India, Pt 1

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Note from Carissa: This is my first blog post. I expanded upon some journal entries I wrote while I was in India as I think they speak to a lot of the themes I choose for my classes. I’m new to this and it’s a little scarier than I initially thought it would be (but discomfort is a sign of growth!)

After 33 hours of traveling we had finally arrived in India. Not for one moment did I want to speed up time despite the moments of extreme discomfort and anxiousness. I suppose this is what practice on the mat is all about – the ability to remain present and at ease even when things feel uneasy. A five hour bus ride turned into eight and a half, but the sights along the way will forever be in my mind. Never have I experienced such a living sight of extreme poverty. Or was it extreme simplicity that was distorted only by my point of view? How we view any situation will clearly dictate our experience of it; yet another lesson to be applied on the mat.

Driving up the winding hill the Himalayas are in plain sight to the right and the Ganges River to the left. It’s quite overwhelming to realize that the same energy that created the mountains and the river flows through me. Ashrams and vendors beautifully clutter the streets. There is an intense feeling of peace and connectedness amidst complete chaos. In reflection, I can see that this is the same peace I long for in the chaos of my everyday Western life; the chaos that comes with trying to balance family, friends, work, play and self. With every practice on the mat where I can accomplish breath awareness and maintain a watchful eye on the sensations arising in my body, I know I am coming closer to my goal of a peaceful life.

Our bus comes to a stop and the walk begins. It was a grand entrance into what would be home for the next 7 days and what I’m sure would become home forever in my heart. A bridge that would otherwise, in another place more common to myself, be just a bridge suddenly became so much more. I had worked so hard to get here. I recalled the hours put in at my day job as a paralegal, double shifts at the restaurant on the weekends and teaching as many yoga classes as I could to earn the money it would take to pay for this trip. And here I was. I remembered the words of my best friend “ingest India”. In that instant, I vowed to stay present. No past, no future, just now; a practice that remains in full force every time I step on the mat.

We walk the narrow hallway up to the “restaurant” which is actually more like a veranda with 3 long tables. The views from up here are magnificent. For a moment, I am rendered speechless. I suppose it’s because my ego has nothing to compare this moment to; no point of reference, no past experience, nothing that could dull this image of pure beauty and joy. I try to imagine a life where all my experience could be seen with that same quality of new-ness. What better place to practice this than on the mat? Every pose will be an opportunity to seek new sensation, new space, new breath…anything to which my ego has nothing to compare. Like with all aspects of my practice on the mat I’m certain that this too will expand into my relationships, my work, and my life. The thought is elating.

We gather in the lobby and await our first trek through the streets of Rishikesh. It’s a bit more obvious today that I am carrying something other than a little extra weight around my mid-section. I have had a mix of reaction surrounding my choice to make this trip halfway around the world while 22 weeks pregnant. I know in my heart that I would not be so selfish to travel if I felt that, even in the slightest way, it would jeopardize “Yogi’s” journey into this world. I could feel the rush of negativity arise within me when one of the women on our journey took a look at my growing belly and said “so…you’re pregnant…are you going to be ok with all of this?” I suppose it was more her tone than her words that stirred me. In my perception it was the same tone I would expect to hear from a disappointed parent confronting their child; a tone of doubt rather than compassion and confidence. And here it was. Another opportunity to practice in my life what I practice on the mat: finding space between action and reaction and in that space, choosing love. To me, this practice came much easier on the mat. I noted I needed more practice.

–Carissa

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