Karma and new characters
01.04.2008 42 °C
The last couple of days have been amazing. Intense in all ways, physically, emotionally, spiritually. Theres been a lot of things on my mind bugging me, to do with the past and not being able to let go as I would like. It seems to have manifested itself as a dull ache in my hamstrings and butt. Truly, I keep catching myself tensing the muscles involuntarily. Also I notice my shoulders are tense like they were with work stress a couple of years ago. I'm trying to welcome this physical acknowledgement because if it surfaces it can be dealt with. And I tell myself that every morning before Ashtanga. The panchakarma is ongoing and doing what it should but its not always comfortable, a couple of times I've woken up with what feels like a hangover (chance would be a fine thing) and just slept in but the last couple of days I've been on good form. I try to be in the present, to focus on my own practice, to be aware of my drishtis and breath and not be judgemental but it was hard this morning. With the regular practice though, I'm becoming far more aware of what feels like a 'quiet fire' within me, in my core. Also, in sun salutations your flexibility and energy increases immeasurably when you feel the fire within you connecting with the sun without. You worship the sun as a part of the sun and become lost in it, moving like one of those plastic fish that wriggle around according to the heat of the hand it is placed upon. Its sometimes hard to get up early and trek down to practice but I am always so glad I did.
I thought I'd try a different class last night- I went to the Iyengar class at the Omkarananda Ashram, taught by Usha Devi. She is a very long term disciple of Iyengar. Someone had said to me that when she is in the room it is like being in the room with Iyengar himself. I can see what they meant. She's a remarkable woman, someone who 'glows' with their calling and truly lives Yoga. She's involved in all kinds of projects, mainly teaching children and setting up more schools here. She reminds me of one of the teachers at my boarding school. Strict, no-nonsense. Expects high standards as she works so hard herself. A lot of heart and a dry sense of humour. No leotard clad bunny who runs Yoga retreats for Guardian readers on Martinique is she. It was an intense hour and a half of "No! Thats wrong! Again! Do you speak English at all? Well, if you don't understand you must learn to use your eyes! Not that ankle back (slap!)! I meant this ankle (slap!)! Is that a dirty foot? It makes me so sad to see a dirty foot! Anyone who has dirty feet tomorrow will be sent out straightaway! What is this? WHAT IS THIS? Look, this is me doing what you are doing (slumps with comedy lazy face), up, up and again..." and so on.... Her knowledge of anatomy and physiologys fantastic and I liked her a great deal, she's very thorough. She actually said that you should not modify an asana by bending the knees as this can be more risky for the hamstrings. So I've stopped doing that, rather, I'm cultivating patience. I may go to one or two more of her classes but to be honest I really love the Sivananda classes and I've got quite into the flow of them. Also with doing Ashtanga in the mornings and the Panchakarma I don't think nows the right moment for Iyengar shouty classes of an evening.. However, if I decided at any point that I wanted to become a professional dominatrix I've met my inspiration... Oh and the man on reception there is thoroughly cold and unpleasant. Those Iyengar folk... they do insist on keeping it real.....
Yesterday I decided that I should get out and explore a bit. So I went whitewater rafting down the Ganges. It was incredible! Its very romantic, rowing down the river, it has a very 'Legends of the Fall' vibe about it. You row past all these saddhus who have little self built huts by the river. They sit there in faded orange robes watching the world and feeding goats. There are little beaches with glittering silver sand and its stunning. The water is turquoise and crystal clear, fresh and charged with energy. The trip wasn't too hair raising, only a few occasions when the boat was vertical and nearly tipped us out. There was me, a couple of nice Israeli girls travelling and a bunch of Indian guys who kept insisting we stop so they could jump off rocks. Oh, and who thought it was really funny to stop rowing and let me at the front do all the rowing on our side. I turned round and shouted at them a few times but they just smiled indulgently at me. Its incredible being out in the middle of really rough water- so I have a new hobby because I HAVE to experience it again, its amaxing. A bard in Wales once said to me that being in wild water is like being immersed in pure Awen- the Druid term for inspiration or God energy- the Celtic version of Om. It truly is.
In my last five days of Panchakarma now. Been doing some interesting cleansing techniques and eating a lot of khichri and drinking a lot of water. I cracked at the weekend and had some cake (oh, and half a can of beer but that, erm, wasn't my fault) but I'm back on the wagon now. I've been feeling more sensitive of other people. Like I can see whats going on with them better than I could before. And my day to day relations with people are feeling very good at the moment, if thats a measure of progress at all. Theres been moments of feeling utterly miserable too. But they're few. And lightened by people I meet. Funnily enough I bumped into one of my old work colleagues from American Express in Laxmanjhula today! Totally unexpected! We went for a cup of tea and made plans for Sunday lunch before I go.
So today I went to see a Vedic astrologer. I went to see this guy because he's young, about my age, and speaks excellent English. Which is good because I wanted to ask him things and the older traditional astrologers just tend to bark out the same old phrases at you about how you will not have any accidents and how big your house will be bla bla bla.... He's called Dr Aksh Dubey and it was great. He really knew his stuff and I was impressed. He explained to me some of the basic differences between Western and Vedic astrology- how Vedic astrology is far more concerned with the Moon and its nodes and Karmic issues. He asked me why I was sad and I nearly welled up but managed to compose myself. He knew things I didn't tell him about my life, personal things (like he started talking about my father and how he hated spending money). And he managed to help me to see that no-ones judging me or my life as harshly as I am. That I'm not getting old and its all bleak. He said something I've suspected for a while- that I've got this gift of freedom, that here I am, in India, learning things I never thought I would. Doing things that millions of people aren't in a position to; there is nothing, nothing, holding me back from having the most incredible life but I've chosen to spend a lot of it lately moping over someone who didn't even have the get up and go to change his filthy bedsheets.... I might as well fly up to Heaven and chuck a brick through Gods lounge window if thats all the gratitude he gets for my liberty... I think thats whats called an epiphany.
And so at this time I'm influenced by Jupiter and must forge ahead and not lose faith or confidence, dare to break the patterns. He said my strengths are communicating, teaching and writing and there are exciting oppurtunities around 2010 if I work hard now. Also there'd be an important relationship next year- I could get involved with someone sooner but it'll be the same as before so I should look out for number one, oh, and stay healthy, not too much wine as its energy draining. He also said I should do some Karma work to appease Saturn- to give black coloured items like t shirts, pens and dark lentils to the poor on Saturdays- I said I would but didn't want to offend people by going up to them and offering them free rudimentary groceries etc- he said its ok, in India people are familiar with the paying of karmic debts procedure. We had a good chat after the reading. He's into the study of Occultism and recommended John Woodroffe as a great source of information on Tantra. And he reckons that Christianity in its original form is a branch of Tantra, which started to become popular in India around 600BC. So I left with a lighter heart , fresh resolve, and a booklist and went to Sivananda practice and enjoyed a beautiful and quiet class.
I went to the Madras Cafe to end the day with some fragrant vegetable pulao and curry. As if to illustrate what I learned today I met one of the great characters of my trip. A tall, rangy 63 year old Scot named David. A retired psychology lecturer he's been living on and off in India for 40 years. He had the misty eyes of Peter O'Toole and his dress was elegant. He was passionate about Scotland, passionate about India. He professed to have no interest in religion or mythology but gets up at dawn to meditate. He told me that he's been married for ten years, he met his wife, a Swiss lady, on a train from Amsterdam and she never got off at her station and thet haven't been apart since. And he said when that happened he thought he was going to be alone and so you never know whats around the corner. Hs eight year old daughter wakes him up to order him to meditate! He also made this observation that Western women find it difficult to wear saris becuse they reveal all- not in the sense of the flesh, but in the sense of the nature of the wearer. We talked about books and Indian history and he completely, completely charmed me and the two American ladies who came to sit at the table as well. A very very interesting man... Its been a very enlightening day. Its been wonderful..