Posted by: Anna | April 12, 2011


There’s pretty much no better way to get to know yourself than to be alone. Have you tried it? I mean – been hundreds of miles from anyone you know? For more than a few days? It’s intense, with only yourself for company.What if you are not only alone, but silent? Focused, on reflection and meditation. Welcome to the Ashram, if you’re me.

I had to wait a week to write this. I left the Ashram feeling amazing, energized, spiritually fulfilled. Hours for contemplative prayer, coupled with lessons in using the tools of Vipassana meditation techniques, made visiting the Hindu ashram the most potent Christian experience of my life.

I discovered that I am a little crazy. Okay, I already knew that, but I got more intimately familiar with how. I became increasingly aware of how my mind runs to the same thoughts over and over – planning for the future, rehearsing conversations I never end up having, justifying my previous actions, analyzing my past mistakes, criticizing those around me, comparing myself to others. It’s like a completely pointless, repetitive circus in there most of the time. From talking to the other students, everyone is like that. Have you ever tried to observe yourself? Have you tried to observe your thoughts? If you are like me, it’s not good.

One of the suggested exercises as you meditate, attempting to focus on the breathe, is to briefly label each interrupting thought (planning, fantasizing, etc) and let it go. You start to see a pattern. Another strategy, so simple, is to remind yourself to release those thoughts and focus – ask yourself, “Am I going to act or decide on this now?” 99% of the time, and not just when you are meditating, but when you are brushing your teeth, the answer to that question about what you are thinking about – is no. I spend a tremendous amount of time planning for things that never happen, having conversations with people I never have, reviewing the past and feeling guilty about it – not learning anything. There are productive was to plan, review, and reflect. I just spend most of my time doing the non-productive ones…

I spent a lot of time realizing that I miss much of life, dwelling in past memories or planning for the future. I rarely am fully present in the moment I’m actually living. I’m not noticing the sensation of the ground beneath my feet, or the smell of the outdoors (okay, sometimes in India this is a blessing, but …). Even during our meditative walks, I spent more time labelling what I see – that’s a flower, humm, looks like that one they have in the Hill Country…what’s that called? I think I saw it at my aunt’s. Wish I was there now, it sucks to miss Christmas when I’m traveling. Well, next year I’ll make sure it’s special by baking cookies. Speaking of, wouldn’t it be fun to have a tradition with my (non-existent) children baking cookies every year? Hmm, how many do I want? Well, you never know what you’ll get…oh right – walking. Supposed to be paying attention here. And so on.

I can intellectually understand that a deep meditation practice, allowing the mind to be still, learning to use your brain as a tool rather than letting it run rampant with worry and anxiety, could be the key to a truer connection with God. Can I get there? It doesn’t seem like a short or easy road. Do I want to? Now that I know the road is there, I’m not sure I will be happy turning away. And there it is, India has made me a mystic. No worries – I have managed to avoid the dreadlocks, drugs, and tie-dye of the classic American-goes-to-India-and-discovers-God.

Then I spent the next week by myself, in the small town near the Ashram. I was sick, off and on, and hesitant to set off on any great journeys. I felt shy, scared, intimidated. After having my best friend with me for six months, doing it alone seemed overwhelming. I realized how much I depend on Tommy for confidence. He believes in me, I can sense it, and I am bolder – I believe in myself more with him by my side. In and of itself, I don’t think that’s a bad thing. Alone, I feel like my security has been stolen away; I feel small, weak.

I made wild plans – bought a flight to the North, where it’s 20F as a high during the day. I canceled it. I ended up flying home. I feel like that is waving the white flag, admitting I’m not strong or courageous enough to do this on my own. At the same time, I can’t be sure of the nobility of staying – pitying myself, wearing down the inner drive to travel, starting the second half of our trip defeated by my own weakness. I guess I am admitting I reached my personal limit of what I am capable of, now. Maybe admitting I know my limits is a strength? If I stayed, I would just be staying to prove to myself and to Tommy, and to you – reader, that I could. That I’m a badass independent woman who doesn’t need her man. If I’m honest, I’m a woman who is dependent on her man – I miss him greatly, and I do depend on him to give me the courage to get outside the box I would live in on my own. That’s where I am, today. And at the Ashram, I learned there is a great deal of peace available in accepting that fact – where I am, today.

So there you go, a short version of my reaction to the ashram. Elation, insight, fear…sounds about right. Want to try it for yourself?


  1. Wow is (almost) all I can say. Pretty cool that you were able to figure this out – to me that is brave.

    Also, I’m glad I’m not the only one that plays out anticipated conversations multiple times before actually having them, and then that is not how they turn out!

  2. Like you Anna, I wish I could free myself from guilt and second guessing and useless self-criticism. As I get older, I find that there are people in my life I do a lot less of that with. And then I try to spend a lot more time with them. Tommy is obviously that for you. That is a testament to your marriage.

    One thing age has given me is the realization that I have nothing to prove to anyone about what I can take on or the choices I make. I know you feel like you waved the white flag on the trip but I don’t think so. And I am sure Tommy doesn’t either. I feel blessed that I got to have a beautiful visit and time with my daughter that I much needed. Tommy and Anna both thank you for that.

    So proud of both of you. Love to you both!

  3. I believe you are the most confident, strong, beautiful woman I have ever met and had the honor to be a part of in my life — and now I can add “wordly”. Marriage is about leaning on your partner when needed, in trusting and loving the other. I’m sure you also make Tommy confident in his daily life, as he makes you. I agree with Sally — what a great testament to your marriage.

    Now . . .about those children??? LOL

    Be safe as you and Tommy continue your travels. I’m anxious to read you future posts as your travels continue . . . will you reflect on what you learned in your mediation week and include the smells, sounds in your reflections that I am so honored to read?

    I love you both. As always — sending lots of Texas love your way.

  4. How very wonderful for you & Tommy that you have such a closel friendship. It will heap blessing upon blessing through your years together. I can’t think of a more beautiful 3rd anniversary gift for Tommy than to read the tender words you have written, Anna. You are so very special. Tommy told me early on when you started dating…”She is AWESOME, Kita”! I agree 100%!!! God bless you both and I send my love, which is beyond measure. Kita XOXOOX

  5. I really enjoyed this, Anna. Thanks for sharing xx

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