To Return (Home)

“Whenever I was home, I wanted to get away, and whenever I got away I wanted to go home again.” – Erica Jong, Fear of Flying

Sometimes I wonder if certain things will ever change. Actually no, I wonder if certain things are even meant to change. I have been so enamoured with the possibility of transformation, of escaping (one’s self/environment/bad habits), that I have failed to acknowledge the importance of those parts of life and of my sense of self that remain resolutely unaltered.

Recently I have been longing to leave Mysore. The routine of the days no longer comforts me but leaves me feeling trapped. Though escape from Mysore is not possible so instead I sleep away my days, finding a familiar refuge in my obscure yet increasingly repetitive dreams. On waking I am initially nestled in the pleasant suspension of all realities where I do not even remember my own name. But then the burden of context descends and I feel heavy again with the knowledge of my present and my blurry and indeterminate future.

As the night continues to refuse me sleep and my mind chooses to escape the day in slumber, dreams and realities merge and my skin grows paler, lacking the stability and sunlight the daytime hours bring. I realise the patterns of my days here in India remain as incoherent as my life before, back ‘home’. Staying up late, eating too much of the wrong things, spending hours drinking tea alone in a cafe reading, staring into nothingness and feeling restless. All with the persistent thought in my head of wanting to escape – no a persistent pounding of my heart, my heart, that longs to get away… But I am away and as I acknowledge this I am engulfed in a panic; even in my escape I am not freed from whatever I am running from.

And so is what I long for to go home again? Yet wanting to go home – this is a futile longing for someone such as I who does not have a home. How to reconcile this dilemma? This ambivalent back and forth motion of dissatisfaction? It is feelings like this that my yoga practice can normally remedy, even if it is only transitory. But now my practice is failing to fully save me. As I leave the shala the emptiness is there waiting for me in the early morning darkness, enrobing me once again. I hurry back to my bed to shed its overbearing mass in the lightness of sleep.

But still the sleepless nights torture and the clock measures out my impatience, my anxiety. Another day left unresolved. And again the long unbearable wait for tomorrow, for the start of another day. Another day in which I will escape over and over again in pointless journeys that lead me back to the same place.

I keep writing the same story. Perhaps it is time I gave up my childish expectations of transformation, of change, of escape, and began to learn to resign myself to the impermanence and unfulfilled nature of life. Maybe then I will finally find my way home.

Home (to return)

I am walking through the overgrown garden, grass up to my knees, wading across the lawn. The unruly stems and branches of the surrounding bushes and trees appear almost grotesque, hideously deformed from their previous groomed shape. The garden thrives on its neglect, out of control, greedy it feeds upon the loss. I enter the house, as ever it is empty, silent, cavernous; I am alone. A languid warm summer glow illuminates the rooms. Ahead I see the front door, slightly ajar, light lurking around the door’s edge. I hurry towards the door, it is open. I push it shut but it swings back again, the glow from outside overwhelming my vision. The open door fills me with an unspeakable fear. The fear of someone (thing) inside the house, intruding in my home. I try once again to seal the door. Panic.

As I begin to acknowledge that my time in India must come to an end I wonder where to go when I leave. People speak of going home – ‘when are you going home??’  But where do you go if you have no home? If my home is wherever I am then to where do I return? Is home not just a fiction we construct to enable us to feel secure so that even if it remains a lie, at least we feel assured and contained in our illusions.

As I am met with ambiguity in my life – the precariousness of my future, the lack of vocation, a restless disposition  – I struggle to form a home inside, a stability dependent on neither people nor place, wealth or possessions. But to find this home I must first dissemble the home of the past. In my dreams I find myself continually returning to one place. The house of my childhood. Even as I actively seek a new home in my waking life I return to the only home I know. As much as I wish my imagination to be free of this ghost I protect it against intrusion. I keep trying to shut the door on the world outside, maintaining this little bubble of sameness inside. This phantom house possesses me.

I have not walked through this house for years and yet in my dreams it appears vivid and alive. My dreams remind me of things I had forgotten (or choose not to recall). The garden of the house was once grand and as a child, a wonderland in which I would spend hours roaming alone. After my mother died, it grew and grew. I would peer at it out the window as the chaos multiplied. It disgusted me. The insatiable appetite of nature. Relentless, no pause to mark my grief but just going on, taking over (me).

In my dreams I keep going home again but this is a place that no longer exists. I can never go home again. But somehow the child in me doesn’t give up trying. So in my dreams I return, returning over and over and over again. There will be no end to this. It can never be changed. For this house (home) lies at the heart of all things.

Diving In

It is rare a Sunday conference passes by without one of Sharath’s great little tales. My favourite has to be his description of the practice of yoga as the sea. It is easy to merely sail along the surface of the water, to provide the illusion of living via the principles of yoga. But to really experience yoga one must dive into the depths of the ocean, immersing oneself and discovering the true wonder and beauty of the yoga practice.

Diving into the ocean means saying goodbye to the world above the water’s surface. Sailing along the waters is a safe option, a comfortable medium between the realities of the modern world on the land and the truths to be discovered within the ocean’s mysterious depths. Sometimes I feel I am only dipping my head in the water. I see a vision of what lies beyond and it is exhilarating but terrifying. I lift my head back out the water and swiftly return back to what I know, what is predictable, even if it is trivial and full of the same.

On the surface my yoga practice has progressed beyond my expectations here in Mysore. As Sharath has allowed me to almost complete a full primary series practice (excluding Setu Bandasana – a welcome blessing!) I am enjoying and cherishing my yoga practice. And yet I feel like a fraud, not only because of my sloppy bhujapidasana and my clumsy supta kurmasana, but because I feel I am simply sailing along, too scared to dive into the abyss below.

Why the fear? It is often difficult to be an ashtangi in these modern times. That may sound horribly pretentious, and the truth is it has always been difficult to be an ashtangi, a yogi. For a yogi essentially has to renounce the expectations of the society in which he/she lives. It means making sacrifices that very few will understand or appreciate. It means a personal struggle to battle against old demons and to let go of habitual obstructive patterns.

The fear is thus one of truly setting out on one’s own and it is a solitary existence. To swim to the bottom of the ocean is a journey one must make alone. No returning to the surface for air when things go awry, or when the waves feel too heavy. And what will one discover? That is the tantalizing unknown and every experience will be unique to each individual.

And so today I make a vow to dive into the depths, shedding myself of the fears, bad habits, irrational attachments, and foolish mistakes to truly experience the sea inside.