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Monday, 27 March 2017


Why I Wake Early
by Mary Oliver

Hello, sun in my face.
Hello, you who made the morning
and spread it over the fields
and into the faces of the tulips
and the nodding morning glories,
and into the windows of, even, the
miserable and the crotchety – 

best preacher that ever was,
dear star, that just happens
to be where you are in the universe
to keep us from ever-darkness,
to ease us with warm touching,
to hold us in the great hands of light –
good morning, good morning, good morning.

Watch, now, how I start the day
in happiness, in kindness.

There is something really grounding about being taken away from the busy-ness of regular life and being thrown into a life of simplicity where plenty of time is spent outdoors. I found that, through my 10-day course in Advaita Vedanta at Swami Dayananda Ashram in Rishikesh, India, I was ushered into a reminder of the importance and goodness of stepping back and slowing down from my otherwise generally-chaotic lifestyle. 

This is not to say that our days were empty...our days started early (some individuals attended a daily 5:15am temple ritual; I joined in at the 7am meditation) and ended around 9:15pm when the nightly "satsang" (literally "truth gathering" but essentially a Q&A time with our teacher) finished. In between those hours, we had 2+ Vedanta classes, yoga class, Sanskrit class, chanting class, and free time which, at least for me, generally resulted in either a visit to the library or a conversation with another camper about the material we were learning.

There are a number of key points to Vedanta philosophy which I have difficulty accepting. One of them is the idea that, fundamentally, no person or no thing is different than any other substance. On one side, I find this a beautiful thought and I think it can do much to promote equality and love, but there are some philosophical nuances/implications which I find difficult to accept. (I won't get into those now.) But I must say that having a time and space--- and the guidance of some rather wise gurus--- to contemplate the nature of the self and of reality was a very welcome thing. 

How often do we view ourselves as totally separate from the other people around us, and our very surroundings? What might things be like if we focused more on exploring the varying ways in whcih we are integreally connected? (If you are not convinced by the Vedanta argument regarding total non-dualism, that is fine. There are other ways that you can focus on the interconnectivity.) The neuroscientist Jill Bolte Taylor shares some interesting thoughts of her experience with a stroke/brain hemorrhage, and the way that the right hemisphere of our brain is responsible for connecting us to the world around us. 

sunset in Goa, India

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