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Bye, 2015. And Season’s Greetings!

31 Dec

I’m glad to have made your acquaintance. In many ways you were like 2013: you walked me through quite a journey. In no specific order, some of my favourite things from this year:

*The share autos at Noida City Centre metro station. Because:

1)UPiites (Uttar Pradesh iites) really are polite, even if they burn their women and mutton eaters occasionally. And,

2) In order to extract the crazily parked and inevitably hemmed-in auto you are sitting in (or sitting behind) (filled with a minimum of 10 passengers) the driver will move backwards and forwards, going thud-thud into the autos in front and behind, like dodge’em cars, until there is space to manoeuvre out onto the main road.

*That twice daily meditations did not happen, but routinely longer ones did.

* The Cafe Coffee Day on Barakhamba road. After many misses, I’ve found ‘my’ coffee shop in the city.

* Days that begin at 5.30AM on winter mornings, finish by 3, leaving me the rest of the afternoon and evening for Noida visits and meditation.

* Who’d a thought I’d enjoy being out of the house by 5.30 AM? That I LIKE less sleep when forced into it?

* Goettingen. Lucking out on wonderful people there, both friends and strangers. Especially strangers.

* Uncle Chips. Many, many packets of it.

* Beginning, meaningfully, on field research for the second part of my PhD. I don’t care whether I actually finish or not: the journey thus far has far exceeded my expectations of learning when I began. But I will finish, because the ICSSR has kindly paid me a fellowship thus far.

* Noida, Nurnberg, Dakshineshwar.

Happy New Year, all. Because whyever not?

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A rather long ramble

4 Jul

I had a short conversation with my Guide today morning. We were talking (and laughing!) about how my first drafts have looked SO different from my final drafts. He made the observation that my first drafts are intensely personal and that I achieve the level of detachment and distance that is required in academic writing in consequent drafts. Don’t ever turn in first drafts! said he. Lol.

It was a very profound observation, not just on my writing, but also on myself. (Ofcourse, as I have discovered during the dissertation process, I cannot draw neat lines between where my self ends and where my ability to write begins. When I struggle mentally with something, my writing is impacted.) My mind, in its natural state, is an unrestful place. It is extra-responsive to my environment, to my past, and it simply HAS to work through every thought that comes to mind. Put another way, there are endless triggers that I encounter in day-to-day living, which, if not managed, can send me into a spiral of unhealthy responses like worry, anxiety, anger, grief. My mind in its ‘natural’ state teaches me to identify with my lower self and take it too seriously. And I am very glad for this, because I have often wondered if I was easily satisfied with my life, would I have sought God? Would I have realised that there is no lasting peace and joy in anything but God? Would I have made loving and realising God my goal and sole ambition? Somehow I don’t think so. Had I not been made the way I have been made, my journey in God would have looked very different.

Managing my triggers has been a big part of the journey I have made in the past two years. Around November 2012, I had written:

So when I think of work, I think I need to re-orient my conception of it. Working on MYSELF is my primary job for now, because as they say on airplanes: put the mask on yourself before you help children and the elderly. I’m no good at giving myself, till this myself learns to behave and be in God at all times.  

I am learning to become aware of and distance and detach myself from my lower self. I am learning to observe inharmonious movements of thoughts and feelings inside me and realise that these do not have to keep me from practicing the presence of God. There is a very definite parallel between the journey I have made during my MPhil programme and the jouney I have made in God. I believe very strongly that the only reason the Lord blessed me with these two years of MPhil in Calcutta is so I could learn to move further in my spiritual practice. There was no reason for me to have been admitted to this institution; the application procedure required a research proposal. EVERYBODY had a research proposal…except me. All I gave them were a few paragraphs of what I was interested in. As far as I am concerned, the MPhil wasn’t my move, it was God’s 🙂

I have not made the journey on my own; nothing is my own, not even my effort. It’s all God. And oh yes, moving my self from the first draft version of myself to my second, third, fourth versions of myself have only been possible through meditation. I have gone from ‘freestyle’ meditation to a specific technique. This is in preparation of my mind and body to receive Kriya Yoga initiation some day, if it is so willed. Nothing has taught me to activily still the mind like meditation, and without stillness one can’t receive God.

There is another long post that I will need to get out some day soon. Thoughts about the terrible tragedy in Uttarakhand. We will never know how many are dead. They are saying it might be 100,000-300,000. Most of us have never seen or heard anything like it. It’s like the doomsday movies. Assam has floods now. Canada has floods. Parts of Europe had (has) floods. Kids are dying in Kerala. A bigoted man might be the prime ministerial canditate for one of the main political parties in 2014’s elections. There is a lot of unprecedented crazy in the world right now. It is hard to feel secure in the midst of all this, but maybe this worldy insecurity will lead more and more of us to search for a more permanent, inviolate security. But, all that for another post. Back to work now.

Still alive, still disserting…

13 May

What do you do when you receive feedback on your first chapter? You put your head down on your desk and cry. Ok, not really. You eat the world’s easiest home-made chocolate pudding, read a catalogue, walk around and then get back to work. It really is a fantastically helpful feedback from someone who isn’t even my guide. She read close to 17.5K words just because.

I’m not at the library today. The body has been announcing its need for some yoga. It is only today that I realised it.

It goes without saying that I’m behind my writing schedule. But, as I’ve been saying to whoever has been asking- I’ve NEVER been on schedule. Ever. Either my schedule making skills suck or I just work weird.

Right now I’m also following the word dump method. I’m just putting it all down, with 80% care. I need to finish the chapters more than I need perfect half chapters before my June presentation.

Note to future self: I am not panicking. This is doable. But that element of uncertainty about completion will remain until I actually finish. Next time, if there is ever a next time, do a LOT more writing during fieldwork. It doesn’t have to be ‘proper’ writing. My honest thoughts count. No need to make the dissertation impersonal. Also, don’t give up the meditation, even when it’s not really happening. This is not a dissertation. This is a deeply welcomed opportunity to learn to connect with God while doing life. Life comes in many forms. And this is why I no longer ever wish I were younger or my 20 year old self (twenty used to be the number I wanted to be all my life). Back then, I had a very limited idea of what ‘life’ could signify. Literally.

19 Apr

I’m sitting in the library, sans internet. This is the third non-consecutive day that I’ve toted books, laptop and self to this work arrangement. It works MUCH better than the December arrangement of institutional desktop computer (with internet), books and self. I cannot be trusted with the internet, that much I have proved to myself (sigh).

I broke my resolution of the post below, though. I stuck to emails only for three days. And then I attempted to drown my desire to read blogs on the third day, till the afternoon. At which time I took a nap. And in my sleepy state realised that this regimented Yoga (for yes, I did two days of self-regulated yoga following the end of my classes), regimented net behaviour and regimented meditation sessions couldn’t work long-term. Suppressing desires is not the same as LOSING the desire (and one does not necessarily lead to the other if the method is unsubtle) and no practice is sustainable in the long run unless one takes joy in the practice. I resolved to act with joy.

So in the evening I ended my internet fast, did a delicious session of yoga where I basically did not follow the recommended Sivananda sequence and did asana after favourite asana, including the advanced ones. And I discovered that regular meditation sessions ARE possible when, instead of thinking I MUST, I think I WANT.

But remember, I’m not Pollyanna and I’m not an ant. Four days of self-styled yoga later I was forced to make a change to this routine as well. The unthinkable happened-I overdid YOGA! :S While I felt incredibly limber and TALL and my spinal column felt the loosest, and strongest it has ever felt, my lower back started announcing the arrival of a soreness that could only indicate that I was working it too much too soon even though the practice itself felt GREAT! I stopped yoga practice immediately and plan to resume only once it’s back to normal, and plan to ONLY stick to the Sivananda sequence from now on 😛

My state of mind and productivity has yo-yo-ed. That’s okay, it happens. What I’d like to continue focussing on is how to get back up after a fall, so to speak. How to reach even mindedness quicker and quicker after a loss of equilibrium. That is more valuable a learning for where I am right now, than learning to stay for longer and longer periods in Godly peace (although that would be lovely too!:) )

(Posted the morning after, from home)

Schiiiik!….Cold Turkey

31 Mar

I’m limiting my online time, starting immediately. Which means- no blog roll, no facebook, no nothing except email, the feminist blog (and only when I have to put up someone’s post), and this blog (which I really need as an outlet). I really wish I could just go OFF THE INTERNET entirely, but given how much our lives are enmeshed with the ‘net these days, that would be overly dramatic and silly of me. After all, I get my class readings and programme announcements over email.

This is in line with what I said in my last post: I need to adjust my methods to fit my dissertation into my new timeline. I hope to have a skeleton of 3 chapters ready by end April. May, I need to flesh out the chapters and craft my final presentation. June, I need to deliver the presentation, and then spend the rest of the month writing an introduction, a conclusion and incorporating feedback into my chapters. July, the second day of it, I need to turn in a trussed and bound copy of the big D. Okay, maybe not trussed 😛

The Yoga has been quietly phenomenal, and instrumental in drawing out this decision to the f0refront of my mind. I’ve spent the past four days discovering how even when every class and every asana isn’t going perfectly (that is, perfect breathing and therefore perfect relaxation and therefore stilling the mind), it is STILL working on my body and my self.

For one thing, I was surprised to discover that my body has something like a muscle memory when it comes to yoga. It was October when I last did regular practice but my body slid into posture with more ease than back then. My breathing wasn’t as good, but my asanas were physically falling much, much better. The cherry on the cake was today. I accidentally went for an Advanced class, and was invited to stay on. I’ve only ever done the 12 basic Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Centre asana practice, the basic class for 90 minutes. In that, I have never managed an unassisted head stand. And in my head, I can never make the decision to move on to an advanced practice without getting that important asana in place.

‘Could’…I should say ‘could’ because the Love showed me to Advanced today, and I had the time of my life. Yes, we’re still talking about the 12 basic asanas, but it’s multiple variations of that in a two hour class. I struggled in some, but I mostly had a really good practice. A brave-and enthusiastic!- 56 year old lady was full of praises for some of the asanas that I managed, and the instructor too seemed pleased. And I have to say, I’m struggling to not feel too pleased with that. I wish they had kept the praise hidden, because I’m not entirely above enjoying it in the field of my Yoga, I discovered. And pleased with praise in Yoga?? All wrong. I have tomorrow’s basic open practice with twenty others managing the headstand to humble me thoroughly though 🙂

It was the Advanced experience that really turned this round of yoga classes for me. It made me decide that I want to phase out the internet from my life. I don’t it’s really sunk into me, before, just how much of my energy is spent online. Particularly blogs: I read too many (most are blogrolled on my other blog) with too much interest, and I think that detracts from the focussing of my life energy on what I REALLY want out of my life: more meditation, more yoga, more work ground in the Love. If I’m overstimulated by the internet, I don’t have thought space and/or energy left for that, except for in sporadic spurts when the Love gently draws me in, despite myself.

I’m not content with sporadic spurts any longer. I want more, and I’m ready to radically change my daily habits for it.

 

Rewiring

26 Mar

AGAIN.

I have to shake my head and laugh at how often I need to get off the crazy road, pause and rewire myself. Because if I don’t laugh, I won’t be able to look back at this entry fifty years down the line and tell my kids-see? THAT’s how you deal with life 😛

March went by without any productive work happening. I didn’t transition too well from fieldwork to the writing process. Which is to say, I spent days at a stretch losing track of time, feeling like there is no rush, until bam! It’s the last week of March.

It’s not good for me to be without direction. I slip easily into zombie-like behaviour with liberal splashes of melancholy thrown in. It’s interesting to note, in a detached kind of way, how this kind of an existance exerts a kind of magnetic pull upon itself. It has a sick fascination for itself and needs to self-perpetuate by compulsively acting out those behaviours that feed it. In my case, this is also known as reading compulsively on the internet, reading compulsively off the net, watching episodes of Marple on youtube, and generally giving my good sense a holiday.

Oh to be born with a Pollyanna-like disposition sprinkled with the industriousness of an ant! I’d annoy the heck out of everyone by my mere existance, but MAN how easy my life would be!

Since I’m not, I have to deal with my self the old-fashioned, hands-on way. I have to stop and rewire myself as often as the need arises. I’m off to Delhi tonight, and I hope to get 5 days of yoga and a huge dose of family in. It worked the last time; so what if I am looking at 5 instead of 20 days on this stint? I’m also less lost than I was last October.

Speaking of time, if I ever decide to commit to a PhD, I have to remember that the days to work correlation is a really tricky thing. If I think that I need three months to write three chapters, it’s probably true. But life inevitably gets in the way, the trivial stuff more often than the nobler ones. Three months can suddenly shrink to one month. But that doesn’t change the fact that three chapters still need to get written! Panicking is an option, ofcourse, one that is liberally excercised, but outside of a heated head, racing thoughts, sweaty palms and a nasty attitude to life, nothing gets accomplished. We’re still left with one month for three chapters. And then we realise, we can STILL do this, but with altered life methods.

It’s crazy how one can increase one’s efficiency by first learning to discipline the mind. With deep concentration, one can do in ten minutes what would otherwise have taken ninety. And it’s crazy how easy it is to deepen concentration after the hard part is dealt with. Ahahahaha. Ofcourse there is a hard part.

And so, Yoga. Meditation. Prayer.

Yoga is for everyone who wants it

8 Mar

Because it really is the most natural, intuitive return of the body and spirit to what it is meant to be and capable of.

Not all yoga, however, is for everyone. I personally prefer to learn from a teaching system that is premised on loving kindness and spirituality. Which means not commercialising yoga and charging high fees to teach, in my book. I get very upset when studios and teachers charge thousands and thousands of rupees and my my internal protestor keeps saying but yoga is meant for everyone!!

I also prefer yoga instructors to treat every individual as individuals with different abilities. I like it when the encourage you not NOT look at your neighbour and only concentrate on pushing yourself into deeper, meditative practice. I like it when they don’t insist you push your body into postures that your body clearly isn;t ready for today but has to work its way up to.

Most of all, I like yoga instructors who are calm and gentle.

I learnt the twelve basic asanas at the Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Centre in Delhi and I absolutely loved their style of teaching. It suits me, fits my ‘type’. We do shavasana after every asana, focus a lot on yogic breathing, and start with the headstand from the very beginning. (I’ve not managed an unassisted head stand as yet, but that’s okay.) I only did about two months at the Centre, before deciding to cultivate the discipline to do independent practice. I’ve managed sporadic bits, but I’ve not been completely out of practice, which is pretty good given my history with routine!

I guess what I was trying to arrive at when I started this post is that I don’t like what I hear of Bikram Yoga. Yes, it has helped a lot of people, yes it matches certain personality types. But the whole franchise thing stinks to me. It’s not supposed to be about rights and patenting and money! God is free for all, and that is what Yoga is supposed to be a means of attaining. It IS about spirituality, not about weight loss, toxins. Although loss of excessive weight toxins is required for spiritual practice.

Also, not too many friends of mine practice yoga, but from what I’ve heard of the few that do, not all yoga instruction systems approach yoga holistically, or atleast, as holistically as Sivananda Yoga seems to. Sivananda Yoga rocks!\m/ 😀