Spirited Away: What Yes
Lessons learned while staying with Hare Krishnas at an ashram in Argentina.
Photo Credit: Courtesy of Eco Yoga Park
In 2011, I spent two weeks with Hare Krishnas at Eco Yoga Park, an ashram in Argentina. I sojourned to simultaneously escape and know myself.
Humid and full of skeeters, this part of Argentina reminds me of the farm country where I grew up. When I arrive at the ashram, yoga is starting. A volunteer takes my backpack and leads me to the stupa. At the entrance, I take off my hiking boots and wipe my sweaty feet on the grass in an attempt to get the stink off. Inside, a Hare Krishna nun leads the class, and afterwards she shows me to my room.
I’m staying in the Eco House in the center of the garden, a coveted two-bedroom bungalow made from glass bottles held together with stucco and roofed with straw. After a steamy day navigating my 40-pound backpack in the subway, bus, and cab with limited Spanish, I lay down on my bed inhaling the faint odor of the indoor pit toilet. I’ve come here to crack myself open. The dam breaks and tears stream down my face.
The next morning I unceremoniously perform morning ablutions and head to the stupa for 4:30 a.m. meditation. Hare Krishna’s meditation style is like a big party. Volunteers, nuns, and monks whirl around me chanting and playing instruments, while I sit on the outside of the circle and smile.
At 6:00 a.m. I head to the garden to meet Maria, the volunteer coordinator. She is a spunky, petite Bolivian who lives with her husband and five kids on a neighboring farm. Working with my limited Spanish and miming instructions, Maria guides me to a row of vegetables where I pull weeds and stack them on the soil next to the vegetables. Bi-lingual volunteers disclose the placement of the weeds is to prevent erosion. The dead weeds accomplish their task, while also reseeding the weeds back into the fertile, black dirt.
The days sizzle; I often see stars while working in the garden. After a few days of work, the rows I’ve sweated over fill with what appears to be the very same weeds I pulled when I arrived. My work feels pointless and I weed with haste and anger. Over time, discontent blankets most of my tasks including watering, harvesting, and pretty much all activities associated with the garden.
Undressed to shower in the morning, I open the curtain and find a brown toad in the corner of the stall. I grab the bucket next to the pit toilet, snag the toad, and release it into the garden where I am sure it will harass me later.
Midway through meditation, I feel a tingle in the back of my pants. Since I’m already doing my best to blend into the wall of the stupa, the thought of sticking my hand down my pants is pretty uncomfortable. Eventually, I slide my hand in and scoop out a 3-inch, shiny black cockroach.
In the garden, Maria comes by to check out my work.
“Su nombre es Que Si?” Maria asks.
“Si, mi nombre es Kaci,” I reply.
“What Yes,” she giggles. “Your name is What Yes?”
Maria sees me as What Yes, but I have been What No for many years. As I move the weeds through my hands and encase the vegetables in their tentacles, I recognize the tentacles of fear and mistrust have encased my heart. Just like the weeds, fear and mistrust can be pulled one day and reseeded the next. As with gardening, there are inefficiencies and uncertainties in the process of self-growth. Lessons can come in an epiphany, but the wisdom is in the work.
Kaci Yoh has written for Yes! Magazine, Yoga International, Yoga Chicago, and Whole Life Times. She has a B.S. in Psychology and is a 200-hour registered yoga teacher and freelance writer. Visit her at www.simplifegoodlife.com.