Tonight I sit at Anu’s and it is for once very quiet. I have a few minutes afforded by Einar to sit and absorb the past weeks.
Saturday two weeks ago we went to see our old friend Swamiji by the Nandi bull on Chamundi Hill. He fed us breakfast and Aurora and the boys ran around and fed the monkeys biscuits. A monkey grabbed Aurora’s pants; she screamed and the kids all came running back. Somehow it was all exciting, though, she couldn’t stop talking about the experience and jumping up and down for at least an hour.
We sat in the cave temple with Swamiji and he gave the children Prasad. That’s code for sugar, great big crystals in a handful of sugar.
I remember sitting with Swamiji from before. I remember that I could drink in his presence from just looking at him. I remember in the old days and today, how just looking into the kindness of his eyes would make me want to cry with a funny kind of joy and relief.
Somehow with kids again this sharp relief is there, it’s harder to sit in bliss when I want to make sure my kid doesn’t climb on his altar and dismantle his shrine. But between the moments, he tells us stories, stories of how the demons churned the ocean in their battle with the gods, how the mountain was the stirring rod, and how good things came from the churning, a celestial cow, the moon. But then also came the Hala Hala, the bitter poison, the one that even the vapors could kill a person, and take them out. How only Shiva, Ohm Nama Shivaya, only Shiva could drink the poison, and use his yogic powers to stop the poison at the base of his neck. How this poison turned his face blue. Aurora likes this story, she always asks me for the story of the blue poison, and it’s nice to hear Swami’s version, it is far superior to mine.
Somehow when he tells the story, with this look in his eyes, he’s not just telling you a story. This waft of kindness accompanies his story. Some funny waft of love has been given to you, in that moment. And we who come from the west are too often starving for this, we who come from the dry land where the pavement always meets the streets.
Einar said to me the other day, there is an Indian fellow who was finishing practice, and how he touched Saraswati’s feet, and paid his respects, and made his prostrations to the lineage. For him it was so easy. For us it can be more complicated, what it means, who we are prostrating too, much confusion can be there.
When Swami blessed the children, and smudges their foreheads with orange, you can feel his love, his prostration for the gods, his devotion to life and love is in the words. Ohm nama shiva. It isn’t complicated, it’s just love. Love and presence are there.
We went onward up the steps and went in my favorite temple in Mysore, the temple BEHIND the Chamudeshwari temple, past the one with the lines of people, to the very old Shiva temple that only a few people see. Inside is a very old tree, to the left, with rock statues of Patanjali worn away by touch, blended with the powder of prostration. I have come since the first time I was here, it is old, and it makes me feel quiet to be here. Here I can feel it, this sense of opening and awakening, a reminded of what awakening that reverence can bring.
When I see Swami again later, I ask about the temple, how old it is. Very old it is, he says.
So many times past filled themselves with meeting yogis, and having these intensely fulfilling adventures of life. There is a sort of yoga joy and madness, you come here and there are 100 people here who love the practice and love to sit around talking to each other about the practice and all things connected to it. You get to be here, take trips, study, practice together and Be in India. You get to experience India itself, which can gently nudge you into realizing the world beyond the thoughts and vrittis.
This time we take our moments, trade kids here and there to get a massage or just take an hour to sit and drink some chai. It is a different mix, but still the lovely wonder of India is there as a backdrop.
As parents, we participate where we can, and the chanting teacher at the shala understands when we go running out of chanting to make the kids be a LITTLE more quiet outside. We smile at each other these funny smiles of understanding. A different adventure. Same love, and same reminder that love helps you move beyond ration or logic to a place of of more peace.
When I came I was processing the change of Guruji being gone, and others being gone too. I guess as time goes on I continue to process what it means to come here as a parent, and to be a householder here. Something about coming to the same place as the changes in your life come gives you markers of your life, like rings on a tree, in a way normal life doesn’t always. It is still a mad and wonderful adventure. But it is also a vehicle for further self-understanding.
There is a strange sort of perfection in that I am not really interested, for all the challenges of parenting, in doing anything other than what I am doing, time with books, time with my husband and other parents, time with a spirited four year old, and time to practice.
In the morning on Thursday, I woke at 230 am totally exhausted as my body and mind approached the end of the week. And yet somehow I almost fling myself out of bed, the enthusiasm is still there, in sharp contrast with the exhaustion of body. I drink my tea, and slowly become more conscious and capable of Kapotasana. I sit. I dress and make my way through the dark to the shala. With the other parents we arrive late, no longer finding the time to sit outside the gate so long. But we are here.
Inside there is space, it is the season of the monsoon, even if the rains haven’t really come. We are still only two batches in the shala, and the space is nice. Sharath is on fire, joking with folks, directing his assistants. He teases people, more chapatis if you need strength, less if he thinks it would aid your bind.
I revel in the time, the comfort of my practice, the time to go into myself and connect, struggle and find peace, breath and be.
Somehow it gives me the space I need, the space we all need, to continue to grow up and deeper into the real self. Some freedoms are gone, but there is a tension between having your practice and the moment to moment of parenting, the one feeding the other and the other feeding the one. It’s hard. But it’s good hard, growing up hard, and love and reverence are as always the quality most capable of getting you through. And through practice I see in a deeper way how parenting can itself the vehicle to reach the more permanent part of self. The obstacles I face in parenthood, and the places I have to go, are like Shiva’s blue Hala Hala , the obstacle/vehicle that helps me to realize the true qualities of the self.
Ohm nama Shivaya.