(circa February 2017, written in the following weeks)
Remembering myself in India is like holding sand in my fingers, only seeing the plume of falling particles a little too late.
Life becomes yoga, and yoga becomes life. Each class I feel more in tune with myself, more aware and appreciative of the subtle energy washing over my body. Some days I am able to fall deep into a meditative state, stepping out of consciousness, feeling the patterns of energy coiling and kissing through my limbs. I find a quiet, open space in my mind – a small break in the walls I’ve built that the true wilderness of the soul glimmers out of.
Tantra is the science of shedding away illusions, of identifying and letting go of conditionings. The farther I swim out into this practice, the more at peace I feel. I don’t know if my mind has ever been this clear since my early childhood. No longer do I feel such a dire need to impress people; I am a complete, Divine being, retreating inwards to clear the spiritual impurities with smoke and mist and tears.
What does life at an ashram look like?
For me, the day begins at around 7:00 in the morning. I wake up, search for clean clothes, and quietly slip out of the room so I don’t disturb Jade. Breakfast is in the common area, and normally consists of either watermelon or papaya, sometimes fresh pineapple.
At around 8:00 we begin our morning yoga class. On alternate days, we practice Ashtanga, a branch of yoga famous for a challenging series of sun salutations. Somehow, after two weeks enveloped in Ashtanga, I slowly let go of the desperate need to burn calories through running. With that attachment in dissolution, a vast space of possibilities opens up for me, winds of peace rustling the grasses finally allowed to grow over a battle field of anorexia.
11:00 signals the end of class. On Ashtanga days, our instructor, Manny, teaches us a key mantra. We listen to his husky voice flowing over the ancient Sanskrit words, coconut trees swaying around the yoga shala. Like children, we try to bend our own tongues around the cascade of syllables. I watch Manny’s chiseled, angular face as we stumble through the mantra; sometimes I catch a whisper of laughter in his eyes, but only when we especially maul “Peace, peace, peace to all mankind.”
Lunch is around 12:00. The food is always spectacular, an array of golden dal and at least ten different vegetables. We eat together, like a family. My favorite vegetables are the beets, cooked tenderly until they glow red-hot, seasoned with some sort of spicy leaf. I realize that it’s okay to like food. My eyes lighten, my skin becomes clearer, my hair grows at an astonishing rate, and my fingernails become strong for the first time in my life. More importantly, I feel beautiful.
Sometimes Jade and I go to Palolem after lunch. Normally we buy fruit, haggling for bunches of regal purple grapes and queenly pomegranates. The streets of Palolem are humid and dirty, dotted with tourists and overhanging fabric. We visit book stores and crystal shops, buy cheap yoga clothes at local boutiques, and stare down vicious street dogs.
3:00 signals the afternoon yoga class. Every day I go deeper. I become the moon, pulling at the depths until they surrender the illusions. The beautiful and the broken and the strange are all cast away, bit by bit, bringing me closer the the break in the wall, the light of the untamed.
At around 6:30, I wake out of the subconscious slumber of meditation. Gravity holds me to Earth as I move my fingers, feeling myself join my body once again. I quietly roll up my mat, and trail off to dinner in silence.
Our last class is at 8:00. We talk about yogic and Tantra theory, anatomy, and discuss the nature of the true-self. I look around the circle of students, and I think about how blessed I am to be in this amazing community of people. Irene sometimes ruffles my humidity-kissed mane, calling me her “little savage.” Toine winks at me like the Cheshire cat. Jade, Henni, and Stephen giggle, Jill asks the right questions, Richard smiles with gratitude. Aline provides answers, Sebastian and Julia cuddle in a corner. Kim hugs me in a fatherly kind of way, Sharon asks me how I am doing today in her gentle, soothing voice.
The ashram is like being on the ark, if one can imagine such things. We don’t know each other’s stories, yet here we all are, braving our own storms together, breaking down the walls we hurt ourselves with.
We are sand falling through our own fingers, flying joyously into the sky.