(the very beginning of February 2017)
I woke up after the first night of my stay in India, hair wild and knotted, teeth unbrushed. I held up my cracked mirror and looked at my face – eyes hard, features vacant, jaw set grimly.
I can’t do another day. I can’t.
Yesterday, soon after my arrival, classes began. Armed in my new yoga pants and an oversized shirt, I followed the other quiet, newly arrived students on a dirt path towards the yoga shala. As our teacher, Ian, began demonstrating the steps of a Tantric walking massage, I glanced over at the long-term students. I felt them looking over at us, observing this new crowd of faces with a reserved sort of interest. I wondered what they thought of me.
I skipped lunch, seizing on the opportunity to take a shower while the others were eating. Stepping gingerly on the wet floor, I undressed quickly and carefully. Aware of the barely-working lock on the door, I turned on the shower, allowing myself to enjoy the cold water. The shower was relaxing until I saw a shape through the frosted plastic door that began to knock aggressively. Too unnerved to speak, I pushed myself in the corner, covering my wet skin like a trapped animal. Finally the knocking stopped and the shape went away, leaving me trembling and naked under spewing cold water.
I managed to work up some excitement for the afternoon yoga class. My trip will finally have meaning here, I thought.
I thought wrong. The class began with a long period of meditation. Laying on my back, staring up at the roof of the shala, I felt my mind go up in flames. Is this some sort of joke?
The joke only got worse and worse as we progressed through the class. Long, painfully slow, and unforgivably gentle, my mind accelerated in anxiety with each simple pose. I used to be an athlete. Now I’m wasting my time doing the easiest yoga imaginable. I’m going to gain weight here. That’s a given.
When the agonizing three hours of class were finally over, I retreated back into my box of a room. I opened my laptop to frantically email my parents and friends. I was wrong to come here. So wrong. I swallowed my pride, asking my parents to get me away from this place.
Evening lecture was about two hours of meditation. I lay in the dark corner of the shala, tears flowing down my face silently, thinking about the other ashrams I could have gone to. Anger rose inside of me, helpless, storming betrayal overcoming all patterns of thought and reason. Calculating over and over how much money I had, I sketched several pathways of escape.
I prayed for the first time in years while my mind fell apart in the meditation. All I could manage was a cry for help, but I knew who I was pleading to. Here I am, broken in an ashram, and I’m reconnecting to some long-lost version of Christianity. Well, You, you’ve done it.
At last the meditation ended. I crawled up the ramp to my room, fell into my bed, and sobbed myself to sleep. My dreams were rolling and reckless, sleep becoming a moon cratered with strange visions.
The alarm went off, and I rose, hair wild, teeth unbrushed, eyes hard, stepping into another day.