Moons, paper, words, dreams

March 2014 moon cycle

I listened in India, and perhaps what I heard were not so much words but echoes pointing toward images I didn’t understand.

Since returning home, I’ve sought out ways to set aside words — what I understand (or think I understand) best — and connect to images.

The Moon, Hanson Roberts deck

The Moon, as envisioned in the Hanson-Roberts Tarot deck

The world I live in is saturated with words, so this took some conscious effort (and, it turned out, the effort did end up involving reading lots of printed pages). I wrapped myself in Kabbalah and the Power of Dreaming: Awakening the Visionary Life by Catherine Shainberg and I climbed down into my first work of fiction in years — the 925-page tome of IQ84 by Haruki Murakami, a novel in which characters look up into a sky with two moons.

***

And since I’m on the subject of moons . . . I feel as if I haven’t been able to stop looking at the moon these last couple of nights. It took deepening my ashtanga practice to start to more viscerally feel the effects of the moon, and now I am madly in love with the experiences of our tethered energies. (Have you also been feeling the effects of closing in on the full moon? If you have and don’t have anyone to talk about it with, you might want to check out “Moon Swings.”)

Murakami opens IQ84 with these lines from “It’s Only a Paper Moon“:

It’s a Barnum and Bailey world,

just as phony as can be,

But it wouldn’t be make-believe

if you believe in me

It was my husband — an ardent Murakami fan who has told me for years that I need to read this guy’s stuff — who told me about the famous story, set in a baseball stadium, of how the Kyoto-born jazz club owner become a writer. That story is recounted here:

Murakami was born in Kyoto in 1949 and could not relate either to the esoteric delicacy of his parents’ traditions – they practised Buddhism and taught Japanese literature – or the hyper-capitalism taking shape around him.

“Most young people were getting jobs in big companies, becoming company men. I wanted to be individual.”

As a teenager, Murakami had read “all the great authors” – Dostoevsky, Kafka, Flaubert, Dickens, Raymond Chandler. He spent his lunch money on pop and jazz records. He wanted a lifestyle that guaranteed maximum exposure to the warmth of Western books and music, so he opened a jazz club where the music was too loud for conversation and read books at the bar until his customers considered him anti-social.

And then there was an epiphany. “Yes, epiphany is the word,” he says.

It is, he says, the only truly weird thing that has ever happened to him. He was watching a baseball game between the Yakult Swallows and the Hiroshima Carp one day in April 1978. A US player called Dave Hilton hit the first ball way out into left field. And at that extraordinary moment, Murakami realised he could write a novel.

“It was very strange,” he says. “My customers didn’t believe it. My wife was so surprised. I had no ambition to be a writer because the books I read were too good, my standards were too high. But that’s what happened. I bought pens and papers and started to write that day.”

The first line of his first novel, Hear The Wind Sing, went like this: “There’s no such thing as perfect writing, just like there’s no such thing as perfect despair.” And so Murakami began a story with no plot or meaning. He was writing but he had nothing to say.

© YogaRose.net and Rose Tantraphol, 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to YogaRose.net with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Mercury retrograde — or a bumpy post-India reintegration?

dragon

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:

mercury

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:

My month in Mysore, by the numbers

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.

Etched

On engraved rings and Mysore marking you.

Lingua franca
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.

Happy Sankranti
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?”

Pink kurta
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.

#gratitude #possibilities
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.

© YogaRose.net and Rose Tantraphol, 2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to YogaRose.net with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

 

 

 

[Mysore dispatch] My month in Mysore, by the numbers

Featured

Mysore by the numbers

Here’s a little overview of my time studying at the K. Pattabhi Jois Ashtanga Yoga Institute in the city of Mysore, located in the southern Indian state of Karnataka.

Travel

  • Total miles flown: 17,678
  • Total hours on a plane: 36-plus (It wasn’t too bad, if you think about how far I traveled.)
  • Hours Mysore was ahead of the time back home: 10.5
  • Weight of my check-in suitcase going to India: 47 pounds
  • Weight of that same suitcase returning: 64 pounds(!) (Still working on the whole traveling light thing, but I am quite pleased that I at least came in under the weight limit on the way there — baby steps, people.)

Flight map

Dosas, upma, Mysore pak, chai and coffee

  • Days I ate Indian food: 33 out of 33
  • Days I took pictures of my food: Probably 33 out of 33 ☺
  • Number of those meals eaten in the home of the cook: 8
  • Times I craved something other than an Indian meal: 0 (Seriously — although I did have a hankering after a while for avocados and cranberry juice.)
  • Chaat dinners: 2 (My dad told me that he thought chaat dinners are sort of like Indian dim sum, and he was right. How awesome!)
  • Pieces of the special regional dessert called Mysore pak that I tried: 1/3 (couldn’t do any more of those – so sweet!)
  • Cooking classes I took: 2
  • Odds that I’ll be able to make the dishes covered in those classes for you: Nearly nil (Masala dosas, for instance, basically require 24 hours advance planning/prep – um, that is not gonna happen with my schedule…)
  • Times I thought, “I can resist this dosa”: 0
  • Times I got to try the perfectly prepared chai, dosas and idlies at the place known to ashtangis simply as “the secret breakfast place”: 1 (Thanks again, JC!)
  • Times I thought, “I can take or leave this South Indian/North Indian thali — now, where’s that dosa/idli/upma?”: Lots :-) (It’s all about the dosas, idlis, upma, bisi bele bath for me!)
  • Times Sharath said “No coffee, no prana” directly to me: 1
  • Cups of chai I drank (estimated): 75 (They’re itsy cups compared to U.S. cups. But still!)
  • Cups of chai I wanted to drink (estimated): 150 (Yes, I have a chai problem.)
  • Cups of coffee I drank: 3 (Proving that while it was hard to give up coffee last year, it would be much harder to give up chai if I lived in an area with easy access to good chai.)
Secret dosa

It’s hard to tell from this photos, but this was the absolutely perfect dosa — and from a place I could never find on my own.

Life in India in January (external)

  • New Year celebrations that fell in the month I was there (Jan. 1, Sankranti, Chinese New Year): 3
  • Christmas trees I saw still up in January: 2
  • Times I was head-butted by a cow: 1 (I was just minding my own business!)
  • Old friends in town while I was there: 7
  • News friends from all over the world I made while there: So many ☺
  • Times I thought, “India is way too hot for me.”: 0
  • Mornings I thought, “Man, it’s chilly here…”: 5 (Mornings were in the low- to mid-60s)
  • Times my husband, who was shoveling through the record-shattering polar vortex that brought wind chills of nearly -30 Fahrenheit, gently warned me not to complain to him about the chilly mornings: 1 (I did not need a second warning. But I did get around this by tweeting one other time about the cold.)
  • Temples visited: 8
  • Steps walked up for one of those temples: Nearly 700
  • Optional steps that I could have walked up for one of the other temples: 1,000 (I told the rickshaw driver to go straight up and skip the steps!)
  • Palaces visited: 1
  • Days I dealt with something worked-related: 13
  • Blog posts posted: 21 (I would have had at least one a day, but when work started up, blogging had to take a back seat.)
  • Blogs I would still like to post: At least 3 (We’ll see if I have time this week — I am looking at my work schedule and I won’t hold my breath.)
  • Times it took me on the back of a scooter to feel comfortable: 1 (This was a surprise to me! I thought it would take longer for me to feel safe.)
  • Times I missed driving: 0
  • Number of massages (though I was tempted!): 0
  • Visits to the pool (didn’t bring a bathing suit so that I would not be tempted): 0
  • Castor oil baths I took in my bathroom: 4
  • Graphic novels read: 1 (While everyone else was rocking out with heavy literature, I was finishing Daniel Ingram’s Mastering the Core Teachings of the Buddha: An Usually Hardcore Dharma Book and a graphic novel I round at Sapna Book House about a modern-day incarnation of the goddess.)
  • Times the Japanese author Haruki Murakami came up in conversation around Mysore: 3 or 4 (I get it, universe. I should read Murakami!)
  • Episodes of the new Sherlock season I watched: 3 out of 3 ((I have exactly one pop culture obsession, and Sherlock is it.) Happily, all the new episodes aired on a Friday night before a rest day — proving that India doesn’t always avoid cooperating with you. ☺
sankranti

Happy Sankranti!

Life in India in January (internal)

  • Times I thought, “What am I doing here? Why did I come?”: 0 (Everything felt so familiar, and as it should be.)
  • Times I thought, “I could live here!”: 0 (I am really grateful for my life in Michigan — even though it would have been easy for me to stay another month. :-) )
  • Nights I lost sleep to crying over love in the past: 1 (I am guessing one night of sleep lost to crying is a low number, if you were to talk to people. For so many people, part of this pilgrimage involves uncorking emotions — it makes sense, right?)
  • Mornings I woke up to terrible, heart-wrenching news about a friend back home: 1
  • Friends back home who took their own life over the holiday season: 2
  • Sacred places, and places made sacred, where I commemorated them: 2 (India is a good place to honor those who have passed.)
  • Times I thought, “Well, damn, this is awfully personal. Should I really blog it?”: 2 (And I went ahead and blogged anyway here and here — it’s India, where the boundaries between internal and external felt a little different to me. Or maybe that was the effects of the meditation practice. Or maybe I just overshared! :-) )
  • Vivid dreams: 32, maybe? (India is a good place for dreaming.)
  • Vivid dreams I remembered enough to write about: 15
  • Vivid instructive dreams that immediately, surface-level, taught me something: 1
  • Times it hit me like an air-conditioned train from Mysore to Bengaluru that so much of traveling to Mysore is not about the practice at all (though of course the practice is so important): 2
Chamundi

Chamundi Hill

Practice, practice

  • Led classes at the shala: 6
  • Led classes in the changing room: 1
  • Mysore practices: 13
  • Times I got a “small” spot (estimated): 8
  • Times I had to pinch myself that I was waiting in the foyer for my turn while getting to observe my teacher assist in The Shala: Quite a few :-)
  • Beginning practice start time: 9:45 a.m.
  • Ending practice start time: 8 a.m. (Not much movement over the month, given how busy it was. More on this record-breaking season in the note at the very bottom of this post.)
  • Practices in my room (days that fell before and after my registration period): 2
  • Moon days: 3
  • Times Sharath made me laugh: So many!
  • Extra number of weeks I feel I could have easily stayed (although it would have, admittedly, been hard to be away from my husband that long): 4
  • Items checked off my bucket list with this trip: 2 (To get to practice in this electric room, shown below, and to hear Sharath himself say — to me — “No coffee, no prana” 😉 )

Shala door

The details, if you want ’em:

  • I flew out of Detroit on Dec. 27, 2013 and arrived in Mysore two calendar days later, on Dec. 29. My first practice in the shala was Dec. 30 and my last was Jan. 29, 2014. I headed out of Mysore on Jan. 30, flew out from Bengaluru International Airport at 2:29 a.m. on Jan. 31, and, given the time difference, arrived back at home on the same day, seemingly just 12 hours later than I had left.
  • It was a record month at KPJAYI, with so many students that start times began at the normal 4:30 a.m. but went all the way until 11 a.m. I met a certified teacher my last day there who had the best attitude about how much has changed since he started coming in 2003. Yeah, it’s a little more crowded, he said. But it is what it is, and things haven’t changed that much. I heard him to basically be saying that the practice is still the practice; he wasn’t sweating the rest.
  • Acclimating to Mysore was no problem; returning to life in Michigan was a little harder. After arriving home on a Friday afternoon, I was very thankful to have the weekend to spend with my husband, with minimal time near a computer screen and nothing to force me to be out in the cold and snow. It’s now Monday morning – straight back to work!

>>More Mysore dispatches:

Etched

On engraved rings and Mysore marking you.

Lingua franca
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.

Happy Sankranti
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?”

Pink kurta
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.

#gratitude #possibilities
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.

© YogaRose.net and Rose Tantraphol, 2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to YogaRose.net with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

[Mysore dispatch] Etched

ring

I have this ring that I wrote about a while back, made by a creative woman with a cool Etsy shop. It’s got three spinning bands and inside is inscribed, “Do your practice and all is coming.” The outside is etched “om shanti.” Before I left Gokulam, I knew I had to take a photo of it with the shala sign reflected behind.

As you know, for all these years, I did not believe it would happen, that I could come to Mysore. But yes, part of me kept some faith.

***

It will be impossible to not reflect on the trip during the three- or four-hour  drive to Bengaluru International Airport. (Did know, by the way, that the city of Bangalore is actually officially called Bengaluru? It’s been that way since, um, 2007. News to me too, until this trip.) The themes that surfaced initially kept coming up for me: That sense of familiarity — none of this seemed foreign — and an overwhelming feeling of gratitude. My time here was so consistent that way.

Over outstanding (sugarless and jaggery-less) chai at Chakra House yesterday afternoon — the beginning of a series of non-awkward good-byes, thank goodness — a couple friends and I talked about what had emerged for each of us. And here is the thing with ashtanga yoga, for anyone who thinks it’s boring to do the same thing over and over again. Sit in that foyer as you wait for your turn, and watch what is happening externally in a person’s practice. Think you have a clue as to what’s actually going on?

Then talk to different people, or read their blogs, and it underscores how each person’s experience on the mat that day — yes, doing the same poses they just did the day before — has such depth and distinction. The same goes for their entire experience in Mysore. I haven’t had time to read too many blogs, but I did catch Isabella Nitschke’s Mysore summary, and Karen Kelley’s post on her theme. (I need to give a shout-out to Karen, by the way, for doing the vignette-style format on her posts, which I totally started ripping off — and not nearly as well.)

***

It was a treat to have time to blog daily during the first part of my trip. Once work started rolling, I didn’t get to write as much as I wanted to, so there may still be a few blog posts to come, if I get to writing during the long wait at the airport or during the 17-plus hours I’ll be on a plane. (It took two calendar days to get here, but I will land back home the same calendar day I leave. I touch down Friday, and I’ll be back to work on, gulp, Monday.)

In the meantime, I should note that I did manage to post lots of sets of photos on my Tumblr, if you’re into a ridiculous number of photos of food, temples and quirky area sights.

For now, though, I am saying my last good-byes and packing my bags and joining the many other ashtangis who are also heading home now that it’s the end of the month.

***

Mariela Cruz wrote about the Mysore rhythm in a December elephant journal piece  in which she writes: “Always go back. Mysore marks you. The Shala stays with you all year long.”

As your final practice date nears, your fellow ashtangis, along with all the local business owners and rickshaw drivers, ask the exact same thing: Are you coming back next year? I’ve been offering a long, convoluted answer about how hard it would be to convince my employers to let me do this again, how my husband and I will be trying again this year to get pregnant, and . . .  and . . .

But I’ve now decided that the easier answer, and the one I’m going with from here on out, is that I will let the universe decide.

If I find myself dwelling on it in months to come, I’ll simply spin those bands on my ring and meditate on change and impermanence. And maybe on faith too.

>>More Mysore dispatches:

 Lingua franca
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.

Happy Sankranti
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?”

Pink kurta
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.

#gratitude #possibilities
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.

© YogaRose.net and Rose Tantraphol, 2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to YogaRose.net with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

[Mysore dispatch] Lingua franca

bilingual signs in Mysore

Always helpful when a sign around town is bilingual.

Sometimes when someone has tried other forms of yoga and wants a brief explanation of how ashtanga is different, I will talk about how no matter where you go, you can still have your practice – you won’t be dependent on finding a yoga studio as long as you have enough room to roll out a mat. I talk about how you can travel anywhere in the world and if you do find other ashtanga practitioners, you won’t need to speak a common language to be able to unroll your mat next to theirs and share a common practice. And in that way, you will be speaking the common language of this transformative practice.

After all these years of taking my mat with me when I travel, it has been such a treat to have spent the past month in Mysore with ashtanga practitioners from all over the globe. We descend on the Gokulam neighborhood with different cultural backgrounds and different native tongues — my new friends may say “capsicum” and I may say “bell pepper” — but we share a reverence of, and a belief in, the benefits of the ashtanga practice.

Yesterday, I chatted with friends over papaya fruit juices, ginger teas and healthy smoothies that you eat out of a bowl (we hit not just one, but two popular yogi hangouts: Chakra House and Anu’s Cafe). We talked about the corporate world, dharma and teaching yoga, the promise of 2014, how generosity is expressed in different parts of the world, and so many other threads of life. These conversations have created so much of the texture of my time here.

***

Chai with sugar

Chai = friend. Sugar = frenemy.

Back at home, I rarely eat sugar – I don’t keep any in my house, never add it to my drinks and generally only ingest it when I’m eating out and a dish or dessert has had sugar added to it.

For my first three weeks here, I indulged in my chai addiction, and the default chai here is not only addictively good (did I mention I have a chai problem?) – it has sugar to the hilt. I prefer chai without sugar, though. I tried a few times to ask for chai without sugar but got looks that ranged from blank to quizzical.

I finally asked a friend who has been taking classes in Kannada, the local language, how to say “sugar.” She said it’s basically sugar with an Indian accent.

Ah, so that told me that I was misreading those looks. It wasn’t that my words were not being understood. It was that the people I’ve been making this request to just can’t grasp why anyone would want chai without sugar. “But . . . the chai with sugar is right here,” I now understood them to have been saying with their perplexed facial expressions.

So now, I’ve learned to ask for both “chai, no sugar” and “sugarless chai” a few times while simultaneously trying to indicate through awkward body language that I am a sane person despite making this request. It’s been mostly successful, and I’m happy to report that for my final two weeks of my stay, I’ve been able to indulge in chai without sugar. This is good, because I was starting to really feel the effects of sugar on my practice – starting to feel a heaviness set in.
(The bad news is that the caffeine has guaranteed that my pitta levels continue to remain sky-high – but I’m willing to deal with this for a month while I get to be in a place that takes good chai seriously!)

I’ve decided, by the way, that sugar is the ultimate frenemy. I suppose that’s a thought for another blog post.

***

Sharath's office door

Yesterday, I went to Sharath’s office hours to say good-bye to him. I knew it would be awkward. How could it not be? I mean, what could he possibly say to me and what could I possibly say to him that was more meaningful than the energetic exchange that happens during practice?

But officially saying the words “thank you” and “good-bye” were important to me because that’s how I roll, so I went. I wasn’t nervous to meet Sharath or practice under his watchful eyes, but it cracked me up that it turns out I was super nervous to bid him farewell. I had thought about a couple things to say, and instead, as soon I got into his office, I got flustered, muttered a few words about being grateful to have the chance to the come study, slid a card and a small memento across his desk, and basically leapt out of the chair and back out into the foyer (where I realize that I had also forgotten that I was going to ask him to sign his book). I think the entire exchange took about 20 seconds.

It’s the Wednesday morning before January’s third moon day, and I’m off to my last practice with Sharath. I’m looking forward to a silent good-bye this time – the real good-bye. At KPJAYI, here is the way students leave the main shala space when they are done with practice: They wait at the door until they make eye contact with Sharath – usually, he offers a smile or a nod or both – and only then do they step out into the foyer and through the main shala doors to leave.

So I guess what I am trying to say is that if any place can prove that silence speaks volumes, it is this buzzing shala space.

Shala door

 

>>More Mysore dispatches:

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.

Happy Sankranti
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?”

Pink kurta
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.

#gratitude #possibilities
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.

© YogaRose.net and Rose Tantraphol, 2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to YogaRose.net with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

[Mysore dispatch] Profiles of ashtangis telecommuting from Mysore

workfrommysoreg

Thinking about traveling to Mysore, but put off by the fact that you would have to work during your stay? Here are four ashtangis who are making work — well, work.

This post features a few profiles of ashtangis who are working on and off the mat. Karen, Jared, Jimmy and I share experiences telecommuting from Mysore, and also offer tips for folks considering going this route.

  • Karen Kelley: Plugged in to the hilt, and working on U.S time while physically in India
  • Jared Westbrook: Putting in hours of daily work to keep up with milestones for a Ph.D. dissertation due in a few month’s time
  • Jimmy Crow: Armed with two laptops, two backup batteries, and working 7 days a week, 8 hours a day to hit all project deadlines
  • Rose Tantraphol: Keeping projects running smoothly for clients through advanced planning and a hybrid work arrangement

Have you done it? Please share your experience in the blog comments! It would be great to give folks who are considering telecommuting a wider range of examples and potential sounding boards. (Facebook comments are of course awesome as well, but fewer people will see it.)


MYSORE, Karnataka — Coming to the K. Patthabhi Jois Ashtanga Yoga Institute to practice ashtanga is no yoga vacation. In an important sense, everyone enrolled at the shala (“school”), as it is called, is working, because everything revolves around this six-day-a-week practice. This is a way of life, a discipline — and it’s not easy.

Work also extends far beyond the mat for many. Name a work/life arrangement, and you’ll probably find an ashtangi here who fits the bill.

A great many, as you might imagine, are yoga teachers. Some are officially sanctioned to teach by KJPAYI, so for these teachers, regular trips to study in Mysore are required to maintain their status as authorized instructors. A good number are yoga teachers working toward that authorization, and some are simply here to deepen their understanding of the method.

Among those who aren’t yoga teachers, there are ashtangis on paid vacation time, those on unpaid vacation time, and those taking care of their small business from here. There are people practicing whatever series they practice in the room, and “seventh series” the rest of the day — that is to say, caring for young children who are in India with them.

And then there are people working in the corporate and higher ed sense of the word — plugged in and connected to an office back home. Based on my informal survey of those I’ve met, these ashtangis are in the minority as they juggle the demands of their non-yoga jobs while still trying to remain receptive to the unique experience of spending one to three months studying ashtanga at its source.

nilaya

I am interested in how members of this group are finding their experience — not just because I’m part of that group, but because I think it’s a potentially precarious position to put yourself in. Tip the work/yoga scale too much one way, and something may give — perhaps work overshadows the trip, or perhaps the work doesn’t get done.

On the other hand, strike that perfect balance — bridge the rigors of a deadline-driven culture with the depths of an eastern method rooted in ancient wisdom — and you might just achieve a remarkable embodiment of the householder aspect of this practice.


KKworkspace

Karen Kelley
Scottsdale, Arizona
Director of Learning & Research Management at a global HR association

How many times have you been to Mysore?
3

Why are you working while here?
My original plan was to take PTO, but at the last minute we had some organizational changes so I decided to work through my stay.

On my first visit, in 2011, I didn’t work at all. In 2012, I worked half the time I was here — largely because my team said that my absence in 2011 made their lives difficult. At this point, they understand that I’m going to be in India for 5 or 6 weeks every year, and it doesn’t seem like such a big deal to them. So I’m really hoping to NOT work on my next visit.

In general, what is your working arrangement here?
If you working arrangement, you mean hours, I’d say my arrangement is fluid. :-) I was a teleworker for almost a decade in the 90s, so I am accustomed to working at all kinds of hours. Before I came to India, I moved all of my calls with direct reports to early morning (4:30 – 7:30 AM) or early evening (7 – 10 PM). Those hours overlap with their working hours back home. So I am on the phone early each morning and again in the evening — usually 4 – 6 hours a day. Then I do email and other work for another 2 – 3 hours whenever I like during the day — generally before my evening calls. I have a few calls that I have to take between midnight and 3 AM, and on those nights, I just take my early evening calls, nap, then take my midnight – 3 AM calls, then crash until the 4:30 – 7:30 AM calls. Then I try to grab an extra nap the next day.

doorway

How does your working arrangement affect your practice schedule at KPJAYI?
My schedule doesn’t affect my practice schedule at all. Like everyone else, I’d love an earlier start time — but the fact is, if I get moved back, I’m going to have to reschedule my appointments. So I’m trying to contain my eagerness to practice earlier and just stick with what I’ve got.

How does your working arrangement affect your time here in general?
I don’t have as much social time as someone who’s not working. I don’t really mind, though. I like my work and I’m not a huge social butterfly anyhow. Having to keep up with work means I have to stay grounded (as much as possible!).

What considerations — such as living arrangements, etc. — did you have to take into account before arriving?
I agreed to share an apartment with some folks I met last year — and once I found out I’d be working while here, I had to check in with them to make sure my late night and early morning phone calls wouldn’t drive them crazy. They were fine with it — so I went ahead with the roommate arrangement. As it turns out, I’d overlooked how loud India is: the overhead fans and the traffic and people and dog noise drown out my late night conference calls. My roommates are never awakened by my being up for work.

The only significant requirement I had for work was the need to for a good internet connection. As it turned out, the wifi in my apartment is kind of sketchy — certainty not robust enough to support hours of conference calls. I got a USB modem and a big data plan & now that problem is solved!

What considerations are you maybe finding that you need to work through now as you are actually here and working?
It’s hard to be in two places at once — which is what teleworking full-time kind of requires of your consciousness. I don’t know that there’s any solution for that — except practice, I guess.

Any advice for someone who is thinking about working while studying here?
It’s totally do-able. It’s also a great way to show your organization that you can be in India for 5 or 6 weeks every year & still be productive. I think what my organization sees is that they can be flexible with me (in allowing me to go to India for a good chunk of time) and I will be flexible with them (in working as much as is necessary to keep business rolling).

Anything else you’d like to add?
If anyone is considering teleworking while practicing here in Mysore, I’m happy to talk with them.

More

 


 

Jared

Jared Westbrook
Gainesville, Florida
Graduate student

How many times have you been to Mysore?
This is my first time.

Why are you working while here?
I aim to finish my Ph.D. dissertation this May. It is imperative that I continue working while I am India to meet deadlines. Eight months prior to my trip to Mysore, I asked permission from my advisors to study here for one month. We came to an agreement on milestones to reach before coming to India and work priorities while in India.

In general, what is your working arrangement here?
I work from my room at Urban Oasis. There is Wifi, but it tends to be much slower than what I am used to at home. I’ve been working about 4-5 hours per day, split between a 1-2 hour morning session and 3-5 hour session in the evening.

How does your working arrangement affect your practice schedule at KPJAYI?
The practice and class schedule affects my work more than the other way around. Right now, I have a late practice time of 10:45 am and I am taking Sanskit and Yoga sutra classes in the afternoons. Meals and socializing take more time than my streamlined patterns at home. This does not leave much uninterrupted time in morning and afternoon to work. This is not a complaint, I am grateful for the opportunity to study yoga and philosophy in the heartland of Ashtanga yoga. Let’s see how much I suffer later on working long hours to meet deadlines.

space

How does your working arrangement affect your time here in general?
I haven’t taken as much time at the pool or as many long trips to temples and festivals on my days off as some my friends. Instead I have taken shorter trips around Mysore including to the market, the palace, and Chamundi Hill. There is plenty to explore in Mysore. Work gives me something to focus on while I am not studying or practicing yoga. It is a comforting retreat into something familiar within a novel environment.

What considerations — such as living arrangements, etc. — did you have to take into account before arriving?
Access to wifi is very important. In cases where you do not have wifi at the place you are staying, you can buy a USB stick that allows you to connect to wifi via the local cell phone network. Also, you may need a universal plug adaptor for your laptop. I did not have one when I came, but I bought one at the Loyal World supermarket.

What considerations are you maybe finding that you need to work through now as you are actually here and working?
I have scaled back on my expectations on what I can actually accomplish. Getting acclimated took about one week, and I did not accomplish much then. Now that I am a bit more settled, there have been a few evenings where I have dropped into deep focus for 3-4 hours while working alone in my room.

Any advice for someone who is thinking about working while studying here?
Do not be overly ambitious with your work goals. Strike your own balance with being open to new experiences and having discipline to work. For me that means planning some outings, being socially engaged, but not lingering too long.

Anything else you’d like to add?
There is much to discover by word of mouth from others that have been here before. Make some friends!

More

 


JImmy_Crow_workstation

Jimmy Crow
I live in Nacogdoches, Texas and Chicago, Illinois.
Graphic Designer/Web Designer. I own and operate a screen printing business as well called Tattoo Productions.

How many times have you been to Mysore?
2

Why are you working while here?
Both times I have visited Mysore, I knew that I would be working during my stay. If I didn’t work, visiting Mysore would not be possible.

I do all the art, design and prepress work for my printing business and if I didn’t get it done, things would grind to a halt. I also do freelance work for several other screen printing companies as well as my web design company, and even though I’m not in the USA, those orders
keep coming as well.

I can be here to practice and work because of my excellent staff in Texas. They not only keep everything running in my absence, but convince my client base that even though I’m in India their work will be completed correctly and on time.

In general, what is your working arrangement here?
I try to get 10 hours of work done in about 8 hours each day. I’ve actually been very lucky and have been quite busy lately but that success can cut into my rest and recreation time. As of today I’m working 7 days a week trying to keep up.

My largest concern when I get here is, will I be able to connect to the Internet? Without it, I am dead in the water. I know it will be slow, so I have to plan my work around it. If I have to upload an entire website, it could take hours, so I try to do that before I go to bed or when I leave for practice. Working on sites live can be slow as well, so I’m usually doing two art tasks at once to keep things flowing (I bring two laptops for just this reason).

Working from here does have its advantages. I can get more done when I get very few emails and NO phone calls, since during my workday, it’s the middle of the night back home. Waking up to over 150 emails each morning can be a bit daunting though.

How does your working arrangement affect your practice schedule at KPJAYI?
I try to be done with work by 8 p.m. each evening so I can get some sleep and be alert when Sharath calls for “One More!” As soon as practice
ends, I get home and sort through emails from the night before and prioritize my day’s work and hope I can get it all done.

I have a very set schedule worked out with my staff, so we are days ahead on each order and have time to troubleshoot any problems and still make our promised due dates. There have been several “emergencies” that have resulted in middle-of-the-night calls for me to make changes to some jobs that had to go to press immediately. Those nights have made for some tough practices in the morning.

How does your working arrangement affect your time here in general?
Practice is the most important thing, but I’m in a position where if I don’t get my work done, everything back home stops. If everything back home stops, I don’t make any money. Without money, I can’t come back to India. This makes work a top priority but I can say I have never missed one practice while in Mysore because of work and I don’t plan to. I didn’t come all this way to miss even one second in the Shala, and I would go without sleep if that is what it meant to get work and practice done.

What considerations — such as living arrangements, etc. — did you have to take into account before arriving?
I have been very lucky finding places to live and work on both trips thanks to my teacher in Chicago, Todd Bowman, and my girlfriend, Kitty Schuz. I would be happy to have anything with roof and a bathroom as long as it had the Internet but my accommodations on both trips have made working in Mysore very easy and I owe that to the both of them. If you are going to work while here DO NOT do what a lot of nomad yoga teachers do and just try to find accommodations when you arrive. There is nothing wrong with looking when you get here, but if you have any special needs, you should have those worked out before you come.

There are lots of excellent resources to finding apartments here, but the best way is to talk to Ashtangis that have been here before and have the lay of the land. When you are here, make contacts with landlords or families that rent apartments so you can do it yourself on your next trip.

wall

What considerations are you maybe finding that you need to work through now as you are actually here and working?
My first trip was a learning experience for me and my staff back in Texas, since we could only guess how things would work out.

This trip, I took what I learned in 2010 and have had a pretty seamless transition from working at home to working here. The one precaution I did take this time was bringing two laptops loaded with all the software that I need to keep things running. If one computer goes down and I can’t fix it, I can just switch to the backup. I’m so dependent on them that if they both failed I would have to pack up and go home immediately because I cannot work without the software on them.

Any advice for someone who is thinking about working while studying here?
It can be done, so do not use that as an excuse to not come. I actually spend half my time in Chicago so I have experience working away from the office. Maybe you could do a test run and work a few days away from your office comfort zone and see if you can do it with just a telephone and the iInternet. Prepare to deal with power outages and downed phone lines when you least expect them, because that is gonna happen (I actually bring two large backup batteries for my computers so I can always work).

My first trip I came when things are slower for me at the office and it allowed me to get out and see some of the wonderful places and things around Mysore. Try to see if you can plan some 4-day work weeks to coincide with moon days and weekends and you will get a chance to see everything as well and still bet your work done.

Anything else you’d like to add?
5 years ago, I went to a Kino MacGregor seminar and she said, “Anyone can go to Mysore, you just have to stop making excuses and go.” At the time, I thought there was no way I would ever be able to go, but after hearing her say something that simple, I stopped looking for reasons not to go and instead found a way to get here. Now every time I arrive, I start thinking about my next trip.

I hope anyone that is making excuses for why they can’t come will do what I did and get here as soon as possible. Mysore is a magical place if you are an Ashtangi, but you’ll never know if you don’t come.

Some morning in the future when Sharath calls for “One More!” he may just be talking to you.

More


Rose_workstation

Not sure how ergonomic it is, but when I only need one screen most of the time, I like sitting on the bed.

Rose Tantraphol
Lansing, Mich.
Communications professional at a public relations and social media marketing agency

How many times have you been to Mysore?
This is my first time. So that I don’t get disappointed, I’m thinking of it as a “first and only” situation, a one-shot deal. That said, I know it’s difficult for ashtangis to resist returning — once you’ve made the pilgrimage to the source of this practice, it’s hard to stay away.

Why are you working while here?
I work at a very small firm — there are only 10 or so of us — and that makes having one staffer gone for a month incredibly difficult. I’m incredibly grateful that the owners of the firm so believe in supporting a work-life balance that they entertained my crazy idea! They knew how much this meant to me, and they were receptive to working out an arrangement to make it happen.

In general, what is your working arrangement here?
I went to my bosses with the following request: Could I take the entire month of January off as unpaid leave but be online for two of those weeks to help keep everything running smoothly for my clients? To be practical and give myself enough time to settle in, I said I would work the middle two weeks (though I will end up doing a bit of work in my final week here as well, which is totally fine). I figured this would give me a couple weeks to get to my grounding and establish a rhythm. And it would allow me to use my last week here to wrap everything up and say my good-byes (also hard!) without any work pressures.

workdesk

And here’s the desk set-up for multiple screens. (My work email account is most easily accessed through the iPad, but I edit and write on the laptop.)

I set aside a few hours a day (in a morning slot and a late afternoon-through-evening slot to accommodate the 10.5-hour difference at home) to respond to emails, check in on websites we maintain, edit press materials, stay on top of news developments relevant to my clients, and the like. Right now there is a media event I am helping to plan, so I do have to respond within certain windows of time for everything to go according to schedule. I also manage the internship program at my firm, so I am in frequent contact with our students, making sure that they have prioritized their workloads and that the projects are evenly distributed even though I’m not there.

I think it’s important to note that I did do a lot of prep work before coming. For clients whose social media accounts I manage, for instance, I scheduled posts out for the entire month so that I wouldn’t be doing that type of task here. November and December were more intense because of it, but I’m so happy I did it this way.

A note on the finances, because that is a big issue for a lot of us. Cutting my income for 2014 by 1/12 was not an easy decision — especially when I plan on trying to get pregnant this year. But my husband and I both live by the tenet that you can’t take it with you. We’ll figure it out, and the loss of income is totally worth it to have the chance to come to KPJAYI after dreaming about it all these years.

How does your working arrangement affect your practice schedule at KPJAYI?
It doesn’t affect my practice schedule at all. Everything revolves my practice schedule, so I schedule my windows of working around that.

How does your working arrangement affect your time here in general?
Because I had to leave those works slots available, I haven’t had as much time to take some of the other types of available classes, such as sutra or Sanskrit classes, that I might otherwise have.

What considerations — such as living arrangements, etc. — did you have to take into account before arriving?
Reliable wifi, reliable wifi, reliable wifi. That meant that I narrowed down the field of possible accommodations to hotels, basically. A high percentage of ashtangis rent room or apartments from families, and that was off the table for me (we’re in a region of the world where daily rolling blackouts are common, and most families don’t have back-up generator power the way a hotel does). Even the most reliable wifi here would cause complaints of missed or lacking service back home, but it’s been fine for what I need — the spottiness hasn’t interfered with my ability to stay connected.

What considerations are you maybe finding that you need to work through now that you are actually here?
I am in the happy position of having less intensity of working than I thought I would.

During my second week here, for instance, I went to the two sites in Mysore that I thought were must-sees — Mysore Palace and Chamundi Hill — because I figured I would not have time for anything else the following two weeks while working.

But two factors have helped tremendously: The advanced planning noted above and the awesomeness of my colleagues. (For instance, I offered to be on the weekly staff meeting call which would have been 7:30 p.m. local time, but my bosses said no need — enjoy your time in India.) So, thanks to those two factors, even though I’ve been working each day, I have been able to do things I wouldn’t have thought I could do, such as steal away on the moon day a tour of historic ancient temples.

This is the upside of not being paid during this time, I suppose. :-)

Any advice for someone who is thinking about working while studying here?
I don’t think I would have had the confidence to even submit the request to come here if I hadn’t personally picked the brain of someone who had done it before. That person was Karen, and I am eternally grateful to her for sharing her experiences with me.

I hope this post serves as a confidence-boost for anyone considering coming to KPJAYI but initially ruling it out due to work constraints. That said, every situation is unique, and I think being able to talk to people about it may help with setting realistic expectations and strategizing a bit about how to make it happen.

Anything else you’d like to add?
We have a lot of time to wait in the foyer of the shala for our turn to be called. One thing I love about this is that the period I am waiting is also when Sharath’s kids get ready for school. Sharath handles fatherhood and shala directorship seamlessly. He’ll do an assisted dropback, hear his son calling for him as the school van approaches, come out into the foyer, give his son a kiss (or three), then return to the room for the next adjustment. It is seamless.

In my own way, working from Mysore in a seamless fashion is part of an off-the-mat practice I’m developing. I think if I can work while studying at KPJAYI without giving in to stress, frustration, resentment or any negative feelings (even useless comparative thoughts of “How cool would it be to not have to work!”) — a feat that requires both good advanced planning and surrender upon arrival — then I will have strengthened my relationship to work when returning home.

While I haven’t returned home and reintegrated yet, I do think that if more of us from the corporate world are able to find ways to do this, the transformative aspects of coming to India could be of great benefit to our organizations. As much as I would wish any ashtangi who wants it the chance to be in Mysore in a wholly supported way — that is, sans work — I think seeing a trend of more yogis telecommuting from Gokalum could actually be a positive trend. This experience doesn’t have to be reserved for people with flexible schedules, those in between jobs or ashtangis already earning their living through teaching yoga.

More


>>More Mysore dispatches:

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.

Happy Sankranti
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?”

Pink kurta
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.

#gratitude #possibilities
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.

© YogaRose.net and Rose Tantraphol, 2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to YogaRose.net with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

 

[Mysore dispatch] So you helped get an ashtangi to Mysore? Thank you, truly.

Ashtanga is a householder’s practice, and the students at KPJAYI are people with family and professional commitments to the hilt. Some have their kids with them in Mysore; others Skype daily with theirs. Some are here with their partners; others Skype daily with theirs. Some are teleworking for their companies; others, such as shala owners, are managing their businesses remotely. If you are going to come at all, you’re required to uproot from your life for at least one month. How does it all work?

If it takes a village to raise a child, I’m convinced it usually takes a little block’s worth of people to send an ashtangi off to Mysore — from supportive significant others, family members and coworkers (“Yes, go, we’ll find a way to take care of the kids/get your work covered/pay the bills”) to flexible friends and neighbors willing to provide surgical-strike-style acts of helpfulness at key moments (“Yes, no problem, I’ll take your child/pet to the doctor/vet the day that your spouse/family member can’t.”).

So on the broadest level, this post is a thank-you note of sorts to anyone who has ever made a sacrifice to help an ashtangi get to Mysore to study.

And this post is a thank-you note in particular to my husband, who, today, for the first time since we’ve been together, celebrates his birthday without me.

***

One of the first questions people usually asked me back home when I told them I was going to take this pilgrimage to Mysore was, “Is your husband going to go with you? Or will he at least visit you?”

I explained we like to joke that no, he would not be coming with — someone has to stay back and do the work.

In our case, it’s literally true. Scott and I work at the same firm, and whenever I’ve pulled a going-away-to-deepen-my-yoga-practice thing, he always ends up doing some of my client work. Also, in this case, it’s the first time I’m going away while taking an unpaid leave of absence — the only way I could get one month off from work — so my husband is holding down the fort so that we can pay the bills as I can make my dream of practicing at KPJAYI come true.

From the beginning, it was Scott who told me we could make this trip work on all fronts — office, home, financial. When I totaled my car just before leaving for India and had to take on a new car payment and worried about adding that financial burden on top of this trip, it was Scott who told me not to worry. When I told him in my second week in India that based on budget projections, being here would cost a little more than I had budgeted, it was Scott who said it was no big deal (and then proceeded to downgrade the scale of his birthday weekend escape to get some cross-country skiing in).

Happy birthday, Scott! From, um, this creative person on Flickr and a generous Creative Common license. :-)

Happy birthday, Scott! From, um, this creative person on Flickr and a generous Creative Common license. :-)

It’s not just that he’s an incredible life partner. It’s not just that he is a salt-of-the-earth, stand-up guy. It’s that, even though his grounding comes from playing guitar and practicing Okinawan karate, he knows how much ashtanga yoga means to me, and he wants to help me, in any way possible, to create space for transformation. He supports me in big ways, like with India, and in small ways, like telling me the nights before I have to get up at 3 a.m. for practice that he will do the dishes so I can get to bed sooner.

I can see him now, shaking his head that I wrote this post knowing full well that he would hate being the center of it. To which I would say: Honey, a Benedictine monk said in a TED talk that happiness is born from gratitude. So it’s making me happy to express my gratitude for you. :-) Thank you. For everything.

And happiest of birthdays to you.

***

gratitudeSo, 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. 😉 Tell them I said thanks as well, because having you here — having this awesome community in Gokulam — is, to me, an important part of what makes this practice so life-affirming. 

(Photo credit: Happy Birthday, Scott via Katsuja Cisar’s Flickr/Creative Common license and Gratitude via Shannon Kringen’s Flickr/Creative Commons license)

>>More Mysore dispatches:

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.

Happy Sankranti
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?”

Pink kurta
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.

#gratitude #possibilities
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.

[Mysore dispatch] Temple tour to Belur, Halebid, Shravanabelagola

belur

I didn’t come to Mysore, Karnataka to be a tourist. But thanks to the initiative and organizational drive of a new friend from Calgary whom I met through an old friend from Calgary — I love how the instant ashtanga community works — I was able to join four other ashtangis on this moon day for an eight-hour, 334-kilometer (208-mile) temple tour to Belur, Halebid and Shravanabelagola.

Our driver took us three hours northwest of Mysore for the first stop, Belur. The photo above was taken there. I was amazed by the detail and the artistry of the Hoysala architectural style. Another thing I found noteworthy was how uncrowded it was, especially compared to Chamundi Hill, where I paid a visit last week.

Here is the (yes, highly filtered) highlights reel.

I usually take pretty lousy photos because I’m more interested in, say, an ironic sign or a chipmunk lurking between the detailed carvings of an ancient temple. But if you’re curious, here are some of the photos I took today. The sets may load slowly if you’re on the spottiness that is wifi in Mysore. If you’re in the U.S. or other areas with fabulously fast and reliable wifi, enjoy!

As for Shravanabelagola, the Jain pilgrimage site that is home to what is apparently Asia’s tallest monolithic stone statue of Gomateshwara: I just googled it, and it seems there are nearly 700 steps. It’s not quite the 1,008 steps that you can opt to take at Chamundi Hill, but it’s a hike. (I skipped the steps at Chamundi and let the rickshaw take me all the way to the top).


nandi
I was thinking as we were walking up that it would be an interesting ritual, after you are given the last pose to any ashtanga series and are feeling pretty damn good and strong, to walk up those steps and see how you feel. :-) As I was doing my snail’s pace up and taking breaks to boot, a man who looked to be in his 70s or 80s skipped the steps and glided — awfully quickly, it seemed to me — up the slope instead. Young men sprinted parts of it.

By the way, normally, my photos stay on my iPhone for weeks, if not months or years, untouched — I forget to post them on Facebook or Tumblr or anywhere else. You’re talking to the woman who got married in 2012 and still hasn’t processed all her wedding photos (I am not proud of this fact). So I decided just today that at the end of every day here in Mysore, I will process — delete the crappy ones, upload the good ones to Tumblr, whatever — as part of my evening routine.

That said, it’s time to start winding down for bed. We’ll see how Friday led primary class feels after all those stairs at the Jain temple!

>>More Mysore dispatches:

Happy Sankranti
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?”

Pink kurta
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.

#gratitude #possibilities
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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

[Mysore dispatch] Happy Sankranti

Everyone seems to be in a festive mood here in the Gokulam section of Mysore — and indeed, across the region, with a number of different holidays being celebrated. (This means, of course, that Bollywood stars have hit to their social media accounts with well wishes for their fans.)

Today around the neighborhood, everyone has a “Happy Sankranti” for you. Sankranti is one of the few Hindu harvest festivals celebrated in India that’s tied to the solar calendar. And it’s a celebration of a new year! According to one news site:

Also called the festival of prosperity and positivity, Makar Sankaranti heralds the beginning of an auspicious start to the new year. Rising amidst foggy and dark clouds, the sun serenades the autumn as the festive spirit bowls down everyone.

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.

Karen asked me the other day if themes have come for me. I said at the time that the familiarity idea has felt like a drumbeat. Since our conversation, I’ve realized what I should have said is gratitude. An abundance of gratitude. A plane and some credit card transactions got me here, yes. But really, I’ve flown on the wings of gratitude — for a pregnancy that changed me, and for people around me who have guided me and supported me through transformative experiences, both delightful and rough. So now that ‘m here, it’s gratitude that is moving me through my days — for the practice, for Sharath, for the instant ashtanga community, for locals who embrace all these foreigners invading this area.

As I left the shala, I saw these women finishing up this beautiful design, which I believe is an example of rangoli.

sankranti

So, yes, happy Sankranti, wherever you are.

>>More Mysore dispatches:

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?”

Pink kurta
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.

#gratitude #possibilities
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.

 

[Mysore dispatch] Thank you, interwebs and wifi

wifiandpeople

When I was playing my trip to Mysore, I kind of thought that the ideal way to experience this trip would be to unplug — to step away from the digital networks I’m part of and to turn off the information hose of those channels.

But I have to work on this trip, so that option was out.

Now that I’m here, I realize that I’m loving staying digitally connected. It allows me to stay in touch with friends back home and here in Gokulam, the Mysore neighborhood where the K. Pattabhi Jois Ashtanga Yoga Institute is located.

Staying connected has allowed me to see, for instance, that back in the States, Small Blue Pearls has a lovely new Runways poster out — photos that practitioners all over the world have submitted of their self-practice while traveling.

It’s allowed me to stay in touch with yogis through my blog (because as I confessed here and here, I apparently have a problem), and through reading the posts of other ashtangis. There are conversations about life and practice that happen at the coconut stand at 9th Cross and Contour Road — or even closer, over breakfast on the rooftop of my building — and there are conversations about life and practice that happen over Facebook. Both have been interesting, and usually not redundant.

Posting from my building, there’s The Green Yogi and Yogiblog, featuring the adventures of Clive and Mark. Among my other friends, OvO has posted about joy rides, London-based Susan has updated Susananda, and Karen, a home practitioner from Arizona, has been juggling working and blogging via Journey to Mysore. Who else . . . Suzy has left Mysore, but Isabella continues to post faithfully about Conference. And so on. These are just the ones I am thinking of off the top of my head. Please throw down your blog link in comments if I failed to link to it here!

insight_timerBeing connected is even cool for my meditation practice, which is a big priority for my time here (probably as big as the ashtanga practice). I use the Insight Timer app for iPhone (it’s available for Android too), which tells you how many people are meditating when you are, and where in the world they are. Pretty cool. (If you’re looking for a good meditation app, I highly recommend this one. It’s even got a journal feature and guided meditations. )

Back over the Thanksgiving holiday, I wrote about my constant need for mini digital sabbaticals. Here in India, I am being careful to prioritize being here over being online, but it turns out this is quite easy to do, since I can only be connected when there’s wifi access, which is pretty much just when I’m in my room. I so far haven’t felt like my digital life is crowding out the spaciousness I need.

Tomorrow, I start telecommuting. I’m interested to see if this feeling holds. Will my digital access start to feel like a leash?

(Photo credit: Wifi by güneş in wonderland via Flickr Creative Commons license)

>>More Mysore dispatches:

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?”

Pink kurta
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.

#gratitude #possibilities
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.

[Mysore dispatch] Castor oil baths and not (particularly) getting things done

It’s 4:30 p.m. on the rest day, and what I’ve accomplished so far is sleeping in until nearly 9, eating breakfast, drinking too much chai (a morning ritual for me, apparently), doing laundry, taking my first bonafide Saturday castor oil bath, and doing a 75-minute meditation on the roof the building. I think when you’re studying yoga in India that’s considered productive. At home, I would probably have felt that this should have all happened by noon.

One thing I realized today is that I have been enjoying being relatively inefficient. It’s a new concept to me, and I’ve been pretty content with it for these past two weeks. (Perhaps I’ve enjoyed it a little more than I might have otherwise because beginning on Monday, a new schedule begins: I will be online a couple hours a day to make sure all is well with my work clients back in Michigan.)

At home, I have to live at the height of efficiency in order to get things done. My daily calendar frequently gets parceled out by the quarter hour. I run personal errands outside the house in an order that hits stops clockwise and never requires backtracking, because left turns and retracing your route are a total waste of time and gas. I take advantage of time-saving tools like the delayed-start button on my washer, so that a load can start while I am sleeping and be ready for the dryer when I get up.

Here, I haven’t had to over-scheduled and haven’t had to multitask, unless you consider bucket-washing my laundry after I have just finished showering multitasking.

That said, I currently have a long list of things I should do — mostly in the form of Facebook messages and emails to respond to. I’ll get to them eventually!

P.S. The cumulative effect of a castor oil bath followed by meditation is that I think if anyone tried to hold a real conversation with me right now, my circuitry might just short. (Somehow, blogging doesn’t count.)

P.P.S. — If you’re coming to Mysore this year and wondering about castor oil, Green House, which I am told opened last year, is located on the same street as the shala — so just up 8th Cross, on the left. You can’t miss the green sign on the iron gate. The 70-rupee organic castor oil felt velvety, and the 75-rupee herbal bathing powder also sold there works as well as Dr. Bronner’s soaps back in the States, in my opinion.
castoroil

>>More Mysore dispatches:

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?”

Pink kurta
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.

#gratitude #possibilities
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.

[Mysore dispatch] First breakfast, second shower, next electric practice

I just finished taking my second shower of the day, which is enough to make you feel guilty when staying as a foreigner in a place where reliable running water is not a given. And it was a nice and hot shower, which is enough to make you feel really guilty, given what an all-out luxury having reliable, hot running water is around here.

Because I shared my shower with a bucket of laundry — and because my nervous system feels cleansed from this morning’s pre-practice meditation and, of course, from practice itself — I’m feeling quite refreshed as I get ready to head out for a meal that I could consider a second breakfast/late lunch/early dinner.

***

I love that in Mysore, ashtangis talk about having first breakfast, and often second breakfast, and/or lunch. But I don’t really hear anyone talking about dinner — late afternoon/early evening samosa or smoothie, maybe. But dinner? Not so much. When the first group of ashtangis are starting their practice at 4:15 a.m. local time. (4:30 a.m. shala time), it sort of puts a damper on a thriving dinner culture, unless it’s the evening before a rest day or a moon day.

***

Speaking of food, the Huffington Post recent ran this:

 Guy Sums Up How We All Feel While Watching You Instagram Your Precious Food

HuffPo food shot

My husband sent the piece to me because I am obnoxious about taking photos of food. And I don’t just take photos of my own dish — I’m like that woman reaching over the table, taking photos of my companions’ dishes too, like I did when my friend ordered this north Indian thali special the other day.

I mention this to say that I acknowledge that talking about how a practice room feels can be a lot like taking a picture of your dish — no one else is really to be able to savor it the same way, and you run the risk of . . . well, making people feel like this guy above. But I’m living my dream of practicing at KPYAYI, so I’m going to do it again today.

So, this morning, Sharath called out: “One more, 9 o’clock, small.”  I was the only shortie in the 9 a.m. group left waiting in the foyer, so I was up. Sharath motioned toward the practice spot on the tile right in front of his office door.

I loved the spot. It reminded me of something the Ashtanga Yoga: Ann Arbor blog recently addressed in a post about practicing by yourself:

Create a tight container. In the words of Iyengar teacher Paul Cabanis, the mind loves to be bound. Give yourself 90% of the time you think you need, and 90% of the space you think you need. Use these constraints to press your energy into a more concentrated stream.

I was hardly practicing by myself, but there was something to this concept of being a bit constrained while flowing with the big energy of the shala space. The room was steamy, and I was breathing with it.

My disorientation at the end of Monday’s practice inspired me to slow way down during yesterday’s practice, and it felt like I had finally settled into the room Tuesday. (By the way, as a post-script to that post, on Tuesday, Sharath didn’t have to tell me to slow down, and he had me catch. It felt sublime.)

I continued with the rhythm today, and it once again felt electric.

I’d write more, but it’s time to meet up with some friends for a chaser to my lovely first breakfast of upma.

 

>>More Mysore dispatches:

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?”

Pink kurta
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.

#gratitude #possibilities
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.

[Mysore dispatch] How does Sharath know? And btw, where did my feet walk off to?

findingfeet

Ah, there you are.

Since my first day at KPJAYI, I’ve found myself constantly wondering, “How does Sharath know?”

I’ve never been great with crowd counts, but I think it’s safe to say there are well over 200 students here right now (and if you told me the number is closer to 250 or more, I wouldn’t even be surprised). The earliest Mysore practice start time is, I believe, 4:30 a.m., and the latest one I know about is 10:45 a.m. There are three led classes on Fridays and Sundays.

A small group stayed on Sunday to observe the 7:30 a.m. led second series class. On one occasion, Sharath came to the door and it looked like he only glanced into the foyer before turning his back to us to watch the room. But suddenly, he turned around and asked one student who he was studying with.

“Saraswati,” came the reply.

How does he know? There are so many new faces, so many first-timers registering each day. 

I had only had one practice down last week before my cycle started, so on what would have been my second day of practice, I had to take a ladies holiday. I figured Sharath would never remember me, since we had only been in the same room twice by that point, once to register and once to practice. But I was also kind of concerned that on the off-chance he did, would he think I had flaked out and skipped? And indeed, he asked my teacher about where I was that day.

How does he know?

These are just the surface examples — the deeper, more subtle ones, speak to the core of what we need in our practice. On the Journey to Mysore blog, Karen wrote this about her first practice back in Mysore:

Here’s the thing I love about Sharath: he remembers that when I first came here three years ago, I was *just* managing to stand up from backbends, and he remembers that last year I struggled mightily with kapotasana and walking in to my heels. He knows where I’ve been and he sees where I am and he gives me credit for the work that he can see I’ve done.

How does he remember? Not only are there so many students — it’s not like he sees anyone all year long.  

Today, rather than guide my hands to my ankles in assisted dropbacks like he did last week, Sharath had me take my hands to the floor and walk in — all the way in, toward my feet. I thought I knew where my feet were, but apparently I didn’t, because I kept only finding Sharath’s feet. “My feet,” he would say, spurring me to move my hands. “Still my feet.” It seemed to me that this went on for about 10 minutes. He said “spread your hands” a couple of times, and it finally occurred to me that I needed to move my hands out. I was so grateful to finally make contact with my feet.

Maybe Sharath just figured my back wasn’t up for catching today. Or maybe it was something else. We all like to find meaning in our interactions with teachers we deeply respect, and whatever the objective truth might be, I think that process is a decent way to put a mirror up to the issues we need to spend some time with — especially when we’re lucky enough to be practicing in a space with the kind of special energy that KPJAYI is infused with.

So . . . I took this to be a lesson on rushing.

I’ve now had three assisted dropbacks with Sharath, and each time, he has told me I need to slow down the dropping-back part. I think part of this is that it’s still so exciting to me to be here, so I know that as I get settled, that speed part will settle. Still, each time, I make a note to adjust for next time, and next time, when I think surely this will be the time I’m not seen as rushing, I get the same instruction. Today, once my hands hit the mat, I rushed that too — walked my hands in quickly without taking the time to let proprioception happen, to really feel things out — then got frazzled and tried to correct without any sense of direction.

Off the mat, I constantly feel like I’m in this epic battle against the clock — there is always something, somewhere, that I should be getting done that I’m not getting done, and the clock is ticking. Is it possible that perhaps that even when I think I’ve slowed down, I’m still sort of rushing? That at least my mind and energy have that velocity? It’ll be an interesting thing to reflect on during my time here.

In any case, once again: How does he know? :-) 

>>More Mysore dispatches:

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?”

Pink kurta
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.

#gratitude #possibilities
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.

 

[Mysore dispatch] Start of the work week and no time to practice?

clock_professional

It’s the start of the work week back home, and for many, it’s coming on the heels of a long holiday. (Not to mention that back in Michigan where I live, a polar vortex — that is not a joke — has hit. So, stressful conditions all around, and lots of time taken up with shoveling and trying to stay warm.)

In short, this week has the potential to really suck — the work will be piled up, and everyone will feel the need to make up for lost time. How to keep up your practice on the mat when time is such a rare commodity?

At Sunday afternoon’s conference session — a time when R. Sharath Jois, whom I came to India to study with, discusses a variety of topics and answers students’ questions — someone asked about how to deal with practice on days when there’s simply no time.

Sharath said, as he has in the past, that if you have time for Facebook, you have time for practice: “The best thing — as soon as you get up, 15 to 20 minutes, you do your practice.”

No matter what profession you’re in, he said, getting a little less sleep to get a short practice will give you more energy.

Earlier in the conference, as part of a longer discussion on the benefits of sarvangasana (shoulder stand) and sirsasana (head stand), Sharath had said that if you don’t have time to do your entire practice, do the surya namaskaras (sun salutations), then sarvangasana, sirsasana, and padmasana.

Very beneficial!

If you’re reading this and sighing over the kids’s practice schedule or your meeting calendar or whatever and thinking that it’s easy to say “practice a little each morning” if what you do is teach yoga in India, consider this: Sharath gets up at 1 a.m. every day to do his own practice before he starts teaching teaching in the pitch dark, going for hours until the last students are done. How long is that? I think that this week, the last group of students start their practice at 10:45 a.m., which means Sharath is probably teaching until about 12:30 p.m. or so.

That’s just the Mysore class portion of his day — he also has his office hours, not to mention his duties as a father and husband. Someone asked how much sleep Sharath gets. He hesitated and smiled and sheepishly admitted that he gets 3.5 or 4 hours of sleep a night. Looking around the standing-room-only shala space, he then said, “Maybe two hours [a night] this month, so many students.”

Good luck getting your practice in, wherever you are. I hope you find some inspiration in the simplicity and straightforwardness of Sharath’s advice.

P.S. I also liked another thing Sharath reminded everyone of yesterday. What is a good practice? It’s not doing the fullest expression of that pose that’s been challenging you. “Getting up and being on your mat and doing what you can — that is sufficient, he said. “That is good practice.”

(Graphic credit: “Clock Work Man” from Sean MacEntee’s Flickr Photostream via a Creative Commons license)

>>More Mysore dispatches:

Pink kurta
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.

#gratitude #possibilities
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.

 

[Mysore dispatch] Pink kurta

pinkkurta

Yesterday’s breakfast was spent with friends of my friend Eliza — a Tibetan couple who live in Ooty, in the southern state of Tamil Nadu, which is apparently a not-for-the-faint-of-heart five-hour journey from Mysore. Not only did they prepare delicious chapatis that we ate with almond butter and blueberry jam that Eliza had lugged from Michigan, they brought me my first kurta. So wonderfully generous of them.

That means that today, for the first time, I’m rocking a kurta — a pink one at that.

* * *

While bucket washing my clothes this morning, I had a flashback to one of Tim Miller’s Asana Doctor workshops when someone asks Tim for help with a particular pose. A common diagnosis for lack of range of motion? “It seems you have some areas of density,” Tim likes to say.

And I was thinking about how, 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.

* * *

One of the things I hold on tightly to is planning and being in control and knowing what’s ahead. Have you ever seen a map of Venice? It is impossible — literally impossible — to get into trouble by getting lost there.

venice

Even knowing that, I freaked out when my husband and I got lost there during our trip in 2011. We were on a touristy island and I freaked out anyway, because it was not about being in Venice on the wrong street; it was about getting triggered and feeling this deep-seated fear fear of now knowing what would come next, a fear fueled by endless speculation of possible future scenarios.

Anyway, my second day here, I faced this very trigger when trying to return from Loyal World Super Market, what I think of as the local Target (except, it’s nothing like Target). I don’t think I’m exaggerating in saying that I got so lost that I walked for nearly two hours. I was determined to face this this time, so I refused a scooter ride from a really sweet woman at a gas station and I didn’t call for a rickshaw for the first 90 minutes or so of getting lost (I finally did get one, when I realized I was not going to get back to my place at this rate!). I guarantee that I will get triggered again the next time I am alone and get really lost — but I am working on it.

As I walked that day, I breathed into my belly to calm myself and I noted my physical sensations — noted the rate my heart was beating, noting if my hands were clenched, noted the thoughts going through my head, especially the ones that had nothing to do with what was happening at that moment (“What happens if the sun sets and I’m still here? What happens if I’m the only woman left on this street at night?” And so on.).

* * *

Back to the kurta. I resisted the color pink for most of my life — something about being a women’s studies major back in the day — but I’m tickled that a couple years ago, I decided one day that it was time to embrace it. What’s the point of resisting a color, for heaven’s sake? 

I don’t own a lot of pink things, so this beautiful gift will be a great addition to my closet back home.

>>More Mysore dispatches:

 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.

#gratitude #possibilities

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.

[Mysore dispatch] So familiar and yet . . . so familiar

coconuts

Although I tried to not place too many expectations on this trip, I did have the idea that at some point, I would think, “What am I doing again? Why did I think it would be a good idea to leave my life behind for a month and travel halfway around the world to study ashtanga?”

I know it’s only been a week, but what’s surprising to me is that — with the exception of the afternoon when I got extremely lost walking back from Loyal World Super Market :-) — I have felt nothing but a sense of familiarity with the place. It’s different here, of course. The idiosyncrasies are at once perplexing and entertaining (oh, the protocols required to walk from the first floor to the second of Sapna Book House if you are carrying a basket of merchandise!). But when I think that surely a fleeting sense of absolute foreignness is about to kick in, I realize I just feel more . . . familiarity.

It helps that I’ve seen blog posts and tweets about the coconut stand where everyone meets after practice, that I’ve heard about people practicing in the shala dressing room, that I’ve seen Sharath in videos.

It helps that when I was young, my parents took me to their native Thailand. So it doesn’t throw me off to see things like the bathroom set-ups here (lack of separation for a shower area, for starters) and the absence, to American eyes at least, of traffic regulations (to say the least!).

It helps that I landed knowing half a dozen people here — including a friend from Ann Arbor, my teacher, a Facebook friend, and a few ashtangis I’ve spent time with during extended yoga workshops and trainings.

It helps that a reader of this blog whom I didn’t previously know sent me an email earlier this week. He is originally from Michigan and now lives in Mysore, and wanted to get together for lunch, which we managed to do on New Year’s Day. (It was a blast — thanks again, NP!)

It helps that even when I don’t know someone, I maybe know someone. Walking along 2nd Main (the official name that no ashtangi uses for this street) / Anu’s Road (the name every ashtangi uses), a man who introduced himself as Joseph and I struck up a conversation. At some point I turned to him and said, “Are you in the Mysore Magic DVD? Because I think I quoted you in a blog post once.” Yep, it was the same Joseph who had said in that documentary, “The moment you start your practice, it’s almost like a train — it’s a speeding train towards your obstacles.” We talked about the truth of that observation, and about his schedule here in Mysore and mine. And then we continued on to run our errands, which in my case involved my third swing by the mobile phone stand that all the ashtangis go to in order to get a cheap little local phone to work normally. (Good news, by the way. After some technical hiccups — oh, the protocols surrounding getting a phone set up — it finally works normally now and I can text like a veteran Mysore ashtangi!)

It helps that when walking up the stairs to my room this afternoon, the woman I passed but didn’t look closely at called after me: “Rose?” I didn’t recognize Dana at first because of her sunglasses, but there she was — a real treat since the last time I saw her was at the Ashtanga Yoga Confluence in 2012 and before that, it had been three years since I had met her in Vancouver.

It helps that the more people I know through this practice, the more inevitable it is that I feel hooked in and grounded. What a gift to be part of a global community in which I don’t need to know every name or recognize every face to feel like everything is all somehow  . . . familiar.

And . . . it helps that the force that drew me here is channeled through my mat and Mysore rug. No matter where I am in the world, if I am on that 71-inch-by-26-inch piece of real estate, I feel comfortable. It has always been that way with my ashtanga practice, and I can’t think of any other aspect of my life I can say that about.

>>More Mysore dispatches:

 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.

#gratitude #possibilities

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.

[Mysore dispatch] Rain down on me

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:

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.

#gratitude #possibilities

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.

 

[Mysore dispatch] Plugging my 120V self into this 220V space

When I saw my cranial-sacral therapist after my car accident last month, we talked about the adventures I would have in India. She said it’s like appliances — I’m accustomed to a 120V life and the people who would be around me here, though they may look ordinary, are “220V inside.”

I loved the visualization, and I’ve boiled it down to simply thinking of coming here to plug myself into a 220V environment.

My first practice felt incredibly grounded, reminding me that so much home practice over the years has taught me that quality of practice is not reliant on practice coordinates.

Today’s practice, my second at the KPJAYI shala — if you’re doing the math and scratching your head, I’ll explain: I had my first practice on Monday, then a ladies’ holiday on Tuesday, then the moon day yesterday — reminded me that hell yeah, the environment in which you practice can have a profound effect. Why else trek halfway around the world to do a practice that can be done at home?

This morning felt electric, but perhaps not the power surge I thought might come. It felt lit up but balanced — as if my mat was playing surge protector.

And when, in assisted dropbacks, Sharath led my hands to my ankles, I could feel my little 120V self had hit full charge.

Converter in India


Can anyone explain the outlet system in India? I packed a few different converters with me because I wasn’t sure which would work. It’s a good thing I did, because most of them don’t. This little universal adapter does the trick, but I’m not quite sure how, because the plug space doesn’t seem to match the outlet design. With enough tinkering, however, I am able to charge my stuff.In any case, I’m just pleased that tapping into the shala’s energy is far less confusing than figuring out how to run my electronic devices. 

P.S. I put up this post last night, and as I get ready for led primary, I realized I should have added this link to an NPR.org piece called “Take Four Minutes To Reflect On Your Place In The Cosmos.” The animated video “may not help you with your New Year’s resolutions,” the writer warns, “but it will fill you with a sense of pure wonder.”

I do want to help you with your New Year’s resolutions, though. :-) What’s your 220V environment? Where have you always wanted to go? And how can you make it happen? In my very unscientific and informal survey of friends and local folks not associated with yoga whom I’ve met here, I think there’s something about the promise of 2014 that has already spurred plans for some big bucket-list adventures.

I hope you discover yours.

>>More Mysore dispatches:

#gratitude #possibilities

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.

 

[Mysore dispatch] #gratitude #possibilities

meditation mat

MYSORE, Karnataka — My first meditation of the year! Sixty beautiful minutes spent on the rooftop of the building where I’m staying — followed by a lovely Indian breakfast of upma and chutney, along with the perfect cup of chai.

About this set-up: I found the perfect little rug for meditation at the local Loyal World Super Market. (I guess it’s supposed to be used as a welcome mat for the home?) It’s got enough thickness so that I don’t mind being on a hard surface. It cost 255 rupees, or about $4.11. (As a side note, for anyone with kids or a yoga-inclined pooch, I think this would triple as the cutest Mysore rug for yoga practice.)

Because I couldn’t fit my meditation cushion or meditation bench in my suitcase without going over the weight limit, I decided I would rely on folding my yoga rug over my two “whatever” cushions to make the perfect cushion for the way I like to sit in meditation. (I’ve found that sitting in virasana pose is the way that’s happiest for my pelvis and low back.)

I’m looking forward to my month spent studying at the K. Pattabhi Jois Ashtanga Yoga Institute — and to my month of a mini-meditation retreat. I was talking to my friend Karen last night about how New Year’s is, hands down, my favorite holiday of the year — a way to revel in a cross-cultural celebration focused on new beginnings and boundless possibilities.

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.

When the challenges start to roll, remind me of this post, will ya? :-)

Cheers!

>>More Mysore dispatches:

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

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.

 

[Mysore dispatch] Emptying the cup

On Transmission, Jack Kornfield says he once asked Ajahn Chah, “What is the biggest problem with the new disciples?”

Ajanh Chah responded, ‘Opinions. Views and ideas about all kinds of things — about themselves, about practice, about the teachings of the Buddha.’
. . .
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.

Happy New Year, dear readers! May your cup runneth over in 2014.

Now, I’m off to find some breakfast chai. :-)

20131231-175825.jpg

Fresh coconut juice (sipped through a stainless steel straw, of course!) before my first practice at KPJAYI.

>>More Mysore dispatches:

#235, 8th Cross, an eternity and a blink of eye from my first ashtanga practice

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.

[Mysore dispatch] #235, 8th Cross, an eternity and a blink of eye from my first ashtanga practice

20131231-061234.jpg

Life is only two minutes long: one minute you are born, the next minute, you die. In between, only a flash of lightening.” — Pattabhi Jois

MYSORE, Karnataka — I never post datelines for my blog posts, but since I’m halfway around the world, I thought it might be a fine occasion to do so. Back in my journalism days, when I was working in New England, it was a treat to file stories from places like New York since it meant that I was somewhere reporting on something out of my ordinary pace.

And man, talk about pace. So here I am, Tuesday, Dec. 31, the last day of 2013, and I find myself in the midst of my third day in Mysore. For someone whose daily life works only if calendar appointments are precisely inputed and rigorously adhered to — as I juggle my full-time job, my six-day-a-week practice, my apprenticeship at Ashtanga Yoga: Ann Arbor, my yoga teaching schedule in Lansing, Mich., and carving out quality time with my husband — it’s a bit surreal being here, barely knowing what day and what time it is.

I started my journey from Michigan on a Friday and landed here on a Sunday, a place that 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. If your practice start time is 9:45 a.m., like mine is, that really means be at #235 8th Cross at 9:30 a.m. So ironically, for a place that on the surface seems much more chill — no Type-A vibes here! — I have, for the first time, had to override my iPhone date and time setting to set it to shala time.

Here’s the time travel that I am feeling most viscerally, though: A time that started somewhere around 1999, when I was a reporter living in Northampton, Mass., having discovered my love for this practice but, without having a teacher and without the tools to cultivate the discipline of daily practice, only having limited access to the potentially transformative effects of the endeavor. Fast forward to today, when I have a teacher I see each morning before the day starts to throw challenges my way, a teacher who holds space for my practice and holds me accountable.

I definitely feel like a different incarnation of the Rose circa 1999; so much of that Rose’s perspective and outlook and habits are unrecognizable to me — except for that love of the practice piece. I loved the practice even when I didn’t know which way to turn in marichyasana B and even when I couldn’t watch YouTube snippets of Sharath talking theory during Conference sessions.

20131231-061217.jpg

Yesterday, as I was on my mat doing my first set of sun salutations in the Shri K. Pattabhi Jois Ashtanga Yoga Institute — holy holy, the one and only KPJAYI, the place I never thought I’d be able to make a pilgrimage for a decade or more to come! And with Sharath! — I worked on tristhana.

Not too surpsingly, some thoughts leaked through, and I was surprised that one piece of internal monologue I caught was:

I am at The Shala! And. . .this feels like my normal practice.

Coordinates

This year, I’ve practiced plenty at the shala in Ann Arbor. I’ve practiced at home. I’ve practiced on retreat in lush Mexico. I’ve practiced in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula in sub-zero weather, with stuffed snowmen watching over me. The practice has felt like the practice in all those places. I’m not saying the electricity of a place like KPJAYI doesn’t offer unique opportunities for learning and transforming, but it no longer feels like potential for insight is reliant on the coordinates of my mat.

So there, in the middle of the place I have longed to experience for so long, I felt a deep connection to all the home ashtanga yoga practitioners out there who struggle with finding consistency in the practice and who feel as lost as I did without a teacher. 1999 to 2013 is a long time, and at the same time, it’s gone by in a heartbeat. And faith in the practice eventually led me find a teacher.

Parampara

Here, under Sharath’s watchful gaze, here, with my teacher practicing in the same room, here, where the practice was started, here, where thousands have sweated through the years, and laughed, and cried, and made profound and not-so-profound observations, I can feel the transcendence of parampara. It was my journey — my karma, if like that language — to have to search for so long (and my karma, even now, to live an hour away from my home shala). But I am grateful for all of it, because it has made me that much more resonant with the vibration of teachers who have the boundless wealth of parampara to share.

Ordinary

It has been such a long journey to get here. I have such appreciation for everyone I’ve met along the way, and I’m looking forward to the people I have yet to meet. And after all those years of longing and searching for a teacher and a community, trying to figure out the password to the transformative effects of the practice that I had some sense, deep down, were there . . . after everything it has taken to get to the point, there was a glistening moment on my mat yesterday when I realized that all that effort can culminate in making each practice . . . simply ordinary.

And that is about as magical as anything.

20131231-061228.jpg

Checked baggage for DTW –> CDG –> BLR

20131228-082834.jpg

I love seeing the blog posts and Facebook status updates of the Mysore veterans — the ashtangis who are old hands at making the long journey to study at the Shri K. Pattabhi Jois Ashtanga Yoga Institute (KPJAYI). Pack, schmack — grab a suitcase the day of, retrieve the passport and the acceptance letter, toss a smattering of things together, and it’s all good.

As a serial over-packer and a first-timer to KPJAYI, I don’t even want to estimate how many hours I’ve spent over the past few weeks working with baggage of various stripes. For this post, I thought I’d lay out some of what I figuratively and literally packed, or didn’t, for my first journey to India.

==What I packed==

A narrative

You might say the overarching narrative that I’ve brought with me is one of gratitude to the people who have helped make this trip a reality.

After my miscarriage this past summer, I tried to be present and receptive to the experience for what it had to teach me. But I also knew that I had a choice in how I came to terms with it. So I deliberately chose a narrative that would offer me the most opportunities for transformation. What could I do that I couldn’t have done had I given birth in January 2014?

I’ve wanted to make this trek to Mysore for years, but I currently work at a firm of about 10, and figured this would be the last place I could get away with checking a trip to the shala off my bucket list. After miscarrying, though, I realized my bosses, coworkers and clients would have had to live without me for six weeks of maternity, so by comparison, four weeks of an absence should be doable, right?

Still, I second-guessed myself. No way would they go for it. It was my husband, who has been incredibly supportive of the practices that have changed me most, who convinced me that I was wrong to assume. So I thought about it, and presented my bosses with a deal I hoped they couldn’t refuse — four weeks of unpaid leave in January, our slowest month of the year, and for the two middle weeks, I would be online for a couple hours a day to handle any client work that needed handling. I’m grateful to work for two men willing to support a journey that means so much to me.

And there are many more, including friends Karen and Jade for navigating me through the visa process — fun!

Shinzen Young, Jack Kornfield, Daniel Ingram

I’ve stashed away the wisdom of some heavy hitters for this trip.

My iPod is loaded up with Shinzen Young’s Science of Enlightenment audio course, which is quite possibly the single best course of any kind that I have ever experienced — and it’s simply a collection of dharma talks. Thanks to the number of miles I drive each week, I’ve had ample opportunity to listen to most of the sessions on the 14-CD audio program three or four times, and they never get old. It’s actually sort of like watching a good movie — rather than be bummed that you know the dialogue that’s coming, you’re psyched about what’s ahead. (“Can’t wait for the stone Buddha dancing part!”) Some day, I picture a marathon session when I’m listening while on a couch rather than in a driver’s seat, and maybe enjoying some ghee-covered popcorn to boot.

The iPod also has Jack Kornfield’s Transmission, which is lovely. I started listening to it as part of my apprenticeship and can’t wait to finish it.

Daniel Ingram’s cult classic (among the Buddhist Geeks set anyway), Mastering the Core Teachings of the Buddha: An Unusually Hardcore Dharma Book, is taking up a good chunk of space in my carry-on backpack. I’ve made a good dent in it over the past year, but I am looking forward to finishing it so that I can start it all over again.

Apps

Tango, Skype, Google+ Hangout — to stay in touch with family and friends.

I plan on getting a local phone as all the ashtangis who don’t or can’t jailbreak their phones seem to do.

Despite all this, because I have two-step verification on all my accounts (which means I can’t log into gmail, say, on a new browser until I type in the code sent to my phone), I also paid for 200 international text messages for my mobile.

Para Cleanse, ginger honey lemon tea and the like

Kate O’Donnell has a lovely article titled “How not to get sick in India” in which she gives great advice, including lay off the sugar (bug love it!) and pack Para Cleanse.

She also says to stay positive. I’d like to, but . . .

. . .as I write this, I am on an eight-hour flight from Detroit to Paris, where I’ll have a short layover before the nine-plus-hour flight to Bangalore. I’m at one end of a three-person row and the woman on the other side has been hacking (and I mean hacking) and coughing and sneezing for 2.5 hours (just five hours of this to go!).

With the kind of germ fest going on so far, as much as I’ll try to stay positive, I’m going to be realistic in assuming something will get me on this trip — either the contagion rolling in row 18 or the parasites ready to spring into action upon my arrival in India.

In any case, my carry-on luggage has some stuff designed to help me maximize my defenses. I have ginger tea bags and little packets of lemon juice and honey because I’ve traveled enough to know that even harder than finding nourishing food at an airport or on a plane is finding nourishing beverages. When I get to the airport, I find a coffee shop and ask for hot water, which I plunk my ginger tea into and then add the lemon juice and honey. While it pales in comparison to the fresh ginger honey lemon tea that I credit with saving with these past of winters (that, along with ecinachea tincture), it’s better than the alternative. I also have a roll of Airborne tablets . . . which I just took.

This morning, I paid more attention to my abyangha, and my checked suitcase includes travel almond oil because Kate said it would take me a minute to find the spots that carry everything I want. I have my net pot, neti salt, tongue scraper and dry brush.

What else . . . I went to my acupuncturist this morning for an immune-boosting session, and I slept and slept and slept over the Christmas holidays. Will any of this help my my immune system withstand what’s floating around in this cabin, for starters? Who knows — but I’m glad I at least tried.

A stainless steel straw

I have OvO to thank for this one. Among the myriad of things I would have never given a second thought to, coming from the U.S., is the level of hygiene of straws in India. Apparently, it is common for them to be reused. So a sturdy, non-plastic straw is a good idea!

This reminds me of when I was a kid visiting my parents’ home country of Thailand. I loved that vendors would — so they could get money for the cans — sell you soda out of a sandwich bag with a rubber band tied around one corner as a handle and give you a straw to drink it with. My parents got a kick out of the fact that I was giddy about this way of drinking soda.

Happily, it’s not too late for me to pack more of that child-like wonder and excitement that things aren’t like the way they are at home. As adults, we can hold on so tightly to what we know and what we want.

I was thinking about clinging and attachment after my husband dropped me off at the airport. He hadn’t been gone for five minutes and I was already wondering what I’m doing, and how being apart from him for a month will go. I used to view the requirement to spend a minimum of a month at the shala as being about ensuring that students have enough time to get acclimated to the place and to let their bodies and minds settle enough to receive the lessons of the practice and the lineage.

In that moment of looking at my passport wondering how this internal journey of missing my husband would go, I realized that this minimum requirement probably has as much to do about asking you to observe and calibrate your relationship with every aspect of the current life you hold so tightly to.

==What I didn’t pack==

Sherlock

I watch virtually no TV and I don’t watch movies either. But I recently fell victim to a Sherlock addiction, and in a moment of weakness, I seriously considered (?!) taking Sherlock DVDs with me.

I didn’t leave the addiction at home though. I am so taken by Benedict Cumberbatch’s character that I’m not-so-secretly hoping to catch the January season premiere live in Mysore.

Stickiness from my car accident

At least I hope I’m not carrying repressed issues halfway around the world…

I had this holy-shit-I-am-alive?! rollover in early December that left me uninjured in any concrete way, though I knew better than to assume I hadn’t been affected. I met up with a few members of what I affectionately and seriously call the Rose Wellness Team (because it takes a village…) to try to release anything about the accident I was holding on to. I didn’t want to repress it, period, and I certainly didn’t want to carry it to Mysore. I wanted to help ensure that any healing and cleansing effects, if they happen to happen while on this pilgrimage, would have a shot at working on deeply held samskaras without new issues getting the way.

So I had a yoga-and-meditation private session with my ashtanga teacher, an acupuncture appointment, and a cranial-sacral therapy appointment. Each of these modalities was critical in releasing some physical and emotional blocked energy that I could feel I experienced from the rollover.

Meditation cushion

I’m hoping to use my 33 days in Mysore as a mini-meditation retreat. The idea is that I’ll do what I don’t have time to do in my workaday life at home — a long-ish sit each morning before my asana practice. Back in November when I first pulled out my suitcase, I had given prime real estate for my cushion as a down payment on this investment, but after about 5 rounds of dumping stuff and shifting things around, the cushion kept putting the weight of my suitcase over the 50-pound limit.

This matters because I only this year found the one meditation pose that I don’t fidget in. So I need a cushion that allows me to sit this way.

In rooting around an old tote I was stashing away, I found a little fortune cookie slip last night that said something like, “You will find solutions in unexpected ways.” And lo and behold, this morning, I realized I could fashion an acceptable cushion by creatively folding two under-the-knee small square cushions into my Mysore rug.

Whew. That brought my suitcase to 47 pounds. Relief and victory! :-)

20131228-083200.jpg