Friday, February 19, 2016

Lawless and spiritual.

It stands alone. The simple chaos of India is striking. I have arrived in the small city of Mysore in Karnataka, Southern India where a dichotomy of lazy timelessness somehow runs alongside a relentless madness. It is immediately evident that India is strong in character with no lack of energy or life, no weakness of spirit. I am excited to have a month here in this Mecca for Ashtanga yoga, to study and immerse myself in the rigorous style of classical yoga which this place is famous for. I am excited to indulge in the vividly unique Indian culture.
I quickly discover I'm not crazy about rickshaws. They are quintessential to Asia and are no less than a partially enclosed three wheeled tuna can about as stable as an egg. The exhaust pipes purge dirty smoke. The drivers are generally obstinate opportunists, overcharging by two to even three times the real price and still treating you like you ruined their day. So, one week of this and I decided with all my previous training riding scooters in Bali and Thailand I surely could take on Indian traffic- a wild mix of buses, cows, cars, rickshaws, scooters and dogs all pressing through with their own plan of direction and timing. It turns out, it was all I needed, with the scooter came freedom!  Freedom to become one with the chaos. 
There is a language to be learned here. Hindi is one of them, yes. But there is another. The all pervasive horn. Forget traffic rules other than an occasional stop light. On the road it is more like a free for all with the horn as moderator. The horn says "hey there" or "I'm on your right," or my favorite, "NOT stopping!" Some of the endearing phonemes of this unspoken language include the short and quick beep, a lengthy succession of beeps, and the long hard blast of sound that will make the ears wince. Whatever the message, everyone has something to say. Don't be offended  and keep your cool. This is India and it's hot, loud and sometimes kind of stinky. And if you're walking, definitely don't forget that pedestrians DO NOT have the right of way.
My neighbor and yogini compatriot is Reina, a spicy little pistol of a personality from Venezuela who has become my inseparable back seat driver. We weave and speed all over the city making our own rules. In India as well as all of Asia you can see an amazing amount of passengers and baggage of all kinds being transported on these little bikes. We joke that back at home it would take a day off work, three friends and a car to move a piece of furniture whereas here they would just strap it on the back of the bike, load up the family including the dog and head off on the scooter. Job done. 
There is also a helmet "law" that seems to be the only reason a cop would ever pull you over to claim some rupees and write you a ticket. That is, if you stop. They stand in the street on foot and try to wave you down. We have found the best way is to feign a stop and then gun it (full throttle is a ridiculously slow build up to 40kph, which could almost be outrun on foot) then weave a bit as the cop scrambles to take a photo of your license plate with his 90's era cell phone. This irreverent act generally keeps us from shelling out an extra 100 rupees and having to stop. Reina for some reason doesn't want to buy a 300 rupee helmet which is more like a prop than a safety device anyway so we continue about like Thelma and Louise do India. Don't get the wrong idea, we stop every once in a while and pay up. It's usually pretty entertaining because immediately we are surrounded by ten Indian onlookers, generally men, all joining in and commenting on the bust. I have also heard that the law really only requires the driver to have a helmet but they like to pull us over any way. I haven't looked it up for myself. I prefer the lawless lifestyle. Lawless and spiritual.  
Now you know. 

Here we are, three blondes on a scooter in India- American, Venezuelan and French. 

Monday, February 8, 2016

Week One: Mother India

India? Are you sure?! Yes. 
I am moved. I am moved by an awakening within my body and spirit to come alive, to leave no stone unturned, no question ignored. I have been inspired by the discovery of a beautiful light within, as though life itself has begun waking up in me, galvanized by a practice consisting of conscious breath and posture. Exploring the physical practice of yoga has been like unearthing a jewel. A jewel of infinite light revealing facets of brilliant colors and quiet, mysterious pathways. The enchantment of body and breath coming together in sweet unison evokes a remembrance, a recovery of an inner beauty of the soul, obscured by years of neglect, fear, disregard and even personal disdain. A surprisingly honest exposé maybe, but how easy it is to lose yourself in the day to day existence, getting caught up in societal pressures and ignorant of the sweet taste of the oasis within.
This practice has produced a pearl. A pearl of courage to finally and fearlessly explore who I am, re-discovering and redefining my relationship with Spirit. This has been an area of my life that I had buried, stuffed away. Resisted. An area I had not made peace with. A big part of my childhood that I had disowned. The strong spiritual influence of my family as a child had been rejected so that I could find acceptance in a world that rarely made space for God. I have found that the very nature of religion provokes a friction between people that I preferred to avoid. I had abandoned spirituality because I had not been able to find a path of resonance. I was disenchanted by any association to religion and turned off by the establishment. 
The discomfort had immobilized me for years and the time has come to stop pushing it aside. 
To be moved in the direction of the heart may be a broad definition of the spiritual, but I have found it is this feeling that is waking up my desire for connection. I believe heart consciousness is one of compassion, devotion, offering and unconditional love for all beings. It is all encompassing, all inclusive. To me, this is the essence of spiritual connection. 
My own glimpse of "atma hrydaya" or heart consciousness has drawn me to India. I must admit I was not excited to visit a country known for its masses, poverty, disease, corruption and lack of infrastructure. But, India offers the opportunity to disorganize and re-organize my whole world. After a fair number of years studying yoga asana (postural practice,) pranayama (breathing), mantra and Ayurveda (sister science of yoga in lifestyle and health) I felt called to overcome my resistance, acknowledge my path as a Bhakti yogini, and make the leap across the ocean to honor the roots of this ancient practice that has changed my life in every wonderful and positive way. 
It's been just over a week since I arrived in Mother India. India's religions are Hinduism, Jainism, Sikhism, Buddhism, Islam and Christianity. I find it completely fascinating to see these religions in all their fullness here. I love seeing the devotion of the heart represented in all forms. I feel the tender nature of spirituality as humility, surrender and love for this gift of life. 
Yoga for me has become the bridge back  to relationship with the organizing intelligence that supports all life, to that which is greater than the individual. To God. 
I have come to India to explore how the physical path ultimately connects us to ourselves and each other. In this way I am finding my own way back to a sweet relationship with Spirit, myself and all aspects of this life. As Kahlil Gibran so delightfully and peacefully relates, “I love you when you bow in your mosque, kneel in your temple, pray in your church. For you and I are of one religion, and it is the spirit.” 

(Thank you Maria Garré, my wonderful Ayurveda teacher, for sharing this quote.)