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.
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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.
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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.
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.).
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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:
In Mysore, it helps that even when I don’t know someone, I maybe know someone.
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.
When Sharath led my hands to my ankles in assisted dropbacks, I could feel my little 120V self had hit full charge.
In my reflections today, I decided to try, in the spirit of noting arisings and passings in all things, to see if I can start each new day this year with the type of intention that I start New Year’s Day with each and every year. Toward that end, I’m quite grateful to get to start each day with the ashtanga yoga practice — that makes such a difference in being able to enter the rough and tumble with some equanimity.
‘It’s like water in a cup. If a cup is filled with dirty, stale water, it’s useless. Only when the old water is thrown out can the cup become useful. You must empty your minds of opinions — and then you will learn.’
This post is for all the home practitioners out there. Mysore is 10.5 hours off from home (9.5 hours without daylight savings). But that’s not the time that really matters, because the time that really matters is shala time, which is set 15 minutes ahead of local time.
What I figuratively and literally packed, or didn’t, for my first journey to India.