The cool yogis have come to Santosh Puri Ashram.
They arrive, dressed in stylish western clothing, making inside jokes and stretching their crazy flexible limbs in all directions. One immediately noticed I have tightness in my hips and recommended I put my leg behind my head to stretch it out.
All of a sudden I am concerned about my third eye area, which has broken out from all the anointing. The SoCal yogis’ skin is fresh and glowing from a month of Ashtanga practice in Mysore. I look in the mirror for the first time in a week and realize my hair is strangely caked (with what? dust?) and at the same time, frizzy.
I see my place of contentment with new eyes – the aarti chanting is out of tune; the yoga practice (which focuses on subtle energetic channels) is too gentle; the Indian way of speaking takes to long for the average American attention span. (Maybe I am not being fair to the SoCal yogis. This is just how my impression of the place begins to change around them.)
I pull out my Western clothes again and try to clean my hair (which just becomes more weird and cake-like so it must be the water here). During yoga practice, I think more about how I must look than how I feel.
Auughh! I thought I was making spiritual progress. But just when I was getting comfortable with my new sattvic self, the Divine sends a challenge over. OK, I think, SoCal yogis, I can handle this challenge! Bring on all your amazing twisting asanas and brand-new lululemon!
We go to Rishikesh. They are so stylish. They look like they’ve just stepped out of the pages of Yoga Journal. We do touristy things in Rishikesh. We see the Maharishi Ashram but we don’t meditate there. We make American jokes, with references to South Park and YouTube. We eat at the German Bakery, although there’s an authentic Tibetan restaurant that comes highly recommended by Indian people at the ashram. At the German Bakery, I eat more than I need, for the first time in weeks.
It is a different experience of India. And now I have a choice. To continue my little spiritual quest on my own with more local people, or to meet up with the cool yogis to study Ayurvedic Medicine and Ashtanga Yoga in very westernized parts of Southern India.
It reflects, on a small scale, the tension in the Baghavad Gita. Mataji just taught us this the other day:
– The body wants fulfillment of its passions and desires (to learn lots of Ayurveda and cool hard-core yoga asanas).
– The soul wants fulfillment from another source (peace of the mind, tolerance, non-violence).
The Gita’s battlefield is where the two natures inside of us fight. According to Krishna, the wise one identifies with the spirit and the foolish one identifies with the body.
I can choose either option (cool American option or solitary spiritual quest-type option) but regardless, I need to sit in the knowledge that right now is the completion of my desires, and the basis of peace is surrendering my desires to the infinite wisdom of the Divine.
That’s the gist of the Gita so far, anyway.
It is beautiful, and I believe it. So I will just sit today, and ask for guidance from wisdom that is infinitely larger than mine.