I survived my first week in India. It has been a challenge, emotionally mostly. The physical aspects are that I am exhausted and drained from being so emotionally unbalanced. I find that this trip is showing me areas in my life that I need to learn to be less attached too. For example, my practice is normally a method I use to unwind and find solace from my day-to-day. I find I turn to and count on my practice to give me a feeling of wholeness and completion. Here it is not that, my practice is less physically demanding than my practice at home. The attention I receive from Sharath is virtually non-existent, or when I do get it it seems to be because I have done something incorrectly. And the energy I pick up in the room is not what I am used to, my home shala’s energy is very communal and supportive, here it seems competitive and judgmental.
It’s entirely possible that the reason I am feeling such a shift in my practice is because I came with the expectation that it would be one way, and it’s entirely the opposite. It could also be that I am not allowing myself and be open to the experience as much as I should be. I could also just be homesick. In reality I think it’s a combination of the three and probably other elements besides. My first week has been fairly busy and I have befriended quite a few people. I am learning the ways of Mysore, from how to get around the city to how to maneuver the que at the shala while waiting to enter the space. I’m taking a Sanskrit class and enjoying many fine Indian dishes. I’ve also done some shopping and acquired some colorful and flowy pieces that I enjoy.
I’m hoping to take a day trip next weekend on my day off and get out of the city a little. On Friday, which was a Moon Day we climbed the 1000+ steps up Chamundi Hill in the heat and humidity. I find I sweat all the time here, so it was just normal really to be to drenched after such an adventure. I was amazed though at the people who were decorating the steps the whole way up. They had bags of colored powder and flowers and were smearing the side of the steps with the color and placing the marigolds in the center of the step. There were even some folks lighting bits of wax in the center of the steps. I had to be careful not to spoil their hard work as I trudged up the stairs.
It was interesting to me to observe this devotion as these offerings were so temporary. I was thinking how devoted people here are to their beliefs. Just walking down the street in the morning I see women sweeping the driveways, rinsing away the dirt, chalking their family mandala back in the driveway. They hang their laundry to dry from their balconies so the streets are colored with the paint of the homes and the vibrant colors of the textiles. This place feels so foreign for me, but yet, I think under the feeling of being uncomfortable, it is also teaching me so many lessons.
I need to remain open to the experience, accept that even in the most frustrating or lonely moments this was the right decision. In the end the only person keeping me here is myself and I made the decision to come because I felt called, I felt like I needed to have this experience. I think after I have settled in a bit more it will come more naturally. I’ve been keeping a daily journal and writing down everything I do and feel and that has helped. I’m also going to post a few blogs about what to expect, things I found out later that I think would have been helpful to know and provide as much info as I can. But in the end, part of being here is actually living the experience, from dawn till dusk, with friends and on my own. India is proving to be quite the test of my strength, character, and dedication to the practice.
Stay tuned for more to come.