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

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