This was bound to be an experience I had no prior schema for interpreting. That is pretty much the only thing I knew before coming here. Where is here? For now, in physical terms it is an ashram/university 35 km outside of Bangalore in Karnataka, India. In more esoteric terms it is a place between actions. In yoga, they say that the silence that exists between actions is the place we aspire to inhabit. It is not exactly non-action, nor action. It is a place of wholeness and contemplation and observation. Am I there? I am not sure, nor am I sure it is a place I honestly aspire to occupy, but I think occasionally I am catching glimpses of that space.
It is quiet here. Sometimes. The Indians who are participating in my program are far less reserved (yogi-like?) than preconceived notions would have one believe. They are a positively raucous group given the opportunity. And that opportunity arises at any birthday, or other semi-recognizable event. I understand Bollywood a lot better now. [I still do not sing and dance – and everyone can continue to be grateful – but I certainly appreciate the vivacity.]
But it is a quiet lifestyle here. There is not supposed to be any television or radio, and participants in my program are not allowed to leave the ashram until the program is over – others here in longer term programs of study are allowed off campus on Fridays. Needless to say, there is television and radio if one wants it… most people have iPods and computers [my neighbors are fans of some genre of film that is very loud. Like BSG meets, well, Bollywood.] Still, I find myself falling into that weird headspace where I ask myself what I am doing with my time and then I remember that this experiment is about not having to fill every minute with things to do and that I am trying to just accept what is going on because I do not have anything else I need to be doing at this moment and I should enjoy that.
It is rustic here. That is real. I am not sure I have mastered the laundry situation, but I keep trying if for no other reason than to minimize the, err, fragrance. I have to wash everything by hand. I shower with buckets. There is warm water occasionally, but the cold water can really get you going at 4:15 a.m. I wash my hair only when I absolutely have to because it is such a ginormous pain in the ass, and it is pulled back all the time anyhow. I am (re?)learning to eat effectively (and sort of gracefully) with my fingers. Using only one hand. While I sit in ardha padmasana or if I am feeling super-fly, padmasana. It is totally communal, not super hygienic, and truth? Kinda fun.
My back started to ache last week and so Soniya and Sunil took me to the acupressurist. This guy is one of the most interesting people I have ever met. I told him my hip flexor and piriformis muscle were ‘paining.’ He examined me and found some pressure points (ouch) onto which he affixed magnets. Then he told me I also had a low back issue (how did he know from looking at my left hand and my right foot?) He told me to press the magnets to the point of pain whenever I thought of it, or felt pain. The shit works.
I am drinking so much water I cannot believe it and have still not had coffee, though I could have it if I wanted. I assume I do not need to mention I have not had any meat (or eggs or dairy for that matter) or beer since I arrived. I have learned the art of truly ‘flushing’ the system… Those 1980s girls would have nothing on me now if I wanted to show them how to vamana.
I took my asana (teaching) exam today. It was pretty easy. I guess 15 years of teaching gives one some skills to fall back on. A lot of the people in my group were palpably nervous, and I couldn’t really work it out. (Though, if I had to teach in Hindi I might have a different attitude.) I think it goes beyond language and there is a real cultural attitude towards anything labeled “examination” in Asia that I just never really got a hold of. For better or for worse, I suppose. We have the written exams tomorrow and the next day. That should be interesting.
As I could have predicted, I am finally pretty adjusted to the schedule: right as I am getting ready to leave. Up and out by 4:30 a.m. and going sort of non-stop until 8 or 9. Not all yoga and not all things I want to be doing, but that is not the point. I am getting in plenty of yoga and appreciating the subtleties of some of the asanas that I would never have gotten with out this degree of repetition. I do advanced asana with a small group in the afternoons and I can hang out in vrschikasana now. As soon as I am able to load photos I will prove it. Real. Talk. I still like asana the best, but I have a better understanding of why… and that was my point in coming here.
In one week I will fly (NOT on Air India) to Trivandrum in Kerala and there will begin a new phase of this trip. Until then, in the ashram I remain. I think this is probably exactly what is meant by the space between actions.