Posted on 20 October 2014.
Food is often mentioned in reports from the Europe tour and it’s unavoidable as there is so much excellent organic food, and sharing food is so much a part of the social life and culture of Europeans. Despite eating well, Europeans are not overweight as a group and are seen biking, walking and running regularly. There is a culture of fitness and it reflects in both young and old.
The tour staff is well nourished by the devotees who provide three meals a day to keep them going during the long program days. On this tour we have been treated to several donations from local food growing ashrams and devotees, like jams, olive oil and olives from the Spanish ashram, more jams and organic apples in Germany and here in Switzerland, along with nuts, syrups and jams, Swiss cheese donated from a dairy 5000 metres up in the mountains. It was really touching that they would send a big wheel of cheese produced with so much work and care, and the cheese was very delicious.
The program in Winterthur is in a very lovely location, next to river and under a small mountain. It was a nice chance to get some fresh air and enjoy the beauty of nature between programs. Balmy weather and an early arrival the day before the program saw most of the staff enjoying a chance to exercise and soak up some Vitamin D in the sun. Small kitchen gardens surround the hall where the program is held and the unusually warm autumn weather meant that many flowers and greens were still growing, along with the seasonal squash, pumpkins and cabbage.
We encountered some early morning gardeners and asked about their plots. It turns out that small pieces of land can be rented from the town for a nominal amount and the locals can grow their own flowers and vegetables as well as have a place to picnic. Many of them have constructed tiny huts, like playhouses, where they keep tools. They also collect the rain water from the roofs in barrels to use to water their gardens. They asked if we were from Amma and were interested when we told them how Amma is encouraging everyone to have kitchen gardens, grow organic produce and harvest rainwater. They then asked how they could meet Amma, something that hadn’t entered their minds before. It reminded us of how many routes Amma has created to form a relationship with her.
The local volunteers and tour staff had an unexpected treat the night before the program when Amma made the surprise announcement that she would serve dinner. The kitchen scrambled to come up with something very quickly for many more people than expected to need dinner. We just had time to assemble before Amma arrived, beaming at everyone. She was shown a sample dinner plate and frowned, seeming to tell the cook it looked skimpy. He made a helpless gesture, like what can I do Amma. No time. However, people ran around and collected “donations” and more diverse items were added to the plate, like a small boiled potato, half a cookie, a cracker or a biscuit garnered from different stocks of provisions. Little Aikyam continued his adventures with potatoes as Amma peeled five small boiled potatoes one after another and fed them to him.
Amma asked for the usual spiritual jokes and stories and gave a short satsang on the importance of focusing on spiritual practices here and now and not procrastinating. She then sang “Guru Vani Vadi” and indeed how sweet are the Guru’s words. Refreshingly, there was complete silence at the end of the song and Amma sank into meditation along with roomful of people.
Amma also sang at the end of the second night of the program, an unexpected boon, as there is only one evening bhajan program in each city, as the first night is an all day and half the night continuous program and the final night is Devi Bhava. Some people at the very end of the darshan queue seemed to have very serious problems and perhaps that influenced Amma’s mood as she chose very deep and philosophical songs, rather than the rousing bhajans that are usually the evening finale.
Smiles mixed with tears as Devi Bhava ended. The sun looked like the moon shining through the thick mist that had descended into the little valley of Winterthur. After one last trip to the staff room for that Swiss cheese, bread, cucumbers and tomatoes for sandwiches, the group began the journey to Paris, where enthusiastic volunteers were preparing for the Sunday program that would be the biggest of the tour so far.
Europe Yatra 2014