I love how destination weddings, ashram stays and lockdowns simplify life!
The common thread that runs between upscale ‘destination weddings’, spartan ashram stays and the current lockdowns has been a joy that is uplifting for me. Earlier this year, I participated in a luxurious destination wedding in the UAE. The paradox struck me – It reminded me of how I felt in the ashrams of the Bihar School of Yoga, in rural and remote India. And now, over the past few months, when one has been essentially in a lockdown, the same feelings are alive.
What’s the common thread? So many. Let me elaborate.
The Joy of Simplified Living
Let me start with food. Whether it was the magnificent spread at the Shangri La Hotel in Ras Al Khaimah (UAE), the very basic fare at the ashram or, what we continue to eat during the lockdown, the offerings are set. There is no unnecessary energy spent on ‘what should we eat/which restaurant to go to.’ These choices are removed allowing us to focus on higher order issues. We eat what is presented to us.
There is such joy in eating in such times. Believe me, one gets to love the food in the ashram, knowing that one can’t order at will. In the lockdown, the fact that you are likely to cut the carrots in the kitchen, adds to the enjoyment!
This sense of simplicity extends to clothing choices. Once you enter the over-the-top Shangri La hotel complex or the monastic gates of the Bihar School of Yoga, your set of clothes is fixed. For the wedding, all the clothing choices have been made earlier and one knows exactly what to wear when. No need to waste time thinking then.
In the ashram, joy emerged in washing my three sets of clothes, putting them up on a clothesline in the terrace and returning a few hours to find them dry. No one cares about what you are wearing and this simplicity is liberating. Needless to say, in the lockdown, what to wear has come down to five t-shirts and three shorts over the past four months. How simple, how nice!
Minimum Distractions = Maximum Focus
Physically, one is cut off from the world. We enter a cocoon in all three situations. There is very little access to or limited discussion about the world outside. In other words, there are very few distractions. At the ashram or the destination wedding, there is typically a schedule that one follows. We are here for a common purpose and our energies are focused.
I found that during this lockdown too, we had established a nice routine among the five of us at home. The forced stay at home allowed us to focus on the important and not get distracted by the noise. We leave home only if it is essential.
The Joy of Personal Space during Group Activities
The agenda was packed at the destination wedding, with back-to-back group activities. But, I loved the joy of choosing to walk to my own drumbeat. If I wanted to leave early or not come at all, I could retreat to my room in a few minutes. Ditto for the ashram; And of course, at home too. Over the past months, we each had our corners that we retreated to, when needed. It is so easy to flow between group and personal space.
Recognition of Privilege and Sense of Gratitude
As I experienced the opulence of the wedding, I was struck by the privilege I enjoyed. Similarly, the interactions with simple villagers during ‘seva’ (community service) at the ashram, brought up similar sentiments. And the blatant suffering of the vulnerable during this lockdown, has been all too visible. Each of these experiences has only enhanced my sense of gratitude, but made me contribute more to support those less fortunate. I would like to do more.
Creating “Random” Opportunities for Connection and Growth
As I walked out late to breakfast one day, I noticed most of the guests had left. One acquaintance sat alone. I decided to join him. And what a lovely connect we had. This is not dissimilar to my 3 minute connect with a wandering monk in the ashram. His one line about how he joyfully balanced his spiritual growth with the need to earn a living was an eye opener.
And of course, the extended time at home, has allowed me the joy of connecting deeper with my teenager daughter. She has come to me a couple of times with the simple request – “May I sit with you?” As most parents know, this is golden for a parent of a 17 year old!
These opportunities let me ‘be’ and be open to what the world has to offer.
We Connect at a Deeper Level
Quite naturally, the warmth of our wonderful hosts, being with friends and the sheer nature of any wedding, brings out the smiles. Similarly, in the ashram, there is a recognition and appreciation of each other, as fellow seekers; and this creates a bond. During this lockdown, it has been a joy and simply wonderful to connect with my family at home. Shared experiences indeed build bonds.
To summarize, I found these seemingly paradoxical experiences creating a similar set of outcomes – a sense of focus, connection, growth, reflection and celebration.
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