6 December 2008

First Visit to Tiruvannamalai

"The below is a narrative written by Joyce Meyers detailing some of her experiences during her first visit to Tiruvannamalai this November, 2008. Joyce travelled with a group of seven ladies with Virginia Lee facilitating their programme. Virginia's report of the Retreat will be featured in the upcoming Arunachala Grace Newsletter. (Check left column newsletter free subscribe facility to receive a copy of the monthly Newsletter).

Joyce is a licensed psychotherapist, certified Ericksonian hypnotherapist, NLP practitioner, art therapist, and board certified past life regressionist. She uses a transformational therapy developed from traditional, spiritual and experiential approaches to healing."

Tiruvannamalai, Tamil Nadu, South India. November 2008.

“Although I have been home in New York City for two weeks, my heart is still very much in Tiruvannamalai. It was an important experience for me, and not one I had in the least anticipated. Ten months prior I had spent two weeks in Haridwar and Rishikesh. The entire time I felt cradled in the arms of the Divine Mother, who healed my shredded heart from a severed relationship. I was expecting to be provided with a similar embrace, only to find that Tiruvannamalai, the home of Arunachala and Ramana Maharshi, was preparing me for a different kind of ride. It was softly inviting me to look within and examine buried pockets of grief and negativity and I was given ample opportunity to do so, both internally and externally. This was not exactly what I had in mind, but it was what I was needing. So I decided to want what I needed. As I reluctantly released resistance to what was being presented, it soon led, thankfully, to other adventures of the uplifting kind.

I began experiencing heightened feelings of unconditional love with the locals, from the sales clerk, to the coconut lady, to the teachers, to the people who work at Sri Nannagaru ashram where I stayed, to sadhus, and the poor with outstretched arms. These feelings extended to the dogs and cows and bulls that lined the streets. In Rishikesh and Haridwar, I received all embracing spiritual love. In Tiruvannamalai, I received and gave human love.

In preparation for this trip, I immersed myself in learning about Ramana Maharshi and was taken with his teachings. Tiruvannamalai, which seems to be the hub where seekers, sages, sadhus, teachers and gurus gather, provided many opportunities to receive darshan with spiritual leaders and sit in satsang with advaita teachers where I could ask questions and apply what I was learning. I had no idea these Ramana teachings would lead me in a new direction. Since being home, I have joined advaita groups, signed up for an Enlightenment Intensive that Taj, from our group, directed me towards, and went back to reading Eckhart Tolle. On another occasion I went to hear Sri Vast, a guru, speak. I was waiting to be bored, only to finding myself moved by his every word. What I found spiritually in India filled and fulfilled me.

Gwen and Maryjo from our group, and I, went to Pondicherry, less than three hours away. We visited Auroville, Sri Aurobindo and The Mother Ashram; and Sri Vast Ashram, as well as my having a dental appointment for a hurting tooth with a most skillful, caring dentist using highly sophisticated Japanese equipment, all for 75% less than I would have paid in the states. Visiting Sri Vast Ashram, for me, was the highlight of this excursion. Far more important than the beauty of the land and the graceful architecture of the building structures, were the values Sri Vast upholds. His vision, and what he has put into practice, represents the greatest breadth and depth of vision of any intentional living community I have ever come upon.

left to right -- Ganesh, Dinesh, Radesh, Priya

Last but definitely not least is the ability to make a difference in the lives of several children. Priya, Dinesh and Radesh, the children of Jayanti (who works as a servant at Nannagaru Ashram), as well as Dinesh’s best friend Ganesh, are now enrolled in a year of English tutoring classes. With this, they can have the possibility of acceptance to a good school and open to choices in their life. The tutoring arrangement was accomplished with the very kind and generous help of Mr. Ravichandran, director of Shantimalai Trust, one of the top schools in the area.


With Priya, I have already made a commitment to sponsor her through all her years of schooling. The other three, all of whom are very intelligent, aware, and adorable, will need sponsors as well if they pass their English exams or will require other kinds of support to learn a trade. Gwen, another fellow traveler on the journey, and I, now share a godchild, Aswini, who we are sponsoring through all her years of schooling. She was introduced to us by Mr. Ravichandran. Aswini was going to have to leave school because her mother couldn’t continue to pay, due to circumstances at home. How do you say no when you look into the eyes of a small child before you and know what a difference you can make in their life?

Thank you, Meenakshi Ammal, of Arunachala Grace Network, for leading me to Shantimalai and for helping the group as an expert travel guide consultant.

In order to travel to the tutor, each child, except Radesh, needed a bicycle. Gwen, Mary Jo and I chipped in and now Dinesh and Priya have their bicycles, with Ganesh’s on the way. It was joyous for me and Gwen to sit in the downtown bicycle shop with Dinesh, Priya and their mom, Jayanti, while the bicycles were being assembled, bells, whistles and all; to watch the happiness light up their faces, and then to watch all three ride home together. And none of this cost very much: $80 a bicycle, $200 a year to tutor four children, $25 a month to sponsor a child through Shantimalai Trust. I couldn’t do this kind of thing in the U.S.A., but in India, a dollar goes very, very far.

India feels like home. It is that spiritual dimension that deeply nourishes. It is the naturalness, openheartedness and lack of pretense of the people, with everything exposed and out in the open. There it is in your face, life taking place in the streets - death, excrement, bare feet, cow dung, dirt, eating with your fingers, deep-eye contact and soul connections with ‘strangers’, the friendliness of the people and their excitement at your taking their picture, sadhus sleeping or resting on the earth, fresh laundry laid out to dry on the ground, garbage, poverty, sorrow, seeking, awareness, and joy. Oh, joy!

Whatever it is that took place in Tiruvannamalai, It has brought me to a new level of awareness, of understanding, and of being. Thank you, India. And thank you, Virginia Lee, our travel leader, for creating the opportunity to participate in this wonderful journey.”

Joyce Z. Meyers

1 comment:

Welcome to our Living and Learning Community! said...

Dear Joyce,

Pranams from Sri Vast Ashram!
We are happy to welcome you back home to India and to our Ashram Community outside Pondicherry as your life path returns to this profound place of wisdom teaching and of natural transformation. It was beautiful meeting you and we look forward to get to know you better.

with our joy and warmest well wishes to you!

Nilaa Palmqvist
Sri Vast Ashram