Monday, February 1, 2016

the honor and the privilege

Photo: (c) Barbara Süss

It's 3:10am and my friend and I arrive at the Shala gates, there's already a healthy number of people waiting there, somewhere between 25 to 30. It used to be that going that first morning meant seeing many familiar faces. I counted, 4 or 5, most of whom I met last year. Later more familiar faces arrive but the ratio is fairly unchanged. Mostly it is a sea of new faces. 

This is ok, of course, this is how Ashtanga is growing. It is a different time.  

Because of the growing numbers vying for a spot to practice at the source of Ashtanga yoga, however, a good many long time or returning students could not get in this month or the months previous. I myself got a deny for January and feel blessed to be here now.

I'm amped, and surprised to feel nervous and excited on my first day back at the Shala. Time has not calmed that; I'm glad because it reminds me that it still matters a lot to be here, to practice in that room, to be led by my teacher. 

The rugs are gone, the floor is springy, Sharath teaches with a microphone tucked into the neck of his t-shirt, but the count is the same, if not speedy. So is that incredible wave of energy that just picks you up and carries you through led primary. There's no frills, just straight up practice. 

Afterwards, I down my coconut and swiftly, without engaging in any conversation, walk back to the place where I am staying. This time feels sacred. I get half way there and break the silence between me and my friend, "I'm so happy to be here." There is a little crying, I must admit, I'm soppy like that.

What I'm feeling is this: it is a privilege and an honor to be here. 

I feel this more now than ever because of the new challenges with applying, there are just no guarantees. But the truth is that it has always been an honor and it has always been a privilege to be a student here. 

I realize that even if I profess to understand this, I have over the years lapsed in really living up to it. So many trips doing too much or doing too little; not resting enough and spending too much time at the coconut stand; not studying properly or taking too many classes. 

It's a process, of course. Every season is an opportunity to find a better balance that is healthy and sustainable and respectful of this really intelligent practice. 

There's the coming here, all open hearted, surrendering to the feet of the teacher. Then there's walking his walk, talking his talk. I honestly can't say I've totally done that. I don't think I'm a "bad lady," I'm just learning like everyone. 

I know that I am not the only one to make googly-devoted eyes at Sharath during conference, eyes in samadhi-like concentration or hands busily note-taking so that I might might absorb as much wisdom, only to step out the door and do exactly the opposite.

Surrendering isn't breaking open your chest bone to grab ankles, it is really trying to live the eight limbs, it is listening to our teacher, it is doing as he asks us. Before we act (not just on our mat but during our entire time here) we should ask ourselves, is this in keeping with the great tradition that I've come all this way to learn from? I like to think I'm ready for this way of practice, if not long overdue...

Again, I cannot say it better than: it is an honor and privilege to be here.

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