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Tiruvannamalai, October 2019

Warning:  This got long.  I’ve been posting a lot of photos on fb, but now I feel the need to paint a picture with words.

I’ve been in Tiruvannamalai just under a week, so I’m about half way through my visit. I initially thought two weeks wasn’t going to be nearly long enough, but I’m having the odd yet pleasant sensation that every day is about a week long.  I also considered not coming; like this short of a visit wasn’t important for me to be here, but oh my heavens, I was wrong about that!  My experiences here have been exquisite.

Multiple times a day, when I come home, I open my gate and step into my yard, then open the metal grating to my foyer and seriously wonder how I ended up with a proper house in the perfect spot on the main street of my preferred part of town for a screaming deal of a price. I thought being here for a short time, a room was my only option.

I step outside and gather gorgeous tropical flowers for my daily puja to a Goddess who found me in a random shop near the huge Arunachaleshwarar Temple.  I was shopping for sandalwood powder in the shop next door, and felt called to browse the shiny wares on offer.  I stepped in and was nudged intuitively to ask for Her, after being unsuccessful in my search for Her in multiple states in India.  Yes, She’s available online, but I have to hold my Goddesses before I enter into a live-in relationship with them.  She’s breathtaking, and it was Love at first touch.

I get to drive my motor-scooter in soft, warm, tropical rain showers daily, and my heart exults in the freedom of driving on any side of the road I want, at any speed I like (my top end is 32 mph, so I’m not a speed demon), in the face of oncoming traffic, weaving and dodging pedestrians, cows, horses, and chickens, on both paved roads and rolling dirt tracks with large, muddy puddles.  I let a bicycle have the right of way the other day on one of these, and fishtailed all through the puddle.  I squealed with glee.

I wake up every day with no agenda.  I step into the first activity that presents itself and one thing leads to another until it’s time for bed.  Today as I was wrapping my sari, I got a text that a seat was saved for me at a talk by Sri Ramana’s grand-nephew, V. Ganesan, who speaks at the ashram 3 times a week.  “On my way”, I replied, and my day unfolded from there.

After that, I was treated to lunch at the ashram with the head librarian, since we had a missed connection yesterday.  We entered through the kitchen before anyone else was in there, and I marveled once again at how this was possible.  Oh, and the food!  My lips were still tingling 30 minutes later.  Yum!

My librarian friend and another new friend both know people who practice Sri Vidya here, and will introduce me if the opportunity presents itself.  Ma is coming up in conversations constantly.

Throughout each of my days here, I’ve been deeply aware of how different Tiruvannamalai feels.  Some of it is Tiru, and some of it is me.  There is so much construction everywhere!  It’s hard to find my way around sometimes, as every neighborhood looks different.  There’s a huge gravel road in front of the VanaDurga temple, which used to be on a dirt track in the middle of a bunch of fields!  They’ve made wide sidewalks all along the roadway that passes by Sri Ramana’s ashram and put up huge median dividers in much of the roadway.  That has changed the feeling immensely, and all but dispersed the chai shop across from the ashram.  They’ve cut some of the trees and carved sculptures from the dead trunks that look bizarre and out of place.  Those sculptures feel very wrong.

The amount of Indian tourists is greatly increased.  There is a bustle here that I’ve not seen before.  Security at the ashram and police presence outside of it is much more evident than when I was here three years ago.  Signs are posted saying arrest and fines are the penalties for trespassing on Mt. Arunachala, so the inner path is off limits.  Police stand in the roadway and chase people with sticks.  One lunged at me with both hands in a claw like position as I drove past one day, but he had a smile on his face, so I didn’t stop.  Very odd.  I laughed out loud at the weirdness, and am laughing once again at the memory.

Prices have gone up.  No more chai for 10 rupees.  I’ve been charged anywhere from 15 to 45 rupees in various places.  It’s early; the season hasn’t started, so many businesses aren’t operating yet. Thank goodness the fair trade women’s collective is still in operation.  I had them copy my favorite pair of Punjabi pants out of some soft, silky red cotton.  Custom tailored clothing is not a luxury I can afford in the States.

I had a delectable vegan dinner at an upscale restaurant that has been built one block away from my first ashram here, which I had to drive around and around looking for, due to all the new buildings.  When I rented it in 2011, it was the only house in the middle of a field.  I dined there on opening night, so the prices were on special.  I’m quite sure I won’t be able to afford to eat there on a regular basis.  The food was some of the best I’ve ever eaten, and the frozen dessert was a work of art.

My inner landscape is also quite different this trip, and it’s striking how that is flavoring my experiences here.  It’s obvious to me how much my spiritual practices have changed my ability to perceive multiple dimensions of energy simultaneously.  In addition, this year is the first time I have arrived here not in a depleted state, either physically, or emotionally, or both.  I find I’m being nourished on multiple levels, even while those levels are fully nourished already.

In long, deep conversations with a friend, I was told my arrival here has been a boon to them.  It’s not the first time I’ve been told something like that this trip, and it feels like I’m being used as an instrument in something much larger than myself.  I’m completely aware that I’m not the doer, so there’s no impulse to perform or claim credit.  Everything is connected, yet every interaction stands alone.  There is no yearning for anything to be different than it is.  For example, when I realized my lunch plans were not going to happen yesterday, there was no disappointment at all.  I was in Sri Ramana’s ashram, what more could I want?

My meditations and practices are multi-dimensional and effortless, both alone and with others, especially on Mt. Arunachala.  There’s something quite automatic about merging with the Absolute when you’re sitting on It.  Tomorrow brings the first bhajans at Upahar’s and Vina’s.  It will be delightful to experience that in old and new ways.

Time is standing still, and the nectar is flowing.  This is such a contrast to my life in the US. I don’t know what will flow from this.  I don’t need to.  Right now is all I need.