The road to Anahata
There was plenty to reflect upon as the Rickshaw bounced along the dirt road through pastoral farmland towards Ravandur, after spending the previous three weeks touring Mumbai, Goa and Bangalore. My intention was to explore India, the birthplace of the mind-body balance. After extensive searching online, Anahata Healing Arts Centre seemed the perfect place to start.
Upon arrival, friendly locals pointed down a sleepy village street, guiding me to the entrance of Anahata Healing. Rakesh greeted me, and made me feel completely at home as I sat down to lunch with current guests Connor and Keren. Later, I was met by a warm welcome from Kiran (the founder of Anahata) who gave me an overview of what Anahata provides for both the guest and the community. He simply said, ‘there is no rush, have a good sleep take your time, tomorrow see what is going on around the grounds, then you can decide if this is something you would like to support’. This sense of freedom and flow has set the tone of my experience here.
Over the last few years, I have become more aware and interested in the subtle interaction between lifestyle and our happiness and health. Insights from Alan Watts, Wim Hoff and Bruce Lipton (to name a few) have, in their various ways, brought home the importance of the human-environment interaction and the power of the mind. Recent literature such as Chris Kresser’s ‘Unconventional Medicine’ has highlighted the downside to the current symptomatic health care system in the USA and worldwide. Kresser suggests an alternative way to deal with the root cause of chronic conditions by reaching out to holistic practitioners from the local community that can help balance a patient’s lifestyle. Gut by Giulia Enders gives an overview of our digestive system and the impact our gut bacteria and its subtle balance has on our bodily functions and behaviour. The root of this wave of literature emphasises the importance of lifestyle for our health, and the understanding that we are part of nature not in opposition. Much of the world is down the path of complete separation from nature, bringing about chronic anxiety and imbalance. Therefore, it seems natural to counteract this trend and go back to the ancestral roots in order to try and restore balance in our lives. We live in a world where priority has been given to progression and quick fixes in this busy world. Who can argue that the humans have not created and achieved some amazing feats in the modern era, not least the internet. This powerful tool opened the door to the experience that follows.
Life at Anahata
Each day at Anahata is varied, spontaneous and goes at whatever pace you choose. Below gives a flavour of a ‘typical day’.
The initial lack of structure and definite time schedule can be a shock coming from busy cities and work schedules, but once you let go of expectations, things just happen. This gentle way soon starts to filter deep within your soul.
Typically, the day starts with a short walk to the local temple where you can practice yoga as the orange eastern sun slowly rises in the sky. Coffee or chai with Vishwanath and the local gentlemen was always a treat, sharing an eclectic mix of conversation topics. Back at the center there is an opportunity to relax in the communal area or for some mindful weeding in the garden, before a traditionally cooked breakfast sourced from the grounds and local farms.
Kiran’s philosophy regarding food: Eating natural food reduces mental stimulation providing clarity of thinking. “Tell me what you eat, and I will tell you what you are (Brillat-Savarin). The afternoon is an opportunity to be with yourself, spend time with the local workers building and gardening, taking time out to practice your own yoga in the ashram, read, or simply be with the natural surroundings.
For a few days, I was given the chance to help out and absorb the traditional building of an outdoor sun area for the elderly. It was fascinating to see how the men and women worked together efficiently at the task in hand without modern tools, and there was always time to smile and chat in the hot midday sun. I was lucky enough to witness a beautiful moment towards the end of one of these days:
While taking a welcome chai break in the shade with the workers and their family, Ammu (the little girl below) was sitting on the step next to me playing with her father, Ramesh. Her older brother came back from school brimming with excitement holding a piece of paper. Even though I could not understand the conversation, it was clear that the paper was very special. The little boy proudly held it up to his father and then mother (Mangala), who both showed a genuine interest and sharing of the little boys happiness. As the sun was setting on another day of happening, I couldn’t help but feel immensely warmed by this family’s love. The people here have little compared to Western expectations, however they are rich in heart.
This feeling of community and warmth happens as a way of life here. Two Irish ladies, Mary and Anne-Marie, and Amber (a chef from Wales) who themselves brought much joy, were leaving the following day, so Kiran set up a surprise evening yoga and mudra chanting at the temple. All the local women who the girls had got to know over their time here attended and after the singing of beautiful mantras there was delicious home cooked food for all to enjoy as the sun set. It was humbling to see each lady showing genuine sadness for the ladies departure and asking Kiran ‘why could they not say for another day and have food over theirs tomorrow?’ The atmosphere of smiles, tasty local food, and simple joy in each other’s company provided a deep sense of contentment and acceptance.
It’s exactly this community spirit Kiran is trying to foster, as he is aware of how modernisation and religion has a tendency to spread communities far and wide ‘leaving a space between the mind and heart’. The need to advance and keep ourselves busy has left a gap between our heart, mind and body. Kiran is looking to bring back our innate needs that have been blurred by an overstimulated modern lifestyle. Methods such as yoga, working the land, clean eating, community functions and good company in natural setting are all ways to support this concept.
Evening dinner was a time to reflect on the day’s events and share stories with the other guests, as well as Kiran. Whether it was insightful holistic healing remedies from Maureen and Keren or sing-alongs with Akil, Lance and Keiko, it was all shared in an atmosphere of respect and good fun.
It is the genuine sharing from all the people here that makes a day at Anahata fulfilling and the night restful.
Kiran and staff have an intuitive knowledge of the land and people’s needs. There is a close family feel where all members have their virtues and place, allowing everyone to learn from one another. This feeling of family extends to the community where welcome waves and offerings of tea as you walk down the street are the norm.
Kiran has provided an environment to live with mindfulness, ‘it is up to you what you let in and take away’. Anahata Healing is place where you can go back to the simplicity of nature and detoxify the mind.
‘No matter what stage in life you are at, the root is nature and connection with the heart’ (Kiran).
What I have learned from this community will stay with me for a lifetime. So thank you to the Anahata Healing family. I look forward to keeping in touch and carrying forward this experience.
Enders, G., Enders, J., & Shaw, D. (2015). Gut: The inside story of our body’s most underrated organ. Vancouver: Greystone Books. Chicago Style Citation. ISBN: 9781922247964.
Kresser, K. (2017). Unconventional Medicine: Join the Revolution to Reinvent Healthcare, Reverse Chronic Disease, and Create a Practice You Love. Lioncrest Publishing. ISBN: 9781619617476.