Normally I absolutely LOVE to travel, but recently I have been feeling like the work I am doing here in Mysore with my guru is far more important. It's hard to describe why, but in the moments when I feel very in touch with my heart, my innner soul, I know I need to stay. When my brain gets involved, I think, “but what about all the money you already paid for flights/hotels/etc” or “but think of all the great sights and experiences you will miss out on?” But as my guru, Sharath said in a recent Sunday afternoon conference, “What are you searching for? Why are you going to Thailand or Goa? What you are searching for is already in you.”
Although I had been getting little glimpses into my desire to stay on longer, it wasn't until last Tuesday that I really truly FELT the urge to stay so strongly. It seemed like the only logical thing to do, like my heart ached to stay here in Mysore and NOT travel on my way home. When I mentioned this to some of my closest friends here, they all seemed to think it was a good idea to try to stay on at the shala despite the general rule of “no extensions”. Many of these friends have been to Mysore and studied with Sharath several times, so when they said, “just go ask him for an extension,” I took their advice to heart.
But I was still afriad and hesitating. Afriad of what? I didn't know but it took me several days to finally decide to actually ask. I was trying to nap while listening to a recording of “Om Mani Padme Hum” (a traditional Buddhist mantra) when I was suddenly struck with the thought that I HAD to go to Sharath's office. Right then, right in that instance, which happened to coincide with his daily afternoon office hours. So suddenly I found myself walking to the shala and by the time I got there I was shaking. Shaking in fear and near tears. But it wasn't as if I was scared that he would say no. I knew I would simply accept his “no” and just travel as planned on my way home. Instead, I was afraid and emotional about staying. I knew it was the right thing to do, but I was scared, about what staying would entail.
I am here to do the difficult work – the deep dark, emotional work. Yes, I am practicing yoga. Yes, I am meeting new people. Yes, I seeing new things. But ultimately, my trip here is to look deeply at myself and see the real, true me. The authentic self buried under years of experiences and abstractions that have crafted the person I believe I am now or the person I want people (myself included) to think that I am. That authentic self is hard to reach. She is sensitive, innocent and caring. But she is buried under my current ego, the person I have become through years of social, familial and cultural conditioning. And this person I am now, is NOT attractive. Sure, I can easily hide behind an extroverted enthusiastic fascade as a modern, independant woman, but deep down I am self-centerd, perfectionist who can't seem to stop criticizing herself and those she loves. I am a control-freak who feels safe only when everything goes my way, otherwise anxiety creeps in I feel lost inside myself. And instead of facing all of these truths, I bury them deep inside me and never really stop or slow down long enough to let the reality of it all settle in.
But here, in Mysore, on AND off my mat, I am learning to slow down. To sit with the painful, sad place deep inside. By seeing this place, being in this place, I am trying to change myself to be more in-line with my authentic self. It's not a linear progression of course. There are days when I feel like I am the same, closed-off person I was, but there are other days where I can tap into that authentic self and FEEL who I am, who I want to be all the time. Those are the days when I feel “cracked open,” vulnerable. And yet those are the days I feel the overwhelming urge to be compassionate to my fellow human beings. I want to give the small child a hug, or the stray dog a biscuit or some water. I want to smile at others and touch their arm to let them know I am present and listening.
So, sitting in Sharath's office, asking for an extension, my voice was heavy with emotion. His response was, “For how long?” “As much as I can get,” I sweaked in reply. “Ok.” “Ok?” “Ok, one month extension.” And then I was dismissed, just as the dread settled back in – all those travel plans to change and the financial repurcusions of my decision. My mind raced with all the things I needed to do in the coming days – reschedule/cancel flights, hotels and tours; contact friends, family and my employeers that I will be home in early April, not late March as originally planned; arange housing for another month in Mysore; and of course, re-register at the shala.
Fortunately, many things have worked out and within a matter of a week, I have been able to check off MOST things on my to-do list. I have been fortunately that most of my travel plans have been easily changed/refunded. A surprise lesson that planning/booking/changing travel CAN work out on short notice and not just on my usual 2-4 month in advance timetable. Yet, most importantly, somewhere along the way, I have come to fully embrace my decision to stay on for another month. The fear seems to be gone, replaced with determination and understanding that this is the best way, the ONLY way forward!
“Sometimes it seems we have a preference for darkness and speed.” -Pema Chödrön
For the first time in my life, I am slowing down to find the light.