“It is beautiful,” Soraya replied, “if beauty is what you’re looking for. Down there you’ll find rare alligators and giant woodpeckers and scented cypress trees and carnivorous window plants. But you will also lose your way, and indeed yourself, for it is in the nature of the Great Oblivion to capture all who stray into it by inducing a sleepy laziness, a desire to remain there fore ever, to ignore your true purpose and your old life and simply lie down under a tree and rest.” –Luka and the Fire of Life, by Salman Rushdie
Has Salman Rushdie ever practiced Ashtanga in Mysore, I wonder? The Great Oblivion is a pretty good way to describe it. Except replace alligators with cows, and woodpeckers with monkeys. There’s no place like Mysore, really, for going down into the rabbit hole and wanting to stay there, until Sharath presses the eject button and sends us all home at the end of the season.
I was ejected eleven days ago, though the shala was not yet closed for the season. My last few weeks there were so incredibly sweet. It’s hard to put into words what it’s like to marinate there for almost two and a half months. After, I don’t know, six or seven weeks, the flavor really starts to be absorbed and a sense of normalcy takes over. Waking up at 2:45 on the weekends, 4 during the week, getting wrecked by practice every single time, taking a rickshaw to chant in a small hot room for two hours, it’s no longer new and exciting– it’s the new normal. Second breakfast is the new black. And when this absurd life becomes normal, that’s when the little lessons start to creep in. Was it Sharath who said one month of practice at the shala was like one year of practice at home? Kinda yeah. My last few practices, I just wanted to hold on to every moment (aparigraha fail). You know when in college you used to fall asleep while studying and you hoped that you’d absorb the knowledge by resting your head on your textbook? I think in the shala that can actually happen, except replace “resting your head on” with “practicing next to” and “your textbook” with “Mark Robberds.” (Though it should be noted that there are plenty of people who would like to rest their heads on Mark Robberds. But I digress.) The level of concentration and energy in that room is through the roof and if you’re open to it, you’re getting as much of the (hopefully) good stuff from your mat neighbors as you are from the teachers.
Oh, how I miss it. But being back in Minnesota is incredibly sweet. The transition back to my life here has been easy and jet-lag-free. Adding to that, 24 hours after landing, Peter asked me to marry him. We’re engaged! It’s been a big week, full of celebrating with family and friends, and now of course I’m headed down another rabbit hole, the world of wedding planning. Like the Mysore rabbit hole, only less chai. I hear those bridal gown sales are just like trying to elbow your way into the shala for led class. Same-same.