Monday, February 20, 2017

Comfort zone

I left the midwest because it was too easy there for me. Even though it wasn't easy, it was still within my comfort zone. It was easy for me to teach there because I'd taken time to grow a community of students, to share personal time with them in the classroom, but also outside the classroom. In my park class I showed my real self and created bonds with people because of that there as well. So I could mostly make a living there, not a great living, but a living none the less. I was surrounded by friends and family when wanted or needed. It was very comfortable.

Every time I get comfortable I stop growing. I know that may sound harsh, but for me its mostly true. Now I could get deeper into my own personal practices and grow in some ways but mostly I would get more and more into my own head and find reasons to not get out and do things, but to hide away and become more reclusive. Or ways to just stay in my head more and more, and for me that is death.

Going to India for the first time three years ago, yes it was only three years ago even though it was four trips and seems like a decade or more ago, was the biggest time I've been outside my comfort zone. I was entering a very hot place overweight (for me) and having been less active than I had been in years and began to sweat immediately and walk everywhere and do this strong, dynamic yoga daily whether I liked it or not. Had a teacher yelling at me and holding me accountable for doing my practice for the first time in most of my practice life. Made friends that I'm still friends with now and have been in India each of the four trips with. Ate a lot of spicy food that changed my palette to such a degree that now I don't really love much else, other than falafel too...lol. And so many other things.

But most of all, I was uncomfortable. I was being forced into the fullest version of Supta Kurmasana I'd ever been able to muster and stopped there because I couldn't do it fully, no one had ever stopped me before! Once I finally got it and finished primary I was immediately started on standing up and dropping back even though that hadn't been a requirement before in my early practice years when I was doing intermediate and learning Advanced A series. I was hot, it was like 92 degrees fahrenheit in the middle of the night for gods sake. My friend who I was sharing a room with was going through her own stuff, and trust me, our stuff did not mix well at all. My nerves were fried and my body shaky.

But slowly I adjusted and when I finally got home after those almost 8 weeks away I was sad to have to leave, but no matter that, India has never been comfortable each time I've gone back. But each time I've gotten a bit more easy with being their version of uncomfortable and grown to love it and consider it home. When I go back I'll go to the north which is hear is super outside most westerners comfort zone, so we'll see how that goes.

Now enter Germany. I'm getting more comfortable, even though I didn't think I would. But I'm still adjusting and the students are great. I'll have more to write on this as my time here grows but for now I'll leave it with that much.

But I do feel I'm growing here. It's colder again, so my body has tried to close up and make practice harder, again. Which is frustrating especially since I opened up so much in Mysore this year. But I'm feeling more like I did when I first began yoga. I'm more into watching the videos of Pattabhi teaching again like I used to, and using that to build my fire for my practice. I'm chanting my yoga sutras again more regularly, almost daily and I love the way chanting Sanskrit makes me feel. I'm reading more and being inspired more by the inisights coming up from this and my practices. I'm teaching more here, morning and night Mysore and that taking a lot from me, but also forcing me to pull from a deeper place to get up in the morning and do my practice before morning class and that is deepening my connection with my own spirit again.

So growth is happening, again and yes, continually. It's nice to feel it and be with it. To once again be present with it and be enjoying it.

There is a recent article stating that Ashtanga is not fun. And it talks about yoga trying to be fun for people and the the western approach that's brought that ideal up. And while Ashtanga can be fun, yes sometimes it can be, it is not fun. But it in enjoyable because you feel your growth, you can measure your physical changes and achievements against themselves the day before (if that's something you feel the need to do) and you can see and feel the ease one day, the tightness the next, the openness the next, the laziness the next, the strength the next, the fat the next, the thinness the next, the deeper twists the next, the tough backhanding the next, the easy backbending the next, etc...ad infinitum!

It's good. I like it. Even when I'm hating it, I still love it.

Friday, February 3, 2017

Change...

Change is always hard, but as the cliché says, it's the only constant, right?

Leaving India was not the thing I wanted to do. Last year while I was there in February, after my time with Sharath was over, I completely allowed myself to fall in love with it and found that it was the only place I wanted to live. But at the time had to go home to make some money to be able to return for the next season with Sharath and of course, that was good that I went. Lots of things changed. This time I also stayed an extra month but was invited to take over my friends Mysore program while she was out of the country, and it's for four months which is a long time. So I'd be living in Germany,which was not in my plan. Not that I plan anything, I go on my feelings and it felt right to say yes when she asked me.

So now, I'm in Germany. My sister took German in school and probably would be able to pick back up on it pretty easily. I took French and so many other romance languages are easy for me to pick up on. Even Kannada (what they speak in Mysore) isn't so hard to figure out what they're talking about to me, even though I don't know it at all. So I'm having a hard time with German. But the area is adorable, streets are mostly brick and the little shops all down the block are pretty great too.

The people are nice, and on the street will often look you in the eye and say "morgen" much like saying morning in the US, but it doesn't often happen on the street. But mostly they also speak English or know enough words to answer your questions about what it is a quiche you may be looking at (yes, this example is from my breakfast experience this morning lol).

But reading a language you have no clue about is hard, and even harder sometimes to have your google translate open and typing in each phrase or word to find out what they mean. Let alone the trials of trying to get your sim card to work when all the texts are in German, but we got that figured out finally after a few days. The good thing is that I'm good at getting things quickly. But listening to a language that you don't know, but your brain is still trying to translate constantly even though its to no avail is tiring. So therefor, this, my first week here has worn me out.

Add to that that not only is there a morning Mysore program, but there are three night Mysore classes as well. And anyone who knows me well knows I haven't taught an evening class in some years. One a week here and there, but always done before 7pm, because I just don't function well after 7pm. Thinking doesn't happen in my brain I should say after 7pm, but here I'm teaching till 7:30-8 depending on when the students finish. So, I'm tired. But still been able to practice each day, so I'm getting enough sleep. It's just the tiredness from adjusting and functioning in that way again.

I also keep taking wrong trains and having to walk much further than I mean to, but that will come as well. And I will say that I usually walk the whole time in India, and getting that scooter this year made me walking lazy! I love the scooter though, so much fun and nicer to get around to places more quickly, but damn, the walking is killing me now since I got unused to it lol.

Now, all that said. The students are great and make it worthwhile to be there and I love that. It's been over four months since I last taught and now I'm teaching as a teacher authorized to teach by my guru, which is maybe even more of a responsibility, but it also makes me feel happier to teach. And now people who practice with me can apply to also study with Sharath, that makes me even more happy.

So as change happens, it's kind of like growing pains and so the pain is there, but your body is getting bigger. Or your spirit is getting bigger. Things are expanding. However one wants to say it. You can't grow or have expansion of self without the pain of change. So this new experience will be great, is going great already and I can imagine will help me grow more than I expected. I would love to see you here, come visit me!

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Leaving...

Well, my time in Mysore is coming to a close shortly. Last year when I was here one month past my time in the shala is when I really fell in love with being here and decided, no matter what comes up I have to live in India, in some way shape or form...

When I got asked this past summer to sub for four months in Germany this spring I got excited because making the money would facilitate me being able to travel around and see where I want to live in India. But I never realised that leaving was going to have such a hard effect on me.

Now it's here and boom, my heart feels like its being ripped from my body. Germany for sure is going to be a great experience and a great opportunity for my first travel and teach, so I'm not complaining. Just saying boy this is hard!

I've gotten closer with many people this trip, including myself. My body as figured out how to be in a comfortable place much more than any previous trips. But more so than that, my mind has made a lot of space and learned how to be there, and maintain it, without much work. Which will be likely to change, but let's see, maybe it will still be not so hard.

There is so much change going on back in the US I don't know how I'd feel if I were having to go back there, so I'm very glad I'm not.

Anyway, to focus on the good, almost this whole week I've gone to temples that I usually frequent and its like they know that I'm leaving and have brought me special prasad or given me more, bigger flowers, or this morning in the Lakshmi Venkateshwara temple I was invited into the sanctum to sit right in front of the deity, which never happens. So cool and yet so melancholy inductive experiences lol. I love these things and know that I'll be back and know that this stuff is all in my heart, so I know that I'll be fine and happy and whole. Maybe even for my deep experiences within myself this season in Mysore I'll even be better than usual and maintain this inner place I've managed to make.

So if you happen to read this I'll be at Santosha in the morning for breakfast, and likely at Diba's Cafe for lunch, not sure about the rest of the day but come say good bye will ya!

Friday, January 13, 2017

Saturday mornings...

Saturday mornings are a very relaxed morning here in Gokulam. Of course when I was still at the shala they involved going to conference, I always say behind Sharath a bit and turned on his mic and equipment for him. Now that is no longer a part of it, I miss it, but I can do my normal Saturday morning ritual.

Typically I go to the Ganesh temple here on the main road, which I do daily anyway. Ganesh is the starting point for worship and is in most temples to remove the obstacle between you and the deity you're coming to visit. Then I go to Shani. Most have never heard of Shani. The planet Saturn in the navagraha (nine planets which have a space in every temple) he is the sun of Surya, or the sun, and is worshipped as the deliverer of your karma. So the Shani Dev temple here in Gokulam is quite packed on Saturdays (Saturday is so named because it is ruled by Saturn/Shani) with people coming to give him thanks and hopefully buffer their karma as well. Then I go to Hanuman, who is also worshipped on Saturdays although I'm no so sure why. His day is Tuesday as it is ruled by Mars and he rules Mars, I'll have to research that one some more maybe.

Recently, this past week especially, I've been drawn to go the Shiva temple up near Loyal World daily. So I went last night and at night its most amazing, I love it there. As I rounded the corner on my scooter to go to the little Anjaneya(Hanuman) temple on KRS Road that I love, I felt this strong pull to go to Shiva instead. As I drove past the little temple that has been so much a part of my journey on these mornings I saw how packed it was and decided that yes Shiva was the right move for me this morning. So I turned around and went there and felt completely fulfilled by the experience. I didn't even want to leave when I did. This being my day off my asana practice now I really get a lot from the temples since the asanas weren't there for me to burn through that mornings stuff.

Now what I didn't mention was that this morning every deity was covered in silver! Ganesh daily has a different covering, often leaves, turmeric, vibhuti, different combinations of things, or his usual black basalt self which is my most favourite. But today he has a silver sheath over him and was surrounded by bananas! I loved it. Then to Shani, Shani Dev is always made out of silver so that was normal but the temple was draped in more flowers than usual and as I drove by Hanuman I saw him in a silver sheath and then got to Shiva and the lingam was also covered in a silver cone with a face on it. I was wondering why and then remembered that today is Sankranti, the day the sun crosses into Capricorn, some see it has a celebration of the harvest, or as the 12th such transition of the sun into a new sign, but its a day of celebration and they even cleanse the cows by making them jump over fire and many other things. Likely there will be firecrackers going off all night tonight as well, they do that here as often as they can find excuse to hahaha...

What I felt this morning was special though, each temple was so packed for those celebrating this transition. But more than that there was a deep calm over it all and a since of inclusion. They embrace me coming to these places and they embrace each other as well. It's a big feeling of belonging to a tribe. Some pagan ritual that draws them all together and in this they are happy and peaceful and full of connection. That sense this morning was overwhelming and made me want to write about it. Here I'm more embraced than I've ever been, and as I leave for Germany in two weeks I will miss this and long to come back to it more than anywhere else I've ever been. I know the temples aren't needed for this experience to happen but that coming together, daily or weekly, of all those with such deep intention of connecting to God is such a thing that I've never seen or felt anywhere else.

I love you India and you will always have a big piece of my heart...

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Letting go...

This seems to be the theme of life right now. Maybe even the theme of the lives of most of those around me at this time!

Not letting go of this mortal coil necessarily, but letting go of my attachment to the outcome, or the way I think things should be. That's a hard lesson to learn from a control freak raised by control freaks lol.

But India has taught me this lesson well. Not getting into specifics about what the letting go is happening with right now, but if you know me then you know what it's about. But still, its a theme that can fit anywhere in my life, or any of our lives.

We're generally taught to hold on tightly to things and never let go of them, but when I began a yoga practice one of the recurring themes was to NOT hold onto things. They are impermanent and in order to maintain some equanimity somehow you have to let go so that you're not so disappointed when things don't turn out the way you think they should.

Letting go sounds awful, it sounds counterintuitive at best, but it really isn't that. It's exactly the opposite.

Especially for someone who's studied the Law of Attraction the way that Abraham teaches it, you have to tell the what and the why, the what so the universe knows what to provide, the why to build up the feeling of how it will feel to have that thing already. But the how and the when are none of your business. So we must let go of those things to allow in the manifestation. Blecccchh... Who the fuck wants to do that. But, nonetheless it is true.

If you hold on to the thing, you're usually holding on to NOT having the thing and so are maintaining that vibration and drawing more of NOT having the thing to you, then you never manifest it.

In the Yoga Sutras, it's talked about abandoning desire. Which I interpret the same way. When you have a longing for something you are living in the not having it, rather than in the abundant state of how it would feel to have it. And its really not about having it, but its about living in the feeling of abundance that is a natural state in the universe. There is enough for each and everyone of us.

I can get there, and I can get out of there, both very easily. I wish I could maintain the former more easily than the latter, but they are about equal. Unless I've practiced the latter more at that time, then that becomes the easiest part.

God, why are humans so complicated?!? Why can't we just feel our way through things the way we're meant to? We have to start thinking about what others will think of us when we act this way, or that way, or have this thing or that thing, or not. Who gives a shit? Why does what anyone thinks about us matter? I know we're often trained that way, but it doesn't mean we have to keep maintaining this silliness.

I'm letting go, right now. Not going to worry about it anymore and just embrace the good feeling of the blessings I already have in my life and release myself from concern about the things I don't!

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Last month...

Well, it's the last of my three months practicing with my guru here in Mysore. I'll be here another month after that, but I may travel a little bit, not sure just yet.

This season has been interesting to say the least, more intense than most I would say, but interesting for sure.

It's involved physical injury, wrist pain, cuts and bruises, and all happening on my left side. Left side, right brain, feminine side. Who knows what that means. Maybe I pray to Kali/Chamundi too much! Maybe not enough.

A friend of mine asked me why I'm so drawn to Kali and to write a blog about it, I couldn't come up with anything that sounded poignant enough to write down, but maybe it doesn't have to be, so here it goes.

At first coming to yoga one often sees Ganesh around studios and shalas and then looks him up to find a bunch of his stories, he is known as the removal of obstacles. So is often invoked before taking a trip, before going to work, at the beginning of a day. There is a small Ganesh temple right here in Gokulam that was the first Hindu temple I ever went to, even had a lady who spoke no English have her daughter tell us about the protocol and symbolism in the temple, maybe two seasons ago I think. What you also find out is that he also is often the one who puts the obstacles there as well! So then you have to invoke the energy he embodies within yourself to be able to work your way through whatever problem comes up. Sneaky guy...

Then you find out that his father is Shiva, really he was built from the dirt of his mothers body so has no father, but Shiva is Parvati's husband so he took on the role, and that's a story for another time. Shiva is one of the big three in Hinduism, symbolising the destruction phase of God. Often he is thought of as destroying the things in ones existence that is no longer serving them to make space for new and more beneficial stuff. That's a story I like. When you study him, you find out much more along these lines as well. You also find out there's a whole sect just for him, Shaivites. Then you find out there is another sect that follows Vishnu, Vaishnavites. Then you find out there is a whole sect that worships the mother, the goddess, the shakti. Shaktites, and they believe that the ultimate energy of the universe comes from the goddess energy, the shakti, and that the masculine energy only focuses that, but the real power is from her. That intrigues me, because even though I was never baptised a Christian I was raised in their churches and there really is no feminine principle, not including Catholicism, but the brand of Christian I was raised under also does not even consider Catholics Christians!

Anyhow, I digress. So when you are researching the divine feminine, often this terrifying image called Kali comes up. She is usually dripping blood from her long tongue and teeth, and holding a head in her hand, skulls around her neck and arms around her waist. No thank you, I want nothing to do with this craziness!

Then some young Indian fellow, who is jealous of all the Western students coming here to study yoga (because he is in school to be an engineer to make his parents happy, and wants nothing more than to be a pujari and study yoga and spirituality) befriends you and as you're leaving, he buys you a book- Yogic Secrets of the Dark Goddess. Brilliant fucking book. Pavithra even carries it in the Green House now because I bought it for so many people last season.

This book talks of a womans many experiences of Kali in all her forms and some are softer, some are harder, some involve Krishna, some involve Shiva, some involve Lakshmi. So you start seeing her in a different light and then begin to chant to her and your life seems to be falling apart, but as quickly as it falls apart, other better, newer things come into it and you see, she is the ultimate destroyer but also is like a mother, giving and loving and wanting the best for you.

So you start with where any good pooja in India starts, you invoke Ganesh, then you move to his father, stronger version of the same energy. Then to his mother , who is the most powerful thing you've ever felt in your life. Really also, you're invoking these qualities within yourself, not from outside you at all. So you're seeing your life and its possibilites more clearly, but your also seeing it from a fresh perspective. From a softer, and yet stronger place. Think of water, its the softest thing you've ever encounter, but it also can destroy a whole country with its power or wear down rock to create a groove to flow through. She is the ultimate in creative power, coming from the lower chakras, but embodying the upper chakras. Just aamazing stuff when you invite her in.

So this summer I did a lot of pooja to Kali, nightly for 108 days to be exact, and once I got here I realised I needed to invite her to stay with me more intently again and began this same pooja along with a morning mantra to her and an evening mantra as well. She's definitely shown her face here. I've learned a lot about myself through physical injury and emotional instability, only to come out feeling more stable and more in my power than ever before.

On the softer side I had a great meeting with Sharath and we talked for about 40 minutes, he also gave me his blessing to teach, but in true Kali fashion the other parts of the process toward authorisation have been muddled and even blocked so far. This energy is very much in the soil in India as well, it will teach you your lessons, but will teach them in its own way, and never a way you expect. It's crazy and its wonderful. More on that meeting once I get my certificate, whenever that may be! Hahahaha...

So, that's enough for this afternoon, off to do my evening pooja and to slowly settle in for the evening so I'm able to get up at 2:30am and get to led class. This is last two weeks of practice for this season. It makes me sad, but I'm also ready to move forward and get to my teaching in Germany and then maybe see Sharath in Copenhagen in August, before coming back to India!

Have a great week!

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Surgery month...

So most people know my analogy of three months here in Mysore: First month cut you open, second month surgery, third month sew you up! Sharath says: First month tired, second month paining, third month flying! Both basically say the same thing to me.

My first month here seemed amazing, my body wasn't hurting, my mind was soft and receptive and I was going to all the classes, then my wrist went wonky, that last a few weeks before I got a major sinus issue from the pollution in the city one day which brought on fever to fight off the toxins, then Pavithra helped me clear that up with some Ayurvedic herbs and such, then we had the scooter wreck which scraped the skin off much of my left forearm and in places all the way down my left side. I couldn't do anything but sleep for about 3 days, then a minimal practice, then began full practices again and thats when the other effects started coming out. Sore shoulder muscles that were just weak and taking their own time to get back to normal, a rib out of place which was pinching muscle under my left pec, which popped back in place as I was stretching in bed one night and the next day was when I could finally do the whole practice again, and then a few other bruises and aches from everything landing on my left side, including the scooter...

So, state of mind is a big thing to me. How we feel and what we're thinking in combination tell us where we are, and I believe, or rather know that these things manifest in our physicality as well. So things in my psyche were being dredged up and here they were being shown to me. Of course, as one tends to do, I forgot that and was feeling bad mentally and blaming it on the physical things that had happened to me. I had this also in my second trip here where I had my SI joint go out and pinch a nerve and also had a parasite I'd gotten from a salad cause me to have diarrhea for three weeks and I lost 37 pounds. But since then my body has been behaving pretty well, even when my mind was out of it. Of course there were a few things here and there but nothing big. When in the US I can always have a chiropractor pop me back in place and avoid the psychological stuff if I want!

All these things had been muddling my vibration quite a bit and so I would get caught up in an internal dialogue about how I shouldn't be still doing this intense practice and maybe it was time to give it up again, for good this time, and blah, blah, blah. There are many around me who are sensitive to this stuff and haven't been around as much, of course I was in the rotten place and didn't notice that, I'd also been making excuses for myself, to myself...lol. I'm a mess. Well, I"m human, as are we all. I like to fool myself into believing I'm a superhuman yogi who could live in the Himalayas naked and all that, but I'm not there quite yet!

So Saturday in conference Sharath talked about many things, which we're no longer supposed to report on(the idea being that if someone wants to hear conference they need to make the pilgrimage here to hear it in their own words. And if they're not here to listen to it in context it can be taken very wrong and misunderstood and cause a lot of talk to happen), but at one point he was talking about pushing oneself just a little bit and seeing the benefits of how that day may be your best practice yet. At this time a friend looked right at me, and this I noticed right away. During that whole section he kept looking at me and I averted his gaze. Then this morning wrote him a message asking if he thought I wasn't pushing myself enough. To which I got a long, supportive, love filled explanation saying yes basically. And we had a dialogue throughout the day that helped me further, this also started a processing of thoughts and feelings that was much needed and a few conversations with others about it as well.

Not saying I'm all processed and ready for the easy sew me up month, but I'm on my way that direction and the negative slant my thoughts had taken has been shifted in a better direction and I am going to make it back to my first led class since all this physical stuff has happened. Yes, I know, I come here to practice and I'm avoiding it. Not completely, I've been practicing at home at a slower pace, but I've been missing out on that energy and the pace which is something I need to keep me going while I'm here, and more importantly, while I'm not here! And I was doing well this trip and going to them most of the time, but that's a story for another blog entry.

So, I'm feeling better, my mind is in a better state and I'm feeling rededicated to this practice in a way I haven't in five weeks. So surgery month is almost over, that doesn't mean the third month will be completely a breeze but it does mean that I'll be approaching it differently.

Thanks for reading, have a great week!