The Sadhana Experience

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February 13th 2014
Published: February 13th 2014
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Time's flown by, and I can't believe it's already the middle of my third week here! I've been having an amazing time and every day holds something new and different, from work tasks to workshops to food to meeting new people and everything in between.

Last Wednesday morning I did “tree hole digging” for my first morning SEVA, which involved one person loosening soil in an uphill arc around a metal tube placed on the ground, which is approx. 30cm diameter and 70cm high, using a pointy metal crowbar, whilst the other person digs out the soil from the arc using a “mounti”(?) spade, which is a shovel with a short handle (photo hopefully included) and deposits it around the tube, making a mound around 40cm high. These tubes then get filled with trees and compost, which I described before.

Bees and termites were a highlight we'd run out of black putty to fill bee holes, we turned to termites, and to making an anti-termite pesticide. This consists of a juice made from partly fermented neem leaves. To collect the neem leaves, neem trees must be climbed and I spent a wonderful two hours high in the trees, removing their leaves.

Thursday morning I was on breakfast cooking and went on coconut duty – we had to break and grate 20 coconuts in total, using hand graters with turning handles. It was quite therapeutic and I got to meet a couple of guys I'd not spoken to much before. I had a yummy vegan pizza on “night out”, a marinara with mushrooms. Friday was cleaning day, which involved clearing round the huts and fixing a toilet door using coconut rope.

I went away for the weekend to a town around 6 hours away called Trichy (Tiruchirappalli), where we visited the Rockfort temple, a temple built on top of a rock 273ft high - the view from the temple over the flat city was amazing! We also went to the Ranganathaswamy temple complex, the 5th largest temple complex in Tamil Nadu. We couldn't see much of the temple complex as we weren't hindu, but it was still impressive. That evening we had the best food I've tasted so far in India, from a small Indian “restaurant” by the bus station – perfect idly (compacted mushed up rice in a disc shape) and chapatis, with the tastiest curries...all served on a banana leaf by a very charming old man. The bill came to 65Rupees (less than 65p) between us! The least we could do was leave the change from 100R.

We caught the train to Villapurum on Sunday instead of the bus, which was a good decision as it was much roomier and more pleasant. I spent the journey on a metal luggage rack above some of the seats – a great way to travel! We arrived back at Sadhana in time to cook dinner.

Last week I didn't have a weekly Seva. Monday I collected leaves in the morning for new trees that were planted, and then after breakfast, helped dig a hole for compost with two Norwegian guys, which was hot sweaty work in the heat, but definitely rewarding. We continued the same job the next morning and managed to make a hole about 2m square and 50cm deep – it needed to be a metre deep. I had the job of submitting volunteer data (C forms) to the government online, for 3 sevas last week, which was a boring job, but gave me a nice opportunity to get to know some of the long-term volunteers. Other things I did were tree care and breakfast cooking.

I went to a couple of really amazing workshops last week. To start with, every Monday evening we have a sharing circle and last week it was very busy. It's a quiet space where each person in the circle has an opportunity to share how they are feeling or issues on their mind. Most people share very positive experiences and ways in which living at Sadhana has changed their lives – I was surprised at the number of people who have benefitted hugely and have gained things they never expected to gain, when all they came for was to help plant a forest. For me, I feel the most important things I've gained here so far are the incredible friendship and support I've found from many people, and inspiration and ideas from the extra workshops and conversations I've had, which have given me tools I can take home with me. It's really an invaluable experience.

So, that was the first workshop. The second was a talk about “Gift Economy”, run by a guy called Shami, who is an NVC (Non-Violent Communication) trainer. NVC is something I've only learnt about since being here – up til now, it's always meant “National Vegetation Classification”! But it's a really interesting training in coping with social issues, understanding other people and communicating in a positive way. The gift economy talk was about ways of making exchanges, whether personal or business, using a gift system, i.e. allowing people to decide how much to pay and looking at alternative ways of paying that move away from money. It's a very different and in my opinion much fairer way of working, than the conventional methods of exchange, and has given me some ideas that I could apply to my own situation.

Another workshop I attended was intuitive massage on Friday, which involved first meditating to feel our hands and body, and then massaging a partner in whatever way you feel they need. It didn't even have to be massage, it could be a hug, or placing your hand on their body – you just went with your intuition. I felt amazing afterwards and my partner said she did as well, and gave me the biggest hug and thank you afterwards. It's really powerful, not just for healing muscles, but to help emotional healing as well. It's inspired me to start up my own group when I come home.

I also went to a workshop over the weekend, looking at “Compassionate Social Change”. This looked at ways in which it's possible to resolve conflict through understanding another person's position and realising that everybody does what they do for a good reason, whether consciously or subconsciously, because everybody has what Shami called a “beautiful dream”. We looked at situations in our own lives and did role-play to find ways of expressing ourselves and resolving the situation, whilst conveying understanding of the other person's position. It was interesting to feel how the same message could come across so differently, some ways making you feel tense and angry, others making you feel understood and happy to help the other person. We also did a little on ways to express our needs and dreams to people who don't share them with us, but I didn't manage to finish the course as I had to help cook dinner.

Other things that happened last week – I had my first (and 2nd, 3rd and 4th) vegan brownie, tried ladu (vegan sweets – balls of crushed almond and dried fruits), danced at “ecstatic dance”, a rave with no alcohol, ate out at the same indian restaurant 3 days in a row and was surprised to eat new curries every day, led a 45 minute yoga class, went to the mud pool most days, met lots of new wonderful people and sadly said goodbye to a few as well.

This week my weekly second Seva is toilet cleaning – I'm interested in learning more about how they maintain the compost loos. Each day after breakfast I clean 6 toilets, which is easy work, but then sometimes have to lift buckets of poo + compost out if they're getting full and transport them to the composting area, which is heavy work, but rewarding, like most things here. My other sevas have all been repeats of things I've done before, so I won't bore you with the details.

On Monday my friend Ashley ran a belly-dancing workshop which I attended, and completely loved it! I also attended Osha meditation in the meditation yurt, in a group of around 20 people. Osha is an interesting type of meditation session where, for the first half an hour, everybody talks jibberish – i.e. noises that don't make sense in your own language. After a minute of awkwardness, we all got in to it and let ourselves go – some people screamed sometimes, some made loud fast noises, others were calmer. I felt I was able to “talk” through some of the issues in my life and after time, my jibberish became calmer as I was able to think of the good things in my life. The second half an hour, we meditated in silence. Yesterday, I went for a bit of a shopping trip to Kulapalayam – I've rented my own moped, which is fantastic – so bought some jewellery, trousers and bits and pieces from some very lovely Indian men, one of which has invited me and some friends to have dinner with his family next week.

I think that's it for now. I'm a little poorly at the moment – a cough/flu has been going round the camp and I was coughing a lot last night – but I'm starting to feel better and should be back to normal by tomorrow.

I hope you're all well back home.

Lots of love,



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