Saturday, July 18, 2015

Let's Do This

It has been more than four years now since my first trip to India. It doesn't feel that long, however.  What I experience and learned in that time has stayed with me so that I feel its impact every day.  If I were to ascribe a theme to the last few years it would be adapting to the life I was used to before my trip when I wasn't the same anymore.  It hasn't been easy or enjoyable, which is the irony of these things.  When you see from a new perspective, it's impossible (or at least very very difficult) to be completely at ease with the old one, even if the latter is less challenging.

For a time I withdrew from my regular activities and my circle of friends to make sense of the feelings that came up after I returned to San Diego.  I would walk out into the street in Hillcrest and feel like I was in a ghost town.  So few people were out and about.  So many inevitably indoors.  Conversations over lunch and dinner felt insignificant, their purpose neither functional nor meaningful, I felt.  There is alot written about Yoga and what it should be and what it should do, and among these opinions, one that has become very popular is the idea that Yoga should enable engagement with life and in relationships rather than isolation from them.  I can't say exactly what that means (sometimes sorting out what exactly is meant in Yoga is not easy) but it felt like whatever I was going through was the opposite.  I felt like I had been moving through connected rooms in a house, entering through a door, finding another to take me further to get to the other side; and I had reached a room with no door but the one I had walked through.  It had plenty of windows and an amazing view.  But there was nowhere to go from there except back through the door I'd come through.  And the thought of treading familiar ground felt like failure.

Looking back on it now I don't understand why it raised so much anxiety to be in that space.  When faced with that it seems obvious that you have two options: (1) to chill, enjoy the view and rest, which requires that you learn to stop moving and seeking, and (2) you tread backwards on the path you came until you find a fork where the next path makes sense... but this requires you knowing where you want to go.

It took me some time to let go of these feelings, of the angst, and specifically of the idea of who I was, who I should be, and especially who I wanted to be.  The concept of surrendering to God (or surrendering to the flow of life, if God is a problematic concept for you) is in Yoga for a reason (Patanjali in his Yoga Sutras suggests that this is the most effective and efficient means to spiritual freedom... much more so than any technique, process or effort we can pursue): there are many moments in life when we have to accept that we aren't the masters of our lives, let alone of this world.  We have the means to change it to some degree, we certainly are capable of injecting beauty and horror into it, depending on our choices.  But this ability does not translate to control.  We can nudge things to change directions, but we have no means of managing the implications of this.  So we are advised to learn to let go of this grasping, of this need, and to trust that God is in control and that our collective lives will be better guided because of this.

But it's all easier said than done.  There is what I know intellectually and then there's the mess of emotions and experience that you're mired in.  It offers little comfort to have these maps on paper when the road that is infront of you doesn't resemble what you should see according to the map.

So when Juliana, who I'd met in "The Heart of Yoga" in 2011, mentioned in passing that she was joining Kausthub's 2015 Yoga Teacher Training in Chennai, I immediately saw a new door I could walk through.  A door that would take me back to the same place where I felt I'd transformed.  If I have to retread a path I've been on, it may as well be one I enjoyed and which offered me a life changing perspective.

"When is the deadline for signing up?" I asked.


I immediately contacted Kausthub, who I'd been talking to about Yoga Therapy training in 2017 for some time, and asked him about the teacher training coming up, why he hadn't mentioned it to me, and whether I could join.

"You've already been through teacher training," he said.

"Yes," I responded.  "But not with you."

I meant this sincerely.  I've been blessed to have had many excellent teachers in my journey since it began in 2000 in Cincinnati, but Kausthub's depth of knowledge (and ability to relay that knowledge in an approachable way) is unparalleled.  One of my main concerns of starting a Yoga Therapy training with him when that training has a Yoga Teacher Training as a prerequisite is that the kind of information he would assume you've been exposed to is not what you were actually taught.  I've done three Yoga Teacher Trainings in the U.S., all in San Diego and I loved each one and learned immensely.  But the way Yoga is taught in the U.S. differs tremendously from the way it is taught in India and within this particular tradition.  U.S. trainings are asana and asana teaching technique heavy.  Some philosophy is typical but rarely goes beyond basic introduction.  In this tradition we are exposed to pranayama, Vedic chant, Ayurveda and Sanskrit lessons, all areas that are heavily leveraged in Yoga Therapy so I was concerned I'd be missing out on these and would not be as prepared as other students when the time for the Yoga Therapy training came.

I sat down with my husband to discuss the training and what it would mean: a month in India every six months.  Essentially a sixth of the year I would spend away from him.  It wasn't insignificant.  In fact it was a huge sacrifice to ask of my husband that we should be apart that long over a span of two years, potentially four if I continued with the Yoga Therapy training, for which the Teacher Training is a preparation.

But Kevin knows me better than most and he had lived both my transformation in 2011 and the subsequent frustration, agoraphobia and yearning when I returned.

"I don't want to see you go through that again," he said, the pain of the experience still evident.

"But, babe, I'm still going through it now.  I've just learned to not show it."  These words came out of me more as a visceral response to his comment than out of any analysis over the years.  It was like a truth I hadn't wanted or been able to accept.  I had come back different from India and rejected (and resented) the influences in my regular life that tried to lure me back to the old ways.  After four years I'd landed somewhere in between where I'd started and where India had taken me.  And I wasn't happy there and didn't know how to proceed.  It was an ugly realization of the helplessness and discontent I felt.  And it was the most compelling reason for going back.

The next day I met with my boss and director at work and mentioned the opportunity and its time commitment.  They both agreed I could take the time.

I filled out the application that night and submitted it before going to bed.  The email subject line was simply "Let's Do This".

Even though I was certain after our discussion that I would be accepted into the program, it was still exhilarating to receive the acceptance letter the next day, especially with my teacher's brief but touching comment: "You don't know how happy I am to receive this."

So here I move into a new phase in the journey I started four years ago.  This phase feels as fresh and exciting as when I began it, which at least for now has lifted some of the frustration of the stagnancy.  Let's see where it goes and where it lands me.

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