Savasana and a Shraddhanjali

Practice began with savasana today after my morning reading. It led to thinking about seeking versus searching. Seeking implies a quest for an unknown answer while searching inherently assumes that the object is known and one cannot find it. What is it we seek? Life.

On that note, I lay down in the pose of the corpse. Somehow, there seemed to be an urgency to quieten the mind. The body slowly surrendered to the ground and the mind opened into the universe. It exists, in savasana, the entire universe exists in all its infinity. I had a glimpse of its endless movement and stillness, a perpetual cycle of creation and destruction being played on an unchanging screen. The irony of waking up to life in savasana was not lost.

It was a different kind of practice, unusual and prodded by a growing sense that perhaps what is needed is an extended period of restorative poses. And savasana has been calling, softly but insistently. I’ve been poring over the pages in the books on the asana. Life really is nothing but a preparation for death…

Update: I came back from the Shraddhanjali for Geetaji this evening feeling that all is as it should be. The grief is receding and a renewed vigour has been ignited.

Prashantji spoke about Geetaji’s lifetime being one single situation, Abhijata spoke about her one continuous thread of yoga, Iyengar yoga and Guruji. Her commitment, sacrifice, implicit faith in Guruji’s words, her love, devotion and reverence for her father were some of the facets that all those who spoke about shared. For me, I think of her as being ‘childlike’. It’s a quality I associate with Guruji too, a nakedness without shame. Perhaps that is the honesty that Abhijata highlighted.

We are lucky to have volumes of her work to fall back on. Thanks to the age in which we live, we can listen to her voice and see her.

As for her, I like to imagine that she climbed those steps in her dream to be with her beloved Guruji.

Christmas, Interrupted

Every Christmas, I go to church with my mother. It means much to her and doesn’t take much except a couple of hours of my time. I listen to the sermon for a hook, something to ruminate on. It’s a habit now, this soaking in of words and letting the message surface whether in a book or when listening to someone.

This year, the priest was talking about Christmas being a celebration of interruptions. And I found my hook. While the season is one of celebrating family and loved ones, the first Christmas disrupted the trajectory of many lives. Mary was told she would be the mother of God, Joseph was asked to accept her and the unborn son. Many mothers lost their children to the purging of a fearful king Herod. Shepherds and the wise Magi were filled with joy. Jesus himself was born in a manger, a displaced birth from the norm. Tidal waves that forced a turn in all those lives.

A crib in my mom’s neighbourhood

Interruptions have a negative tint in their etymology as it implies a break. Mostly they tend to be a rude jolt to one’s plans and become a focal point of displeasure. Aversion. Sometimes there are pleasant ones but those usually get labelled more benevolently as ‘surprise’.

2018 was one of interruptions at many levels and in many ways. It seemed like a big mess for a large part of the year. On the outside, there have been some drastic changes but the insides saw a tectonic shift. And like all those movements of the planet, it takes a while for a new normal. The continents went through their upheavals before they rearranged themselves as we know it today and the change still rumbles unseen.

My lowest point came the day after Geetaji’s passing away. It saw me crumpled and crumbled watching a repeat of all that I finally broke away from. Perhaps, that was a necessary catharsis, that piteous, animal howling of sorrow for another’s pain through which I could find expression. Eventually, that moment passed and endurance kicked in. One which allowed the pain to coexist even as the body worked and memory woke up.

I remember Geetaji everyday, fragments of her instructions through her books and talks serve as an encouragement. Yet, I grieve, a strange grief. Perhaps, this mourning is an acceptable one for another grief that cannot be acknowledged. It was a Christmas, interrupted.

An unwritten letter

I was on my mat this morning when I received a call that Geetaji had passed away. It seemed unreal and fitting at the same time, she went in a blaze of brilliance after seeing the Centennial celebrations. But, I mourn selfishly for my regrets. I mourn for not reaching out to learn. I mourn for forever losing the chance to experience her as a direct teacher.

Ever since I became a student at the Institute, I wanted to share my briefest of brief moments in Guruji’s presence. Many years ago, I stood in line among others to seek his blessings at the end of a commemorative program. I was carrying my younger child and today I realize his presence and the gift of yoga blessed her far more than I can begin to imagine. I wanted her to know it but was too much in awe to share it. I thought I was an unworthy student and didn’t deserve to say it in person. So, I fiddled with the thought of writing her a letter and was stuck at the thought what would happen if she decided she wanted to know who is this person in Pune who would rather write a letter than meet. And so, I did not act for all these years.

My first act after I got off the mat was to write that letter. I reached the Institute and sat down next to an elderly lady and when she patted my lap, couldn’t help but share my regret about not reaching out. She consoled me and much later, as I left the crematorium, she told me to be bold. And so, at another ending, there is a new beginning. Just like Guruji’s words.

I wonder if it is ok to feel so much grief for someone I never directly knew. But, my heart is raw and the tears threaten to choke my heart. I swallow their hot pain and look upwards to send them back but they remain brimming. Many memories have been bubbling inside.

I would practise to her DVD and took back a different learning everytime. Her voice is imprinted in my brain. Even through an inanimate and indirect class, her energy would be palpable. I would feel as though I was at the Institute. Sometimes, I would linger on my way down after class to hear her voice back when she was still taking the ladies class. Lately, I would yearn for her guidance in the medical class but didn’t have the nerve to ask. I thought my knee issue wasn’t bad enough to ask for her help, or anyone else’s for that matter. I remember her talks, her earnestness in being true to the principles of yoga and her immense devotion to Guruji.

I remembered that I do have a small piece of her touch in my copy of Beloved Guruji

I cannot begin to imagine the sorrow of her family and those who have lived and loved her directly. The family was strong and supported those who were inconsolable. But, we stayed grieving only for our loss. Somewhere, the teachings from the Gita echoed as I heard the chatter of Guruji’s tiny great grandchildren and the noises of life outside. We don’t die. We just become part of the cosmos. We dissolve into that single unbroken stream of consciousness until the conditions are met for another creative expression. As the women of the family chanted Narayanaya, I remembered my reading of the morning

यच्चापि सर्वभूतानां बीजं तदहमर्जुन।

न तदस्ति विना यत्स्यान्मया भूतं चराचरम।।३९।।

She was a worthy disciple and daughter. I am reminded of the dream she had after Guruji’s passing away and which she so generously shared. In my heart’s eye, I remember her smile, the half smile of satisfaction at the end of a session. A childlike innocence. That’s how she will remain in my heart.

Humble pranams from an undeserving student.

A wandering student

My evenings have a new routine. Most days, I spend an hour at a park watching the tableau of life play out. Children playing, birds picking their branches for the night, adults walking, older people watching over grandchildren, lovers snatching a cozy conversation and so on. Sometimes I write or read but mostly I just watch the sun as it dips behind tree tops.

Underneath a tamarind tree

I miss watching the sunrise from my new place and the sparrows still haven’t found the bird feeder yet. There are a couple of stray kittens that have stolen my heart and it feels good to shower love with such abandon. The roses continue to bloom as do the jasmines with their heady night scents. The season is beautiful with cool winds and a touch of music as the heart meets the head.

We call him muttbaby 1

In the Iyengar yoga world, there is much excitement with the centenary celebrations and I do hope to make it for atleast one of the days. But, mostly, my offering has been quiet study and fledgling practice. The surprising thing has been the powerful recall of cell memory as I get on the mat.

The Gita continues to be a trusted companion and in the lines I have read many times, I rediscover their beauty all over again albeit with a different flavour. Our interpretations are always coloured by life experiences, always a cumulative of all moments until now.

An alternate set of circumstances has shown a different translation of the same meanings. A year of painful transition or perhaps transformation, only time will tell. For now, it’s a slow beginning once more with nothing the same and everything just so.

I’ve been drawn to the imagery of Patanjali as half man and it has been a focus of contemplation. What does it mean to be human? The bodily representation. of Patanjali as man consists of the trunk resting on the coils of his serpentine half. An ascension of energies possible in a physical structure. A lightness of being in the denseness of existence.

I remain a wandering student destined for self-study and it’s just beginning to dawn on me that maybe it’s liberating. Of course, it also means a lot of wrong turns and a longer time to learn but the journey is worth it. But, it wouldn’t be possible without the wisdom and generosity of knowledge of the giants who came before me. I remain indebted to my many teachers.

Hari Om