learning stillness

Practicing every day


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A Test of Faith

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Deities laid out for Dasara.

Faith. When I was a child I had an abundance of it. I talked to God easily. God was there, in my understanding of the world, just waiting to give a helping hand. I bargained with God on behalf of my self, my family and my friends. I would make little offerings throughout the day. “I will eat all of my lima beans (a most dreadful food) and then you can make my friend’s grandfather better.”

As an adult faith is a little different, definitely more of a struggle, but honestly not all that far off. I’ve stopped believing in a Santa Claus version of God, but I believe more now than ever in the importance of offerings, rituals and sacrifice. I also believe that faith should never be blind. Anyone and anything worth having should be testable.

My husband and I were sort of late bloomers. We both knew there was something we were meant to do with the gifts we had. It took us both until our late 20’s to find where we fit, though. We found each other and then we found our paths. I found him, then Ashtanga and then my place, my way to be of service to the world. I know we are both very blessed, but I can’t help but feel behind the eight ball, so to speak. 35 and we don’t own a house, he just completed his Bachelors/Masters degree after returning to school at 29, and we are looking at some serious student debt (if you are reading this Sallie Mae, I don’t like you.) Our marriage was tested in so many ways during the 6 years I was putting him through school. It was hard and scary and there were times I thought we wouldn’t make it through as a couple. Looking back now, though, the tests were a blessing. We cracked and mended our relationship a few times, making it stronger. In the process I think we’ve both learned not to be so rough with something so incredibly precious to avoid cracking it in the first place as we move into the future.

I’m here in Mysore, India for two months at the moment. I am two weeks into my stay and for the past few days I am missing all of my people and my 2 doggies back at home terribly. It’s the end of monsoon season, so it rains more than it did when I was here last year with torrential downpours that make the steps of the huge, multi-leveled houses in Gokulam into temporary water falls. I am also missing my routine. My coping mechanisms. Pulling yourself out of your day to day existence means your tried and true ways to both cope with and hide from your feelings are no longer available. It allows for a crash course I call: “Getting to know yourself all over again, 101.” It hasn’t been the easiest two weeks.

I turned 35 just before I came back to India. It surprised me how much this shook me up. It made me feel like the ground underneath me was less stable. I am certain that I want to be a mother, to own a home, be a part of my community and have deep roots in my life. I am just as certain that I want to continue coming here and studying with Sharath. To study with Drs. Jayashree and Narasimha as well. I believe there is real value in the time I spend with these teachers. Real, true living parampara to be found, and a deeper understanding of the cultural codex from which Pattabhi Jois taught the system that changed my life. Yet I have been feeling some serious internal pressure. Like some deranged March Hare I’ve had a running internal monologue, “I’m late, I’m late, for a very important date!” Time to get on it already, and start living like a grown up. Only I’m not entirely sure what that means. I actually AM a grown up. Just not what I imagined a grown up to be when I was a kid.

So back then to FAITH. I have so much faith in the Ashtanga system, because I have waded through so much doubt. I have been so unsure and scared and hurt, and I practiced anyway. My mind said to give up, but I somehow managed in some very dark moments to stand and breathe on my mat and watch “ekam inhale, dve exhale” follow. I put my belief to the test and was rewarded by a deeper, more authentic relationship with my self through practice. With greater mental and physical health than I ever though possible. I believe that in the end the doubt was a good thing. For faith to be real we cannot always get what we want in the way we want it. True faith requires tenacity, adaptability and so much love. It requires that you keep going, and let go of what you think things should look like or where you “should be.” That you be OK with discomfort at times. It requires a certain amount of surrender, too. Ideal conditions are nice, but it is when the rain is coming down in torrents that we really get to see if the house we’ve built is a strong one, and if it fails to keep us dry then we are given the information we need to sure the foundations. To adapt. But that never happens when we give up entirely.

So I will keep moving through my life, keep practicing with care in my actions and thoughts, in the same way I show care in my asana. I will let my faith carry me through, attempt to lay down my list of shoulds. Instead, I will try embracing what is and where I am. I am going to try to trust myself enough to honor the choices I’ve made. To exist in a place of trusting that there is something bigger than me in the world and that I am a part of it, with a role to play. Faith that if I just keep giving and acting from love rather than from hurt or fear or guilt that I will find myself in the right place. And I will keep a deep feeling of gratitude for the blessing of my time here, outside of my comfort zone, to figure some of these things out. Patience is a virtue…

 

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Durga, who above all else seems to have faith that the humans she encounters at the shala will be kind to her. And that one day she might actually get to remain inside the doors and practice led primary with us.

 

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