Intentions

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I have thought many times about different perspectives and interpretation of the Yoga Sutras. Certain passages or sutras are relatively straight forward, others much more subjective and open to different viewpoints. Why even the most basic and inherent foundation of the sutras, 1.2 yogah chittavritti nirodahah, stilling the mind. Iyengar’s interpretation is, “yoga is the cessation of movements in the consciousness.” This cessation or stilling, of course, has the possibility of variable meanings. Is the intention to make a blank canvas or to allow the mind clarity over impulsivity? Maybe both or neither? Enlightenment versus letting go of fears? Freedom from ignorance? Stopping the ripples to see your soul? All of the above? None? Something else entirely? As the sutras are ultimately a code of conduct and a guide for aspiring to see your true Self, the message and intent is of spiritual development and enlightenment.

In classes at the Shala in Mysore, my teacher, Lakshmish, had me write on the white board a string of letters all next next to each other as if one word. The letters were GODISNOWHERE. He had us all then look at it and asked what we each read. I saw, God is now here, but a few saw God is no where. The difference in meaning is profound. Lakshmish explained that Sanskrit had that same subtle ability to vastly alter the meaning based on who saw which specific words in the strings as well as the philosophical intent behind the specific sutra. In studying, he said it was important to keep a positive mindset, with the intention of purity and positive thought.

Truth exists when we believe it to be true. Self fulfilling mindsets can effect not only our belief of capability but of either a positive or negative outcome or perspective. Impossible versus improbable or possible versus certain. So much is in the approach.

A long time ago, I read a book on identical twins separated at birth,
Nature’s Thumbprint: The New Genetics of Personality
Peter B. Neubauer, MD, and Alexander Neubauer. The psychologists were trying to see the differences of nature versus nurture. How alike were the twins raised apart? A quality control flaw was noticed based upon perspective. There was a set of toddlers whose mothers were each asked simply, is your daughter a picky eater?

As the authors state. “When the twins [separated in infancy] were two and a half years old, the adoptive mother of the first girl was asked a variety of questions. Everything was fine with Shauna, she indicated, except for her eating habits. ‘The girl is impossible. Won’t touch anything I give her. No mashed potatoes, no bananas. Nothing without cinnamon. Everything has to have cinnamon on it. I’m really at my wit’s end with her about this. We fight at every meal. She wants cinnamon on everything!’

“In the house of the second twin, far away from the first, no eating problem was mentioned at all by the other mother. ‘Ellen eats well,’ she said, adding after a moment: ‘As a matter of fact, as long as I put cinnamon on her food she’ll eat anything.'”

I’m curious to know, as these girls are now women, how they each feel about cinnamon as adults. Does it still entice and smell yummy? Does Shauna feel guilt over her infatuation and obsession with it, based on how she was raised? Does she have an eating disorder? Conversely, does Ellen laugh over lattes with friends and her heavy hand of sprinkled cinnamon on top, saying, when I was a baby I teethed on cinnamon sticks? I have no idea, but I hope they are both enjoying it now. Ultimately, we cannot change anyone, just our perspectives. Having a positive outlook influences how we interpret all that we come in contact with, ultimately in how we live our lives…I’m really craving cinnamon buns now!

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Patience is a virtue

I had this lovely polished stone I carried in my purse with me for quite a long time. It had the word patience on it. A friend of mine runs a gift shop and she had a bowl of polished stones on the counter each with different words, harmony, inspiration, love, peace, happiness, kindness…In any case, she very kindly told me to take one as a gift. I shut my eyes and reached in the bowl and fished around until one seemed to touch me back, I picked it up and took a look. Patience. I smiled, but my friend was disappointed, she told me I could put it back and take one with a better word, I laughed saying patience was a brilliant word, that I most certainly had not yet fully appreciated!

I put the stone in my purse, chuckling to myself I should keep it there, nearby me until the urge to not throw it at a bad driver or other frustrating circumstances arose. The fact that I have occasionally suffered with road rage on the way to yoga is just such an oxymoron….It was my talisman for tolerance and compassion. It’s presence allowed me to laugh at my own misgivings as I would feel impatience arise in me and I thought of tossing my patience, but usually if I came across it rummaging through my bag, I would just smile and wrap my hand about its coolness and think of it’s power just by knowing it was something I was aspiring to be better at achieving.

On my trip to India, I reacquainted myself and befriended an adorable five year old boy. As we were out one day, he seemed distracted by adult time around him, and I looked through my bag of tricks to see if I had anything to distract him with…I came across the stone. I pulled it out and showed it to him. He loved that it was smooth and shiny and had a word written on it. He, rather impressively for a five year old, sounded out patience pretty well on his first time. I told him, the rock was his to keep. Oh, how he beamed and thanked me, but also asked me if perhaps I could find any red rocks too? I laughed. I love the mindset of such innocence!

I ran into his family again a day or two later, and found out the rock was a big hit. That weekend his dad got sick and was I’m sure, miserable and resting, trying to get better, but meanwhile, his son kept walking around holding the rock up, saying with a smile, “have a little patience daddy.” I. Love. Kids. The levity and yet truth someone so young and naive can bring to light always inspires me.

I admit it, yes, the irony of it too, I still comically can become annoyed by bad drivers as I drive to yoga. Driving to go bliss out, be mindful, meditate, chant and do asana can be filled with stress. Morning commuting bites. However, with my rock now in safe keeping of a little one’s hands, I know that not only are all the drivers on the road now safe from the highly remote possibility I would have ever thrown the rock, haha, but that I’m fine with dealing with what comes up. Not everyday flows as we want it to, but it will flow regardless, my actions and reactions can make all the difference. Acknowledging a flaw in myself with compassion allows it to become less prevalent, less frequent, less damaging. So I’ll try to have a little patience, ideally when I need it most!

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The smell of love

Ok so maybe, the smell of an apple blueberry pie baking isn’t your idea of love but to me the smell of any yummy goodness in the oven signifies comfort, nurturing, home and love. Yesterday was the first day I felt human enough to try and be me again! I went to practice for the first time since coming home, and doing a Mysore primary felt great while doing it, but I have paid the price in soreness last night and today..baby steps are a good thing. I need to remember that advice sometime! I painted, did the mommy run around and made some favorites for dinner ( baked ziti, salad, warmed buttered naan bread and pie for dessert)

I know it sounds silly, but the domesticity made me feel better, as if the week of recovery was now behind me and I am strong and well again. ( minus the sore triceps, quads, and hammies)

My pie was inspired by the new Honey Maid graham cracker campaign. I highly suggest you watch to see the response to ignorance, it’s quite beautiful. I made a graham cracker crumb topping for the pie, indulgent and homey at the same time. Worth trying!

Blueberry Apple Pie

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

1 bottom pie crust in a 9″ shell ( I make them occasionally, but I used store bought, organic, by Immaculate, fine for speeding up the process and mess)
4-5 large Fiji or Gala apples peeled and sliced into about 1″ chunks
1/2 pint blueberries washed and picked over
3-4 Tbs sugar
1tsp cinnamon
2 Tbs corn starch or flour
I tsp vanilla

Mix together gently and place in pie shell

Topping

1/2 C graham cracker crumbs
1/3 C brown sugar
4 Tbs melted butter
1 tsp vanilla

Mix together and crumble on top of pie filling, feel free to make more topping to your tastes. Bake on a baking sheet for about 40 minutes until bubbly and edges golden. Serve warm with vanilla ice cream.

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Read the fine print.

I love coffee. I brought my own supply of French coffee to India with me, as I had heard there were differences in preparation, etc. A French press was my coveted, most needed appliance. A morning cup or two of coffee starts my day. I am quite thrilled with the expression, no coffee, no prana. It fits me and my habits enabling my need to drink a cup of Java before doing anything else.

Within this ritual, I enjoy coffee with half in half, whole milk will do in a pinch, and life in India was all a pinch;) Milk is not in cartons in India. Rather instead it comes in pint sized plastics bags.

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Many people still have it delivered every morning by a milkman, left in bins outside their doors. I was picking it up at a local bodega. I was in awe the first time, with the packaging, figuring out how to get it open, not spill it, and then transfer my precious milk to another container for safe storage in the refrigerator. Yes, I know, quite a bit of thought just in milk, but my coffee is important, and I really don’t enjoy it as much black, though desperate times can call for desperate measures.

I didn’t think much of it when the packaging was a different color one morning out replenishing my milk supply.

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However, I was wrong. The next morning, as I poured my lovely milk into my precious coffee, and went for my first glorious sip, I almost choked! I thought maybe the milk was spoiled but it was also spicy? Was it goats milk, or something else?! How could milk be spicy? Well, in India it can be. I read the packaging, and there were ingredients, beyond cows milk. Unknowingly, I had been given buttermilk accidentally by the store clerk. Unlike the buttermilk here in the States or elsewhere, this had spices in it like cumin and coriander, not exactly what I wanted to be flavoring my morning cup of Joe…sigh, it was stomach churning and yet as with everything there being so precious, I felt so wasteful in not being able to consume it. Joyfully I had made enough coffee for a second cup, which I drank black, but at least not filled with cumin. Funny how something can seem heaven sent, even when it’s not your ideal, as it’s better than none, or at least palatable! Another lesson learned, read the fine print, no cumin in my milk please.

Random acts of kindness

I have only not written this immediately, because I still tear up every time it think of how wonderful all the people were who helped me get home from India. My friends and family of course, and I adore you all the more, but in-between the Bangalore airport and finally arriving in JFK 23 hours later, was a lot of sick, pathetically weak me, needing compassion and help and getting it. I did my best, truly, but it wasn’t very good considering I had checked myself out of the hospital against my doctors advice. I was pretty much a feverish lump with a pulse. She really didn’t think I was well enough to travel, and I’m certain she was right, not without help. I’m pretty sure I looked like deaths door, but instead of dread or fear, I was met with offers of help as people asked if I was ok.

Lufthansa’s flight crews were wonderful. Doting on me, with teas and crackers, extra blankets, stretching out in their private areas. My seat mate from Bangalore ensured I was taken care of in Frankfort to make my next flight, as there was only 50 minutes, a jaunt through security and need of a wheelchair. He soothed my rattled nerves on board as well, my coping skills were spent and old fears of flying had crept into my thoughts, he saw it, and occupied me with conversation until he knew I was tired enough to rest and sleep. Once on the way to New York, my legs swelled on board the next flight from my electrolyte imbalances and the air pressure. It was very painful and terrifying, but the crew called out to all the doctors on board. They not only came forward, but read through my medical reports, checked my vitals and assured me I would make it to New York alive. One German surgeon stayed with me, for pretty much the rest of the flight, ensuring I was alright, abating my anxiety.

My wheelchair and attendant in NYC’s JFK was a charioteer, gently but quickly getting me through customs and baggage all the way to my husband and then helped us out to the car. I’m pretty sure world records were set for expedited customs and luggage. It was so needed. My prayers that day were for everything go flow smoothly and they were answered in the kindness of strangers. I thank you all from the depths of my soul. As much as this week has been one of physical recovery for me, it would have been so much worse, without the help I received. I am forever grateful xo.

Devaraja market

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“Though this be madness, yet there is method in ’t.” Yes, I love Shakespeare’s Hamlet, and this favorite line perfectly denotes the Devaraja market in Mysore. Though I will admit I mostly saw the madness!

I went there on a Saturday after being at Mysore palace in the early morning. It was really an excursion to take in the experience and maybe get some essential oils and powdered pigments for painting. There had been a man hawking anklets in front of the palace, I rebuffed, telling him I was headed to the market, saving my rupees for shopping later. Who know he would be following me for the rest of the day?

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I was obviously with friends, as the open market in Mysore is not somewhere to explore alone, and preferably with a guide or someone who has been there before. My friend Stan had mentioned a great place to get incense and oil in the market that he had been too ten years prior. He had told me about a young boy, Syed, he had met and taken videos of that had very high quality goods. No sooner had we walked into the full vibrancy of chaos, when Syed was right in front of us, now a grown up 23 year old!

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Syed was so wondeful. He, as well, remembered the earlier visit! He took us into the back of his storefront and happily started ordering us chais to get from his workers as we sat and smelled his incense and oils. Oh, the swelling pride that glowed in his face as he described his mother hand-making the incense, and showing us the difference in color as well as scent in ingredient choices! A true labor of love handed down generationally. His grandfather had won awards in Mysore for his craft with oils. Syed was passionate and joyful in his duty to continue the family business.

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I admit, I wanted them all! The scents were divine, heady and intense, but also pure, subtle, and refreshing, a great combination! My order was ready after drinking about four chai. The conversation was worth the time spent. I loved learning about Syed, his family, his exhuberance, and his work. When all was finally said and done, yes, with the anklet guy still hovering right outside the kiosk, I bid Syed farewell, and said I was going to explore the rest of the market. He looked at me and exclaimed, “But you can’t! Don’t you see, you are so blonde and white, you are the Mark of the market!” I laughed and assured him I was in good hands with my friends and that we were only going to loop through, no more purchases, he was confident with that and let me go.

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The anklet man was quite persistent. he not only followed me and found me at the market, but stayed with me negotiating all the way back outside to the scooter..he earned my purchases that day!

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A Change Of Plans

I had an unexpected turn of events last Friday. Unbeknownst to me, my body was busy fermenting salmonella as I sat in a rickshaw in 102 F weather, not a great combination, it brings about heatstroke. (Eggs are not refrigerated in India, temperatures over 100 degrees for two weeks straight, really are a disaster waiting to happen if you eat them) Without going into the gory details, I survived it all mercifully with friends, family, faith, and medical attention. A brief stint in a hospital in India and a whirlwind trip back to the States, I’m home recovering. Blessed and grateful to be back in the loving fold of my family. My practice right now is savasana.

I didn’t get to say goodbye, not how I wanted too, not how I had planned. Yes, certainly it’s a bittersweet feeling to miss those I met and those I already knew, in India, without those proper and tidy ways we are accustomed in our ideals of hugs, handshakes, last photos and words. I didn’t know my last practice at the Shala was my last. There was much still on my list, but I’m alive. My list, my desires, of course didn’t all get accomplished, yet, its completely fine.

I certainly guess I can choose to play out a should’ve could’ve would’ve scenario of what I fantasized about, but I’m not. In my heart, in my soul, I’m still breathing, still feeling, still here, present, experiencing all of it, the full gamut of what living brings, and in and of itself it is wonderful, truly.

I have a few more things I’m sure to write about my experiences in India..I will get to them in time! But for now, just prayers of gratitude for being alive, for kindness, for love, for strength, for family and friends, for breathing, for compassion, for everything, even for pain, yes…because it let me know to get help. Pain saved me first, it was my wake up call to ask for help and get it.

For now, no goodbyes, because part of me we always be there, my energy, my heart, my soul, so I prefer to say, Namaste. 💜