A small ashram in historical Varanasi. I was off to study meditation, yoga, and inner art of healing classes at the Cosmic Energy Centre (Ashram). I completed a 10-day course built on several different lessons that created a unique experience beyond one single topic or skill. I left feeling that I’ve accumulated a ton of practices that were realistic to bring into my home practice and share with others. We felt Meditation.
One of the main reasons I traveled to India was my quest for experiencing time in an ashram. How does one choose an ashram? From my experience, it came to me. I did not choose one. Through re-connecting with a college friend who seemed to be on a similar path into sustainability, spirituality, and self-wellness, I was exposed to her love and passion for Varanasi, India. Not just India, but there was something about Varanasi she fell for and I was intrigued to find out if I felt the same way.
The Ashram was located near Shivala Ghat in central Varanasi, behind Bread of Life Bakery. Currently, students cannot sleep in the Ashram, but common accommodation was organized in a nearby lodge, called the Shiva Ganga Lodge.
The ashram was for all those who wish to study their Self and re-discover their spiritual heritage are more than welcome at any given time. “Here you can find the best conditions to achieve your purpose: peace, stillness, silence, the slow flowing of the river Ganga and the possibility of learning and practicing both yoga and meditation.” – Umesh
IT IS FAR BETTER TO LIVE YOUR OWN PATH IMPERFECTLY THAN TO LIVE ANOTHER’S PERFECTLY – The Bhagavad Gita
I stayed in a simple family-owned lodge, called Shiva Ganga Lodge. A young couple with 3 beautiful energized children, two girls, and a boy, with grandparents and an adorable guard dog named Toni. There was also a gang of monkeys that enjoyed patronizing Toni from above the yard. Several days there was one of many holy cows sunbathing at the entrance of the lodge. There were many special moments, connections and love shared between the animals that lived throughout Varanasi. Sharing leftovers or buying biscuits specifically to feed the cows, goats, chickens, and puppies became a regular daily routine.
DO NOT THINK – FEEL IT… – Umesh Guruji
MEDITATION: In India, you might happen to hear this: “there are many divinities, but God is One”. It means that the manifestations of the divine are many; however, they all originate from the One principle. Also, there are many ways to practice spirituality, but meditation is only one. This was the basis on which all of our activities were focused. The students always remained at the center of everything; we were guided in their search for the Self through the practice of meditation, dance, and purification.
This is my favorite place in Varanasi. The Shibendu Lahiri Temple from Autobiography of a Yogi. Umesh Guruji showed us this hidden gem and I went 3 times.
After returning from India, I was motivated to incorporate the new experiences I’ve felt and was excited to apply them to my nutrition practice.
An ‘Eating’ meditation seemed to come naturally. I began practicing at mealtimes by allowing my thoughts to detach and bringing my focus to the present moment. Pausing, how was I feeling? Every time, my thoughts attached to the future would surface, I would continuously direct them by detaching and connecting to my breath, my chewing, my digestion, and my SELF. I quickly experienced that this simple exercise strengthened my connection with my meal and my nutrition practice.
I also found that meditation allowed me to shift energy status. For example, if I was stressed, anxious, upset or even angry, I was able to utilize meditation to empty my thoughts, reconnect to my SELF versus stay attached to the thoughts that were causing those feelings. This became a routine practice before preparing food for a couple of reasons. One, I wanted to support my digestion by not allowing emotions to disrupt any important processes (yes, they can do that). Two, I believe in putting positive energy, as an ingredient, into a meal. What kind of energy was your food prepared with? It’s an important question. The energy in our food may be absorbed into your body. Be mindful of that energy and choose joyful chefs and empty your thoughts before cooking.
“Connect with each ingredient in your meal. Observe it in its whole form, feel it, smell it, taste it and most importantly, connect to it.”
This food is a gift of the earth, the sky, numerous living beings, and much hard and loving work. May we eat with mindfulness and gratitude so as to be worthy to receive this food. We thank the people who have made this food, especially the farmers, the soil, the rain, and the sun.
Meditation has helped myself and so many of my clients with digestion, chronic illnesses, self-care, and overall health. I have collaborated with Manny Marrero, and occupational therapist at Cape Cod Healthcare, to offer a FREE community meditation class the first Thursday of every month at 11 Potter Ave, Hyannis, MA.
What to expect:
Mindful speech & mindful listening
Body awareness meditation / Loving Kindness
A little about us:
Manny is a mental health occupational therapist at Cape Cod Healthcare’s Centers (CCH) for Behavioral Health. He also teaches mindfulness-based stress reduction techniques to patients in the Cardiac Rehabilitation program at CCH, and is board member for NAMI’s Cape Cod chapter. Manny is a certified meditation teacher and restorative yoga instructor through the Namah Shivaya International School of Yoga. He has attended numerous silent meditation retreats hosted by Zen Buddhist monk, Claude Anshin Thomas, a long time student of Thich Nhat Hanh. Manny has been featured as a speaker at wellness conferences, where he touched upon the importance and benefits of mindful living.
Nicole Cormier, RD, LDN
Nicole Cormier is an anti-diet dietitian, local food enthusiast, author, and an intuitive eating counselor. She indulges her passion for nutrition and local foods on beautiful Cape Cod through her nutrition therapy practice, Delicious Living Nutrition, and through partnership in a cold-pressed juice company, The Local Juice. Underlying everything she does is the concept of sustainability. This is an essential aspect of how she helps clients discover new foods and ways of cooking to put them on a path to health, as well as her own health.