Sunday, February 19, 2012

Same same but different

I wrote this post a week ago. Until today, I didn't have a way of uploading it. Week 2 post will be up in a few days.

I can't believe it's only been one week. I feel like no time and an eternity have all gone by all at the same time, but I guess that is the nature of what I'm studying. I'm not really sure where to start, so I guess I'll pick up where I left off. The cab picked me up a few hours after my last post. To my surprise, there was two other girls already in it. Their names were Heather and India. Heather is in her early 30's, rather mature, experienced, and level headed. India is in her early 20's and about as unique as her name - just a bucket of youth and personality. They have both had extensive travel experience, and so much of the 6 hour drive was used up with me picking their brains about their experiences and travel stories. More importantly though, I'm really enjoying both of these girls, and it makes me all the more excited about the next several weeks.

We get into Rishikesh early that evening, just before dinner. In the little time I have, I unpack and try to settle into my new room. Upon entering my bathroom, I was surprised to find what can best be described as a squat toilet. (Once I figure out how to get internet access on my computer I'll post pictures.) Though I'm not really looking forward to this method of relieving myself, I'm just happy to have plumbing, so I finish unpacking and head down for a wonderful meal with more wonderful people. I am pretty tired by this time, but still filled with curiosity and anticipation. I have no idea what the next 6 weeks will hold, but somehow I still feel really good about it. I'm happy to be here, and moving forward with open eyes and hungry ears.

After dinner, there is a ceremony that mostly just went over my head, but I remember something about a goddess of wisdom and a whole lot of chanting I didn't understand. There was one point during all of this that I thought "what in the world did I get myself into?," but it was fleeting, and after looking past the unfamiliarity of the ritual, I felt a lot of peace, and just tried to take it all in.

After the ceremony I'm beat, and head to bed. The next morning was a rough one. Apparently I acquired a little bit of Delhi belly (a quaint phrase for the bowl clearing diarrhea many people get when first arriving here). It was a bad time to be figuring out the squat toilet, but necessity is a great teacher. Luckily, I didn't feel too bad otherwise, and so I was able to make it through the day. Just to give you an idea of what my day looks like...

Morning herbal tea and neti pots are done at 6:30am. For those who don't know what a neti pot is, it's basically washing out your nasal cavity with salt water every morning. After the mucus fest we have morning Asanas from 7:15-8:45. At 8:45 I usually take my bucket bath (I'll explain later) which is followed by breakfast at 9:30. After that we have Philosophy class and Anatomy class, then lunch, and then a 4 hour break where we usually read, explore, chat, etc. Our evening Asanas are from 5-6:30, and then we have dinner at 7. After that I usually end up chatting with people till 8:30 or so, and after that I'm usually so tired I head to bed, just to start it all over again at 6am.

It's a pretty rigorous schedule, but I'm not sure this is description does anything justice. I am still a little sore, but getting stronger and, believe it or not, even more flexible. Mentally and spiritually though, I feel like I'm Charley in the chocolate factory. Multiple times a day in our philosophy class, Roshan (our instructor) explains a concept of yoga that is almost identical to some precept of the gospel. Some things are very quirky and small, but most of it is very good, very deep, doctrine. I find it difficult to explain why I'm so elated after every class because to explain the similarities of the concept, I have to give tons of background information that I can tell few have the patience to listen to. This has resulted in my mind constantly swimming, and perhaps at times drowning, in some very powerful stuff.

Just to give you an example, one of the ones we covered today was the word tantric. Apparently, when translated, the word tantric means system. Tantric yoga includes a bunch of other types and concepts of yoga (not just sex). Before he even finished explaining what he meant by system, I already had my synonym. It's like the organization of the Gospel and the different doctrines that comprise it. And to make the whole experience all the more enlightening, Roshan goes on to explain that those who have written books about tantra are not tantric masters, because those who practice tantra have to be initiated to become a master, and after they are masters, they do not talk about the things they learn with anybody who has not been initiated. He explained that it wasn't that the advanced practices of tantra was secret, but it is considered sacred, and that those who hadn't done the preparation, wouldn't understand the concepts, so it was not to be discussed with them until they went through all the proper preparations. Needless to say, this made perfect sense to me, and I couldn't help but laugh a little at the stark similarity to our temples.

These sorts of things are the daily occurrence. Yesterdays was a Hindu rendition of Lehi's vision of the tree of life. The day before was all about how light and truth make up this greater consciousness that always was, always is, and always will be.

One of the greatest similarities is the idea of that the self (the core identity of a person) is eternal in nature (exists before and after our body) and on the path to becoming an eternally enlightened (or perhaps exalted?) being. One thing that struck me during this lecture was how we are often told to 'remember who you are,' but I think most of us just interpret it as remembering we are a child of God (at least that's how I used to interpret it). But I wonder if we should be taking it one step further, and try to be remembering who we are eternally (who we were, are, and will be). Roshan (our teacher) describes this as reuniting you (the developing form) with you (the eternal form). He explains that this is the goal of yoga.

I think that the doctrine of coming unto Christ deals a lot with getting us and keeping us on that path of remembering/recognizing who each of us really is. That becoming like Christ does not mean we lose our personality, but rather become one with him in intention and desire. Yoga teaches that it's through purifying those desires/intentions we become capable of seeing past the veil, temptation, and our own ignorance, and are then able to see things as they really are. To see ourselves as we really are (and what we can be). Armed with that vision/knowledge, the redeeming power of the atonement, and desire to become like God, eternal happiness is completely achievable (in this life and the next).

Roshan does a great job of explaining how these concepts of yoga(spiritual) are explored through the practice of yoga (physical). It's quite interesting to see how these guru's have been able to take intangible gospel concepts, and connect them with our physical bodies. In a lot of ways, it feels like it's kind of filling in the gaps of my own gospel understanding. For instance, those in the Church all know our bodies are an important part of our spiritual potential, but very little of our doctrine addresses how to build and refine the relationship between our spirit and body. We praise the development of spiritual and mental intelligence, but I think this type of intelligence, physical intelligence, is often overlooked.

Perhaps it's because we just ascribe it as gift or talent to others (ie dancers, athletes, etc), meanwhile ignoring our potential, and perhaps responsibility, to develop it ourselves. Perhaps we forget that physical intelligence is a form of intelligence at all. After all, nothing in our scriptures, besides the word of wisdom and perhaps procreation, really connects our physical bodies with our spiritual capacities. Which, if you think about it, is odd since we are probably the only faith that believes in an eternal physical body.

I guess this is why we're taught to search out of the best books, because there's far more truth out there than what has been canonized. And I have found a lot of it as I learn more about yoga. In fact, kind of like the Book of Mormon and Bible compliment one another, the more I learn about yoga, the better I understand many other aspects of the gospel. It's cool stuff.

So overall, I'm really enjoying my time here. I guess I never did finish my Delhi belly story or explain my bucket bath, but I'll save those for another entry. Until then....Namaste!

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