My good friend Patrick posted some questions recently that address very relevant aspects to my time in India and the very purpose of this blog. So, I thought it would be good to share with anyone interested, and dedicate a separate post of my answers to his questions:
Patrick: Your greatest learning?
In a way, I feel that “greatest learning” is just like the sum of smaller individual learning’s and lessons, same as “Wisdom” would be just the integrated sum of all capacities of thinking, being, and knowledge. But to be more specific, and I was going to say something about this in my next post, there was a very apparent realization that dawned on me during my very short stay at a monastery in Nepal. And just to clear up the word “realization” and what I mean by it in my case is, that it’s apparent we have realizations all the time…some bigger than others. To me, it’s as simple as walking out of the house and realizing I have mismatching socks on. Anyways, this place in Nepal was a picture perfect environment that was about as far away from the “troubles” of the world as one could get without having to be in a native tribal context. I have for a long time fantasized about just escaping to such a place, where everyone is “spiritual” and kind, and reverent. Finally finding myself here, and even the opportunity to stay for a long time if I wanted to, I realized that I didn’t want to. It wasn’t that I didn’t enjoy it. It was really the participation in the life that is challenging, and dramatic, and dysfunctional at times, that now appeared so intriguing and mysterious. The most growth producing times in my life have always been the hardest and most heartbreaking. This perfect monastery setting I was in did not contain that potential as the life I live back home. Im not saying that I am running towards pain and suffering like a masochist but, I have to do my best to come to terms with the fact that its just as much a part of life as eating breakfast. So my greatest learning so far, is that what is said in the ancient texts on Yoga rings true, about what at first seems like nectar becomes poison, and what seems like poison is really the nectar. We all have a habit of mentally constructing our own utopia, based on the life we have led up to that point. Finally having this utopia at my fingertips proved to me that it really isn’t all that marvelous. Even here I am still me…I still have more imperfections than I care to admit to…basic human needs and desires…and things to work on and work out…and it doesn’t matter where I am really. But, the funny paradox about all of this is I had to be there to even be able to see that.
My favorite time of the day in India, in Pune, is the 2.5–3hrs in the practice hall, and my sitting time. My friend Erick and I even agreed on this alchemical part of the day. Every time we come to the practice hall, and know that we have all this time to utilize and fill up, we are almost dragging our feet seeing that there is this great wall of time and sweat to hurdle over. No sooner do we arrive and start reluctantly warming up, than the momentum builds, the breath moves, and before too long endorphins and the sense of clarity and wellbeing flood in, time just starts to fly, and we realize that we want to keep going when we notice that there’s only 15-20 minutes left till closing time. Then of course the times that I get to sit for meditation & pranayama thereafter and relish in the juices of the morning practice is like having a second dessert. It’s hard for me to answer why I enjoy meditation. It was not always the case. For several years it was approached as an almost unwelcome chore. That changed when I came to India my first time in 2010. More than anything, what I think made the difference for me between not looking forward to it at all, to now, was the inclusion of the breathing and mental focus techniques that came from the teachings I follow. I am not at a place in meditation right now where I can say I loose a sense of time, or space, or myself. The blessing of it for me in this stage of my life is, how I feel about myself, my life, other people, and the world around me, after I sit.
P: how has your diet changed?
As for my diet, although its not easy to avoid dairy or eggs in India, I do my best. If Im eating at home, which is most of the time, I really feel the best. Back in June, I found a store that sells hygienic salad ingredients, including avocadoes luckily, which really put me back on track after more than a month of eating all cooked food. Aside from the specifics though, the other change that has crept up on me is an adverse reaction to eating big amounts. I’ve grown up being a big eater, with no noticeable side-effects, and am pleasantly surprised at my inability to handle eating large amounts of food as I once did
P: people go to India thinking of a great spiritual nation, what do you think gives it that sense?
I like the last question, since this perspective was also something I used to share before coming here. It seems there are a couple of factors involved in giving people a sense that India is a great spiritual nation. One, is the historical component, where the worlds oldest texts on ethics, morals, piety, religion, and of course yoga, originate from. Two, is the great figures that this land has given birth to throughout the ages, with Gandhi, Mother Teresa, and Paramhansa Yogananda being among the many. No doubt these are great reasons to cast this kind of light on India, and as far as I see it, not entirely untrue. The fact in the matter is, when really dissecting the concept of spirituality, and what makes one thing more spiritual than another, the definition of it transcends any man-made boundaries. What people from any time in history and any culture can and have agreed on is that it is such characteristics as compassion, kindness, honesty, sympathy, empathy, devotion, humility, etc…that are at the core of “spirituality”. So for that reason who is to say that India is any more spiritual than the US, or Russia, or wherever. From my experience, India has just as much ignorance and wisdom as any other nation. India is a land full of temples, spiritual art, and religious holidays, where from early childhood people are brought up with a religious mindset yet, the apparent contradiction of things like gender inequality, the caste system, social apathy, and environmental disregard are too strong to ignore. So then, what happened with me is that I just choose not to label it anymore, as I used to. This gave me the opportunity to just see it as it is, to not be judgmental, and basically be present with the immediate experience the best that I can.