By Melanie Lutz
Melanie’s first experience with yoga was in Dhaka, Bangladesh where she worked for 4 years in the field of international development cooperation. Though there were few yoga classes to choose from, she was lucky to find a good teacher. Eager to experience yoga in its birthplace, she went to stay at an ashram in India and discovered a special place…
How many of us get caught up in our thoughts and emotions, with the feeling that we have to do something, go somewhere, be somebody… we’re pressed by time but actually need a break from the hamster wheel of life. We can decide to jump off and follow the path of self-awareness, truth, and satisfaction. But how can this happen?
By taking a plane to Delhi, and then a train to Haridwar and from there find your way to Santosh Puri, a small, well-hidden ashram which is run by Mataji and her children, the Puri family.
How is it that I went to Santosh Puri and not another ashram? It was synchronicity… When I had decided I wanted to stay at an ashram in India, I had asked friends in Dhaka and in Germany for suggestions. The suggestion I got from Dhaka AND from Berlin had been: Santosh Puri. This made me think: how can it be that two people in different parts of the world suggest the same ashram without knowing each other? Then, the morning I wanted to make up my mind between going to Santosh Puri or another ashram I was considering in South India, I turned on my laptop at the office and a private message from my friend in Berlin appeared immediately on the screen. I had forgotten to sign out of my personal account the night before and when I opened the laptop the message had popped up. It asked: “And have you decided yet?” Yes! In that very moment I took my decision. These did not feel like meaningless coincidences… clearly, something wanted me to go to Santosh Puri and not to any other place.
Once I arrived, I quickly felt at home. I felt no need to go somewhere else after a few days which is usually how I travel – spending a few days in one place and then moving on. Here, time seemed to stop. There was no need to rush for anything. The intimate atmosphere at the ashram offered me the opportunity to re-connect with myself and be with my inner world.
Everybody living at the ashram had such a strong divine-spiritual connection. The conversations I had with the Puri family touched my heart: they were full of compassion and understanding for my and everyone’s particular situation. But also the people who were staying along with me (we were a small group of five people) were so special and interesting. There were no superficial conversations and it was beautiful to just sit with them in silence – nobody felt the need to talk – and everyone felt so comfortable with the presence of the other. We all felt a very close connection with each other – everything was perfect.
If you have a look at the daily schedule at Santosh Puri (which includes aarti, meditation, yoga, karma yoga, satsang, and kirtan) you might think it seems like any one of the many ashrams in India. What is it then, that makes Santosh Puri so unique? In one sentence: it’s the devotion, trust, and love surrounding you, and the feeling of being ‘home’, which grows day by day.
During my stay I experienced so many little special and beautiful moments – maybe it’s because I opened myself to the beauty of life and I was not caught up by my daily thoughts… there were no expectations, and I was not blind to the small beautiful moments that life offers each day…
…After every morning mediation, I loved sitting in the garden, drinking chai, and listening to the sounds of animals and watching how the morning fog would find its way through the forest.
… On New Year’s Eve, I enjoyed just being – not worrying about the past or the future, it was being in the present with ease and joy.
…I loved walking by the Ganges.
… And observing a day of silence.
All these moments and pictures are like footprints on my memories.
It is the presence of Mataji which permeates the ashram. She embraces you with all her infinite love. Her presence makes you feel safe and warm. She is a blessed and loving human being who finds time for everybody and cares for everybody’s well-being. With ease and joy she guides and steers you towards your own way of self-awareness. She explains how you can integrate Indian philosophies, yoga, and meditation into your daily (western) life back home – which for many of us is a big challenge.
The food at Santosh Puri was simply delicious: vegetarian, ayurvedic, and cooked with love. The ingredients came from the ashram’s garden. In the morning we often had porridge, homemade bread or cake, kheer, fruit salad, upma and chai – a heavenly mix of black tea and milk, ginger, black pepper, anise, cardamom seeds and cinnamon. Dinner and lunch was dal, curry, chutney, chapatis and rice. During the Christmas holidays we prepared Gajar Ka Halwa, a sweet dish made from carrots.
The sleeping arrangements were very comfortable and clean. The majority of visitors had a single room, often with attached bathroom while a few people shared a room. Winters here can be very cold! Be prepared with an extra sleeping bag – especially if you’re a Vata (one of the three ‘doshas’ or physical constitutions according to Ayurveda) person!
I have been to Santosh Puri twice and am already looking very much forward to being there again soon. To get the most out of your stay at the ashram I strongly recommend a stay of at least two weeks in order to let everything go and be with your inner world where truth and happiness is always with you. And do not expect something to happen there – happiness will come only to true seekers.
Image credits: Santosh Puri Ashram and Kristina Junzell