So as a fortnight in Mysore draws closer my mood has certainly transformed. This week has involved mostly too much eating, way too much shopping, too much sleep (well more than the average 3 hours per night) and too little practice. I am feeling a bad yogi indeed. Too be fair this week has featured my ‘Ladies holiday’ – this seems to be the acceptable term here for menstruation – and with Diwali, today was the first practice after a lazy (but poorly) 3 days break. I had my moment of shame however when on Tuesday I was walking past the Shala and Sharath (my teacher) happened to be sat outside with his kids. Now with barely 7 days of practice at the Shala I had thought my non-attendance would go past unacknowledged. Instead he saw me and pointed and said ‘You didn’t come to practice today!’. I stood paralyzed in fear, mumbling something about feeling unwell – which appeared totally unconvincing with a bag of shopping in my hand (I was hormonal and needed to shop). Though I was mortified at giving such a bad impression, it was nice to know I was remembered. However I am probably remembered as the one who can’t do headstand, or worse the one who whacked him in the face with my feet in headstand…. Oh yeah that happened….
The days are long here in Mysore with yoga practice over by 6am or 7am and no pressing engagements and leisurely 3 hour breakfasts. Here in pleasant and (relatively) quiet Gokulam, I think perhaps I am finding the chance to breathe, and let my thoughts roam.
Meeting the people here has also been an important experience. Though I feel I have not yet met people with whom I connect with on close level (but these things always take us by surprise), and that may be due to age or experience, I have witnessed and been acquainted with people who’s lifestyles have inspired me.
Most people here are travellers. Those who have jobs only work in order for the next extended traveling trip. Others have been going from once place to another for years, with Mysore a regular stopping point to practice at the Shala and meet familiar faces. Today at breakfast I met an Australian couple who spend months traveling at a time. And traveling in the sense of having some idea of the route they plan to take, but no hotel reservations or itineraries, and no fears. And speaking with others, who are walking travel guides for pretty much anywhere in the world, who pass on their tips and advice; I suddenly feel the world open up and an old excitement locked away begins to bubble up in my chest.
I am captivated as they give their tales on the places they have visited. I think of my own life and the possibilities that exist. I think of the staleness of the narrative I thought was the only route – job-settling down-having a PLAN. But here everyone is defying that narrative – some more successfully than others – but still the spirit remains. I remember a list I wrote at 19 when in Australia, of all the things I hoped to achieve in life and the places I wanted to visit. Being in a different country for the first time opened my eyes and stimulated a desire in me. The following years of education conflicted with my childish dreams and adulthood encroached upon my naivety replacing my dreams with practical ambitions.
But I cannot simply blame grey old England for destroying my dreams, as I cannot simply attribute India for rekindling them once again (For then I will surely be heading into Eat, Pray, Love territory, god forbid..). I stopped travelling physically, but my mind stopped too. I had stopped dreaming. My ambitions for myself grew smaller, the realities grew so much harsher, the burdens weighed heavier.
There is no worser fate than the death of the imagination. For the past four years my imagination has suffered a severe deterioration, with only temporary glimmers of originality. My PhD was doomed from the beginning – I had lost my passion, I was uninspired, my mind felt closed – ahead I could see only greyness and it was stifling .
Now I don’t know what I see – but the difference is I feel excited. No regrets and no turning back, now I have left I cannot imagine returning (yet). Yet it does not have to be a matter of burning bridges, as a friend once reminded me; I simply am choosing not to walk on those bridges anymore. But those bridges are still there for whenever I choose to visit them again.
For now, my childish dreams dictate and say: just keep going – so many places to explore and I want to see, experience, taste them all.
I think it is time to go and rewrite that list….