The Inner Voice of Who Knows What

the pilgrimage: Henri Nouwen and my own topsy-turvy little heart

What are You Doing?

My friends in the next room are playing a game… a noisy, boisterous, ridiculous game that is rocking the thin bark beams of our main hut.

It’s called: What are you doing?

If you were to ask the temple down the street, it would say that it is celebrating its grand opening – with flowers, music, colors, and lots of joy.

If you were to ask America, it would say that is celebrating its day of love!

If you were to ask me, I would say that I am resting in the comforting knowledge that I absolutely adore this new home of mine. I would say that I am fidgeting in the discomforting idea of beginning to travel India, outside my home in the forest. I would say that I am reveling in the beautiful idea of how much I love my family, my friends, my Fresno.

Usually, what I do at 4:15 each morning – is burst awake to the poppy, energetic, nearly abrasive music blasted from one of three temples in our neighborhood.

6:15 – I wake up again, this time more sleepily, to more welcoming words from our wake-up call volunteer. My favorite by far… “Wake up, you sleepyheads. Get up, get out of bed! Gonna have some fun, digging a brand new bund; we’ll have some conversation on our favorite topic of water conservation. Good morning, Sadhana! Time to wake those weary eyes!”
Although I’ll admit that the newer song “Wake Up, Little Hippies” is a close second.

6:30 – I crawl out of my mosquito net, slap on some clothes that still have a few clean spots, stumble outside the main hut to our first work meeting, joining about one hundred other volunteers in collective sleepy tooth-brushing (with an awkward-tasting organic toothpaste I still haven’t gotten used to) and banana-eating and muffled greeting of each other.

From here we split up – some to cook breakfast, stirring delicious porridge and chopping loads and loads of pineapple, papaya, lime, banana, chickoo, and other tasty fruit… some to form a watering chain stretching from our mudpool to trees that need some thirst-quenching love… some to dig, some to plant, some to mulch, some to take care of the village’s inner workings.

8:30 – We hear a bell ring and draw us in with its call to breakfast. A stop by my hut to grab a journal, a pen, a good book, and maybe the camera, and then some time to relax before the moment of silence and a fantastically satisfying and well-deserved breakfast. Reading, writing, conversing, batting the flies away from my feet that now have way too many cuts and bug bites to count…

9:30 – More splitting up of work, perhaps building onto the sandbag eco-dome… cooking more delicious vegan lunch of rice, dahl, veggies, salad, and maybe even a banana mush dessert… collecting twigs for the fires… feeding the four dogs and three cats… learning to make charcoal and put out the fire at just the right time before all the work crumbles to ash… stirring the compost toilets to make sure the maggots haven’t discovered them… organizing, at least somewhat, the medicine box of foreign labels and homeopathic mystery… digging lots of holes and building lots of bunds to create space for water to collect…

12:30 – Lunch! Another well-deserved and almost always delicious meal. Of course that doesn’t stop most of us from venturing out to ice cream and chai for our dairy fix…
The afternoon and evening usually bring a vast spread of free time, for laundry or yoga or a mudpool visit or a bucket shower or workshops of all shapes and sizes, or otherwise milling about the place and making friends. Most of the people I’m close with are in a permaculture course each afternoon. (Permaculture… large name, even larger concept, but so worth looking into. It seems to me essentially the emergent church on a farm…)

The evenings here are indescribable… The late-night jam session bonfires remind me of how much I need live music to feed me, the late-night conversations remind me of how interesting people are, the simple act of eating together in a shared space reminds me of how important community is.

By far one of the best parts of the schedule in Sadhana is the times when one can get away from Sadhana… take a bicycle or motorbike out into India beyond this little oasis of beauty. To Auroville for more eco-friendliness, Europeans, and a grand gold structure called the Matrimandir; to Kuyilapalayam for internet, ice cream, toilet paper, and a slice of India; to Koot Road for the real thing. Koot Road boasts it all – chai shops, vegetable stands, electronics shops, clothing shops, mobile recharge stations, forgotten roadside shrines, traffic that would make the West dizzy, a world that is totally different.

Sometimes I feel like curling up at night on a squishy cushion in a corner of the main hut, listening to the conversations happening and the sounds of guitar and djembe experimenting together, soaking in the restfulness and peace in this place.

And sometimes I feel like running to Koot Road to lose myself in the chaos, and set myself free from the desire to make sense of anything, or understand it even a tiny bit.

This weekend is the cusp between Sadhana and India.
I have no idea what to expect outside this home of mine, but I am expecting to be blown away.

So far the unexpected has turned out to be amazing.


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One thought on “What are You Doing?

  1. Oh Jessica. Thanks for this larger glimpse into your Indian life.What I think of immediately when I read this is a comment in your own words: “I am a young girl whose world just keeps getting bigger and smaller at the same time, you know”? How true, how true …You have such a way of soaking up the entirety of your environment … and sifting through to get to the nitty gritty of what is real and true and relevant. I’ve said it before, kid … but I wish you would consider writing as a part of whatever path your life takes. Maybe it’s just because I’m your mom, but I am enveloped with the pieces of your heart and mind that are poured out so eloquently.You nurture the “fruit(s) of the spirit” in me.Mom

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