My 10 crazy days at Amritapuri ashram Kerala India
How it all started…
There is no coincidence in life.
And honestly, everything happens for a reason.
I am the biggest believer of the upper sentences, that’s for sure.
I still remember clearly when I sent a message to a friend of mine that I was going to Prague and we should meet up again. His reply was ”aw, you’re going to the IAM meditation course over the weekend, too?”
No, my plan was to go to Prague on Monday and wait there for the meeting with one of my gadget sponsors Acer, and just hang out with friends in the meantime. But my friend’s joy about the 2-day course got my attention.
So I bought the Friday night train to Prague instead only to find out that I could still attend the IAM meditation course on Saturday and Sunday, but on top of that, just across the street (and how huge Prague is?!) one of my soulmates, a Slovak singer born just 1 day after me, had a concert on Saturday night :)
I was not just the only one who came from outside of Prague on that weekend but also the one who even crossed 1,000 km by train to learn the IAM meditation.
Our meditation teacher whose spiritual name was Tejomayi, was the purest angel I’ve ever seen on this Earth until that time. And just seeing this young short-haired Czech lady was reassuring me there was still hope for the better in this world.
We not only learned the difficult 30-minute IAM meditation there over the weekend, but also found out more about AMMA, a spiritual Guru from India who has been helping people all over the world. Amma gives strength to others through her powerful hugs. Watching the video about Amma’s deeds gave me chills and I left the course with tears in my eyes.
I remember clearly Tejomayi’s last sentence: ”Alex, it was so nice to meet you. If you ever come to India, you are more than welcome to stay at our ashram Amritapuri in Kerala state.”
I just smiled and thought to myself … yeah, sure, I still don’t dare to visit India on my own. And out of 29 states there are, what’s the chance of going exactly to Kerala? Mission impossible …
Boy, was I wrong!
There is no coincidence in life.
And honestly, everything happens for a reason.
And it really did.
Just a month later …
Already for the second time I got an email from the Kerala Tourim Board they would like me to participate in their blogger contest. I so forgot I refused it a year ago as I don’t like to ask my readers for votes.
But this time the Kerala word stroke me. Wait, that’s where Amritapuri ashram is, right??
So I made my contest profile and posted one status about it on my Crazy Sexy Fun Traveler Facebook.
And then again forgot about it until a good friend of mine, Mica from the Philippines I did not see for 3 years, told me she is trying to get to Kerala too so we could reunite. And then she said I was on the 4th place out of 700 participating bloggers!
It was then when I realized it was maybe possible to finally get my ass to India.
So I asked my fans to vote for me 2 more times until I really was one of the winning 30 bloggers from around the world, yay! :)
I won a trip to Kerala
Everything happens for a reason.
I said yes to the Kerala blogger trip for 2 weeks and planned to extend my stay for another 2 weeks to visit Amritapuri ashram and then the last days on the beach in Varkala.
I was finally going to India and not going on my own! My dream was coming true.
When I was booking my flights, I was just on the phone with my dad who was in a difficult life situation.
”So how much are they?” dad asked. ”Oh, only that? That’s doable. Hmmm can I go with you?”
I don’t really remember what I replied in between but after a few minutes dad called me again saying he would join me for he entire month if he would not be a burden to me.
I am still not sure who was in a bigger shock, if me or dad …
But we both laughed in the phone and made a promise to each other … WE CAN DO IT.
It was the first time:
- for us to travel together abroad for longer than 5 days (except summer motorbike trips around Slovakia),
- for dad to go to Asia
- for dad to be on his own for 2 weeks
- for dad to leave home for longer than 2 weeks ever (this was for a month)
- for both of us to visit an ashram.
As you can see, the whole trip looked like a huge challenge to both of us.
And as I had to spend 2 weeks traveling around Kerala with other travel bloggers, we realized that the easiest thing for dad to do speaking just very little English was to let him stay at Amritapuri and wait for me there.
It was also the first time I was more worried about dad than he about me on the road. Just in case, I was sending emails to Tejomayi almost every day with all the questions dad had. And she was NOT surprised at all all those things happened so early after our meeting in Prague. She was sure I would visit Amritapuri very soon.
Once everything was planned, we embarked on the month long trip. After the super long flights and waiting time in between, we finally landed in Trivandrum, the capital of Kerala and then took a taxi we ordered online beforehand at Amritapuri to take us there.
First day at Amritapuri
My trip around Kerala state was starting on the following day but we arrived one day earlier on purpose so I could accompany my dad to the ashram, check out all the necessary info there and show dad around.
We got a private room with 2 beds on the 11th floor of one of the pink-orange looking ashram apartment buildings. It was super simple, just with a table and a chair, a fan, a kitchen sink and a bathroom where the shower water was sprayed all over toilet bowl.
Spending just one afternoon, first horrible night when it was too hot and loud to get any sleep at all and one breakfast at Amritapuri was a huge shock to both of us.
I had no idea what dad was going to do there without me …
Dad does NO yoga, he does not believe in meditation either …
He is not a spiritual person at all, and is strictly against all the religions.
He was crying like hell when eating those 2 spicy Indian meals we shared during our first hours at the ashram.
He said all the people wearing white clothes around us looked ”weird” …
And when I asked him to go to listen to the Bhajan singing every morning/night at the temple or at the hall, he laughed ”me? Never!”
I told the receptionist volunteer that my dad does not speak good English and that I would be back in 2 weeks if anything happened. I also managed to get a Czech guy who has been living at the ashram for a couple of years to meet up with dad for a few minutes (he was leaving on holiday to Europe 2 day after that.)
And before I hopped on my taxi to take me to Leela hotel where our Kerala Express blog trip started, I hugged my dad with worried voice ”please survive it here until I get back, ok?”
During those 2 weeks with other bloggers they all kept asking me about my dad saying he made a very brave decision.
We gave a few missed calls to each other meaning we were alive … and dad even called me 3 times that he was not just fine but even really enjoying … and he went on 2 trips – to the Kerala Backwaters we also visited, and to Thekkady.
Anyway, once my blog trip was over, our great guide Manoj took me to Amritapuri on his way back to Trivandrum (Amritapuri is somewhere in the middle between Kochi and Trivandrum.)
When we were walking through the ashram main gate with my baggage, I asked Manoj to look for almost a bald guy of my height.
”Look, that must be him.” Manoj pointed out to the temple. ”That guy in white coming down the stairs and smiling.”
”In white clothes? That’s definitely not him.” I was sure.
Yet I looked over there to see my dad’s smile was almot as shiny as his new lose white shirt :)
”OMG, what happened to you?” I asked my dad giving the last hug to Manoj who taught me the most about Kerala.
”You will not believe it. I even started eating with my hands!” dad was so proud of his new achievements.
Our Amritapuri ashram Kerala stay
So how did we spend our 10 days together at Amritapuri?
At first I thought we would get bored … it seemed there was not that much to do.
But I was super tired after very little sleep on the blog trip and I also needed to catch up with articles and emails so it looked like a perfect place to do both.
But yet again, I was mistaken …
It was very hard to get some sleep even though some day I went to bed around 11pm or midnight which is early for me … we did not get it but there was always loud music and someone speaking over the street radio, sometimes even up to 2am. Once I wanted to get out and just throw something into that radio megaphone hanging out from my favorite palm trees. But hey, it’s here to try my patience, I kept telling myself …
And then we could hear the crows like 2 hours after that and Bhajans singing from the temple just below our windows. I slept with ear plugs to cut off some noise at least …
So usually I slept 2 – 5 hours per night during which I woke up hundred times due to the noise, mosquitoes (which thankfully we had just twice), humidity and toilet break.
For the first two day I took the IAM meditation course to refresh my memory from December course in Prague. The rest of the days our daily program was:
1. We would wake up around 5 am, put on clothes and walk to the beach like zombies, watch the fishermen and stroll along the coastline getting the sea water only up to our knees.
Usually it was just the two of us and the local fishermen who kept smiling at us, taking photos with us and showing us their catch of the day. It was so peacefull to sit down and meditate with the breeze messing up in my hair.
2. I taught my dad how to do Sun gazing. It’s a very simple technique to get energy from the Sun through your eyes when the first hour of sunrise or last of sunset you stare at the Sun. Barefoot on the soil (mud, clay, sand), no sunglasses, not wet. The positive energy from the Sun gets through your body and connect with the negative ionts of the ground and thus charges your body like a battery. Simply put ;) You start at 10 seconds and every day you can extend for another 10 seconds so your eyes get used to it. To do that, we walked every morning around 6 am – 6.30 am to the river bank next to the bridge to watch the sunrise.
3. Or we would go for a walk outside of Amritapuri to one of the villages to get our 10,000 steps daily and learn more about local life. It was the best time for a walk, not hot and humid yet, so very bearable.
4. Morning Puja ritual. If I remember right, it started at 5.30 am just a minute walk down from our room. I went twice on my own and once dad joined me, too. It was super interesting to watch the Pujari man do all those things with flowers, holy water, fire and prasad food offering. Sorry, but until you attend a Puja, there’s no easy way to explain its energy and what it’s all about.
5. 2 hours later we would go to the little stall just at the ashram gate to get fresh coconuts. When eating them each morning I would run around the trees trying to take close-up photos of squirrels, woodpeckers, doves, cute black birds and everything that came my way.
It is not possible to take photos inside the ashram so I was super happy to use my big camera lens at least here and on the beach.
Breakfast – lunch
1. Breakfast started at 8 am at the main hall where everyone got a spoon (or nothing but own hands) and a metal plate and waited in the Q to get his meal as we did back at school. It felt weird to me eat heavy spicy Indian meal for breakfast (just those were included in the ashram fee) so sometimes I just ate bananas, papaya or other fruit I bought before. Or was just fine with 2 coconuts. But I would always sit at the long table with my dad observing other people.
I think that on our third day I noticed a super handsome guy covered with tattoos who tried to mask his Western ”bad boy” look with white ashram clothes and silence. My eyes were on him everywhere he moved as if he hypnotized me! Sometimes I even picked our seats so I could watch him easily. Thinking of him so much throughout our stay made me realize it did not matter where I was. I am always attracted to someone even when I am at the holiest place. That was just one of my 21 realizations at Amritapuri ashram Kerala.
2. After washing the dishes after us like everyone else at the ashram, we would go to the bathroom in our room, then refill the water bottles at one of the free potable water sinks, and walk around the ashram or along the beach one more time until approx. 10.30 am or 11 am.
3. The shops at the ashram opened so we would buy souvenirs, check out the ecological shop with so many useful and healthy products, help with folding/carrying the ashram leaflets (part of SEVA volunteering which is helping out in a way at the ashram), refill the bottles once again … Tejomayi was at the information desk, too, so we would say hi to her and learn more about how the ashram works.
We would take a quick hot shower (cold water always heated up in the pipes during the day), wash the morning shirt, listen to the music, take a nap, or I would go to the internet cafe to reply to the most important emails.
1. At 1 pm it was time for lunch, of course spicy as well.
2. Usually we walked for 20 minutes around the ashram afterwards and then do the same activities like the hour before lunch as it was usually the only time when the shops were open and it was too hot to stay outside anyway.
3. Three afternoons I took my laptop to the beach, sit down on a chair under the palm trees and try to write articles offline. I have to admit I managed to write just one a half posts and prepare a few photos because or I could not concentrate because of the heat, or a group of local kids started showing off and giving me million question, or … or … I noticed that the hot tattooed guy was doing his SEVA hours there so my head kept moving towards that direction instead of keeping my gaze on the Acer R13 laptop in front of me. Oh well … there’s distractons everywhere, even at ashrams!
4. Time for yet another walk to Vallikkavu village across the bridge. Or we just walked along the streets, the market or among the houses; exchanged money, took more photos …
5. Sometimes when the fruit stall was open at the ashram in the afternoon, we would get a fresh smoothie or just buy some bananas to have for my breakfast on the next day.
6. Sunset on the beach. That was the part we did not miss on any day while at Amritapuri ashram. I would bring my yoga mat or just a sarong and practice yoga, pranayama and meditation facing the huge Sun ball setting down on the horizon. Many ashram guests would do the same, mostly sit and relax. My dad tried easy yoga with me there twice and I also told him more about meditation. Another progress from him as before he could not even hear the word yoga! All the baby crabs made our sunset time always funnier, especially when they tried to get on my yoga mat when I was in the weirdest positions.
7. Four or five times we heard drums so my never-lying intuition took us to the music. It turned out the villages around were celebrating religious holidays with elephants, traditional Kathakali and other types of dance, and fire ceremonies. Each time I asked a local, his answer was always ”it’s the day of that temple over there” so we just followed the crowd :)
8. Afternon Puja if we did not attend the morning one.
9. Sometimes another coconut and straight from there I would go to the Kali temple to listen to the Bhajans. Each time I would sit closer to the ladies singing and playing the instruments just to feel more energy going through my veins and every centimetre of my body. There were always mosquitoes annoying me but the Bhajan melody was one of the best parts of each day. The Bhajans were always finished by a couple of rituals, such as holy water drinking, fire cleaning or praying to the Gods in the front.
You remember what my dad said about the Bhajans on the first day? Him never?
He changed so much while at Amritapuri. It was ridiculous! He was looking forward to the Bhajans every single day and silently listen to them already when I was on the blog trip! How funny!
So he would sit outside at the Kali temple steps under the roof, or fold the leaflets on the top floor to see the rituals going on downstairs. That was the only way for men to get into there as they had their own Bhajans in the big hall where anyone could join, women included, but the female voices were way more pleasant at the Kali. No doubt :)
1. Dinner was again traditional spicy Indian and it was the part of the day when I finally enjoyed it the most and usually even had 2 plates :D
2. Yet another short walk, or chatted to my dad or new friends or listened to other guests who played music at the hall. Once or twice there was another celebration on the streets around so we would run after the locals to see what was going on.
3. Teeth + shower + copying new photos and videos to my laptop and ready to jump into bed to reply to facebook messages from my phone while dad listened to the MP3 music.
We also took a two-day trip along the Backwaters to Alleppey. On the way back two really cute Australian guys came to Amritapuri ashram Kerala just for a night so I spent some time chatting with them.
Besides the two of them, not just many situations and daily activities, yet also a couple of people got deep in my heart:
- Tejomayi, who helped us out a lot and without whom we would not even get to Amritapuri
- Marek, the only other Slovak person in the ashram who taught me more about karma, Amma and some ashram rules
- a guy with tattoos on his forehead who volunteered at the internet cafe
- an older man who would smile each time he saw me walking barefoot outide of our building
- the Pujari man who managed to get all the thoughts out of my head after the first second of Puja
- an older handicapped lady who could not walk very well and each time she saw me, she would grab my hand to get me walk her where she wanted to go/sit
- a woman from Slovenia with her handicapped son who she would exercise with in the mornings, then sort out garbagge in the afternoon and sing the Bhajans before dinner. It was incredibly powerful to watch them two together and gave me a lot of personal strength.
- the receptionist guy who always sighed when we left the reception yet again
- the good-looking tattooed guy who did not even know I liked him so much.
TIP 1: This is just 1 out of 3 articles I wrote about Amritapuri. You might find useful my other article, too, about 21 things I learned at Amritapuri.
TIP 2: If you happen to go to the ashram, then also definitely have a look at 33 things to know before visiting Amritapuri. There’s not enough information about Amritapuri on their website so I thought that writing 3 articles about my experience there would be helpful to other travelers. :)
For more information, check out the official Amritapuri ashram Kerala website.