I’ve not written a post in nearly a year! I’m not sure why I stopped writing. I think I got a bit too serious for myself let alone everyone else!
In my previous post I wrote about how and why I went on a yoga & ayurveda retreat – a life first for me! I will pick up where I left off with some excerpts from the diary I kept during my stay, just to complete the story and in my next post will start a new direction for my blog – hopefully a more varied, cheerful and interesting one!
Here is a link to a (free) piece of meditation sound art I recorded at the centre and composed back home, charting a day from sunrise to sunset. It’s an hour long and I use it to transport me back whenever I need some relaxation:
Fire Mountain Part 2
Each day at the center starts with Agnihotra at sunrise. Sunrise is at 6.22am which is super early and setting off wasn’t sure how was going to cope with this.
On the first day, as a serial insomniac I happened to be awake at 5am anyway so at least getting up wasn’t an issue at the start.
First up was Agnihotra. It is basically a prayer ritual to fire whereby you sit around an inverted pyramid of burning cow dung, chant mantras and offer rice and ghee to the the fire. I read in the booklet in my room that I was to have ‘concentration of mind with feelings of seeking refuge in the Absolute.’ However, my mind was mainly focussed on a burning sensation, matching the fire quite aptly, on my thighs. I thought it might be an allergy to the soap I had used in my shower and remembered the Vipassana teaching of ‘an itch during meditation should not be scratched as it going teaches us the non-permenace of all things or something.’ It was driving me mad!
In truth I was learning my first lesson at Fire Mountain – listen to Lee! She had warned me of the mosquitoes. Assuming this was advice she usually reserved for foreigners visiting India and being a Mumbaikar where our mossies are regularary gassed, coupled with not usually being up at 6.22am to know that like dusk, this is feast time, I had not bothered with repellent. Back in my room afterwards inspecting the 20+ bites adorning my derriere, I decided to listen to her from now on. A bottle of odomos later and my morning ritual reverted back to offering rice and ghee to the fire/sun god instead of a blood sacrifice to the mosquito god and the resulting meditation was much better!
Getting up this early every day was HARD. Each day it got harder not easier and my strict regime of yoga three times a day has made me feel like I was beating myself up. I was craving sugar and nicotine but self resolve held out well. I was fully convinced there would be a turning point where I am bendy and up early. The blow of getting up was softened somewhat by views like these from our post-yoga morning walk:
On my return from the walk I had my first two treatments consisting of four wonderful ladies massaging me all at once (Abhyanga) and being baked in a wooden box full of medicated steam (Bashpa Swedha) until the appropriate shade of lobster colour and deep relaxation was achieved. And all before breakfast, which like all the meals there consisted of organic and uber healthy ingredients, some grown on their farm behind the retreat:
Post breakfast and a little rest it was time for treatment number 3. Forgoing medicated oil being poured into my nose in Nasya Karma I settled for the rest of the facial massage process of the treatment. On some days I had Netra Tarpana where they pour cow ghee in your eyes (actually really pleasant if a little strange) or Karna Poorana ear treatment.
Post the morning treatments I wrote, read, did yoga and meditation or had fascinating philosophical conversations with Lee and Jeanetta, the latter of which taught me a great technique for self healing and balancing emotions called Jin Shin Jyutsu.
I also got to visit the Paduka’s workshop – part of the Centre’s endeavors to improve the lives of local people. In this case empowering women by teaching handicrafts which they sell in the boutique (I bought a few- beautiful work!) They also teach various skills, enabling local Adivasi not just to get an education and earn a living, but improve their lives with water conservation and hygiene, renewable energy and agriculture techniques. You can learn more about their projects here:
Post lunch and group meditation/prayer (you can hear the beautiful chanting of all the staff doing this in the recording above) I had my back, neck or knees tended to with Kati, Greeva or Janu Vasthi treatments where a circle of wax is made on the area and medicated hot oil poured in. This totally sorted out my sciatica and gave relief from pain such as I have not felt in years. This was followed by Shirodhara, a deeply relaxing treatment where oil is poured on your head for ages until you are in a blissed out semi-trance that had the added benefit of giving me fabulous, soft and shiny hair.
I opted out of the evening fire meditation to relax for as long as humanly possible in the natural hot spring hot tub, up amongst the leafy branches to sound of crickets and frogs and the occasional monsoon shower.
I left Fire Mountain a much happier and healthier person. It was actually a really profound experience and nearly a year on the mental-health benefits are still with me. Could really do with a massage now though! I had every intention of going back on a regular basis but life seems to have got in the way once more – maybe like blogging, it is something I should make a habit of once more!
If you would like to visit the very highly recommended Fire Mountain Retreat you can find out more here: