What tastes worse than well water with too much sulfur in it, especially after you brush your teeth?
Note: I started this post on July (yes, July) 28. Today is August 11. I’m running through the content below and am going to try to make sense of it, these 13 days later, so I apologize up front if you end up getting a migraine (yes, I have that kind of power, I know, it’s scary right?). Just trying to keep at it. But don’t give up. Many other posts will be coming along in a day or so about my epiphanies, moments, observations and pictures of food and signs around the retreat site and sunrises and sunsets and healing adventures (anyone out there have a “soul retrieval” performed? oy) and how 13-15 of us survived with very erratic wifi availability and what some of us did during the our occasional digital diets; and my personal favorite: what’s more neurosis-inducing than living with a bunch of psychoanalysts? Living with a bunch of people who might be able to see your aura and your not knowing it. It was a little like wondering if your zipper was constantly needing adjustment or having an eternal panty line…. more to come.
We ended up bringing in those 2-gallon jugs of mineral and spring water because the minerals here were turning our silver jewelry black, our gold jewelry copper and making the cucumber water smell like it had more gas than inherent in the cucumber to begin with. Everyone assures me that it’s safe and that drinking water with lots of sulfur in it won’t hurt me. I get that… I really do; but it’s a little hard to feel clean after bathing in fart water. It just is. I know… I’m not India with 999,999,999 other people around me. I’m in a house with granite countertops and a Jenn-Air cooktop.
So far, though, I must admit that the shortage of Cap’n Crunch in my diet has had pretty awesome effects. On day 3, Sunday, I can actually recall things much quicker than I used to. I remembered not only what I was looking for but where I last deposited it. That hasn’t happened to me so quickly for awhile now.
Chanting. Lots of chanting going on. What’s wild about the chanting is that you can feel the transfer of energies; you can feel the difference from when you began to when it ended.
Lots of breathing in from the nose and out through the mouth or in through the mouth and out through the nose or in one nostril and out the other or holding breath on an inhale, which is something many of us do all the time without thinking about it, but what about this?: holding the breath on an exhale? Not letting the air back in? Try that one a few times. (More to come about which kind of breathing to do when and what the effects can be.)
This retreat is covering a feast of topics for teacher certification: senior yoga, yoga for depression, yoga for women, children. Studies on the glandular systems; the chakras; shifting of subtle energies through kundalini. For two days in a row, Friday and Saturday and my arms and shoulders wanted to cry but they couldn’t because they have no tear ducts, no matter how much yoga and chanting I did. The kundalini exercises are amazingly difficult: they’re all based on moving emotional and psychic energy through and out of our bodies and they get stuff swirling and tingling and you’re told to think about your challenges, and frustrations and focus on your darker emotions and how those factors coalesce. All the while for one of them, you’re running in place and literally boxing with the ether (which is all an emotion is anyway, it’s just another kind of energy) and you’re working stuff out. On one morning, they had us run in place for 22 minutes with our elbows held at shoulder height or above the entire time. Try it… you think you’re tough, ok. You probably are. That’s why you should try it because … well: my calves were toast for two days after it, and if there’s anything I’ve learned, it’s that being “tough” is pointless. People see right through it. I don’t mind being thought of as strong, but tough? You can have it.
. . . .
On one particular morning, we did the 22-minute run in place kriya from hell. The 21-year-old son of our teachers came to join us to help us keep up the momentum by playing the tablas (drums) for that entire time and then some (and he’s amazing at it, so everyone was working on that deck). So we’re all gearing up… I decide to turn my body in a direction where I can’t see anyone else: I’m looking at the mountains. I thought, “Hell, if those mountains (what some of my friends out west refer to as ‘hills’) are as big as they are and got put through some serious pressure to get to where they are then I’ve got nothing to complain about,” so I’m in. 100%.
After the first two minutes, my arms start to burn and shake, so I looked around and saw that our teachers were swing theirs, just keeping them high up, so I did that. I channelled my inner Balboa: I’m swinging and sniffing and snorting like Rocky, making my worst Stallone-inspired snarls and facial squinches. I’m throwing cross-cuts, jabs, hooks, blocks and ducking… all the while breathing in and out of my nose which creates some crazy woo-woo insane energetic reaction in the face. Every once in a while our teacher, the father of the tablas player would call out, “bring out all your frustration, your anger…” which was a really good reminder for me because sometimes I get so into a workout that I sort of forget it and I start to feel Zen-ish and so reminding me of why I was doing this incredibly crazy boxing-while-standing-in-one-place thing was motivating.
As for my legs? What legs? You see, running in place for me, a runner and a rower and a forward-thinking person is: stupid. It’s worse than running on a treadmill. Why? Because it’s all calves and forefoot strikes and utterly painful. There is no heel strike and then roll to the forefoot. There is no breeze to cool you or terrain to explore with your soles or eyes. You’re all there. It’s truly: in the moment. But I’ll never forget this particular exercise; it will be my go-to when I’d like to take hostages.
At the halfway point, Shakta, the wife of our respective teacher calls out, “We’re halfway there, we have less than 11 minutes to go!” which sets into my mind, an energetic loop translated into the words of “Just repeat what I did.” I shout out, “We’ve got this!” to the masses, all 15 of us, on the deck. We all cheered. The neighbors must’ve thought we were nuts, that is if they were awake because this was happening at 7am on a weekend morning. Privately, that halfway mark said to me: “Get it out; get it allllll out; these guys are gonna be finished in a few minutes, Mol, so burn out and incinerate whatever angst you’ve thought into and remembered and punched the hell out of. Whatever fear, anger, guilt, sadness, shame… PTA? stir it up. Rowing club? call it up and get it out. Marriage? Punch it. Childhood? Go there, do it. Take it back. Your time with these people is limited….” Our teacher, Kartar, said, “I can take you there, show you the path, but energetically, you’ve got to stay there. You’ve got to get yourself there…” So that’s what I did.
It’s not there anymore. It’s just not.
I’d actually punched my way through those moments. And that, my friends, is powerful.
. . . .
Here’s the wild part: these yogis and teachers: they dress in all or mostly white; they wear the turbans; the men have these fantastic white beards that would make a perfect Santa (but they don’t do Santa) and they teach lessons on spirituality, love, peace, vibration, energy and healing dating back 3,000-5,000 years. Patchouli and sandalwood waft in their tread. It’s nice.
They are caucasian and funny; they tell jokes and they drive cars. Kartar swears every once in a while. I love that. Here’s this guy, he’s probably 6’2″; lean, kind and soft-hearted. He’s wildly intelligent and he can turn your mish-mash of thoughts or fears into opportunities for growth and promise.
They don’t arrive at the retreat on magic carpets or white stallions but they do drive hybrids. They don’t have cobras raising out of wicker baskets or wield magic spells. They are … like… y’know: normal. They eat using a fork; they excuse themselves to use the restroom. I don’t really know what I was expecting, but this is well, really cool.
I have to say, it’s the oddest thing for me.
They’re so freakin’ disappointingly normal, other than their humbling wisdom about metaphysics and sound and motion… the stuff they know and share, it’s mind-blowing. They use iPhones, iPods, Bose speaker systems, projectors and computers. They sell DVDs of their work and offer healing services: reiki, angel therapy, crystal healing therapy, a host of woo-woo stuff that is basically really odd to most of the western world, but that is totally normal to the eastern cultures.
It’s also completely depressing because it shows me in stark relief how very white-bread, totally pedestrian and safe my life has been: I’ve never been on an sojourn to India, or even Indiana for that matter. I hear me though: I can be kinder to myself; all things in good time.
It’s really quite an honor for me to be with these teachers. They’re patient, clever, subtle and loving. It’s like I’m in a sea of flowing organic white cotton scented with lemon grass oil. The kindnesses from these near-perfect strangers are sating.
What’s more: they also have next to no wrinkles. We’re talking: no. No obvious crows feet; no elevens between the eyebrows, maybe a couple horizontal lines from thinking so much about the universe and infinity and harmonic energy transfer and healing, but that’s all … y’know, cool stuff.
I started this post several days ago with the intention of uploading it that evening. It’s hard though, to stay on track, and for me to rationalize pulling myself away from all these fantastic people, most of whom I won’t likely see for several months if not ever again. It’s like a toss-up and a moment of truth: am I here for me? Or am I here for both of you, my followers? I have to use my time wisely; a similar notion comes to mind: when I’ve been to some rock concerts, I’ve been so moved to think that I need to record or film the moment for my memory. But I’ve seldom recalled the recording; the moment is emotional and metaphysical. Capturing it on an iPhone is meh, compared to the breeze on my skin or the sun on my arms which traps the moments on a cellular level. So I’m doing the right thing: I’m doing what I want; I’m communing with people, nature, energy and sharing and listening and laughing and all the rest and it’s been the absolute correct choice.
In a later post, I’ll tell you what our days were like there.
I’m back now. My first 24 hours at home have been largely uneventful and easy. This morning (8/11) was a little odd. I woke at 5:37am, but I need sleep, so I stayed in bed promising myself I’d do my meditation later, which I did. It was odd though because I was doing it alone. I wasn’t on that massive deck with that expansive mountain landscape calling and luring me to be with it; with those other beautiful voices of 15+ people joining me. I was in my home, on my office floor and I was winging it. I forgot a couple steps. But I did it and then I took Murphy, who slept on my side of the bed last night (something he hasn’t done in years) for a walk. Re-entry, which I’ll write about soon, will be … don’t brand it … will be what it is.