December 11, 2012 § 6 Comments
Between one week to the next, it’s all too easy to feel like a veteran in this town, as your social circle slowly disintegrates and makes way for newly-arrived practitioners loaded with all the questions you had when you first arrived. I cross the street without fear for my life now, knowing how to read the traffic and how to anticipate. I have my favorite spot at Sri Durga along 1st Main, a corner seat beside the cooler, the perfect vantage point to observe the life of the street and the breakfasting locals who have a far tighter schedule than I do. I know when to go in order to get my masala dosa fill (not before 8am), and how to moderate my caffeine intake by asking for a “tea half” at Amruth. On days when I’m just not in the mood for socializing, the relative calm of Gokul Chat is another haunt, where I can get endless refills of their delicious sambar along with a big cup of chai.
Everywhere now, my walks are punctuated with nods, smiles and waves: one to Ragu at Guru & Sons, a high five with Apu at the rickshaw stand, a nod at folks whizzing by on their scooters and if he’s there, saying hi to Prakash at the shala gate. If I’m lucky, I get a rickshaw that jolts me out of my wandering mind with a booming HELLO! from its cargo load of 12 school kids stuffed into each nook and crevice. I no longer walk briskly with my head down to avoid eye contact, but instead take the time to acknowledge the pulse of life that runs here. This life, this vibrance, that was too overwhelming a month ago.
A friend commented last weekend that the barriers between the physical and the spiritual worlds are very very thin in India, and this magnifies the effect of any spiritual endeavor undertaken here. Spirituality is part of daily life, which is in itself a part of one’s spirituality. This trip has been an unfolding, from one moment to the next, loaded with one too many incidents that would be written off as “coincidence” back home, but happens here with such frequency that I much prefer to call it destiny. Have I been afflicted with a case of Localitis? Of viewing my foreign surroundings through rose-tinted lenses and fitting everything into a narrative of “meaning” and “destiny”? On the verbal-intellectual level, possibly. But at the level of the heart, things have shifted, and I will need to get home in order to understand what it is that has changed, and how. This much is clear though: Mysore (and India, at large) is not a one-visit destination, especially not if you’re here to delve deeper into your practice. You can come and stay for a month, or three, or six, on your first trip, but the fact is, you have to come back in order for it to all make sense.
So: should a yoga practitioner (with no teaching ambitions*) come to India at all? Hell yes.
If your responsibilities and finances allow for a trip to happen and you’re at all curious about it – then make the trip. For an Ashtangi, practicing at the shala here feels like one is nourishing, weeding and tilling the soil of practice, making it fertile for new seeds to take root and grow. The whole endeavor will be a little puzzling at first, sometimes it is difficult, but that’s just India washing out the edges of the Western mind in order to prepare you for what it has in store.
Ah Localitis. Such sweet sweet fever.
*Because if you are a yoga teacher or have teaching ambitions, India should be a part of your itinerary already. A practice in itself.