Tuesday, November 3, 2009



At least, back in Fort Collins. Home is kinda tough for me to define right now. Can you feel homesick and at home at the same time?

My first steps on US soil in Chicago were excited--"Look! Drinking fountains! Drinking fountains that you can drink out of!"

My next thoughts--"Everything here is so...gray. And weirdly clean. And, why did the waitress at a sit down restaurant just hand me disposable plastic eating utensils? Surely they wash them later?"

So anyway, I'm back and I'm safe and now I'm just playing it by ear. I know I slacked majorly on posting anything in the later parts of my trip, but I'm going to try and fill in some bits and pieces. It was an amazing, intense experience and I want to give it due justice. Plus I was kinda spending my rupees in India in more productive ways than at the internet cafe. Like on pomegranates.

One thing about being back--there's a lot of alone time in Colorado. In the ashram, I was surrounded by 30 some incredible people who were always ready with support, be it a shoulder to cry on or a buddy to sneak out to Tulsi Restaurant with and eat Banofee pie (Oh. Wow. Salty graham cracker crust layered with caramel layered with marshmallow paste layered with bananas. Mmm...) with. I love the people I have here, but it's tougher for me to relate to them about ashram living, or yogic living, or living in India living. Conveying how incredible and how emotionally physically mentally digestively intense the experience was is going to be tricksy.

But I like a good challenge.

A question I keep getting: are you different? Are you changed? To which I say yes. But no. But a lot of yes.

I'm working on thinking through all the stuff that has been layered into my head over the past month. They weren't messing around when they called this an "intensive" course. I learned a lot, but it's going to take some time to sort through everything and decide what I'd like to keep in my own life and what I'll leave behind. What I love though, is that I finally feel like I have the knowledge to work out myself.

Big thing that I finally get: yoga is so much more than postures. In early yogic texts, postures are barely even mentioned and are used mostly to get the body ready for mediation when you're lower back is all twitchy and unhappy. The Western world kind of removed asana (the postures) away from all the rest of yoga, which is ridiculous once you start to delve into the rest of the the tradition a little bit more. So much of it is almost common sense, but also so valuable to everyday life: be nice to others, be balanced, allow yourself to find quiet, be content. Recognize your own value, try to be conscious of your actions, learn how to listen first. Breathe.

Yoga just helps define what I think we all intuitively know to be true.

One of my favorite aspects of the philosophy of Akhanda yoga is that you are your own guru, meaning that you hold within yourself the guidance you need to find contentment. You only need to learn how to quiet yourself enough to learn how to listen to him (my inner guru is definitely male. He wears suspenders and is fond of tiramisu and sunrises. I try to accomodate). I love this take on things, because it empowers you to find and use the key to your own happiness. In the past, I've had a bad tendency to give that key out, depending on an experience or person to make me happy. We all do this, "I'll be happy when...I get a new car, get engaged, get a puppy, etc." Which is unfortunate, especially when depending on someone else to keep tabs on your key. First off, you're giving up something you have an inherent right to. Second, you're forcing upon someone else a responsibility that they can't hope to always fulfill. It's just not the best plan in the long run.

Vishvaji also encouraged us to think of yoga as a science, which totally appeals to me because it makes the whole thing feel a bit more manageable for analytically minded people who like evidence and experience to come to conclusions (Not that I'm one. But I know someone). Be your own lab, right? That means that you can experiment and play with different poses, different ideas, whatever, and see what works for you. And if it doesn't work or feel right, time to try something new. Yoga is non-dogmatic, so take what you like and leave the rest.

In a book called The Wisdom of Yoga by Stephen Cope, he cites a Buddhist story that describes a state known as samvega, wherein we come to the realization that constantly grasping for happiness from things that can't hope to provide it is, well, silly.

"A dog stumbles across a bone that has been exposed to the elements for many months, and is therefore bleached of any residual flesh or marrow. The dog gnaws on it for some time before he finally determines that he is not finding any satisfaction in the bone, and he thus turns away in disgust. It is not that the bone is intrinsically disgusting; it is rather the case that the dog's raging desire for meat will just not be satisfied by the bone...when he wakes up to the truth that the bone is empty of anything that will offer him satisfaction, he becomes disenchanted, and spits it out in disgust."

It may take us a really long time to understand that fundamentally, it's ridiculous for the bone to provide us with anything that it doesn't have. Objects like people or things or jobs all may have intrinsic value, but lack the "meat" that is guaranteed to satisfy that need we have for happiness. It takes a moment to step back, to breathe, and to look at ourselves critically. This trip helped solidify my desire to understand the source of my own happiness.

I feel a bit like a little kid with a huge plastic pumpkin spilling over with of different candies right now with all the stories and thoughts and questions I want to share. How to choose which one to savor next?

But anyway it's this little kid's bedtime. More later.I'm working on pictures, but below is one my favorites of the Ganga at sunrise. So pretty, eh?

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