I got some rough news really early this morning before my led primary class. I made it to led primary, made it through breakfast, and, back in my room, as I pulled out my bucket to start washing the day’s clothes, I started crying. This happens to everyone who makes this pilgrimage to study ashtanga in Mysore, right? Some variation of being half-naked in your room with tears flowing — maybe for a particular reason, maybe for no reason.
These tears were for a friend who has just taken his own life. I’m guessing the start of a new, dark year was too much to bear.
It was my second friend in as many months who has decided death is the lesser of two evils. (For the depressed, is there a more searingly brutal time than the holiday season?)
I have so many — so many — people I can lean on here in Gokulam, but I wanted most to talk to my husband, who also knew this friend. But it was the middle of the night in Michigan.
Perhaps then . . . a little Radiohead to soothe the soul. Neither Pandora nor Spotify were available with my Indian IP address. I had a split second of panic and thought of last.fm. Only a Radiohead fan would find it comforting to be in India and able to listen to Thom Yorke’s nasaly voice singing, “Rain down, rain down / Come on rain down on me. / From a great height / From a great height…”
No small part of what I hope to do in India is find a way to honor life and sit with loss. Back when I planned this trip, the most salient loss was my miscarriage from this summer. Having two friends take their own life in the past 30 days has amplified the grief.
And . . . as I type this, last.fm has just started The Eraser’s (Thom’s side project) “Harrowdown Hill,” about biological warfare expert David Kelly who was either murdered or committed suicide in 2003.
Life is so fucking hard, and both of these friends sought solace in yoga of different stripes. I remember reading Eddie Stern’s bit on human suffering in the Huffington Post a couple years ago:
. . . everyone experiences suffering. Suffering is undiscriminating and it comes to all who live on this planet. Yoga affirms, though, that there is a way to deal with it: by practicing yoga poses, by breathing consciously for a few minutes each day, and by being attentive, thoughtful human beings, we can mitigate the mental torments we all experience.
Yoga helps. In both of these cases, I am convinced yoga helped either prolong their life or lessen the day-to-day pain somewhat. But yoga alone isn’t necessarily enough to set the train of depression on an entirely new course.
>>More Mysore dispatches:
When Sharath led my hands to my ankles in assisted dropbacks, I could feel my little 120V self had hit full charge.
In my reflections today, I decided to try, in the spirit of noting arisings and passings in all things, to see if I can start each new day this year with the type of intention that I start New Year’s Day with each and every year. Toward that end, I’m quite grateful to get to start each day with the ashtanga yoga practice — that makes such a difference in being able to enter the rough and tumble with some equanimity.
‘It’s like water in a cup. If a cup is filled with dirty, stale water, it’s useless. Only when the old water is thrown out can the cup become useful. You must empty your minds of opinions — and then you will learn.’
This post is for all the home practitioners out there. Mysore is 10.5 hours off from home (9.5 hours without daylight savings). But that’s not the time that really matters, because the time that really matters is shala time, which is set 15 minutes ahead of local time.
What I figuratively and literally packed, or didn’t, for my first journey to India.