[Mysore dispatch] In due time

Kukkarahalli Lake

Here in the Indian city of Mysore, my iPhone tells me that it’s the morning of January 24 — although in my experience, both time and place have been sort of folding on themselves, and I wouldn’t have been sure of this otherwise . . . because I feel like I’ve been at this moment already, a few days ago. And who knows, maybe I’ll feel like I’ve returned again a few days from now. It’s hard to explain if you haven’t been here, and I suspect no explanation is needed if you have.

In some parallel universe in which my pregnancy that began last year had gone to term, this calendar date would have been the due date. The date around which my entire life — and that my husband’s, and probably those of our parents too — would have revolved.

Today, it’s just a Friday — my last, physically, in Mysore. Dates are only important if you make them so.

Led class just finished and I’m headed to Kukkarahalli Lake, which I visited a couple weeks ago and found invitingly tranquil — a much-needed oasis in a city that feels so vibrant and full of life, but also pretty arid. It’ll be a short visit, because around lunch second breakfast time, I’m slated to start the car ride out to Namdroling Monastery, more commonly known as the Golden Temple, located in the Tibetan refugee settlement of Bylakuppe.

I didn’t plan it this way, to head to a renowned temple on the due date. But I’m so happy a friend invited me on this excursion, because it seems like an appropriate place to be to honor a brief pregnancy that brought me tremendous spiritual gifts. Those gifts included having the clarity to realize that it could happen, this pilgrimage to Mysore to taste the source of the ashtanga practice. That pregnancy was also when, as a pescetarian, I had deep rumblings of wanting to go fully vegetarian — vegan even. And it was the beginning of what would become the most fruitful time I’ve ever had in terms of meditation practice.

After the miscarriage, I wrote about the emotional difficulties of returning to practicing yoga for one. At the risk of sounding too woo-woo, as my friends are fond of saying — mother India has a way of doing this, though, doesn’t she? — I can’t help but think this trip is energetically for more than just me. The images and phrases are all mixed up and flow together — KPJAYI, shala time, return to the source, ekam, water, salty water, lake water, flow, India, return to the source . . . I wouldn’t recommend reading too much into it; for my part, right now, I don’t particularly need or want to make sense of it or even to a create a narrative, which I am always so inclined to do.

Today, I’m looking forward to simply trying to stay with the here and now.

***

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:

When we let go of our battles and open our heart to things as they are, then we come to rest in the present moment. This is the beginning and the end of spiritual practice. Only in this moment can we discover that which is timeless. Only here can we find the love that we seek. Love in the past is simply memory, and love in the future is fantasy. Only in the reality of the present can we love, can we awaken, can we find peace and understanding and connection with ourselves and the world.

Love in the past is simply memory . . . yes and yet . . . and yet.

>>More Mysore dispatches:

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.

Checked baggage for DTW –> CDG –> BLR

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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! :-)

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My long, apanic summer being pregnant — and miscarrying

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I’m in the back seat of our Ford Fusion, feeling a tad sleepy as I type on the iPad that’s balanced on my lap. My husband is driving, my sister Alisa is in the front seat, and Atoms for Peace’s notes roll through the speakers as gently as we’re coasting over these northern Michigan curves and hills. The fall leaves haven’t quite turned yet, but the drive is gorgeous nonetheless.

My husband and I were so happy we could take my sister, who is visiting from California, out for a fabulous weekend in Traverse City. But it was more than just a weekend getaway for me. The last time Scott and I were here was in the spring, and this was where we discovered I was pregnant. Now, post-miscarriage, I wanted to return and face the incongruity of my current reality versus what had been my visions for fall.

I had expected to be very pregnant and really showing by now, modifying every aspect of my life in my second trimester. Instead, I’m eating for one, able to wine and dine as I please in this foodie town. Friday night we passed the riverfront area where we had called our parents from to share the good news, and I thought about how the two people who had been so excited that day in spring have had to mature quite a bit in intervening months.

I didn’t write about the pregnancy on this blog because I was waiting until the second trimester to generally announce that I was pregnant; I agreed with the advice that you should wait until the second trimester, when the chances for miscarriages decrease substantially, to share news of pregnancy. Never did make it to the second trimester, and dealing with the miscarriage process was too intense for me to write about before I had fully processed it. (In hindsight, I think that for me, not writing about being pregnant made initially talking about the miscarriage that much harder. Should I get pregnant again, I’m not sure I would take the same approach.)

I did finally write about my pregnancy and my practice. Rebelle Wellness published that piece a couple weeks ago:

Rebelle Wellness

A garland of moon days

I learned I was pregnant on a beautiful, radiant moon day in May. It was on a somber moon day in July that I learned the baby who had been growing inside me no longer had a heartbeat and was, instead, a gray, two-dimensional embryo projected onto the ultrasound screen. And it was on a moon day in August — after four emotionally and physically intense weeks of trying to actually miscarry — that my body finally gave the signal it truly understood I was no longer pregnant. That tremendous relief came after having tried to let nature take its course, then taking a drug that triggers intense cramping to induce it and — when, inconceivably to me, even that did not work — finally relenting and taking the surgical option.

During this challenging time of waiting for the expulsion of, as clinicians like to put it, “products of conception,” I stayed with my practice — though there were days when I had to significantly modify it, paring it down to barely anything more than the opening invocation and the closing invocation with sun salutations, standings, and the last three poses hammocked in between.

So I went from the downward-flowing apanic energy of pregnancy straight into the even more intensely apanic energy of trying to miscarry. It’s no wonder I experienced the summer as heavy, lethargic and leaning toward the depressive. Having decided that I could only take so much apana, I’ve spent the last several weeks consciously shifting toward cultivating upward-moving — pranic — energy. I’ve been grateful for the accompanying boost in creative energy that has come with that shift.

Being in Traverse City in a different season has helped me energetically scrub away a sense of loss and longing from one of my favorite places. For me, fall — even more than spring — is a great reminder that everything is changing, all of the time. And today just happens to be the fall equinox — a fitting marker to confirm that my long, apanic summer is fully behind me now.

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(Photo credit: “The life cycle of a leaf” first seen via The I fucking love science Facebook page. The beautiful photo was taken by Rob Herr.)

© 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.