I didn’t think I would survive the past two weeks – the ashram or being away from social media, i.e. my lifeline to the outside world. After a fabulous few days in Mumbai, I arrived in Pune, India – an upscale, green Indian city heavily influenced and built up as a result of the ashram I was to visit, Osho International Meditation ‘Resort’ as it is known. They claim not to be an ashram but I and most people I met there would beg to differ. As no photography is allowed inside of the ashram and the website is quite confusing, I didn’t know what to expect. Here are a few reflections and lessons learned from my personal point of view, having come out of the ashram unscathed, a bit more enlightened, and much calmer.
Lesson 1: Ashrams are Not All Equal
I didn’t know much about ashrams before two weeks ago and will not claim to know much more now. However, any expectations that I did have going into the experience were completely wrong. Last year, I read a few of Osho’s books per a recommendation from a friend. I didn’t know anything about Osho, the man, or his teachings but it was the first time I had read a philosophical outlook on life that I largely agreed with. At the end of all of his books, the Osho Ashram is mentioned. It stuck with me and when I signed up for Remote Year, I knew I wanted to go back to India and experience the Osho Ashram.
The only image I had about ashrams were from movies like Eat, Pray, Love where people sit on mats in rows and meditate quietly with their eyes closed for several hours per day. I also thought of ashrams as quiet, serious places where you don’t really interact with other people. There are ashrams like that – particularly vipassana meditation centers that do require you to stare at the floor and live in silence.
Before getting to Osho, I was thinking my experience would be something like that. Well, I was completely wrong! Upon arrival, I was greeted by a friendly French girl named Laura who checked me in and showed me to my private room, which was beautifully but simply decorated with huge windows overlooking a lush garden. I understand some ashrams have you live in dorms but at Osho, everyone has their own room and some people even choose to live ‘off campus’ since you are free to come and go as you please.
I signed up for the 14-day Meditation Plus Program, which included a core set of 3 one to two-hour meditations per day and optional meditations in between. In addition, I had six full days of individualized programming that I could schedule. I ended up signing up for a 7 day group program called ‘Born Again’ as well as a mixture of 1:1 sessions including chakra healing, transomatic past life discussions, hypnosis, Japanese facial massage, Reiki life energy transmission and breathing.
Before going into all of these sessions, I was a bit skeptical but was curious more than anything. I found all of the group sessions and individual sessions absolutely fascinating and generally felt more energized and alert after all of them. There’s definitely something to all of these courses – the key is to to be totally present in the sessions. I will also say all of the guides, or teachers, were very skilled at their crafts and genuinely cared about helping you.
The required 3 daily meditations provided the underlying framework for all of these courses. The first meditation was at 6am followed by two at the end of the day, including one at 4:15pm and 6:40pm. I admit I did not go to every single session but did attend the majority and when I did miss one, I felt it. Most of the meditations at Osho are a form of active meditation split into stages, or phases. If the meditation lasts for one hour, you might be humming, jumping, or yelling for 15 minutes to start with, followed by 15 minutes of breathing heavily, followed by 15 minutes of standing in one position, followed by 15 minutes of dancing. It sounds a bit funky but it is actually a huge energy release and you do it, primarily, with your eyes closed with the intention of clearing the mind. It’s much harder than you think to stop thinking, constantly planning, judging, etc.
Lesson 2: You do Have to Wear an Ashram Uniform, But It Does Have a Purpose
Osho does require you to wear a maroon ‘robe’ from 9am-4pm and white ‘robe’ from 4-9pm. These robes, which are another word for dress (women) or kurta (long shirt for men), can be purchased onsite in the Galleria. It’s basically a uniform that is quite practical for moving around, shaking, and dancing throughout the day! They have several styles to choose from, so you can still add your own personalized flare to the overall look.
In the evenings, for dinner, you wear your regular clothes. I learned to greatly appreciate the robes as they allow you to focus on people’s personalities versus their clothing. I’m the first one to say I love to dress up, wear jewelry, and ‘dress for the occasion.’ When everyone is wearing the same thing, cultural divides are broken and you can see a person for who they really are. It’s a beautiful thing! It’s amazing how much we judge people based on what they wear, myself included.
Lesson 3: Ashrams Can Be Super Social and Fun
I was genuinely surprised by how social the ashram was. After 3 weeks of essentially solo-Christina time before entering the ashram, I was feeling well trained to continue the silence for another two. Well, that immediately changed the minute I arrived at the same exact time as a wonderful Latvian. We became fast friends as we were on the same program and befriended people from all over the world throughout our stay.
I loved every single person I encountered. It was a very global group, and I now have new friends from Dubai, Holland, Kuwait, Lebanon, China, Costa Rica, Russia, and Sweden! There were certainly individuals who were there to be alone with their thoughts, and they wore ‘in silence’ pins, but the majority of people were very friendly and social. I shared most of my meals with at least one other person and evenings were full of social activities, including creativity night where I got henna tattoos, movie night, and dancing.
Generally, everyone at Osho is there seeking answers about themselves or life. I didn’t encounter anyone I would consider to be too odd or crazy as I imagined I would! Also, I didn’t know this but apparently Osho was/is rumored to host sex orgies – something I had never heard of before going – and certainly didn’t see or hear anything about while there, in case you are wondering.
Lesson 4: The Purpose of Going is Not to Worship a Guru But Use His/Her Teachings as a Window into Knowing Yourself
Before last year, I’d never even heard of Osho and can’t name a single other guru in India, though there are many still alive today. After visiting the ashram, I am by no means now a worshipper of Osho as a man or father figure, and the ashram is not a commune. During the meditations, you are expected to say Osho a few times which was a bit odd in the beginning, but the idea is to use it as a meditative saying – similar to Om or Sat Nam. Osho isn’t even his real name, which is Rajdeesh, if that tells you anything.
My understanding is that, when he was alive, it was an incredible thing to be in Osho’s presence. He had an energy different from that of other people. One girl that I met, who has visited several ashrams and living gurus did reiterate that it is something to consider doing at some point in your life – checking out a living guru as the feeling of love emanating from these individuals is unlike anything you’ve experienced before. I’ll have to take her word for it!
The idea of going to an ashram or guru, in general, is not to join a commune but to learn about yourself, your purpose, and the meaning of life using the guru as a window into your own soul, or your own inner self.
Lesson 5: Meditation is Integral to Finding Harmony, Within Yourself and the Universe
As humans, our minds are constantly at work rationalizing, planning, protecting, judging or doing anything but not thinking. The beauty and goal of meditation is to quiet the mind so that you can find harmony and peace inside of yourself. If you stop to close your eyes and just sit peacefully, you soon learn that many of life’s answers are within yourself. You just need to be open and receptive to the messages the Universe has for you.
Lesson 6: Meditation Can Take Many Forms, You Just Have to Find One You Like and Commit to It
Osho developed over 70 types of meditation and very few include sitting quietly. That is a very difficult thing to do so most of his meditations involved some sort of active movement or listening to quiet the mind and focus your attention inward. My personal favorites were dancing, listening to beautiful instrumental music, humming, jumping, and staring at a flashing light. Osho encourages you to be a witness to the buddha within yourself, as we are all a part of the one Buddha, or Universe.
There are several meditation apps available including Inside Timer and Osho’s downloadable meditations, in case you are interested in trying out meditation.
Lesson 7: You Will be Mentally and Emotionally Exhausted But Feel More Alive Than Ever
At times, I felt like I was at an exercise camp with all the movement I was doing but more than anything, getting in touch with yourself for two weeks can be emotionally and physically draining. You are releasing built up tension, pent up energy, and stored emotions that your body has accumulated over time. Letting go of these stored energies to simply be is hard work and, despite feeling tired at the end of each day, I did feel very alive, alert, and more balanced. Plus, all that movement is energizing and certain back pains I had going into the ashram are now gone.
Lesson 8: The Impact of Meditating Keeps Working Even After You’re Done with Your Daily Practice
The beauty of meditating is that the effect doesn’t stop when you open your eyes. The subconscious mind keeps on working, releasing negative energy, and finding that balance within that eventually leads to harmony and joy.
A basic premise that Osho teaches is that we are all born perfect, pure, unconditioned. Throughout childhood and moving forward we are conditioned based on the expectations and rules set by our parents and the society we live in. The goal of meditation is to uncondition ourselves and get back to who we truly are so we can be in balance with ourselves and the Universe. Only when we start trusting ourselves and the Universe’s plan for us can we find inner peace.
The goal of the Born Again class that I took was to be a child again for an hour a day for seven days. During the hour, you are allowed to play but cannot speak to other people or touch them. I was reminded of how much I love to sing, dance, dress up, create, and laugh. We have to be so serious in life and I’ve been the queen of serious in so many situations. Laughter and having fun is so much better.
Lesson 9: A Digital Detox is Good for the Eyes, Fingers, and Soul
Speaking of the Universe, it had a plan for me going into the ashram. I knew I would not have access to wifi but I did have a local Indian SIM card with data. However, minutes before getting to the ashram, my data ran out and I simply couldn’t connect to Facebook or Instagram.
It was such a miracle. By disconnecting from the world for a few weeks, you become more self reliant and present. We don’t need to be connected all the time and shouldn’t be. It adds immense stress to our lives, and the world keeps on revolving without daily posts. I discovered that I didn’t miss social media as much as I thought I would! Do yourself a favor, and take a digital detox to simply be more present and enjoy today.
Lesson 10: Going to an Ashram Is Only the Beginning – It’s Up to You to Continue Your Lifelong Meditation and Growth Practice
Now that my time at the ashram is up, the challenge will be to stick with meditation every day. Just like learning to write or speak a new language takes time, learning how to meditate takes time, dedication, and longterm commitment if you want to see yourself transform. I’m just at the start of my own inner journey but am excited about what I have witnessed thus far and the incredible people I am starting to meet and connect with as a result of uncovering this beautiful path.
Let me know if you have any other questions about my ashram experience! I’ve just reunited with my Remote Year family in Lisbon, Portugal where I will be living in July. Stay tuned for updates from this gorgeous city.