Wednesday, September 5, 2012

OM sweet OM

I'm home! I have been MIA for a few days, on my blog, email, twitter and facebook (shock!). I had to pay way too much for internet access at the last resort I was at in Goa, so I decided to go without it at the end of my trip (it's actually a nice thing to unplug once in a while). After that I was travelling for more than 24 hours (3 flights : 1 hour, 16 hours, 1.5 hours, plus connections and delays). When I finally got home yesterday I was SO TIRED and foggy headed. I arrived later than scheduled back to Toronto, so I had to cancel my original pick up (Thanks anyways Theresa!) since she had a yoga class to get to, and luckily someone else (Thanks Bill!) was able to come pick me up last minute. I had to come straight home, spend a few hours with my sister before driving her to the airport so she could fly home to Halifax and start university today! Whirlwind! I am so lucky to have a best friend and a sister who were willing to come live in my house for more than 5 weeks (they took turns!) and take care of my pets (not an easy job!), water my plants, etc. I am super grateful for the generous people in my life. Also Bill came over for two days and took cat & weasel duty in between Laura & Jana's stays. I couldn't have taken this trip without them. Thank you :)

I am still processing my whole trip and experience, letting it all soak in. Of course I know that for the next week or two I'm going to be getting a lot of  "How was India?" questions. I find that hard to answer! The real answer might take an hour, I have so many thoughts and experiences and lessons as a result of my trip. But most people aren't looking for that answer. It also seems cheap to say "Great, thanks." So what is the in between? I'm not sure yet. I'm thinking about it. I can't really say it was or wasn't what I expected, because I really tried to go without expectations. In some ways it was harder than I thought, but in a lot of ways it was a lot easier. I was in a very upper class cushy part of India, so there was no major culture shock. I certainly was not roughing it or struggling. Sure, I had to drink bottled water, and close my mouth in the shower, I got sick a few brief times, got rained on, had dirty feet, used some 'squat' toilets, etc. But, it wasn't bad at all. Did I love the food in the region? No, not really. But there was always something decent to eat.

I met a lot more people and was a lot more social than I thought would be the case. I love the people I met and am so glad that they were part of my experience. I love the global feeling of people coming together, from all over the world (USA, Canada, Spain, Mexico, UK, South America, ...more!) all to the same place, for the same reason. We were all on the same journey. We all wanted to come to the source, to Mysore India, to study authentic Ashtanga Yoga, with Sharath, the grandson of Sri K Pattabhi Jois. We certainly are all at different points along that path. Some just starting Ashtanga, some trying to get a little deeper, some already teaching, some on their 20th journey to Mysore. It was an amazing blend of talents, levels, knowledge. We all had something to share with each other and the variety of understandings and perspectives was very interesting. I was careful not to let the social aspect take over my experience, as I think it easily could have, and maybe had with others. I wanted to keep my journey pointed inwards, one where I learned more not only about yoga and the philosophy and lineage of Ashtanga, but more about myself.

People have been asking me "Did you learn new things?" and "Are you a super master yogi now?!". And the answer really is, "No". I practiced the same things I practice here. I heard the same things I have heard many times before, from Sharath, from my other teachers, from books and blogs and videos and texts. But that is the thing about Ashtanga. It's not about learning something new or something different all the time. It's about doing the same thing all the time. And seeing what exactly about yourself changes. I say this often when I teach. Asana practice is just a tool. The poses and the breathing are just there so you can watch yourself and listen to yourself. While healing the body and stilling the mind, there is this whole other process going on inside. You get to watch the fluctuations in your own mind, while going through this routine or system. You get to monitor your ego. You get to train yourself to become more even, more dedicated, more consistent. And that is what I did in Mysore. I was in a place of great energy and heat, with authentic and safe teaching where I felt a lot of trust and faith, and I just went and I did my practice there. I was not given as many poses to practice as I have when I am practicing here in Toronto at AYCT so that was a good lesson in humility, in not showing off ("Bad lady" is what Guruji apparently used to say when someone was showing off!"), doing less but doing it better, and in working with what you have and not wanting more. The same things came up in my practice that come up at home. Being aware of others around you. Comparing yourself with others. Feeling slightly sick or lazy some days and realllly having to talk yourself into showing up on the mat and putting in a decent effort when all you want to do is lay down and take a nap. But I got to work on all of those things a little more. Under a very good and motivating watchful eye. Of course like any teacher you respect and look up to, you want to do it right for Sharath. I wouldn't exactly say I wanted to impress him, but I wanted to do things well and do things properly, around him. And since I am western-minded, I have to say I did make some "progress" in a tangible sense, in that I for the first time was able to walk my hands all the way to my heels while upside down in a backbend, with his assistance, for the last week or so of my practice there. It was party because of being ready, partly because of the immense heat there in the room and in my body, and also because of this support and coaching "walk walk walk walk more...". So I am grateful for all of those things. I have a lot more work to do and a long way to go, on steadying my mind, on releasing my ego, of ignoring what's going on around me when I am practicing, on finding consistent energy and motivation. My life is not changed. I am not suddenly a cirque de soleil performer. I am not suddenly filled with immense knowledge that I will be teaching in my classes this week!

What I am is a little more experienced in my own practice. I think that is what ultimately can make someone a better yoga teacher. I am a little more open to what exists out there in he world after seeing another very different way of living, watching and learning about different ways of relating to each other on social and gender-related dimensions. I am more grateful as always, for what I do have, since as they say, you don't know what you have till it's gone. And when you are away from your pets, your family, your friends, your bed, your drinkable tap water, your washer and dryer, well, you miss them and love them more when you get back home! I am also grateful that all of my luggage arrived with me in Toronto! Am I the only one who worries like crazy that my baggage will not be on the belt thingy after my flight?!

Well here I am at home again. It all seems like a blur (maybe because I'm so jet-lagged!) but like I said, I need some time to let it all seep through me. I need to rest, unpack, and eventually and slowly start to reap the benefits of my journey. It's not about where I went or what I did, but more so about what I got out of it. I think there's an expression something like this hat seems appropriate: To see the world in a new way, you need not go to new places, but rather look with new eyes. So slowly but surely, through my practice, my intentions, my travels and my experiences, I am changing my eyes.

Quick trip to the beach in Goa, in between monsoon rain attacks!

Brekky and a book by the pool in Goa

Deserted Beach in Goa

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Monsoon Season in Goa

I made it to Goa! I think it was a close call though. I had a car arranged to pick me up from where I was staying in Mysore at 7am on Friday the 31st of August, a full moon which meant I had no yoga practice that day. Actually a "blue moon" because it was the 3rd 'moon' of the month (full, new, full). Maybe it was the full moon that was influencing the escapades of the day! 7:15am, no car. Me? Admittedly nervous. I sent an email to Krishna Murthy, who I arranged the car with. He is the one I arranged a car from the airport to Mysore when I first arrived, and that was on time and no problem. Should I have emailed a day before as a reminder? Probably. 7:20am, I call him. Twice. It's 'busy'. 7:30am, I walk up the street to his office and start banging on the locked gate. A guy pokes his head out of the upstairs window "He's not here yet". Argh! Me? Panicked! I have a flight to catch. Luckily I left myself extra time for this whole getting to the airport trip. I found the usual riskshaw drivers at the top of the street by the shala and tell them what has happened. "No car is coming?" No! No car is coming!! They made a few phone calls to their friends, one of whom was able to come in his car and drive me. I ended up paying a little more than what I had arranged previously, but that's ok. And of course (of course!) the two rickshaw dudes (Appu and some other one) wanted payment for their help, which I suppose is fair. Of course what I offered them wasn't enough. But that's too bad, they should have stated before they helped how much they wanted. But as usual, they didn't.

On my way to the airport, finally. The driver was young, and kept turning his head back to look at my legs. Which had pants on, but only 3/4. So apparently the lower half of my calf was very distracting to him. That, plus his tendency to be on his phone while driving, caused him to crash right into the back of a motor bike. Luckily we weren't going too fast. My head jerked in a mini whiplash action (not too bad, it's fine now) and caused both bike riders to pop right up off the bike. Thankfully they landed back on the bike and not in the street. They were not impressed. Neither was I. My driver threw up his arms like "what the hell!" but it was no use, it was so obviously his fault!! They got out and looked, and he just bent their license plate. Thank god, I didn't have time for anything more!! They gave him dirty looks and we were all on our way again.

At the airport, I check in, and my luggage to be checked was 9kg overweight. 29kg. I was SURE last time it was well underweight. But maybe there was less in it and also maybe for an international flight the weight limit is higher. This was just a 1 hour domestic flight. "OK, how much do I owe you?" I was not about to argue or repack. It was $40. Fine. Let's get on with this!!

The flight was on time, full, but ok. Then came landing time. And an announcement. "We cannot land because the rain is too heavy and the visibility is very bad. We'll be up here in a holding pattern until it's safe to land." The feeling in the cabin was getting more and more impatient. Feet were tapping, voices were growing louder, babies were crying. I was just trying to relax and thought, well, eventually we'll run out of gas and HAVE to land, so we won't be up here forever!! And of course, eventually we landed. YAY! People clapped.

The shuttle for my *fancy* hotel was waiting for me and a few others. It was raining hard and we had to walk all the way to the shuttle (poor me). The drive was amazing (despite how freaking fast and crazy the driver was driving). I felt like we were going through a jungle, well, I guess maybe we were. Beautiful scenery. And then we arrived. Through a locked security gate. To get into the resort I had to walk through a security detector and have my bags scanned and checked. What the heck!? I guess I'm safe in here!!

After checking in (sitting comfortably on a couch), with drinks and hot towels, I was walked to my room with a host. We walked, and walked, and walked, cobblestones, over bridges, seemingly through a little resort village, by pools, to my "court" #2. Upstairs to my "room" which is more like a ... hut? Dwelling? I'm not sure what it is. There are four units in the one building I'm staying in, and it's beeee-eautiful! It's really possibly the nicest place I have ever stayed. Big, stylish, clean, open, new but old (does that make sense?), private balcony, every amenity, smells good... I'm happy here :) The only thing I don't like, is the big screen TV, it should go away. As should all clocks. I hid both of them out of sight. The next 4 days for me, no clocks, no time, nowhere to be, nothing to do, etc etc. I unpacked and headed into the rainfall shower. It was heaven after such a crazy day.

I went for a little walk on the beach around 630pm when the rain stopped. It was super wavy and the ocean was dark grey/brown from the monsoon. Still the beach and ocean were amazing. It wasn't the white sand and turquoise water like in the pictures but I love the ocean in any form. There were local fishermen pulling their nets out of the water. They caught fish, crabs, lots of poor little starfish, and a stingray! I watched the guy break off the poison part of the tail and throw the fish in the bag. (Video link below) I asked if he ate stingray, he said yes, very delicious actually! I had prawn curry and goan rice for dinner, in one of the resort restaurants, it was recommended as their specialty. I also tried a glass of Indian made sauvignon blanc, and it was surprisingly very good! Dinner only cost me $50! Haha. The waiter was very nice and gave me a big list of things to do off of the resort if I wanted to, as well as a place to go for cheap local dosas (I asked for this suggestion!). The chef was also present and made sure I enjoyed it. I really really did.

I slept like a baby. A baby in a 5 star resort. I woke up to roaring rain again. I made a cup of tea, had some fruit that was left in a basket in my room, and slowly let myself wake up. Around 730am the sun poked out. Hallelujah!! I knew it would likely not last so I grabbed a book and a bikini and headed for the pool. I laid out so towels on a lawnchair and ordered a banana smoothie and a chai. I read a chapter of "guruji" then it started to sprinkle. Surprise surprise! I put my belongings under cover and jumped into the hot tub. Mmmm bubbles! Then I went for a little swim in the pool, then back to the hot tub to warm up. After half an hour, the light rain stopped and the sun broke through again. I got another 2 hours in the sun. I had had enough so started to walk toward the beach for a little stroll before coming back to my room. RAIN! Pouring rain! Haha, I knew it was coming. I walked back to my room, getting soaking wet, but it was fun. Some kids were in the pool LOVING it. There's a water slide built into some rocks and they were having the time of their lives. Back to my rainfall shower and then the internet (now!). Later on... Some lunch. If I don't come home, I'll be here. In my hut. I think I might just stay :)

The hotel grounds apres rain

 The beach

 The hotel grounds

 The hotel grounds at night, under the full Blue Moon

 Prawn Curry - YUM!

 Morning at the pool

 Pretty things

PS... A friend of mine shared with me this fun iPhone app that makes these photo-collages. I'm obsessed!!