Living in a (mostly) Silent Ashram for 30 days

We sit in meditation for two hours each day. Half the time we are chanting mantras in Sanskrit, the other half we are in silence. I wish I could say every meditation I’m guided off into white puffy clouds where my mind is empty and free from all anxieties and insecurities. But, more often then not, I think about “Should I cut my bangs? Should I grow out my bangs? God, I hope they have papaya at breakfast. Oh shhit, my butt crack is sweaty…”

When you go to the gym after a long time, the workouts seem hard and you experience soreness after the first couple sessions. The same goes for meditation. Your mind will pull every trick to snatch you away from your breath, and make you think about everything and anything that is more interesting than sitting in silent nothingness. I spent the first two weeks pulling up memories from the past and reliving the happy ones and crying through the sad ones. I felt anxiety to such an extreme I thought about leaving every single day. My anxiety would sit on my stomach and press on my chest, a feeling that I have repressed since college. That is how the mind works, it bluntly throws all the shit you thought you outgrew and encourages you to safely welcome it and overcome the battle. Your mind becomes sore before becoming fit, like your physical body.

It wasn’t until week 3 when I found inner peace. I sat in meditation, focused on my breath, and instead of going into bliss I thought about how excited I am to see my sister in April and how proud I am of my brother for chasing his dreams; the support from my mother and her refusal to conform to the North Shore stereotypes; and admiration for my father’s honesty in all situations, how he never misses a workout and knows how to make my mom feel like his girlfriend. Tears would roll down my cheeks in gratitude and after this expression; I could more easily slip into the clouds, peacefully.

I learned how to meditate through gratitude and love.

Here is our daily schedule:

  • 4:30am-5:00am the bell rings, wake up
  • 5:00am-5:45am Self-Practice
  • 5:45am-7:00am Meditation and chanting
  • 7:00am-9:30am Yoga Asanas and Kriyas (see below more on Asanas and Kryias)
  • 9:30am Breakfast
  • 10:00am-11:00am Karma Yoga (See below)
  • 11:00am-1:00pm Philosophy Class
  • 1:00pm Lunch
  • 2:00pm-4:00pm Self Study and Rest
  • 4:00-6:00pm Yoga Asanas and Kriyas
  • 6:00-7:00pm Meditation and Chanting
  • 7:00pm Dinner
  • 9:00pm Lights Out

Thursdays are silent, meals are silent, all classes are silent, and 9:00pm-9:00am is Silent

Why Silence:

Many gurus and masters encourage silence amongst their disciples to teach them how to tune into themselves and attain inner self-acceptance. Plus, when you’re silent you notice different tastes in the food you eat, the butterflies sailing through the trees and your own relationship to yourself. When I am in peace, I deeply enjoy silence.

Asanas:

Yoga postures, Hatha is the morning and either Ashtanga, Kahloori, Kundalini or Vinyasa in the evening. Physical stretching.

Kryias:

Kryias are detoxification breath work exercises often accompanied with a hand mudra(gesture) or bandhas(enlightenment). Action with Awareness helps cleanse the body and these techniques are for the mind and body.

Karma Yoga:

Karma yoga is yoga for action, working for good; for benefitting someone or something else without any expectations or earning or being rewarding for something in return. It is selfless service for humanity without motivation. Everyday we would take an hour and clean the whole Ashram.

Would I recommend this teacher training? Probably not. It was the hardest month of my life – an ongoing mental workout. But man, I learned how to teach yoga like a true Indian goddess and I can float into meditation blissfully. Check out the events page to see my next workshops!

Erin travels around the world leading workshops engrained in meditaiton and mindfulness based off the teachings she learned while living in The Mid East + South East Asia and her Psych Masters studies from Columbia University