This place brings me back again to the distinction between ambition and aspiration. It seems everything I am involved in here, the yoga, the dance, does not benefit from my effort, but from my relaxation. I always remember Bhavani, my sutra teacher’s words: Relax the intensity of your effort because this journey never ends. Thank goodness the yoga goes to eternity. It will take at least this much. As I get a teeny bit older, I wonder at what point I might meet my end with the progression through the Ashtanga series. Here in Mysore, it is very clear that we are working on the first 3 limbs of yoga. Personal and social consciousness, and asana. What I understand from studying here is that the asana alone can take at least this lifetime. Guruji says to me in the office when I ask any question: “slowly slowly.” Godammit! Slow my ass!
At the jewelry store my friend is in a hurry. The three women it requires to swipe a credit card and generate a receipt get only slower as her impatience flusters them. They huddle over the computer, stressing contagiously. My friend and I begin discussing the important lesson of India: Relax, have chai. When I am rushing or stressing, my belly gets tight. I think, why am I doing this to myself? It will not get me out of this shop any sooner. My soft and wonderful belly, the vessel for the organs of digestion and creation, the seat of all integration, why tweak it? Over what?
The asana- “why you hurry?” Sharath says every week. (He says so little. I am fortunate to be a wordsmith so I can roll over these one-liners and make some deep allegory of it…aaah yes, grasshopper.) I am so humbled by it here. The more I effort, the more ridiculous it gets. Crunching the face in order to get a leg behind my head. Yes, that works, good job. Good thing you are trying so hard, Kate, because if you weren’t killing it in the yoga room every morning you would be ABSOLUTELY USELESS. Your life would be NULL AND VOID.
And what a blessing if it were! Released from the bondage of ambition and free to aspire! To love, to grow high like a beanstalk simply because it is my nature. But yoga tells us the nature of the human mind is to run in circles, chasing our tails. The trip is to remember I am not that chase. Hence the ego smashing. I don’t expect to receive any new poses, any special blessings, any metamorphoses of my human form. This time may be finished for now. The times when each new pose unfolded and always there was this sense of immediate change before my very eyes. Now I am in the slowly slowly stage of practice. The way to bring peace to my life is to be peaceful in it, whatever outward form it is taking.
Such is the practice and the whole trip of Mysore. I stand on my mat before practice every day and imagine giving it up. Giving it all up! Release the effort, the face, the legs, the mind and heart. Just be thankful to be here and know that my very presence in this exact place at this time, on my mat again for the umpteenth time, is a manifestation of the very devotion that sets me free. And so. I have already arrived, before the practice even starts. The entire day stretches before me, ripe with the unexpected. Fragranced by curiosity and wonder.
Then there are those days when I can’t…quite…let it be. Sometimes I am just not satisfied with my uselessness. Back to the work of transforming ambition to aspiration.