mouth while I’m showering?  Well, yeah that would be bad… But other than that, overall, ashram life is good!  I tell you, if I could make a living from my laptop, I’d probably spend at least 3 months a year here!  Brilliant idea!!

I guess those are the high and low points of life in an ashram so far…  It would be remiss of me though, not to mention the feeling here…  There’s an energy here that’s sort of indescribable that you probably won’t understand unless you’ve been here…  Energy is hard to explain, but it’s like a spiritual buzz, wrapped up with serenity and peace, exploding with lightness of being.  Yeah, that’s the best I can come up with…

As I write from my Apple, MacBook Air laptop, I am thinking… If the creative geniuses, Steve Jobs, AND The Beatles (among countless other brilliant minds) spent copious amounts of time here, then, if I didn’t know it already, something magical and inspiring is happening here… Maybe next time when I say, “Hey, I’m going to India”, instead of the furrowed brow and the WTF look, you’ll say, “I’ll meet you in Rishikesh baby!”… Orrrr, maybe you’ll still say, “Send me a postcard.” Ha!!

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