Thirteen cups of chai.

I am learning that almost every day in India is festival.

This past Sunday a couple of girls from the ashram and I spent a belated Rakhi celebration with our “house mum,” Ratna, in her village. Rakhi is a day where brothers and sisters get together to honor and give blessings to each other for the coming year. And to put a red dot on the other’s forehead (bindi) while feeding each other fantastic food. Ratna’s family included us in the ceremony; we were their “didis” (sisters). After an exquisite feast of Daal Baati (lentils with a roll-like bread cooked over cow manure coals and then covered in ghee), we talked for hours with Ratna’s family about yoga, food, and arranged marriages. At one point Ratna’s uncle asked me, “How did you get your husband to let you travel so far away?”

For us ashram girls, it was a celebration of Indian culture, family, green fields, love, and chai. As we explored Ratna’s village, neighbors came outside from their adobe-like cow manure huts. With enthusiastic hand motions and wide grins, the villagers invited us inside for a cool rest and a spicy cup of chai. We were the breaking news of the day.


P.S. Happy Rakhi, my dearest Benj.




Guruji and the Yogis.

It is said that every culture has a form of musical expression. Here at yoga school we do a lot of singing during rounds of om, prayers, and pranayam.

Mahesh, me, Amanda, and Laurel making beautiful noises

For evening arthi at the Ashram, we sing bhakti (devotional) songs. On a whim, I brought my harmonicas from the States. They’ve come in handy during our bhakti sessions, adding to traditional sounds of bells, cymbals, claps, and voices. Upon hearing us, Guruji gave us a gholak. I even bought a flute at the market to add some melody. Think Asheville drum circle with a bit of curry powder and ghee. Our current hits include “Om Namah Shiva” and “Hare Krishna.” (music video to come)

Hare om.

My first week in India has flown by. So much yoga, sweat, and strange smells have worked their way in to eight twenty-four hour periods that it feels I’ve been in Indore for one year, not one week. This week … Continue reading

Planes, peels, and personal legends.

Paramanand Institute

Indore, India


By lucky fate, strange karmic forces, or a sheer miracle, I have arrived in India. The air is heavy and smells like woodsmoke and curry anointed in body odor. There are cows weeding their way through garden trash outside my window at the ashram. A seven-year-old boy is playing tag in the hallway as his parents attend a ceremony downstairs with Guruji. It really is quite wonderful.

It was dark and raining when the tiny plane touched down in Indore. Outside the airport, I was greeted by a scrawny man carrying a sign with JESSIE BLOUNT scrawled in faded pink magic marker. My heart leaped; I had finally made it. I hopped over to the man and he led me to a group of other men. They were whispering and fumbling in their pockets with gold ringed hands. Their shirts were stained and too tight. Suddenly I thought, what if this is a huge scam? What if this ride will be my last? No one will know if I don’t get to the ashram. Hah! If there is an ashram. Maybe it’s just some creeps trying to profit over crazy westerners. My body will be lost in a ditch where passerbys drop their mango peels.

But I got in the car with them anyways. And I wasn’t too far off the mark; the taxi ride (as with every ride in India, I am beginning to learn) was quite life threatening. Indian drivers do not seem to notice the line dividing two lanes of traffic. Furthermore, stop lights, right of way, and following space are not of any importance. Yet Sanju, my driver, asked if he could “be friend to me.” He even daintily kissed my hand after dropping me off at the ashram.

There are about twelve of us studying yoga at the ashram. Everyone is from around the world: my roommate is a Thai woman living in Vietnam. My next door neighbor is a twenty-something German girl from Dubai.

We woke up this morning around 6:30am for personal meditation. Guruji came around 7:00 and we began yoga practice. Three hours melted away in meditation, breathing exercises, and Guruji’s cheesy encouragement. “Come, come, come!” (which, translated from Indian English to American English, means “calm, calm, calm!”) “Fooooocccccuuuss! Focus on your third eye. Focus on the energies!”

It was pure, unadulterated, yoga greatness. I ate it up.


I have a strong sense I am meant to be here. Whether it’s the all the cumin I have been eating or something totally different, a force has pulled me here and a curious light is keeping me here. I’ve been reading Paulo Coelho’s  The Alchemist, gloriously recommended by Austin Totty. Its bits of wisdom and adventure anecdotes have been keeping me going. This particular passage spoke to me:

“Personal calling is God’s blessing, it’s the path that God chose for you here on Earth. Whenever we do something that fills us with enthusiasm, we are following our legend.”