Day 112 to Day 114 – entering the default world again

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Day 112 – the first taste of the ‘default’ outside world

The program has ended this morning. Our final practice we do in complete silence, flowing into every asan and pranayam easily. Lunchtime comes and we say the first of our goodbyes. Pria, John and I get out of the ashram. Crossing Laxman Julle, again entering the throng of people, we feel more sensitive to the cognitive overload. It’s like we are little children thrust into the enormous world. Everything is even louder than last time, the colours are brighter, the sun is hotter and the flavours are stronger. We want to eat “something that isn’t yellow” and are on the hunt for burritos. Mangoes have just come into season so we have a bright yellow, sweet mango juice. I order a veggie burger but it is the fries that interest me most. They must have been dusted in turmeric because they are yellow. We get nachos but it still tastes like Indian food.

After lunch we go to the tall temple on the low bank, to the left of the bridge. We hand over our shoes and 5 rupees to go up. Each small room is filled with bright effigies of gods and goddesses. Pri tells us who they all are and we walk around ringing the enormous heavy bells. John finds a phallic Shiva sculpture and explains the symbolism of the oval shaped pot it sits in. Then he mimics the carved figure and hugs the phallus. What makes it more amusing is the Indian man that laughs at him, probably thinking he has no idea what he is doing.

We go to the banks of the Ganga and standing in the water, easily find a stillness from inside, away from the bustle of the market street. We may outside in the crazy world, but inside there is calm.

Day 113 – looking back on the Transformation of the Self

Shal, Pri and I have just practiced a Qi Gong sequence of healing sounds. It is amazing how the subtle vibrations can be directed with simple hand movements and single syllables. We are sitting at the river, waiting for the Rishi to come and do the evening puja of the Ganga Aarti. In typical IST, Indian Standard Time, it is a full hour and a half later than we expect so we stand at the water and practice. We are talking about the Program, what we gained and which practices we will definitely be continuing when we leave. Shal remembers when I first arrived that I told her I was terrified because I had just broken up with my fiancé and come to India on my own to find myself. It’s like someone has told me about something I did when I was a child. I had completely forgotten that feeling! Even Pri is stunned when we look at how much that energy has transformed.

Of everything that I have learned from yoga in the past three weeks and the past decade, I now know that it is all about the breath. We have been practicing 2:1 breath regulation. As soon as I wake up, before bed and as many times as I can throughout the day I find a clock and time my breath; exhale for ten seconds and inhale for five seconds. That is 4 breaths a minute, but the aim is to increase it so that eventually (in a few years) we are on one breath per minute. I also now use this 2:1 breathing when I jog or do anything dynamic, which is pretty much everything except yoga nidra. Using the breath to stay present has always been something I say when teaching a class, but it has taken on new meaning since I have been focusing the awareness on the dance of consciousness at the bridge between the two nostrils and looping the breath up my spine on the inhale and down my front on the exhale. Presence is easy to have when breathing in ujjayi all the time; it is like a whispering reminder of that “I” within.

Admittedly, I appreciate the systematic set-up we have to do for every meditation, however I do hope to find something that fits in with my personality as the year goes on. Looking at the past 113 days, I have had deeper moments of meditation and no-content than the days experienced using this method, which has been leaving me feeling more frustrated than enlightened the past few days. I can hear manas, the lower mind, and ahamkara, the ego, saying “it shouldn’t be this hard!” But that is because I have to keep them busy, running up and down my spine and dancing between my nostrils. I will continue practicing this way, though. At least until I find something that suits me a little better.

I like the style of movement we have done- the benefits to my spine are already visible. I am much more aware of my lumbar lordosis and constantly remember to feel my mastoid pivots in the back of my head are lifting in order to keep the spine elongated.

The language with which I speak has changed a lot. I hesitate to begin a sentence with “I think…”, which reaffirms the dominance of the mind. The theory side of how the mind works has been invaluable, especially realising that I can actually delete latent impressions and useless thoughts as they come up. I have realised that I have the power to Acknowledge, Accept and Release any thought pattern, negative energy, memory or emotion that comes up and is not meaningful or useful. At this stage referring to myself in the third person is still strange, but the internal dialogue has altered and the mind has started to say, “Elizabeth needs to brush her teeth…” instead of reaffirming the attachment to this temporary vessel we call the body.

I know that I suffer from serious FOMO- Fear of Missing Out, so I tend to want to get through the morning pranayamas faster than I should but every day I do them a little bit slower and I can feel more prana being harnessed through the practice. This is awakening so much subtle awareness in the breath, the body and the mind.

I have to remind myself to adjust my posture again and again and constantly tell my shoulders to relax. That is the practice of yoga- constantly coming back to the centre. It doesn’t matter how many times you get scattered by the wheel of ignorance or your mind floats off like a helium balloon, if you come back to the centre, elongate the spine, focus on the breath, then home is always closer than you think. As the Ganga Aarti begins, the three of us line up beside the young Rishi and each takes a flower as he chants the prayers. I feel alive, present and grateful.

Day 114 – defying logic of the gut

I wake up at 4.30am with my alarm and rush to the bathroom. The sounds from my stomach last night were a warning that this would happen, but I still had that hot chocolate and Kit-Kat after dinner. It is interesting to be aware enough to witness the mind work like that- it convinces itself that this unhealthy snack is nurturing in some way and then in the perfect clarity of hindsight wonders why the hell it did that! That is being consciously unconscious- I can see it all happening, but do not yet have the Power of Will to stop it. It is probably not the chocolate that made me sick, but the milk in the hot chocolate that I have had for the past 3 days. A bit of milk in tea isn’t a problem, but a 300ml cup of milk everyday is way more lactose than my intolerant gut can handle. So there has been a strike and I end up in the bathroom another 6 times before breakfast. I am given a teaspoon of psyllium husk in 4 spoons of yogurt and told it will help, so once again that conscious unconsciousness takes over and says, “Well then since you are having this, it is ok to eat that pancake type thingy with the spicy sauce. Better put another 3 teaspoons of spicy sauce on it just for good measure!”

I spend the rest of the day wilting in the heat… A small part of me is looking forward to Sydney. When I get home it will be winter. Wait, what am I saying? I hate being cold! Typical vata! The ironic thing about a hot day in India is how refreshing a hot cup of chai can be. It is one of the many paradoxes of this place.

I am excited today because I get to collect my mala beads. They have been behind the picture of Swami Rama in the meditation hall, picking up some residual morphic field energy. When I retrieve them, I sit down and holding them in my left hand, set up for my meditation. It is only ten minutes before my stomach orders me out again. It doesn’t matter how much the “I” wants to stay, when the stomach says go, it is time to go! It is strange trying to fit in a schedule when I am in limbo like this. We are about to leave Rishikesh on Wednesday to go trekking so keeping the daily Sadhana, spiritual practice, will become a little bit of a challenge. As long as I make a daily date with mySELF, then it will be easier to SOTP- stay on the path (and hope there are rest stops along this path).

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