This morning at the ashram, I hit a wall. I was playing happily with the yellow lab Pushti in the sun, with a plastic water bottle (if it is not going to be recycled, at least it can be reused!) and Babaji (the cute Sanyassin with a white beard and orange sunglasses) grabbed the puppy, making her yelp, dragged her over to the gate, and tied her to it.
She looked at me, crying because she had so much puppy energy just bubbling over. She wanted to play. I saw red, and not the orange-holy-meditation-type hue. I rushed over and wanted to release her, but what would be the point of that? Instead, I piled all kinds of pieces of wood and little scraps of things next to her. If she couldn’t be free, at least she could bite and destroy things. Which to a puppy is nearly as good as running around free.
I went into the sadhana room and stood at the top of my yoga mat. I placed my hands in prayer at my heart center. I could not calm down. I just stood there, angry.
I wasn’t just angry about the puppy, I realized. Here are some other contributions toward my rage on the mat:
1. This morning, Ganga informed me that today is the solstice, marking the burning away of winter. To celebrate, we were going to walk to the freezing cold Ganga, and immerse ourselves. I ran upstairs to change into cheap huge Indian clothes. All the others stripped down to their underwear but I, being a woman, had to plunge into the water fully clothed. “Close the gates,” Ganga said, and having been around yoga long enough, I knew to put my fingers in my ears, over my eyes and on the sides of my nose. Closing my lips together, I plunged under. I was supposed to chant underwater, but it was a#$ cold, so I chanted on my way back out, turning once to offer water in my open palms to the sun. My clothes were so heavy I kept slipping on the green slime-covered rocks and had to slog my way home while the men happily put their dry clothes back on and practiced Pranayama on the banks of the river. Oh, the holy chauvanism of India!
2. Last night I skipped evening Aarti chanting, because I was overloaded with the day’s spirituality beginning as it does at 4 AM. On the way to my room, I passed the balcony where the chained monkeys sit. The boy who holds the flame and decorated the hoven fire altar was there already,in the moonlight, watching the monkeys. The smallest one was squeaking. He noticed me and said, “Maybe she is cold.” Just then the larger monkey came to sit with her and put his arms around her. “Oh good,” I said, smiling at the boy. “Yes but she is afraid of him,” he said. “Sometimes he fight her.” The thought of her chained to something that would attack her was a bit too much. I walked up the darkened steps to my room, put on six layers of clothes, lay down under all the sheets and blankets I could pile together, and turned out the light.
3. Sadhana. Part of my advanced yoga teacher training is to practice the same thing at the same time for the same amount of time each day, preferably before sunrise. I haven’t done this. I didn’t realize how much I’ve been chastising myself for it until I was eating breakfast (Indian sweet potatoes that taste faintly of passionfruit) with a German man Volo who practices the kriyas. He asked me about my sadhana. “I do yoga every day,” I said. “But I don’t have much self-discipline.” He said, “I disagree. You are here every day; you do not go out to have fun in the town. You wake up every morning at 4 AM for chanting. You have a great deal of discipline.” It felt so good. I realized I had not thought something nice about myself since my friend Fenwick left India a month ago.
So what did I do? I practiced yoga asanas. I lay in shavasana and pictured a pink lotus opening at my heart center. I practiced Pranayama breathing, Bhastrika and Nadi Shodhana. I even did Prana Mudra, moving energy from the base chakra up the spine to the space behind the eyebrows and back down, which is energizing and calming.
Then I sat still and watched the space behind my eyes, moving my mantra throughout the body with breath. The orange color of peace washed through the space.
Krishna says in the sixth chapter of the Baghavad Gita, The Yoga of Meditation, “offer your desires to me, your hunger, anger, wealth, to me.”
Mataji goes on to explain, “You are not the Master of your life; you are not even the doer. Nothing can ever be complete without faith in the Divine.”
I think I have that, but it’s hard to put into practice.
“You can never suffer if everything is God,” Mataji says.
The way women, animals are treated, the way I treat myself, is still part of what exists outside. Maybe the way to live within an imperfect world is to submit to something larger than my small self.
“You are sitting to purify the senses,” Mataji says. “”You are sitting to come to the soul.”
So I do.
“See me in everything,” Krishna says. “I will never become lost to you and you will never become lost to me.”
I guess if I can’t be truly free, and am always tied to something like anger or confusion or desire, at least I can retreat to that silent space within. Which to anyone living in this imperfect world is nearly as good as it gets.