The last several days have been frustrating in that resort-to-tweeting-in-all-caps kind of way. This weekend and today, trusty Monday, have been the most frustrating of all. Yesterday, for instance, after learning about some additional car-related hassles, I dropped a pack of newly purchased Kleenex into a pool of snowy mud that was the store’s parking lot. In that moment I thought, “It feels like Mercury retrograde. This must be Mercury retrograde.”
Then I got it.
If I were in India, I would have been primed for such frustrations and chalked it up to what India does to teach Westerners about surrender. Back at home, though, the default status I expect is that of smooth. And I had even scheduled in some transition time, so that should have been enough, right?
So, universe, I get it:
- As discussed in my last post, you want me to read Murakami.
- What happens in Mysore — equanimity for everything, all the time — should not stay in Mysore. I should maintain that sort of meta receptivity to whatever comes now that I have returned to my normal routine.
When I was in Mysore, one of my favorite night-time wind-down routines was to find a video or three on meditation teacher Shinzen Young’s ExpandContract YouTube channel.
Here’s a sense of his way of thinking about expansion and contraction:
Expansion and Contraction can take many forms…
- Increase in intensity is Expansion; decrease in intensity is Contraction.
- Speeding up is Expansion; slowing down is Contraction.
- Spatially spreading through the body or elsewhere is Expansion; shrinking is Contraction.
- Puffing up is Expansion; thinning out is Contraction.
- Outward pressure force is Expansion; inward pressure force is Contraction.
- Stretching is Expansion; squeezing is Contraction.
- When your attention is scattered, that’s just Expansion!
- When your attention is gripped by something, that’s just Contraction!
Sitting here now in my kitchen, I can see that through this lens, it’s not so much that I miss being in India (though I do); my life is here, in Michigan. It’s not that I miss the structureless days, because actually, I had a fair amount of structure (though of a slightly different type than I am accustomed to) to my days in Mysore. It’s not that I miss only being able to think about and experience yoga, because that is not how Mysore went for me either.
Perhaps it’s that I tasted, maybe for the first time, an extended period (a glorious month!) in which I could access a sense of deep, deep expansion. Though my days were structured, I could still, if I wanted, take 45 minutes to do one thing. The concept of multi-tasking was half a world away. The only times in my life that I’ve had this since childhood, probably, has been on vacation — perhaps why time off from work matters so much to me. Getting to be off the clock and getting to experience other cultures thousands of miles away are virtually the only ways as an adult that I have experienced that depth of expansion; the farther away I am from my life back home, the more I can be in tune with what is around me without worrying about all the things I normally worry about.
So for the past week, anything that I have felt as a contraction, I have either lashed out against, per my once-typical pattern of unleashing my temper like a dragon’s snarl (unexpected presentations thrown at me at the last minute) or recoiled from (driving in yet more snow without the security of snow tires — I drove to work with my husband three days last week just to avoid that anxiety).
To mix perspectives a bit, I was thinking this evening about expansion and contraction from the perspective of the gunas. Perhaps it’s not useful and even misleading to mix it up like this, but I’ll throw out what I thought about anyway: The way I’ve experienced the past week, expansion would — for me — roughly map onto tamas, and contraction would map onto rajas. I know from rajas; my normal daily life is rajas, and being able to hold onto that little injection of tamas that I found so nourishing in India would just feel so sweet right now. Except it can’t last — unless I find equanimity. Equanimity — and not a boarding pass back to Mysore — is my ticket to equilibrium, or a more sattvic state.
Um, no matter how you view it, this is hard. Can I just buy a plane ticket instead?
This morning, while straining to listen in on a work conference call and waiting inside the dealership’s lobby for the mechanics to fix my tire pressure monitoring system sensor, I was mentally retracing my steps at home to figure out where I had lost my keys (it would only be the first time today that I lost them).
Lost keys in the midst of all this, really? I couldn’t help it — I checked one of my favorite single-purpose websites: Is Mercury in Retrograde?
And this was the answer:
Deep exhale. I am trying to reintegrate post-India — DURING MERCURY RETROGRADE.
Lord, help me get through this month. Thank goodness for ashtanga yoga and meditation — or everyone around me would surely politely ask me to start looking for a flight back to India.
(Photo taken at the “Golden Temple” in Bylakuppe, Karnataka)
>>The Mysore dispatches:
Total miles flown to get to India: 8,839. And yet somehow, I always felt at home over the course of the month I was in Mysore.
On engraved rings and Mysore marking you.
The language of practice. And of sugar. And of awkward good-byes.
In due time
In the midst of the spicy masala mash of sounds that is India, I’ve been listening to Jack Kornfield’s soothing, raita-like voice read from his A Path with Heart, and I love this part: “Love in the past is simply memory, and love in the future is fantasy.”
Profiles of ashtangis telecommuting from Mysore
Need to work while enrolled at the K. Pattabhi Jois Ashtanga Yoga Institute in India? These ashtanga yoga practitioners have done it, and they want you to know it can be done. See what tips they share for how to make it work while working from Mysore.
So you helped get an ashtangi to Mysore? Thank you, truly.
So, ashtangi with the “Mysore, Karnataka” Facebook location tag — who helped get you here? Perhaps you can send them a note of thanks if you haven’t done so in a while.
Temple tour to Belur, Halebid, Shravanabelagola
I didn’t come to Mysore, Karnataka to be a tourist. But it was wonderful to be one on this moon day, doing a 208-mile round-trip drive and hitting three ancient temple sites.
Sankranti is one of the few Hindu harvest festivals celebrated in India that’s tied to the solar calendar. And it’s a new year of sorts! What an incredible month. I was in Mysore for the New Year’s Day holiday that I adore so much. Now we have Sankranti, with is promise of auspicious beginnings. And I didn’t realize until after I arrived that the day I fly home will be the Chinese New Year.
Thank you, interwebs and wifi
When I was playing my trip to Mysore, I kind of thought that the ideal way to experience this trip would be to unplug. Man, was I wrong about that one.
Castor oil baths and not (particularly) getting things done
Rest day + castor oil! I think when you’re studying yoga in India, my day so far would have been considered productive. At home, this should have all been done by noon.
And then there were four — led classes, that is
From healing to teaching, from deepening to escaping, everyone here obviously has a unique and personal story about whey they’re here right now. But is there something drawing us, collectively, at the dawn of 2014?
First breakfast, second shower, next electric practice
‘One more, 9 o’clock, small.’
How does Sharath know? And btw, where did my feet walk off to?
Since my first day at KPJAYI, I’ve found myself constantly wondering, “How does Sharath know?”
One week into my month-long stay here, it seems obvious to me that a big part of coming here is not about the practice at all — it’s about seeing where our areas of density are in our life. It’s easy to spot when a tight shoulder is the obstacle to steady comfort in a pose. For some of us, it’s harder to spot our areas of density in our daily lives.
So familiar and yet . . . so familiar
In Mysore, it helps that even when I don’t know someone, I maybe know someone.
Rain down on me
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.
Plugging my 120V self into this 220V space
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.
Emptying the cup
‘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.’
#235, 8th Cross, an eternity and a blink of eye from my first ashtanga practice
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.
Checked baggage for DTW –> CDG –> BLR
What I figuratively and literally packed, or didn’t, for my first journey to India.
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