Wednesday, January 12, 2011

The Resort and the Ashram

When I arrived at Nassau airport I had my winter boots on and it was about 80 degrees.

That’s as out of place as I felt in general.

The Customs guy asked if I was headed to the yoga retreat. That’s what the Bahamians call the ashram. I said he’d hit the nail on the head, how could he tell?

You look like you need it, he said.

First thing I learned about Bahamians – they don’t hold back.

You look tired, he clarified.

I made it to the ashram, which is a five-minute boat ride across the bay from the Mermaid dock.

I’ve been to Bermuda and the Cayman Islands, but I don’t remember water so blue and pretty.

I got through reception and to my dorm room, a simple white bungalow with no TV, Internet, family, friends.

I put my stuff down, changed my clothes and immediately went for a run on the beach. I ran until I was soaked with sweat and starting to get too tired for more running.

Then into the shower and it was time to eat.

At the ashram, you only eat twice a day, and I was hungry, so I, regrettably, covered every inch of plate high with food.

I found a nearly empty table that soon was full and I was surrounded by very lovely people, all interested in getting to know me and exactly where they wanted to be.

I wanted to be where they were, but you can’t manufacture it.

I went to bed exhausted, with one nostril stopped up so I couldn’t breathe and wondering how I’d fill up tomorrow.

I could hear the waves of the pretty blue water just outside my window. For that, I was so grateful.

Hello, Atlantis

There’s a schedule at the ashram. You wake up at 5:30, there’s meditation at 6, then kirtan and a lecture, then a yoga class at 8 and breakfast/lunch at 10.

I got up a little after 6 and while everyone else was meditating, I had my own private yoga class on the beach platform, a lovely space on the sand, feet away from the prettiest water.

I felt so lucky.

When it was over, the panic about filling up the rest of the day came back.

I thought of things I could do as I walked back to the room to put my mat away. What I really wanted was to not have to decide what to do right away and just walk on the beach, so that’s what I did.

Straight to the ashram’s neighbor, Atlantis.

The first thing I found was a Starbucks.

Good to know, I thought.

This Starbucks has flat-screen TVs playing CNN.


I spent the rest of the morning checking the place out.

Atlantis has a Nobu and other such restaurants. A casino. A Versace with thousand dollar dresses and $856 jeans.

There’s also an outdoor market with a Jamba Juice, watch/jewelry stores and the typical tourist-spot shopping. The market is on a pier with private yachts across the bay from pastel-colored houses.

There are pools, slides, rope bridges to walk through.

But the best thing about Atlantis is the aquarium.

It has sharks. Long, green fish that I think were eels. Big, wide fish with tennis-ball eyes. One came right up to the glass to check me out for a long time.

I wondered if he was desperate for a diversion too. A human to occupy his time with in his artificial environment.

I looked into his big eyes and he looked back at me. I felt a pang of guilt walking away as he stood in his spot, committed to making a connection. That, or he thought I had some fish food on me. Who knows?

At a certain spot the aquarium becomes a tunnel with water on both sides of you and above your head.

I stood in the middle of the tunnel and looked up. The white of a sting-ray’s belly glided across the top of the tunnel over and over, back and forth.

I thanked Atlantis for being there as an option and went back to the ashram about halfway through breakfast.

Two people I’d met at dinner the night before were planning to go into town after eating, and I went with them.

The boat driver who brought us across the bay pointed out the world’s largest cruise ship, Oasis of the Seas. Next to it was the world’s most expensive private yacht.

So this is where the richest people come, I thought. Same place as me.

Downtown Nassau is busy with merchants who really want to sell you things. One of the people I was with was desperate for chocolate, so we stopped in every store we thought we could find some chocolate.

It wasn’t as easy as in the states.

When we’d covered town we waited at the Mermaid dock with other people visiting the ashram for the boat to take us back.

The conversation turned to Atlantis. Most people at the ashram seem to turn their noses up at the place. So garish. So loud. So fake.

People who go there are looking for something different from what we come to the ashram for, someone said.

That’s not true.

Whether you look for it at Atlantis or the Sivananda ashram, in a bar or temple, at a club or a bookstore.

We all want less suffering, more happiness.

But it isn’t just ashramites who can be judgmental.

I was standing at the dock on the ashram side of the bay one day and a tour boat passed by. The guide pointed to the ashram and said into a microphone, “here, there’s no smoking, no drinking, no fun!”

I waved to the people on the boat and laughed at what the guide said, and the people in the boat waved back at the girl who chose to vacation in an ashram, laughing on the dock.

Life isn’t meant to be heavy. Not in an ashram. Not in Atlantis. It’s supposed to be light. It’s supposed to be fun.

It was a mix of the two, the real world and the yogi world, that helped me to see it again.


  1. sounds like a fun time. no life shouldn't be heavy, i guess we make it that way, funny how we do that to ourselves without even realizing it.

  2. welcome back to snowy nj- i'm npt writing much becasue this is a test.