Monday, December 22, 2014

a night at the palace


Last night, on the eve of the solstice,  i went to see the mysore palace, my first real sightseeing since i got here. I love to go for walks, but venturing to the city alone hasn't been one of my interests. I am really glad i got over my inertia, and hopped a rickshaw to the palace. I arrived at dusk, and the place was crazy crowded, almost all local people. I realized almost immediately that i should have come a little earlier to see it all first in the daylight.  On Sunday evenings, they light up the palace with lightbulbs that cover the buildings. It's a cross between an amusement park strategy and the old films you can see of Edison's era, showing the uses  of the newly invented lightbulb. 


That's the palace lit up. They only keep the lights on for about 40 minutes. I need to come back in the daytime to see the inside of the palace which is supposed to be magnificent. A visit to a tourist site would not be complete without being mobbed by schoolgirls who want their picture taken, and then to take pictures with you. I feel bad that i know about one word of kannada, the local language, but the kids speak pretty decent English. 





Another view towards the front entrance of the palace grounds. The archway in the front is attached to a temple (another temple is on the opposite side of the entrance). Being india, a palace isn't just a palace...but has a number of temples on the grounds: one for ganesha, one for siva and the last i don't remember. I spent time in each temple, my first experience of a hindu temple in india (other than getting locked in the grounds of the local Krishna temple, though i was too timid to go in the main temple there.)


 


Explaining the right way to pray?

The ganesha temple near where i came in. Here is was allowed to take photos, though i felt a bit sacrilegious doing so. No sooner did i snap the photo below, looking into the closed main temple room, than a group of people arrived to worship. I felt so much like the clueless american tourist. There is something really powerful about seeing others' devotion, especially in an environment like this. Several times during my visits to the temples here, i was quite moved by what went on around me.




The two temples that flank the main entrance were open. You leave your shoes outside,  and go towards the main shrine room, where the priest comes out. You make a small donation, and are given blessed oil and flowers, and the red powder that goes between your eyebrows. I was pretty ignorant about the entire procedure, and completely messed up at the last temple...one of many edicut mishaps i have had here. In each of the temples, i felt acutely aware of being alone, despite the crowds outside. I also felt perhaps the sacredness of the space, even though it is not my religion, and i dont feel especially connected to the rituals and gods of hinduism.


The view into the siva temple.


Saturday, December 20, 2014

Mysore, week 3


I can't believe i have less than 2 weeks left here. This week i seemed to need much more sleep, though i haven't managed to catch up at all. The week started out very solitary, which is my preference here, and ended with more social activities than i normally do at home. I am in real need of solitude this weekend. And sleep.

Yesterday I went to a wonderful talk by ani samten chodron, on the meaning of the Buddhist mantra "on mane padme hum". I was really touched by how the mantra is used, that it can be carved into stones and then walls are made with these stones. I would like to see those some day. I also found out that this mantra must be chanted out loud to work.

Today I have stayed relatively close to home, venturing out on an ill fated trip to get a thali. Thalis here are not dinner, only lunch. Which was too bad since I napped this afternoon, rather than rush out for lunch. I have been discovering that places often close in the afternoon, just as I want to venture out.

The shala is emptying out for the holidays. I actually had space on either side of me during led today. Shambhav showed up at the end of led class, announcing himself, calling out "8"! While we were in headstand ( I think). He saved us from an interminable utpluthih today too :), or perhaps sharath thought we all needed a break after two 6 day weeks in a row. Shambhav returned during conference, wandering in and out, and doing his best to distract everyone. Sharath never scolds him; he lets him be a kid, which is quite lovely to see. I suspect sharath is the least distracted by shambhav's hilarious antics. I think the real lesson of conference today was their interaction, and sharath's focus, more so than the things he was saying about the practice.



Sunday, December 14, 2014

mysore, week 2


It's already about halfway through my time here.

I am amazed at how little i get done here in a day. Practice, eat breakfast, wash clothes, make dinner. And that is it. Maybe some painting or drawing but much less than i would like. Everything seems like that. I have to accept doing less, less reading, less feldenkrais (almost none), less socializing, less ambitious in my practice too (shala is too crowded for that anyway). Maybe the trip is more about letting stuff go for me...

I thought it would be great to meet lots of other yoga people, but the reality is that meeting lots of people is exhausting and sometimes irritating (boundaries!) I'm an introvert, and would rather email than talk in person half the time. Sometimes i think if one more person asks me if i practice at eddie's, or what i do for a living, or how long i am here for...i will scream. I dont like small talk, and dont make friends easily. That said, I have met some lovely people, who seem to be evidence that this practice works. Whether it will work for me...that is tbd. Here I mostly feel more aware of how I haven't changed, of how things or people or situations push my buttons.

Such as wanting to murder the woman by the wall on the stage when she wanted more space at the wall...she had tons for a led class here, and wanted me to move my mat onto thr edge of the stage (it was about 1.5 inches from the edge)...and then she stops after supta kurmasana! (Hence not needing extra space at all). Good thing sharath doesn't read minds!

Or dealing with the security (huh?) guy at my guest house, who does nothing when you ask him for help, and then acts friendly all the sudden because he is about to ask you for a loan (wtf!)

Or trying to get anything fixed at my place...

Or buying groceries.

Or getting lost going everywhere. Feeling convinced that the streets and houses reorganized themselves when I tried to retrace my steps.

Or being afraid of getting lost and not exploring the area.

Or dealing with the rickshaws, which seem to have a cartel near the shala.

I have also felt truly lonely here too...in a really deep way. And all my little feelgood fixes don't work.

But there have also been really good things too...

Having a couple young kids be so absorbed in watching you paint...sitting at your elbow, literally. Seeing their absorption is far more interesting than anything else.

Befriending some of the outdoor dogs...

Walking through an older part of the town, seeing the mix of new and old buildings. The mix of bright colors everywhere.

Cows! Seeing cows grazing, and then rounded up by their owners to be taken home and milked.

Having fresh coconuts and then going for indian breakfast after practice.

Running into people I really want to see and having a good conversation with them. Having the time for it (unlike at home, where everyone, me included, runs around like rabbit)

And of course, practicing at the shala. The energy there is different than any I have experienced. Calmer, steadier. Quiet. How 70 people or more practicing can make less noise than 10 at my shala back home...a mystery. The soundtrack to practice is your breath and the breath of those near you, punctuated by sharath calling, one more, two more, short one, etc. I have a late start time, and lately by the time I finish assisted, no one else is waiting in the foyer for my spot. I am starting to calm down on my practice, and slow down, focusing on my breath more than I do at home. Practice here is strangely calmer than at home, when I was expecting the opposite.

I know that I want to come back.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

night life







Taken on my way to dinner. The tea stall is on my street. 




Friday, December 5, 2014

arrival




On my walk to the shala this morning for led class. The end of my first week, more or less, in mysore

I have been here just over a week, and am reasonably settled in. Everything seems to take much longer here (except for my practice, which has oddly speeded up). Even arrival takes longer, physically,I am here in mysore...but part of me is still in transit, or back home, or just somewhere else. Slowly I get used to things here, and feel like more of myself is truly here.
And nothing is ever what i thought it would be. Starting with the taxi ride from bangalore. I arrived at 5am, which meant i whizzed through immigration and such, the airport being empty at that time. I make my way to the exit, and find my driver, who doesn't know any English (which makes us even as i know no hindi or kannada, and am not sure if my few words of sanskrit would be of use). I had heard all sorts of stories about the ride to mysore
Which luckily dont seem to be true, at least this time. It's hard to summarize the journey, theway there is so much construction but so much stuff falling apart, the garbage everywhere and the cows, which seemed to turn up where you would least expect them. Oh, and the honking every time you approach another vehicle. Seems insane, but it works.( I actually feel safer on the street here than in nyc, in terms of being sure drivers see me)

After riding for about half an hour, i really started to wonder, was i even going to mysore. We started on a highway that was, well, a highway, then we turned off that road, or perhaps it merely morphed into another sort of road, one that snaked through small cities with no real division between them. Mind you, i had not bothered to change any money at the airport, and my phone battery was running low. The road we were on was nothing like the 4 lane highway that i had envisioned, based on the email from the person arranging the cab. Finally we end up on a road that was about 1 and 1/2 lanes wide, and the smaller vehicles would make way for the larger ones. We stopped,  and my driver got out; i was mystified,  was he going to pee or have a smoke? I realized later there must have been a tea stall nearby. At this point, i am wondering, did i get in the right cab? Instead of panic, i start to think, well, so i take an extra day to get to Mysore,  i still have dollars.

The driver returns, and we make a u turn and retrace our way to a slightly wider road. Hmm, were we lost? It was another 20 minutes or so before i finally saw a sign on the side of the road saying bangalore-mysore road. It dawned on me, finally, a 4 lane highway here is nothing like a 4 lane highway back home.

So far, my stay, even practice at the shala, has been like that-completely different from what i had envisioned when i was home. Nice to have all my expectations upended.


I

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

waiting

At jfk, waiting for my flight out. Still feels surreal, in 24 hours i will be in mysore.

International terminal at jfk is much nicer than the domestic ones.

Looking forward to being in mysore instead of anxious about being there, or traveling, or a million other things. I keep wanting to call my dad, and tell him about packing
Or my plans there, or comparing routes to the airport, or whatever, and then i remember. Makes me so sad inside..hard to breathe at times, it hurts so much. It's interesting, in one way, since i really sucked at keeping in touch while he was alive. I wonder if this is one of the thongs that mysore will transform in some way.

I do love airports.