7th series

It’s that time of year for ashtangis to head to Mysore. I have friends there now, I’ve been seeing at least some of their lives unfold there online, on Facebook. Some inquiries as well, will you be there, have you sent in your golden ticket? It was tempting, no doubt, especially with all the photos online. The cows walking through town, trips to nearby temples, and the food shots, as well as the occasional gratuitous asana, all in real time pictures. I will admit, between that and the wonderful friends I made in my journey at the end of last winter into spring, yes it has a pull. And though those reasons are all the fun extras of the culture and like minded friends, it’s really all about the practice and study, isn’t it? That, for me, is where the true magic awaits.

I take nothing away from my experiences in going, it was a gift and blessing to have been to the source and feel the energy, for that I thank my family. However, my family comes first, leaving them again, is just not possible now, and might never be. My duty, if I can use Sharath’s definition of duty being a love, is to and for my family. Though I hate the word selfish in the pejorative aspect that has been given to it, I am selfish, we all should be, in the sense I mean. Do no harm, ahimsa, is compassion and forgiveness for all, including yourself. The yogic principles don’t have an outward drive, but instead, inward, to the light, so if that defines me as selfish, by all means, I’ll take it, I want that inner light in my heart.

My best efforts on this ideal path often lead to failures, but within those moments of humanness I know that I have a place in this world. My duty and loving devotion is to my family. I have not relinquished my connections to the daily grind with the ability or desire to give up my duty to my life with my family, quite the opposite. I have in yoga, been able to enjoy it all the more. I have found peace in knowing all I can do is try, to the best of my capabilities, to work, to be a partner, a parent, a teacher, and all the other roles I partake. To hopefully not repeat the same transgressions as I age, if not evolve, to find wisdom in my experiences. To put it simply, I practice yoga because it makes me feel better, physically and emotionally, which in turn helps me be a better person to all…even that guy that cuts me off driving.

Traveling to Mysore is a wonderful experience. I don’t condemn anyone with a family choosing to go on that journey, I know I too have felt that pull, and I’d be lying to myself if a future though remote opportunity wouldn’t make me happy to attempt it, if the stars aligned. I know it’s a sacrifice, for all, but timing is everything, and for now, I’m needed at home. I may never step foot on Indian soil again. It’s not going to halt anything in my practice, except that I most likely won’t receive authorization.

Personally, I most assuredly can attest, authorization is not the goal I strive to attain, I want something much more than a piece of paper, I want the whole enchilada, samadhi, enlightenment, bliss, as Guruji says in Yoga Mala, the mind seeks the Universal Self, or Atman. ( whether authorization alone makes someone a capable teacher or not, is a debate I am not addressing in this) I practice to try to my best duty, to strive towards that goal, and yes a Guru, such as Sharath can help you find places to explore on the path in your map. However, at some point, the guru is also inside you, whether you trek to a master or practice quietly at home or a local shala with an experienced teacher, the stilling or harmonizing of the sense organs to achieve inward direction towards the realization of ones true nature, can happen without traversing half way around the world, or not. I whole heartily believe in parampara and all that it means in having a teacher, but I will go farther to say a month in India with Sharath is fantastic but will not guarantee any enlightenment, nothing can.

There are so many factors, and though each human, we all have our own unique biases, strengths, and weaknesses. Daily practice? Absolutely. What does that mean? I can’t answer that for anyone but myself.

Crazy yogi

So, here I sit, in Mysore India, it’s 90 degrees. My family is home in Connecticut sleeping as there is ten and a half hours and 80 degrees cooler(brrr!) between us. I’m gone from their daily routines for a total of 38 days while I immerse in study, in my yoga practice at the Shri K. Pattabhi Jois Institute. I adore my family, yet left, albeit briefly in the large scheme of things, and they can’t quite understand why, and better yet, I have an extremely difficult time putting it into a coherent rational explanation.

They all see me going to practice six days a week. I hope they feel the peace and grounded mindfulness it brings me and ideally my interactions with all of them. They have even all at minimum tried it! My husband has been going with greater regularity and though he states it makes him feel good, he still doesn’t grasp my spiritual connection to the practice. That’s ok, because I do, and he respects that. It’s not a cult, I’m not worshipping a new diety, but I do pray each and every time I get on the mat, grateful for life, contentment, love, joy, and wonder. My practice is not always picture perfect, far from it, sometimes I’m stiff, in pain, annoyed, sad, impatient, frustrated, possibly even in tears, but I always feel better for the attempt, for the realization of my best effort of that day and that moment. Grateful for the energy and heat the sun salutations ignite all the way till the end of practice cooling down in rest where I’m ready to start the rest of my day.

I first felt a calling or whisper in my head saying go study a few years ago, I felt it was a pipe dream. Mysore is about as far from home as I could go. Eighteen hours of flying time( I abhor air travel), 6 hours of driving and a 3 hour stopover in Frankfort. My knowledge of India up to this point had been watching Slum Dog Millionaire, Magnolia Hotel, and Monsoon Wedding. As a recent addition, friends had recommended reading Culture Shock India and Shantaram: A Novel. I’m not a jet setter, though I have travelled, just no where in the Far East, it always had seemed a world away, too far off my comfortably beaten path. I should also add I’m somewhat of a homebody and have never, not once in my life lived alone, or been alone for more than a week, and that week was a tough one.

So why, why would I choose to leave my happy, stabile life for this? Why for missing my husband, my children, my dogs, my bed, fresh water, and a hot bath for a bucket shower, distilled water, and cow dung in the streets? To study ashtanga yoga Mysore style with Sharath at KPJAYI, to chant, to study the yoga sutras, take Sanskrit classes, to immerse without the daily minutiae, without any distractions and face my demons without the excuses that are all too easy in the life of a busy bustling family, because they are the most important pieces of my world. They are the people I love and cherish and live to be with and desire to be happy and healthy. Weather, homework, chores, running around, cooking, work, emotions, effect all of us all day everyday. I’m not running away from them, I desire all of it, and right now a big piece of me has a painful void missing it, yet I’m here, because another piece of me has been begging inside to delve deeper into my practice, to seek and understand those moments on the mat of what yoga truly brings, a stillness of the mind, exploring outside the comfort zone of security, structure, love, and home, no distractions just focus.

My husband worries about non-attachment, will I come back uncaring or cold? I don’t view it that way, non-attachment is not indifference nor does it mean that I would ever relinquish my very loving blessed life at home, but maybe it means I’ll learn to not stress as much about how everything turns out, maybe the negative emotions of worry and fear will fade away to allow me to be completely present, enjoying this moment without attachment to what comes or doesn’t come next. Knowing that all I can ever do, regardless of what happens is my best effort of that day and that moment. I do experience that at times before my brain starts on the list of what ifs, and yes thankfully I’ve added some decent tools to my inner toolbox to try and let them go as they arise inside, but hey I’m human like everyone else and it’s all just practice. For now, I hope and pray my family, who I miss beyond words, will be ok without me for this small period of time, because I know, that their days are longer in missing my presence. I send them loving thoughts and feel tremendous gratitude that they are doing the daily grind without me until April 5th.