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Quiet Joy

Quiet Joy

Mary at Taj

The ashram is overseen by a lovely soft-spoken priest, Anil, who is assisted by Joby, a jovial pot-bellied man in his first few months of priest training, and Beni, a bright 27-year-old tribal woman who does all the (amazing) cooking and has never met a chili pepper she didn’t like.

The trees here are overseen by small monkeys, who steal fruit as well as drying laundry with backward glances like naughty children checking to see if they’ve been caught. There are six wild turkeys who think they live here and two large dogs who actually do, Jimmy and Julie; and Jimmy is as naughty as the monkeys. Every afternoon like clockwork between 5:15 and 5:30 he can be seen running around with one of Beni’s pink flip-flops in his mouth while she’s inside the kitchen getting his dinner ready. She eventually comes out carrying a large bowl and walks one-shoed about 50 yards to his room where he’s waiting to trade her flip flop for his dinner.


Life in this southern ashram is very different than the nunneries in the north. There are no ornate temples here, but the chapel is a large, very cool rock cave. (LOVE the chapel.) There are no mountains but there are tall, shady mahogany trees and breezy palm trees and myriad fruits and flowers hanging from more than a hundred other trees. There are no villages to walk to. I’m not with friends or community. I’m alone with only the truth of myself, comfortably, and the routine of breakfast at 8, lemonade at 11, lunch at 1, tea at 4.

As for slightly less comforts, I bathe from a bucket every other day. I wash my clothes by hand twice a week. The ceiling fan in my room is my only relief from the 95+ degree heat — during the 75% of time the electricity is working.

The requisite job for all guests is daily gardening, and “my” spot is a large four-tiered brick triangular area with small white lilies and carnation-sized fuchsia and pink flowers that open almost exactly at 10AM and close by 4PM. In the simplicity of life here it brings me joy to get up every day and take care of these new colorful parts of life.

I might also mention that sometimes naughty Jimmy is out on a walk when I’m watering in the afternoon and delights in running full speed through the muddy garden bed to tell me hello. This too brings me joy, though I would also be joyful if he would learn to skirt the edges.

mary john

(Tour host and friend, John Smallman)

Today in my quietude I reflect on the fact that it was a year ago this month that the metaphysical event that became the basis of my 2016 tour took place. With the exception of my