Holiest of holies
Trip Start Jun 28, 2009
33Trip End Aug 07, 2009
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The turning point came early this morning as I walked with the group through the spectacular Hindu temples in Chennia’s Mylapore neighborhood. I felt relaxed and comfortable taking off my shoes (for the umpteenth time this summer) to walk through a courtyard where I knew thousands and thousands of people walk barefoot everyday (I’ve realized in the last few weeks how germ-conscious Americans are- there’s a striking difference here). I’m still in awe of India, but feeling a lot less shock at its extremes.
I got in trouble today at a famous church- the Saint Thomas Basilica where they have on display a piece of St. Thomas’ finger bone (now I’m the Doubting Thomas)
We visited an innovative organization in the afternoon called the M.S. Swaminathan Research Foundation- it helps poor communities by implementing eco-technology and sustainable agriculture throughout India’s various regions. They also support equality for women, who often endure tremendous abuses in impoverished areas. There’s so much going on in this organization’s outreach, but my favorite program is the development of salt-resistant rice that will grow well in areas affected by climate change (helps with encroaching seawater near farmlands). We met more cute kids there at the headquarters- they use computers there in the afternoons.
Most fascinating to me tonight was a trip to the Manapakkam Ashram a few miles from our hotel with a guru devotee, Jaya, whom one of our teachers met just the day before. Jaya and her friend, Frida who gave us our tour are from Jakarta, Indonesia and had flown in for their guru’s 83rd birthday
After explaining the guru’s tenets and rules (there weren’t many) they offered to assist us in our first in what would have been 3 introductory meditations. These entail sitting across from an expert, or prefect, as Jaya and Frida were called, and meditating for 30 minutes. I passed- they were trying to be minimalist in their spirituality, but the fact that there were initiation rules gave me the willies. I took one nice idea from the experience- meditating every morning for 20 minutes or so could be cool. Wonder if I have the discipline…
We’re off to Kolkata bright and early tomorrow. In the first weeks the days seemed so loooooooong (our orientation in Madison seems like months ago) but now, maybe thanks to some more familiarity, the days are moving quickly. Wish me luck on my way to the "exotic northeast".
** By the way, I’d send more pics, but it takes about an hour to load 15 of them, and that’s if I have a relatively fast connection. So you only get the finest…