So two and a half months in Mysore and this is when the insanity kicks in. It is hard to articulate the mundanity of life practicing yoga in Mysore to those who have not experienced it, especially when those individuals are envying the ‘amazing’ time you are having in India. Initially the boredom appears like a kind snow that smothers and relieves you from the stresses and demands of life back home. But gradually it would seem this mundanity reduces your life, not necessarily to the essential but to hideously trivial concerns.
When one’s central task for the day (yoga) is over by 6am the rest of the day is spent desperately trying to find a purpose. Yet what are considered purposeful activities are now completely transformed, (e.g. going to the supermarket becomes an event as opposed to a ten minute chore). The recent passing of Christmas only amplified the sameness of the days; no-one ever remembers what day it is for nothing demarcates one from the other.
There is plenty of time for socialising of course but conversation becomes depressingly limited to a few tired topics: the day’s practice, buying stuff, where to buy stuff, where to go for lunch, health, injuries, pain, vegan/vegetarian dietary habits, going to buy chocolate.
The fascination you develop with chocolate is also rather extraordinary. Here in Gokulam there is both a chocolate man and chocolate lady (seemingly undeserved of a name) that service yoga students chocolate cravings. At first this appeared very bizarre to me but I realise now that the life of a yogi in Mysore involves the cessation of many desires. Chocolate thus becomes a form of sublimated desire (a socially acceptable way to succumb to your natural urges).
I have recently lost my appetite and I figured it was a result of the yoga practice eradicating all of my evil human desires. Was I en route to samadhi I contemplated? But then I thought: no desires? Is that not just depression? And without food to sublimate my desires – I have begun to miss my repressive desublimating activities back home that comforted me with a false sense of freedom.
Having the opportunity to live without these habits is the beauty of being here, and the beauty of practicing yoga. But it seems to me that it is all too easy to exchange one set of trivialities for another, habits merely adapt to the socially acceptable norms of each respective environment. Conforming to a new set of norms, whether more ‘beneficial’ or ‘spiritual’ doesn’t sound much like freedom to me.
In fact it is anesthetizing. It leaves you feeling oddly disengaged from your feelings (your sense of self). During my time here my grandmother passed away, my grandmother who I was hoping to visit after my travels in India. My grandmother who I never really knew, my grandmother the only remaining link to my mother. And on discovering this news I felt a few hot tears attempt their way down my face and then I just sat motionless with an empty, confused mind.
And friends that are made here in Mysore – friends that help you forget the sense of loss for the friends you have left at home – then leave. Loss feels as hollow and superficial as my personality has become. Nothing given the magnitude it deserves.
And as people leave whether it be my grandmother or a fairweather friend, I cannot comprehend where they go. Under the Mysore sky everything is surreal – a non-time – all realities suspended. I try to feel the harsh realities of loss, the weight of the ambiguity of life. But then sitting under a palm tree, the sun baring down on your face (or some other such cliched scene) you again find yourself overwhelmed by the subtle beauty of the moment and you forgive, relent; everything dissipates.
I was recently reminded of one of my favourite vignettes from the film ‘Paris, Je’Taime’. This scene captures this feeling far better than I could express: