Saturday, March 15, 2014

Where I must begin ...

"You're late! ... Why you so late?"  I'm not sure if he is referring to my arrival at the tail end of the season or the daily registration time.  I am late on both counts.  Add it to the list of all the ways I've fallen short lately.  "Come here. Sit."  With this, my teacher welcomes me back to the shala.

I arrived in Mysore just over a week ago, my third trip in as many years.  I arrive here feeling like a broken, tangled up shadow of myself.  I had planned to be here at the end of December, but I've been wrestling with serious demons the universe has thrown in my path.  The last six months or so have been as close to a living hell as I've ever come.  Old traumas have been resurfacing in ways that have been wreaking havoc in my life and in my closest relationships.  If complex PTSD was a formal diagnosis, I'm pretty sure it would apply to me.  So here I am with yet another deeper, darker layer of samskaras to burn through.

My first year in Mysore cracked me open, quite literally.  My second year, I was filled to the brim with so much light and the deepest sense of joy I've ever felt, a joy that I took home with me and continued to cultivate over many months.  Out of that substantial joy and clarity, one of my best friendships turned into something much more.  In that friend, the universe presented me with a relationship that has brought me face to face with the depths of my love and all the beautiful gifts I have to give, along with the darkest and most terrifying parts of myself that have remained hidden in shadow.  These shadowy parts are beyond my rational thinking and cannot be reasoned with.  They behave like a wild animal engaged in a life or death struggle, complete with a fight or flight response that has a broken off switch.  I come to Mysore this year with the sole intent to face these darkest edges of myself and do the work required of me to heal and integrate them so these old traumas can no longer hijack the ship and sabotage all the beauty and wonder I have worked so hard for all my life.

My friend James Boag taught a class on the yamas on my first full day in Mysore.  And a couple of days later at the first conference I attended at the shala this season, Sharath also talked at length on the yamas and niyamas.  The yamas are moral and behavioral principles, practical references for how we ought to deploy our energy.  Patañjali refers to the yamas as the maha-vratam, the Great Vow, which must be observed at all times, in all places, by all people, regardless of circumstance.  As I measure myself against each one, I can see just how far off course I have veered.  To be more honest and more precise, I feel like I am a wretched human being.  How on earth did I get here?

Ahimsa.  I have caused tremendous harm to myself and to others whom I love most dearly... in thought, in word, in deed.  The specific kind of harms manifest more clearly in the rest of the yamas.  Satya.  I have lied.  I have abandoned my truest self and my deepest desires, and I have been untrue to my dearest friend.  I have allowed myself to be driven by the fear and darkness of old traumas and not by my genuine, authentic self.  Asteya.  I have stolen from myself the things that matter most, so recklessly sacrificing the eternal for that which dies in an hour.  And I have stolen from one I love dearly by asking for far more than he was able and willing to freely give.  Brahmacharya.  I have squandered that most potent of creative energies in careless ways. I have been unfaithful to my own heart and to the timing of life circumstances, and I am implicated in my friend's unfaithfulness to himself.  Aparigraha.  I have clung desperately to the darkest parts of myself, to fears of abandonment, to parts of myself that do not and cannot serve my deepest desires.  And I have allowed that darkness and those fears to drive my interactions with one I love.  I have grasped and held on to him as if it was life or death.  I have taken far more than my share of my dear friend's time, energy, and heart.

I don't really know how I arrived here.  I'm not sure it much matters.  Regardless of how or why, this is where I must begin.

My heart was heavy with grief before I left Austin, and now that I'm here in Mysore, the grief has been pouring out by the bucket load.  I grieve for not being strong or courageous enough to face the darkness with the grace and kindness that has been shown to me.  I grieve for all that has been lost, for succumbing to the darkness and watching in paralyzed horror as it destroyed the things I love most.  I grieve for the beautiful things not seen and not born, for all the moments full of love that I will never know, that were destroyed before they ever could begin.  I grieve for falling short, so tremendously short, and my heart breaks over and over and over again knowing how much I have hurt the people I love so dearly.  This is the place where I must begin.  It hurts like a living fucking hell.  It's suffocating and nauseating.  It's hard to breathe and I can barely eat most days.  It's dizzying and disorienting, and my whole body has been shaking like crazy during my asana practice and even during chanting and kirtan.  It is soooo not pretty, it's anything but comfortable, it is most definitely not easy.  But this is what I must face head on.  Wholeheartedly.  I must tap into a hidden reservoir of courage and strength that I do not yet know.  I must stand up, no matter how many times I fall, and put one foot in front of the other.  I must do my practice and do it with all my heart.  I must have faith in the moments of deepest fear and doubt.  And when the darkness threatens to take hold, I must keep my eyes turned firmly toward the rising sun.  All that I love depends on it.

अहिंसा परमॊ धर्मस तथाहिंसा परॊ दमः।
अहिंसा परमं दानम अहिंसा परमस तपः।
अहिंसा परमॊ यज्ञस तथाहिस्मा परं बलम।
अहिंसा परमं मित्रम अहिंसा परमं सुखम।
अहिंसा परमं सत्यम अहिंसा परमं शरुतम।।