Sunday, December 25, 2011

christmas in mysore

Anokhi Garden Christmas tree.

Christmas Day. My second Christmas in a row in Mysore. This marks the half way point of a 5 month stay in India. And to be perfectly honest, I'm worn out. I've spent part of the holiday weekend close to tears--the other part indulging in sweets and chocolate in a gross attempt to chase away the blues.

It's tough to be away from my family during the holidays. And the practice...well! the practice is challenging me in whole new different ways. I feel fatigued, I feel stretched, I feel pushed, I feel a little out of my element. It is stirring me up in whole new ways, physically, mentally and emotionally.

Still, the holidays, though not so vibrant and festive as at is at home, is very special here too. I've really seen the best in people this weekend.

At Anokhi's Garden last Friday, some beautiful friends got together to raise over Rp80,000 for Ashadayaka Seva Trust and Operation Shanti by doing the things they love: cooking, baking, master-minding. The Christmas Party that they organized not only brought people together but benefits the children in this community. Everyone who attended the festivities, who bought tickets, who gave raffle prizes took part in this wonderful event full of good intention.

In one Gokulam Christmas Eve gathering, I saw again the amazing camaraderie that forms between people that come out to practice here, that even in a primarily Hindu country like India, the Christmas spirit lives in the action of people, in a tree cheerfully decorated, in the cakes and pastries that were baked, the food that was prepared, and the time we share with people we care about.

Christmas here is a no frill event. The decorations are at a minimum. There are no carols blaring out of storefronts. There is no massive drive for gift giving and mass consumerism. What drives the holiday spirit, however, is the human connections that makes the Mysore experience so rich and varied.

For me, this year, Christmas is waiting at the gate of shala with joyful anticipation. It's greeting my mat mates a Happy Christmas before practice. It's seeing Sharath come out of his office with a Santa hat and wishing us a Merry Christmas before launching into the opening prayer. It's having Christmas Chai after practice at the steps accross Amruth's. It's about waking up this morning and feeling -- despite all the intensity of being here and being pushed to my limits -- that there is no other place I would rather be this special morning.