I have been warned that people will have their “moments” when practicing in Mysore. Claudia’s awesome blog about staying in Mysore also has a story about her meltdown moment, which you can read by clicking here.
Mine came on the third day, on Monday. Sharath had made an announcement that we will have a led class on Monday instead of typical Mysore practice; I’m not sure why he changed the schedule but at any rate, I completely forgot about the change. My start time for Mysore practice was at 7:30 so I dutifully showed up at 7:00 — half an hour early because shala time is earlier, which still confuses the heck out of me.
I expected a big crowd waiting on the steps, but I was the only one. “Oh, great!” I thought. “I’m super early, maybe I’ll get a good spot.” A few students hung by the coconut cart and chatted, and that was when I heard Sharath counting. “Ekam, inhale…dve, exhale…” and I wondered, Why the hell is he counting? Aren’t we having Mysore practice?
I figured maybe the previous class wasn’t done yet. So I went to visit my friend Christi, whose house is just a couple minutes from the shala. We chatted over coffee, and then I ambled back to the shala. Prakash, the stony-faced guard, stood outside this time. He asked for my shala ID card, which I promptly showed him. Then he said, “You late! You miss class already.”
“What?” I said, incredulously. “Mysore starts at 7:30.”
“No,” he said without smiling. “You not remember? Led class today! No mysore practice. Led class! You the only one who forgot. Only you miss class.”
Maybe it was the jetlag, sleep deprivation, and travel — his words hit me like a ton of bricks. I managed to cough out, “Thanks,” and walked slowly away. Then I remembered Sharath’s announcement. How could I have forgotten??? I came out all the way here, spent money on travel, went through hell to arrive here, only to miss a class because of my own stupidity. Prakash’s comment also triggered all of my complexes — “you the only one!” rang in my ears, as I was often the only one in the family who expressed anger and got into trouble for it, the only one singled out at school because of my skin color, all that sort of thing.
Suddenly I burst into tears. Yup. Cried like a little girl, and whimpered all the way back to my room. I didn’t see any of my friends as they all had earlier led times, and felt utterly alone, half a world away from family. I thought of stories of people who came here and couldn’t hack it — they went back early, or even developed serious mental health issues afterwards.
I will admit it — I thought about turning back. Back to home in California, waves, my husband and children, in the comfort of our house, with clean streets that don’t have big piles of poop or trash on the sidewalks.
More tears rolled down. I imagined slinking back to my shala at home in Encinitas. David and Andrew in their surprise — Ida, why are you back so soon? I couldn’t take it, I saw myself saying.
By now I was sitting on the steps of my hotel, staring blankly down the sidewalk. I felt a little dissociated…noticing all the details of the sidewalk, the people ambling along, the scooters and rickshaws buzzing by, but somehow floating inside, a little numb. I thought of a story I heard about a woman who came here, couldn’t take it and went back home after a couple of days, then…ended her life. I didn’t want to be that woman, another sad Mysore story.
I noticed my own breath and focused on it. I did this for a few minutes. Just breathing, noticing the breath. I felt calmer, and a little bit more in my body.
No, I thought. I’m staying. I tried to look at this as a karmic lesson. If I survive, then I’ll be the stronger for it. Whether I missed class or not, the yoga will still happen.
I forced myself to go back to the shala for Sanskrit chanting which started at 10:30. I felt sure that everyone would notice how I missed class, in my sleep-deprived thought process…but in fact, no one did. I saw Aina and Aimee, and sat next to them, feeling comforted by their familiar faces. When I told Aimee and Aina how I missed class, they reassured me that it happens a lot, and even they have missed class when not feeling well, or not wanting to deal with the craziness that can happen when the shala gets too full. “You had your moment,” Aimee told me. “Everybody will have their moment when they’re here, just because…well, we’re here, and it’s like a pressure cooker. Things get intensified, good or bad.”
This is true. I can see that there really is an alchemical aspect to being here in Mysore. We’re all in this yoga soup mix together, with lessons to learn or experiences to savor. The trick is to maintain equanimity, and just try to survive those intensely bad moments.
After chanting, I somehow felt better. A lot better.
The next day, I did make it to Mysore practice. My body felt wonderful and happy, and backbends came easily with the heat and humidity.
I survived. I’ve been told that there may be more meltdown moments. But for now, I am staying.