Heaven is a place on Earth..And when the Great Indian Summer arrives, mud houses is where that place is !

by Navjot Randhawa

I have been living in Andretta since 4 years now but I had a never-before realisation this morning while walking in the fields. But before I share my realisation, I’d like you to scroll down & look at the photos below. These photos were taken by Sonny from Moira, Goa. Sonny & his girlfriend are guests staying at The Mirage at the moment.

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The Mirage Garden

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I realised that heaven is really a place on Earth ! (Yes, I wasn’t convinced until now..or I hadn’t deeply felt it until now I guess). When one has been in Delhi in the scorching heat running from one meeting to the next, coming back to one’s kachcha mud house is nothing short of paradise. The driver (local Himachali) brought up an important point. The villagers are getting rid of their mud houses and going for pucca concrete houses while the citywallahs are increasingly waking up to the joys of living in mud houses.

“Mud is a versatile building material that has been used to make some extraordinary architectural marvels -- from 1,000-year-old ksars (forts) in Morocco and 6,000-year-old arches, vaults and domes in the Nile Valley to multi-storeyed houses of adobe, sun-baked bricks of mud and straw, which is the traditional building material throughout much of Latin America“ (Down to Earth). Mud has countless advantages. Apart from making us feel close to Earth all the time (there is this typical fragrance of mud houses which is so magically intimate that one feels united with our very busy revolving planet all the time), it is extraordinarily malleable, offers better insulation, is readily available (especially in India), is simple to use as far as construction is concerned (the village folk can themselves make mud bricks & are skilled in maintenance of mud houses).

For the city folk, it is beautiful, good for the senses. It is art. The real joy is experienced when the village folk and city folk join hands to encourage mud architecture. The former know centuries-old techniques while the latter have the aesthetic knowledge. And the cooperation is heart-warming when it is not just about the money, not just about providing employment but when the latter help the former restore their own houses, particularly in areas such as roof strengthening, heating mud houses, etc.

In the summer, mud houses feel like the best thing ever because of the natural air-conditioning. Combined with a beautiful garden like the one at The Mirage, one is able to welcome the heat and make friends with the rising temperatures. After a long session of yoga, lying down on the mud floor of your cottage/Earth home is a feeling that can’t be described in words !

The Mirage hosted a yoga retreat by UK based teachers Hugh Poulton and Sarah Haden a couple of years ago. They took their students on a journey of “Mountains, Monasteries & Mudhouses”. These three are a heavenly combination for a yoga tour. I have been using the word heaven so many times in this post that it is time for more photos to give you another glimpse into what I mean..

And then if you are somewhere in Delhi, Bombay or Calcutta & feeling sick of being in AC rooms/cars all the time, come home. You can lie down in the garden, in the hammock, in the fields, in the swimming pool (it should be ready any day now) or simply help us pick the mulberries ripe for another season of delicious home-made jam..And we can take a walk in these fields around The Mirage and discuss more about what/how heaven feels like in your head..

Tashi Jong, Jung and Jogis

by Navjot Randhawa

Tashi Jong is a sacred village about 7 kms from The Mirage, Andretta. One can reach there in a taxi in about 20 minutes. The taxi costs about 300 rupees. The famous monastery Khampaghar nourishes the atmosphere of the village which sees many Dharma practitioners flock to this little village all year round. It is the main seat of Khamtrul Rinpoche, one of the most important spiritual masters of our times. 

A day trip to Tashi Jong is good for a yoga retreatant at The Mirage because it is filled with energy of a very special group of Yoga practitioners. They are called Tokdens. They are supposed to have reached high levels of realisation because of years of disciplined practice. If one goes to them with an open mind and heart, one is sure to feel their "power". I had such an experience last summer with one of the Tokdens. I had heard they can fly. I did not see any one flying but I felt "blessed", truly touched by the Yogi's presence. And after coming out of his room, I felt like I could fly !

Jogi (not the caste) is just another familiar word for a Yogi. But in my title, I used the word Jogis and not Yogis for the Tokdens I was going to talk about for the following reason. I first heard this word used in a folk song. It was referring to someone who was seeking the highest union. And that after all is the goal of Yoga which literally means "Union". And that is what this blessed feeling was all about. I felt I was with someone whose elements were in total unity and who had the knowledge to guide one to achieve that unity. In his presence (photo below), I felt one with everything and every one around me.

For some reason I could not stop thinking of Jung's philosophy of Alchemy while I was there. For example, even when you are choosing a yoga retreat...how do you finally make your decision? I mean of course you take all the practical things into consideration. But then all retreat spaces have something or the other exciting to offer. How do you really "choose"? Isn't there always that gut feeling or the inner voice that goes "Boom" and then the decision gets made? Isn't there always a bit of alchemy at play, especially when big decisions, like travelling to a foreign land are concerned?  

Carl Jung, a Swiss psychoanalyst who died in 1961, says in "Psychology and Alchemy", 

"The real mystery does not behave mysteriously or secretively; it speaks a secret language, it adumbrates itself by a variety of images which all indicate its true nature. I am not speaking of a secret personally guarded by someone, with a content known to its possessor, but of a mystery, a matter or circumstance which is "secret", i.e. known only through vague hints but essentially unknown."

I had this feeling again when I stayed at Tashi Jong a few days ago. Of the way we take our decisions being essentially an unexplained phenomenon. I was climbing down the stairs of my guest house when a group of very young people arrived in a taxi. They started walking to the temple as I did. They seemed to be very excited so I decided to enter after some time. I wanted to go in when I could be alone there...But since they were taking quite a bit of time, I just went in. And I found myself in absolute silence. All of them were sitting in a row, hands in prayer. I sat behind them. We sat there together, in silence, for a long time. An answer I had sub-consciously been wanting to appear since a few weeks appeared, right then! And that night at the cafe of the guest house, I watched a cricket match with 2 monks ! I felt so much at home..

We could be listening very sincerely to all our advisors, we could be making our choices according to our patterns or in an effort to rebel against them.

But my understanding is that decisions, especially the ones that have something to do directly with our body and spirit get made in that part of our mind which cannot be explained by logic. And so however much we try to explain through words why we are doing this or need to do that, we fall short of words. That's why perhaps sometimes we just come in the presence of a stranger and feel something we cannot articulate...that's why perhaps sometimes we look at the picture of a space and we feel like it is calling out to us...

So if you are still planning a trip to The Mirage, the decision will of course just make itself but if you are already here looking for miracles/answers, perhaps a trip to Tashi Jong and an attempt to try to seek out the Tokdens is worth it..  Hopefully the mystery will reveal itself..even if only through vague hints !

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