I just returned from two weeks in the Motherland of southern India: Kerala.
The home of Ayurveda, amazing food, the Indian ocean; it was perfectly serene and completely renewing in my health and spirit. At the same time flashes of the driving, the fire, the pushing, the sweat from the kalaripayattu, the smells of sesame oil all flash through my head, like a passionate love affair.
India is the great paradox; everything is chaos. There are no lines or allowing people to go first—just pushing and shoving. There are no rules on the road, just the sounds of horns and squeezing through where you can. There is no place to hide your trash or shit—it is just out there for everyone to see. It is the great truth.
There are no rules, but everywhere there is ritual. There is ceremony. There is fire.
In America we like rules. And in trying to force ourselves into these rules, ideas and structures we have become hungry ghosts, forgetting who we really are.
Even our religious ceremonies lack the fire—the tapasya that is going to burn away the ego and the striving that we live for.
At first glimpse of India, I was pulled into the chaotic frenzy of a tourist, amazed at the amount of chaos that they surround themselves in, the lack of care for their neighbor as they push their way to see a glimpse of an altar burning with the flame fulled by ghee—and then I recognized that as truth of what we are all doing, as we push our way to the top in our colleges or workplaces.
Only in America, we do it for money or recognition and in India, all of their efforts are for just a glimpse of something representing the divine, with hope that for a moment, in that moment, they will meet with the beloved.
As I pushed my way up the altar in the dungeon-like, hot temple, sweat running down my cheeks, I get a glimpse of the altar and a shiver runs over my spine. The belief of something greater was so present, that in all of the chaos, shouting, pushing, heat and noise, fell away. I experienced one of the deepest meditations within the blink of an eye.
Nothing mystic, just surrender, simply faith; as I moved beyond to cooler spaces, I stood in the center of a mandala, twirling with delight as I did when I was three because, well, twirly dresses were fun.
Two Indian gentlemen approached us to thank us for doing the Indian rituals so well. Tears welled in my eyes, for as an American who is always striving, working and pushing, how could I ever truly understand the depth of these practices?
On many occasions I am quite the poser (pun intended). Here, in this moment, it is the recognition of effort, tapasya and fire; the recognition that we appreciate each other for who we are, that is the union that is yoga.
Editor: Malin Bergman