Life

Where Are The Goats?

Yes, I’ll admit it. It’s been difficult to adjust to “normal life” after months of yoga bliss in the Himalayas. I’ve been back home now for over two months and apart from the happiness at seeing my husband, family and friends again, the re-entry into Western life has been challenging.

During the last few days of our yoga program, Yogi Sivadas had smiled and said, “People come to India and get a culture shock. Then they stay for a while. And then, when they go back to the West, they get a different culture shock!” How true. Of course there was an adjustment to life in McLeod Ganj, India, starting with the taxi ride from the airport, but it was really only a matter of days before different became normal, and unusual became part of regular life, including the mischievous monkeys as surprise visitors in our cottages.

Acclimation on coming home – some observations:

  • Where are the cows in the street, and the goats eating the adverts off the walls?
  • Gosh, it’s odd to sit on a chair, instead of cross-legged on the floor
  • Everyone is in a rush
  • Everyone seems to be complaining about something, and it’s almost always about something trivial
  • The local charity shop is the happy recipient of the pile of Clutter I Don’t Need Anymore. What made me think I NEEDED so much? (and don’t even get me started on Black Friday greed and hysteria)
  • Oh. I’m noticing it’s actually quite a challenge to be a constant “flame of consciousness”, when not everyone around me is even aware there is a candle in the room
  • How did a Starbucks chai tea latte creep into my diet again, on a regular basis?
  • Wow, it’s not as easy as I thought it would be, to stick to the healthy routine that kept me so happy in body, mind and spirit
  • The word F@*k seems to be making a more regular appearance in my vocabulary lately
  • I’m so happy to have a busy yoga teaching schedule and share some of the things I’ve learnt … now, how can I squeeze in more yoga and meditation time for me?

It soon became apparent that the shifts in lifestyle were actually less about the obvious things, like goats in the street and Tibetan monks in the shops. It’s been more about how to hold on to the simpler lifestyle I had in India, where I made do with less and yet didn’t feel I lacked anything. How I felt alive and energized every morning, even with the pressure and pace of our nine-hours-a-day-six-days-a-week schedule. How I saw life through a veil of calm and perspective, focusing only on things that mattered. Every day brought simplicity and ease into the way I thought, spoke and behaved.

The goats LOVEd eating the adverts on the walls!
The goats LOVED shredding the adverts off the walls!

And that’s the magic that I’m determined to hold on to. The goats were adorable and I miss them. But it’s the other, less tangible, pieces of the peace puzzle that I promise myself I will not lose. I’ve been preparing for the “Yoga in India” playshop I’m holding this month, and I’ve been reading through my notes of many hours spent with Yogi Sivadas, highlighting the crucial ingredients for a more balanced life.

The good news is, it’s not actually that complicated. I’ll share a summary in my next post.

[A wee note here … if you’re seeing strange adverts (nose and ear hair trimmers) in the space below, it’s because WordPress randomly displays these ads in return for my free blog space. I don’t make money from the ads and neither do I have a choice on what appears. Perhaps over time, the hair trimmers will be replaced by yoga mats and yoga books :-). ]

Travel, Yoga in India, YTT Yoga Teacher Training

Hanuman Comes Visiting

McLeod-Ganj-monkey-visit
Monkey Business

Today, a monkey strolled into my yogi cottage. And when I advanced towards him, shooing him away, HE advanced towards ME, and bared his teeth. I backed off and watched as he made his way to the kitchen shelves and started to pick things up and toss them across the room, while I tried my negotiation skills. “Not the carrot cake, PLEASE, not the carrot cake”!

My yogini neighbour, Elsa, wiith the cheeky intruder
My yogini neighbour, Elsa, wiith the cheeky intruder

He grabbed a container of moong dal, sauntered out, sat on my balcony, ripped the Tupperware open and nonchalantly ate his way through most of it, occasionally looking at me as if to say, “Look, you can spare a tub of lentils, and at least I didn’t take the carrot cake”. And then when he’d eaten his full, he tossed the remaining lentils and container over the balcony and walked off.

McLeod-Ganj-white-monkey
McLeod Ganj white monkey

Cheeky monkey. Reminds me of the stories of Hanuman, the Monkey deity renowned for his courage, power and faithful, selfless service. He makes frequent and often impudent appearances in yoga mythology, and the yoga splits, Hanumanasana, are named after him.

The monkeys are certainly naughty and bold here, but will leave you alone if you leave them alone (and share your lentils with them). They only tend to get nasty if you come between them and their young, or if you show your teeth, as they see that as a sign of aggression. If you find them amusing, remember no grinning when they’re up close and personal with you!

McLeod-Ganj-monkeys
Monkey cuteness at McLeod Ganj

We see monkey families on our walks and the babies are irresistibly cute. Tiny little fingers, wizened faces, with bright and clever eyes peering out from under their wrinkled brow. And how adorable is this albino monkey in his little white fur coat?

I’m ready for any future uninvited monkey visits, armed with a broom in the kitchen and a mental note not to show my teeth.

Travel, Yoga in India, Yoga Philosophy, YTT Yoga Teacher Training

Bhakti Chanting, Sanskrit and Mythology

imageOut of the mountain of our yoga teacher training study materials, I was immediately drawn to the chanting books; Bhakti or devotional chanting, which I love. We sing the invocation to Patanjali every day, and it’s nice to begin asanas with this familiar chant that I know well from many Iyengar yoga classes at Pura Vida Yoga.

For the first week, we have an hour of chanting in the morning, sometimes accompanied by the beat of tabla drums. Our voices are all a bit rusty and querulous to begin with as we get used to the melodies, but Yogi Sivadas‘ rich, deep voice fills the sunny room and we soon let go of our shyness or self judgment as we join in with the ancient chants.

Sanskrit
My Sanskrit scribbles!

Repeated chanting improves concentration and is extremely calming, physically and mentally, as your brain focuses only on the words and the tune. Devotional chanting to the deities (and it doesn’t matter which religion or belief system you have; they’re all here, including Buddha, Moses, Jesus, Jehovah, Allah, Shiva, Ganesh, and more), when sung with intention, can create a peaceful mind. I took my blood pressure before this morning’s chanting: 199/97 with a pulse rate of 69. After an hour of chanting: 129/80 and pulse of 59.

Slightly less calming (i.e. challenging!) are our Sanskrit lessons. “Sanskrit” means well written, or purely written, and is an Indo-Persian tree of language that evolved around 30,000 years ago. We start to learn the basics of the sounds and letters – who knew there were so many ways to pronounce the sounds ‘s’ and ‘sh’! We practice lines and lines of squiggles and dots, repeating them out loud as we write.

Yogi Sivadas writes our names in Sanskrit
Yogi Sivadas writes our names in Sanskrit

Yogi Sivadas writes our names on the board in Sanskrit and they look so pretty, it encourages us to keep on squiggling. He tells us that even if we find it difficult, the very act of focusing your mind on something new in an attempt to learn something, is good exercise for the brain, and you will benefit from that, regardless of the results of the studying. And when he tells us that the Sanskrit word, “cittrashalabh” translates as “insect painting” or “insect art”, doesn’t that sound much more beautiful and poetic than the English word, butterfly?

Our daily studies are peppered with colourful analogies, as Yogi Sivadas explains some yoga philosophy concepts through yoga mythology and allegories. I am constantly reminded of how rich and mystical this culture is, making our own Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty seem dull, by comparison!