Friday, July 17, 2009

My New Blog

I haven't updated this blog since leaving India. But now I have a new one! It's called, "A Yogic Life in the Modern World" and it's about my day to day adventures as I discover life in Australia, build a new business, date and, as ever, practice Ashtanga. So join me at

Friday, October 31, 2008

Bangalore Airport - October 30, 2008

I’ve left Mysore. It hasn’t really hit me yet, or maybe I’m just so tired. I haven’t gotten a lot of sleep over the last two nights with the fireworks and over-stimulation from getting ready to leave.

Nice last day. Very long, leisurely breakfast at Alias. Several people turned up to see me off.

Then a day of pampering (manicure, pedicure, etc) before a few last minute errands, lunch at Tinas (palak rotis...mmmmm) and a 4:30 car to the airport. It took 4 hours to drive here and I absorbed the last of India. The chaotic traffic, the families of 4 on scooters. That distinctive smell of burning something and the ever present pollution (worse as we neared Bangalore.) Then the airport. I feel like I’ve entered another world. It’s brand new and very, very modern. It’s clean with great western toilets with toilet paper and no you actually flush the paper? What a concept! I’m not the only westerner here. Not by a long shot.

It’s funny, in Mysore the only westerners tend to be yoga students. If you go into the city you may not see a westerner during the entire trip, depending on where you are. I’ve gotten used to standing out in a crowd. I’ve also, apparently gotten used to seeing nothing but beautiful people in terms of westerners (mostly young with great yoga bodies). Here westerners come in all sizes and it’s kind of freaking me out. I feel very disoriented actually. My mind is starting to go crazy as well with a lot of fear as I get ready to enter the real world and to pick up my life. My very disjointed life at the moment with a new country, new job, no permanent place to live at the moment and new friends to make. It will all be fine, but in my current state I am focusing on the negative. I’m very grateful that I have the tools though to calm the chitta vrittis and to realise that that’s just where I am right now...this too shall pass.

My practice today was absolutely awesome. The best ever and that’s no exaggeration. I was not at all stiff. I really flowed. I worked so deeply into my hips during the sitting poses. I bound fully and deeply in Supta Kurmasana and crossed my ankles over my head and then I got back up and balanced on my hands without having to come out of it. I touched the floor with my palms facing out during Prasarita C. But the best news is that I dropped back by myself. Only once and with a lot of coaching from Sharath but I did it! I was waiting to be dropped back. Sharath was dropping Jen back who was right next to me so I didn’t even think I’d have the chance to practice, but he was taking awhile so I started to go back. He started saying, “more back bending, bend your neck” over and over again. Then he went to the person in back of me. I had come up and decided to go back down. He said the same and then I got to the critical point he said, “now straight arms”. I did and bump! I hit the floor...with my hands and not my head. In the end it seemed effortless. It was amazing. Then he tried to get me to come up. That wasn’t happening. Neither was the second drop back. I was shaking and crying in relief and disbelief and completely oblivious when Saraswati actually did drop me back. She smiled though and said, “good day!”. I said, “It’s a Mysore miracle.” I cried through the finishing poses. Bawled actually. It was so bitter sweet. I love this practice!

This practice changes you. It just does. You can’t practice this regularly and this intensely and continue to define yourself in the same way. I’ve realised very intensely over the last few months how I’ve defined myself as a weak person. Not physically, mentally or emotionally strong. But you can’t do this practice if you’re weak. That adjective just doesn’t describe me anymore. In any way.

If you’re lucky, not only with the practice in Mysore redefine you, so will the people. I’ve been lucky. I’ve made several soul connections. Some I know I’ll stay in touch with the rest of my life. Some were only meant to be fleeting connections. Brief in duration but not less important. I’ve changed lives and mine has certainly been changed.

I know over the coming days, weeks and months I’ll start to define and redefine this experience. I know I’ll parse it over in my mind and categorise it. I know I’ll lose some of what I’m feeling now and that I’ll carry much of it with me forever.

I know for sure that Mysore has changed me. The place, the practice and the people and for that I’ll be eternally grateful.

Last night in India - Shine on, October 29, 2008

It’s my last night in India and she’s sending me out with a bang (several million in fact). It’s Diwali (Deepavali as it’s known in the south). The festival of lights. It should be more aptly named the festival of sounds. I’ve never been in a war zone, but can’t imagine it’s any more noisy than Diwali in India. Three days of progressively frequent (and now constant and I do mean constant) fireworks. Not only fireworks as in the traditional 4th of July sense but also a lot of very loud cherry bomb type explosions. This goes on day and night (especially night) for 3 days straight. Every family participates so it’s all around you! It’s incredible and can be incredibly frustrating if you let it. But I haven’t let it be (a slight miracle for me who’s super sensitive to sound). I’m taking the advice of a very good friend and living “as if”. Living as if everything is perfect and just as it should be. It’s very freeing and potentially one of the best take aways of the many take aways from my 4 months here. Definitely something to play with.

The same friend gave me some great advice today about love. Loving others full out and loving them completely. So completely that that might mean accepting that you’ll never be together in a traditional romantic sense: it’s not your time, it’s not your destiny. So completely that you see them as they really are and not through rose colored glasses. Knowing that they and it are exactly the way they / it should be and not shutting yourself down for any reason. Playing full out all of the love. Wow! Scary! But why not? Why not take chances, why not just love? If I can do this, if I can allow myself to love this freely and not get hurt or upset if / when it’s not returned can you imagine the quality of my life? Unbelievable.

The final piece of advice that my friend gave me (other than to grow my hair...but that’s another story) is that I have an inner strength that I’m just now becoming aware of. He called it my light today. He told me to continue to let my light shine and shine brightly as I go back to the real world. He actually said this to me the first time we spent any significant time together during that magical night of elephants, fairy lights and gold medal winners at the palace. It was nice to hear him say it again after many hours together and many very intense conversations.

Friends like he are rare and precious. We say we’ll keep in touch and I really hope we do. I think I’ve added to his life as he’s added to mine. But even if we don’t I hope he knows how he’s touched my heart and my soul. One of those magical Mysore moments.

Other than dodging Diwali fireworks my last week has been pretty amazing. My practice is in the best shape it’s ever been in. I said goodbye to Sharath, Saraswati and Guruji today and Sharath made it clear that the next time he sees me I need to be dropping back by myself. Tomorrow maybe?

I’ve spent my last week doing some last minute shopping (this is the dress I had made from the saree),
dental appointments (I got a cleaning for $6 US) and as much rest as I can possibly get in the form of a couple of long lazy pool days and a wonderful day at the river today with Irish Andrew.

He drove my bike so I got to gaze out at the rice paddies and cane fields of old India one last time from the back of my scooter.

Last night was my final Kirtan with Mike for this trip. We were invited to a Kali puja by Auntie Ji (the home bound music teacher at who’s house we’ve been doing Friday night Kirtans) and her friend. Apparently Bengali’s don’t recognise Diwali (although in the typical Hindu tradition of borrowing from other religions and sects they are more than happy to celebrate). Instead they worship Kali during this time. The puja was supposed to start at 8 but of course did not actually start until 10:30 - PM. It was supposed to go all night. We set up and did a Kirtan though while they were decorating Kali and getting ready. Beautiful and touching. Especially when Mike did the Ma chant he wrote himself. Of course this was all preceded by the usual rickshaw and scooter caravan that typifies a group event in Gokulam. Thanks so much Mike for holding the Bhakti space in Gokulam and letting me re-experience something I love so much. See full photoset here (lots of great colours).

Tonight was Cat’s last night and she, Roddy, Kyle (Keelay!) and Richard put on a concert for half of Gokulam on Arne’s roof. Most of the songs one or all had written themselves and they were beautiful. They had to compete with the Diwali fireworks but at the end of the concert we had our own to display.

So, the end is here. I’m really leaving. I’m ready to leave. I’m ready to start my new life. I’m ready to get back to the real world. I so hope that I can take these experiences with me and incorporate them into my real life. I know that some will fall away as I fall into old patterns. But like muscles after not practicing for awhile, emotions have memories and I can access the lessons and my new found strength again, even if I do lose it momentarily. It’s all a journey.

I do know that I’ve made even more great friends whom I will keep close to my heart. I truly have friends all over the world and am so blessed to be supported by two great communities; Tony Robbins people and Ashtangis. A girl couldn’t ask for more.

So I go back into the world with my new motto...Shine On.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Why yes, Madam, you have taken 1 and 1/2 inches from your bust, October 25, 2008

I seem to be melting away in India but Global Warming is unwelcome in certain parts of my body.

Yesterday while raising into updog I had a flash...I could buy a saree and have it made into a dress for the Melbourne Cup party I’ll be attending less than 24 hours after arriving in Sydney. No slow transition for me! I called my tailor, Nissar, and asked him if it was possible to convert a saree into a cocktail dress in less than a week. “Yes, Madam, possible.” So after breakfast at Alia’s off I went to Badsha’s to saree shop. I took Jocelyn with me for another opinion and we had a great time as, true to Badsha’s tradition they pulled every saree off their shelves that remotely fit the description of what I was looking for. I narrowed it down to 6 by the time Nissar arrived.

He showed me pictures of other dresses he’d done and I narrowed that down to a choice of two. Coincidentally both were made by Cathryn, the previous inhabitant of the apartment I currently live in. He and I discussed how the various sarees could work with these two patterns and I decided on the one that was my first choice anyway. It’s electric blue with a bit of a pattern through the material. The bit that is meant to go over the shoulder, which is always the most decorative part of the saree, is blue and green with gold sparkly bits running through it. It will be transformed into a strapless A line, fairly tight fitting and flared at the bottom. I think it will be gorgeous! Now I just need gold shoes (he’s making a matching bag).

After the myriad of measurements I tentatively asked him if my measurements had changed between now and July, when he made my other clothes. After consulting his book he said, “Why yes, Madam, you have taken 1 and 1/2 inches from your bust.” NOT the news I was looking for. The good news is though that, since I’ve been in India, I’ve also lost 1 1/2 inches from hips and tummy and even 1/2 from those pesky thighs! This, despite the fact that I regularly eat 3 pieces of Bruno’s french toast or two big pieces of Santosha’s home made bread every morning. We won’t even talk about the frequent gelato trips or the once weekly hot fudge sundae from the Corner House that I enjoy.

My time is definitely coming to a close though. I have shipped presents to friends and started sorting through my own stuff (what to take with me, what to ship (a lot!) and what to leave here in a trunk for my next trip back.

Last night was my last Kirtan at Auntie Ji’s (an aging music teacher that is house bound but really enjoys the yoga students coming to her). I cried. Partially because it hit me that I’m really leaving India after 4 months and partly because Mike was singing a chant to the Mother that he’d written and it’s just beautiful!

We were lucky enough to have Richard on the violin (he’s excellent and the sweet, sad sound adds so much to Kirtan) and of course, Ganesh on the Tablas.

The rest of the past week has really been spent resting (not much pool time though as we seem to be having a second monsoon season) shopping for last minute items and saying goodbye to others who have left. Ken and Maev to Goa, Christian to New Zealand and others I was less close to for other parts of the world. Goodbyes are not as sad though here, there’s a definite feeling that we’ll see each other again. The sad goodbye will be when my plane takes off from Bangalore and I leave India, the country that, for all its foibles, has a firm grip on my heart.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Deeksha, Part II, October 15, 2008

I had my second deeksha today. Amazing!!! I don’t remember if I explained what it was in my first post. This is a blessing or energy exchange given by initiates into the Oneness Movement. Interestingly enough this is what Tony Robbins’ wife Sage did to cure her lifelong affliction with motion sickness. Tony brought the Oneness Movement to Fiji and they rebranded Oneness University. It’s all the rage amongst my TR friends but I had not been called to do it. The deeksha or blessing is an energy exchange designed to break up neurological patterns. No wonder Tony loves it! That’s what he’s been doing for 30 years.

The first deeksha I had was nice, but no real effects. But this one. Oh my God! First of all the meditation was very powerful. It was designed to open up my chakras. My chakras have been pretty open with the other stuff I’ve been doing so it didn’t take much to really feel plugged in. Then Marina and Sergio put their hands on my head and I feel a flush of energy. It was amazing! Especially with Sergio. He seemed to be really in the flow. The Mysore dwellers will recognise Marina and Sergio from the Southern Star pool where they are frequently seen with their two kids...he’s Spanish and she’s Swiss / Italian.

The experience re-affirmed something I’d been struggling with a wee bit. I’ve always known that my spiritual connection was directly with the source. I’ve had a hard time going through an intermediary, or worshiping someone like Sai Baba or any other living incarnate of the devine. I have always wanted to “plug in” directly. And I’ve always thought about it as “plugging in”. The realisation I had today was that my spiritual path is all about energy. I think that’s why I love yoga so much. It plugs me into my body, quiets the mind and clears the way for a direct connection with the source. But now I’m called to do more in this arena. Just what that is I’m not sure....but isn’t it funny how everything is aligning? I fall in love with deeksha in India practicing yoga, but it’s already around my other network...the Tony Robbins people. I just feel like all of the pieces of my life are coming together and the picture on the puzzle is starting to become clearer.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Thinking about re-entry, October 14, 2008

I’ve started to think about re-entry. I’m almost 2 weeks away from the inevitable; leaving Mysore and starting my new life in Sydney. Today was the first day I got really excited. I arranged for my boxes to be delivered to my serviced apartment and started thinking about real clothes! Tops with spaghetti straps that I can wear with abandon on the street and not get leered at. Shorts. More than one pair of shoes!!!! (I’ve worn the same pair every day for 4 months). I don’t remember what I packed in those six “I need them immediately” boxes but I know it will feel like Christmas when I open them.

I land at 1:00 Monday afternoon and less than 24 hours later I’m at a Melbourne Cup party with an entire office full of people I’ve yet to meet. Needless to say I’ve made a hair appointment for Tuesday morning (no small feat on Cup day). When the guy at the salon asked what I needed I said, “well, I’ve been in India for 4 months...” he cut me off and said, “Oh so you need a lot then!” I guess I do. Luckily my blonde highlights have done a fairly effective job hiding the grey roots.

What started to get me excited about re-entering my life was lunch yesterday. I met with a really interesting couple. She’s American and he’s Swedish. They do strategic consulting for companies and top executives with a spiritual component. It’s exactly what I want to eventually do. I decided that it’s time to start the next phase of my life that will lead me there. I hope to keep in touch with these two.

But even with my excitement I worry about how I’m going to integrate everything I’ve learned and absorbed here into the real world. Can I keep up a 6 day / week practice? What about my pranayama and meditation? How do I balance it all? How do I keep this sense of calm and peace that I now walk around with and not get pulled into the daily stresses of western life? I guess the answer to that lies in the continuation of the practices above.

Four months here has taught me so much. One of the biggest things that it’s taught me is that I’m not ready to be an ascetic. I need to live in the world and to live in it with passion!!!!

So, in a few weeks I will start a new job in a new city / country, start making new friends and finally, a year after I left my husband and had another very significant relationship blow up, I will start to date again! God, what will that be like? I’m very excited about that prospect!!! I’ve taken a couple of chances in that arena recently and it’s given me resolve to do things differently, thanks to a very cute, younger man with great hair! Hmmm, maybe that’s material for another blog. A woman in her mid / late 40’s who feels like she’s in her early 30’s starting to date again after 10 years. Watch this space.

In a few weeks I’ll also be able to use a washing machine, drink tap water (not that I do but it's nice to have the option) and look random people in the eye and smile. I’ll get to dress like I please and ask a simple question and be able to get a straight answer.

There a few things I won’t be doing as though. I won’t be choking from pollution when I drive around town. I won’t be dodging cows, cow shit and men peeing in the streets. I won’t have to glue my envelopes shut with rubber cement at the post office and I won’t have to stand in a queue to get a rubber stamp which allows me to stand in another queue.

Even though I’ll miss a lot; the intensity of the practice, the amazing people I’ve met, the looonnnggg breakfasts (especially over Bruno’s french toast), the lazy days, the best body work (massage, chiropractic and rolfing) I’ve ever had (makes SUCH a difference being worked on by Ashtangi’s), the intense spirituality and some of the best conversations of my life, I think I’m ready.

But, that’s in a couple of weeks. Until then there’s Ken’s anatomy class, more body work, more shopping, an astrology reading, a past life regression, a henna party, more trips to the river, more long breakfasts and amazing conversations, more...well more India. Again, watch this space.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

The practice, October 8, 2008

One of the things that Sharath is fond of saying is that your best practices can happen on days when you don't feel like being on the mat. Days when you don't sleep the night before or that you feel like crap.

That was certainly the case yesterday. I got 2 hours of sleep the night before, slept through my alarm when I finally did fall asleep, woke up 45 minutes late and ran to the shala. I've been having a rough two weeks, feeling like I was practicing with someone else's body. Someone else's very stiff body with painful knees. But yesterday I was back to my old self. I flowed, I was focused and I went deep.

I reached the floor in Prasrita Padottanasana C. I almost dropped back by myself until I saw Saraswati coming towards me (upside down) and stood up again. She said, "you go back" but the moment had passed. And I got my headstand back. Life is good!

Today, although I slept like a champ last night was even better. Sharath dropped me back and I came within 4 inches of touching my back bend.

Tomorrow's another day! :)