Oh the tangled web we weave.

2015/01/img_0297.jpg

I saw this majestic banyan tree while driving out of Mysore one my one day trip to visit temples. It was simply stunning and I had wanted to stop but there wasn’t enough time. I love trees. I always have. Climbing them, drawing them, sitting underneath the canopy, I don’t know why, the beauty, the energy, the roots. I knew I had to try to see it up close.

I asked my old teacher ( he’s 11 years younger than me, love the irony of that statement) about the tree, and he was familiar with it and suggested a trusted rickshaw driver to take me back one morning. I was so excited and set up a 7 am pick up after practice. My friend Brian came along for the adventure and closer look as well. I was bubbling with excitement over visiting the tree, the drive was exquisite, the streets through Mysore were empty with all the street vendors just starting to set up for the day and a loop past the Mysore palace as the sun was just rising, so much beauty and the bizarre contrast of a mostly quiet ride through the city that usually bustles with an energy you most definitely hear.

It was everything I hoped to see, and more. There was a circle of benches spaced far enough back in a circle around it to sit and admire this gift of nature, and at the base of one side of the trunk, an alter of sorts for prayer and puja offerings. I smiled when I saw the spiritual tribute, as in my own way, I felt it too.

I’m not sure how long we had been there, walking around, taking pictures and admiring the tree when I walked past this spot of the tree again.

2015/01/img_0292.jpg

There was a branch, huge, jutting out from the tree that almost brushed the ground right in front of me. It just seemed to beckon me, climb, touch me, run up my arm! I impulsively just kicked off my flip flops and ran barefoot up the wide and sturdy branch. I felt like Mowgli in The Jungle Book! I was just starting to feel some adrenal surge inside me realizing how high up I had managed to get, when I saw and heard Dev, my rickshaw driver, running towards me from the road screaming. I couldn’t tell what he was saying at first, as the expanse of field between us was quite vast. However as he got closer, it was a voice of panic screaming for me to get out of the tree. I had no idea why at first, but Dev was adamant and scared. Repeatedly screaming to get out of the tree while waving his arms above his head. I was at least 20 feet off the ground, and I yelled back ok, I would start back down, but Dev said, “Get out now! Jump!” I was confused and frightened by his reaction, so somehow hung down and jumped from where I was, miraculously not hurting myself.

As Dev approached, I saw his concern, and I’m sure he saw my trepidation. He explained that banyan trees are sacred and the bark is considered to be a part of Lord Shiva. He was trying to protect me from the wrath of a deity and any remote chance of a passerby seeing me, thinking I was desecrating a holy place. I felt terrible for my ignorant, though innocent slight of dis honoring part of Dev’s culture. I hadn’t thought to have done any research in advance of this little excursion and had no idea of this significance. I apologized, stating I obviously had no clue, laughing a bit from my nerves, and Dev nodded and smiled, he said not to worry, he was just glad I hadn’t gotten hurt.

2015/01/img_0294.jpg

2015/01/img_0326.jpg

I spent a few more precious minutes at the tree afterwards, I kept laughing to myself and Brian while shaking my head at my pure ignorance and feeling the raw nerves start to ebb away from the high leap as well as the unsettling thoughts of Dev being scared enough to think someone seeing me in the tree would have put me in danger. Just how sacred was this tree, and what did that mean culturally? I certainly would never have marked the tree or even broken off a twig, and though the base had been riddled with spiritual offerings, actually going on it was taboo.

I reached out to my teacher after, explaining my idiocy and asked how I could make amends to Dev and Lord Shiva without extending my trip to include a trek to the Ganges for a purifying dunk. I was completely serious, as I felt awful about any perceived desecration in my ignorance. He said Dev had probably dropped me off and went straight to make an offering of puja for my transgression, but not to worry, as now I know.

Well, I have had this bizarre superstition ever since that occasionally hits my brain with worry in how to make an offering for atonement, yes I gave Dev a generous tip, for almost giving him a heart attack, but for my own heart, I decided I would paint a picture of the tree with Lord Shiva in the bark. I have yet to start it, as my hands have not cooperated. Part of the consequences of getting so sick in India re activated my RA and my thumbs are paying the price, my ode to a comfortable pincer grasp, will you be mine again? Either way I will have to deal with it and figure out how to draw and paint again so that I can still function after, but I haven’t yet, so the picture remains in my minds eye for now. I’m hoping putting my intention out will help it manifest.

On a last note, when I first got back someone I was friendly with asked how the trip went? I kind of laughed in my nervous way as there was too much to say in passing and I hadn’t yet figured out how to just say, “Incredible.”, and leave it at that. So instead I shook my head and though I don’t know why I said I don’t know where to start, the worst I did was climb a sacred tree. Before I could continue, she just freaked out. Well, I can attest everything can be misunderstood, as she looked at me and shut her eyes off. It was so disarming and I tried to explain, but she wanted to know no more. I felt sad as someone would misinterpret my action as so callous. I just didn’t know. There were no signs, no one gave me instructions, I didn’t even think it could be looked up on the web, until afterwards…in any case, I’m sorry.

Come again?

I don’t have a natural body awareness. Hence, it’s not always easy for me to translate even a visual example of how to do an asana or breathing technique. When Sharath showed nadi shodana alternate nostril breathing exercises after led class, I incorporated them into my routine. My teacher at the time came up to me a few days later and sat in front of me as I was attempting them. Quietly, he said do you mind if I show you what you are doing? I said sure go ahead. He then sat in front of me and without laughing managed to show me my exaggerated head jerks from side to side that looked more like I was trying to do some funky dance move along with my alternate nostril sounds and moves that seemed more like I was trying to shoot snot out of my nose without a tissue versus a calming breathing exercise. I was giggling and appreciated the visual I needed to get the correction from my overzealous attempt to breathe. I can be a tad too enthusiastic at times, but with anything awareness is the first step, at least that’s what I tell myself.

When I was 18, my brothers and I were visiting with my dad at a lovely golf resort on the ocean in northern Florida. We were all going out to play a round of golf, when the Pro at the club stopped us. Weekends and women were a no go on the golf course in this genteel southern community. Who knew that feminism hadn’t reached the southern parts of the good old USA…the Pro very kindly told my dad he’d take me out to the driving range to hit a few buckets of balls and low and behold, my dad and brothers happily abandoned me under the care of possibly the most stereo typical chauvinist I have ever met.

Anyway, I was annoyed at best, but decided, I would hit some balls at the driving range just to prove to this ridiculous man, that he was wrong. He was referring to me as “little lady” which was getting on my nerves, but he was my elder, and I was sighing as he said it but just ignored the slight. So there we were, and he basically just handed me a bucket of balls and said lets see what you’ve got little lady. So I set up my first shot, swung my driver and hit. I was happy with the shot, though it veered just a smidgen to the right. I grabbed another ball and went to swing again when all of a sudden Mr. Helper told me told close my face. Close my face? I had no idea what he meant.

I am sure my face expressed my befuddlement at his guidance, but in seeing my confusion, he just smiled and repeated his directions, close your face. I swung away, and sure enough the ball landed a foot away from the last one. Each time I set up, the Pro just repeated his words, usually with a different moniker for me in front of it, honey, close your face, blondie, close your face, hit and giggle, close your face. At that last one, in frustration, I looked up at him with my face all squished up and said, I’m sorry, it’s not working. In seeing me, he laughed and laughed, with tears even, and apologized telling me he meant the club face (flat part) of my driver needed to be less angled and more vertically aimed at the ball. I thanked him for the advice, left the golf course and went to the beach to have the sun and sea air erase the madness I had let him create inside me. Why couldn’t he just have spoken more clearly?

Now granted, in retrospect, there was just so much wrong with his nature as well as the club rules but as much as I knew of golf, I had never heard the term face for the flat side of a club. Was he just being a bigger jerk or had his expertise led him to a place where he had forgotten that not everyone was as intimately familiar with the different parts of a golf driver? Maybe both. His advice could have actually benefitted my game in straightening my drive, but he did nothing that day but push my buttons, and I am sure my behavior just reinforced his misogyny. I haven’t played in years, I don’t have the desire or time. As can happen with so many exchanges, clarity was woefully lacking. His attempt to improve my game or focus did not work, by assuming I had knowledge of something I did not, but for my part I didn’t use my voice when I expressed my lack of familiarity with his terminology.

I’m in the middle of a weekend workshop with Tim Miller right now, and he is a master of clarity with a dash of humor. The wisdom of 37 years of practice as well as his passion for knowledge have made for some fabulous discussions on bundhas last night with practical application in showing asana with it as well as without it, and today on the five bodies or kleshas. He discussed the process of asana combined with dristhi, breath, and bundhas in helping to burn away our toxins, fears and ego. He frankly stated that this process is not always pleasant, easy or comfortable, I agree. I’m still processing it all, so I don’t want to go into it further yet, but he also told a story about a workshop he had done somewhat recently in North Carolina where a woman in the group flipped out on him for claiming that there may be discomfort on the path to becoming your best self. She was stuck on a point David Williams had made that pain should be avoided. I think she was confused in what each master was discussing, and was lost in translation? Causing harm should be avoided, but let’s face it, as Timji worded it, not everything that’s good for us feels good and not everything that feels good is good for us…ignorance is not simply lack of knowledge but lack of willingness to understand or accept information.

On a last note, my son looked at me tonight and said, he’s so lazy, that if he won an award for the world’s laziest person, he’d ask someone else to pick it up for him…haha, I thought he spoke with great clarity:)

Who says ignorance is bliss?

I really am enjoying the country and culture of India. it is vibrant and beautiful, with hard working industrious people, adorable children and sacred cows that wander everywhere:-) Yet, still very much a developing nation, and the growing pains that exist with all that. As I most definitely am used to first world rich man problems like whether we lay a new pipe line for oil and the pollution it potentially causes. Here, they have almost daily blackouts, some days more than one. None have mercifully been terribly long. It’s just part of life here, overloading the grid in the heat of the mid day not just in a fluke or bad storm. One happened as I was sitting in the middle of a busy downtown restaurant, no one skipped a beat around me. It’s all in what you are used to.

I wrote a post a few days ago, called Welcome to India. I was really just trying to point out how little I know of India and that my street smarts are rusty from suburban living, not that they were ever great. My point was more that regardless of where you are; New York, London, Paris, Munich, Mysore…you should probably not walk up to a white van full of unknown young men as a woman alone, even if they are the friendliest people out there, because in this world we live in, that is not always the case, and better safe than sorry. However, the comments I made were misunderstood by an unknown stranger who chose anger and threats versus open dialogue.

I admit last night I was in fear going to bed, wondering if he really would come here to hurt me. He had briefly succeeded in creating terror in my body, I felt physically vulnerable as he had not just commented on my blog but a friends as well, explaining how easy it would be to find me here and use violence as a means of retaliation of his misinterpretation of my words.

As a favorite scientist and philosopher, Karl Popper, has so nicely put it, “It is impossible to speak in such a way that you cannot be misunderstood.” But alas, is rage ever the right choice of action? Where does rage arise and why? Avidya, Samskaras and Kleshas. Ignorance, past wounds, and the impediments we create in our desires, aversions, ego, and false knowledge. I have no idea what types of horrors or abuses this human being has faced, or whether anyone has shown them ahimsa, compassion, and if this person is even capable of acknowledging such acts of kindness. As we all can in moments is it just the lowest level of reptilian brain striking forth as protector of territory?

Yesterday in conference, Sharath spoke of being a young boy and seeing a group of either Japanese or Chinese tourists. He was young and naively ignorant of their purpose in his city. It was also rare to see someone so different visiting at that point, at least in the eyes of a child. I think he said one of his friends dared him to go up and say hello to them, but he said he said no, they know karate and might hurt him. It was a funny story of a child’s innocence and avidya bringing out false assumptions and fears.

As we differentiate ourselves more by culture, faiths, race, politics, sex, diet, how much you recycle, do you eat chocolate? at what point do we choose to decide animosity is ever the right option over debate or discourse? When do we allow fear or assumptions to be better choices than asking why? When did clarification questions get tossed aside? At what point do we allow broad ranged stereo types to override the fact that we are equal as human beings, deserving of compassion? There is a difference between being a mother bear protecting your threatened cub and an ornery bear. I would hope that mindfulness could exist to allow pause before reaction when accidentally coming across a mother bear..time to assess a true threat from false knowledge.

Does having compassion mean being friends? No. It means having respect, allowing privacy, natural compassionate consequences, kindness, or just leaving someone be if you don’t get along well. I know this anger and hatred has nothing to do with me personally. I truly wish they understood the word yoga, union, and grasped that there is room for knowledge and the veil of ignorance to be lifted without ever a violent action or thought.