The notion of oneself being identical with the body is the cause of egoism. It is this egoism that entangles all judgments of value in the preconception that knowledge is acquired through the senses and the mind or the intellect.
I'm back from the ranch. I'm glad I went. I feel much closer to my source, much less confused by the multitude of "forms and names". It was good to breathe fresh mountain air and have time to just be.
The head Swami there, Swami Padma, is an amiable South African man who looks like a cross between Ben Kingsley and Leonard Cohen. He has the demeanor of a bumbling sitcom dad.
His rambling talks at satsang made the slightly senile Swami Satchidananda look like Tony Robbins in comparison, but he has a good heart, and his genuine caring really shone through the thicket. And one thing that proved itself to me this week is that it's not the words or the quality of the speech, it's the intention. It felt good to just sit there in the temple, surrounded by my fellow seekers, listening to this guy twice a day. It was tribal and comforting, and it is what I think we all really want when we sit down in front of a TV set. His lack of intellectual zing is a safe place for me to be in that situation. If he was too compelling, I'd feel ego-mauled and cultified.
It was very cold, and I believe the place--once a Catskills resort--was built for the summer months. Hence, the heating system was a bit primitive. Hence, I froze my ass off in all the rooms but the temple.
I loved that temple--a circular building with mountain views all around. We'd be chanting at 6:00 AM and the sun would come up and the whole room would glow. (They are big on chanting in the Sivananda world, and the chants are spectacular. They manage to be spiritual and bluesy at once, like Indian gospel music. )
I brought a magazine, two books, and my Walkman up with me, and never cracked one til I was on my way home on the bus. I had no need for distractions.
All in all, a good experience. I can't endorse the place to anyone who hasn't been to an ashram before, though, as they don't seem big on orientations or explanations or hospitality. If it were my first time in a situation like that, I think I would have felt a little freaked out by that.
Also, I have to tell you that the food was awful, so if that's important to you, you may want to go somewhere where they really value good cooking (e.g. Yogaville). I approached the bad food as part of my practice, though, so it all turned out OK.
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