Inverted World • 12 April 2009

(Post Heavily Revised. My mind seems to be in transit…)

He is risen!

He is risen indeed!

For less Christian call-and-response, there was some kirtan in Santa Monica last night, but despite my claims to have conquered jet lag (perhaps with the help of my new titanium wrist band or a 22-hour tarry in London that softened me up for the second flight), I passed out early and missed it. Oh well, probably best to feel some Judeo-Christian mind today. It’s the biggest holiday of the year for my family, after all: I felt my dad issuing that old greeting to the congregation at the same 9:00 moment that I sat down for breakfast with the yogis after practice. Just before, I held extra breaths in mukta hasta sirsa C, imagining myself to be not the Tarot’s hanged man but Saint Peter himself, and called that good enough. (Actually, turns out I’m only 20% Peter but 90% Jude.)

Hanged Man

Hanged man is about right,  though: still feeling a little spacey here. Maybe it’s that my ability to sleep at roughly appropriate times belies the still-inverted circadian rhythms; or it’s the daytime lucid dreaming techniques I’m putting in to practice (no results yet…); or it’s hangover from the intense dreamlife that bleeds in to wakefulness in Mysore. Ask anyone: your subconscious turns Technicolor and barrels straight at you night if not day in that place. I cannot explain this, but find it both revealing and relaxing.

Relaxing because, for now, whatever pulls me out of the super-beta front of my head, back in to peripheral vision, back into dream consciousness… this is what begins to dissolve the tension that is most interesting. The knots along the upper inside of the jawbone, in the eye sockets, temples, roots of the teeth, center of the forehead. Habitual flexion in the tongue. Funny, this is where the yoga thing began—a neurosurgeon saying “take responsibility” for releasing the post-car-accident tension in a jammed TMJ. A Thai massage therapist two weeks ago said: Your body is free from the neck down…. The chakras in the head are another thing.

Why, yes.

I received much this month for a girl who just went off to pay her respects and get a little perspective. Strength in practice, a sense of history, rational explanations for some aspects of traditional practice that have long disturbed me (don’t tell me rationality isn’t important: it’s key), first hand experiences that fill me with gratitude for the institution and the greater practices of yoga to which it leads, and the inspiration of beautiful people who have kept this as a practice long after the asana-learning was exhausted. But, maybe it all becomes even more juicy after asana gets boring. Mysore is a good place to peel off to the next layer or two of the onion.

When I started writing about this practice years ago, the only thing that annoyed me more than chatty Yogaworks formalism was the identity crisis of colleagues who left that school for eight weeks in Mecca… and came back with hennaed hands and bindi’d brows, having gone in for the decoys of currently correct vinyasa and the perfectly imitated chant as if those were static aspects of some fundamentally “perfect” system. I never did write about Post Mysore Syndrome; and it’s probably too late now since it no longer pisses me off.

Looking around, it seems that, no matter who you are, there is some senti-mental and energetic effect of even a brief period in that zone. Post Mysore Effect is: really nice, strong energy and focus… especially apparent in an uptick in tapas during practice or teaching. I don't know anyone who hasn't come back with a strong hit of something still in his system, as well as a nostalgic sweetness of regard for even the most absurd, uncomfortable memoris. PME turns to PMS, though,when it has to be reactive. When it rejects one's original life and self and practice as somehow inauthentic and dirty. This is the result of the traveler believing the energy hit and the nice memories are her possssion or souvenir, that others are a threat to continued identification with the experience, and that anything except for the (itself weirldy manufactured) experience of Mysore is corrupt.

Some signs that someones PME has turned to PMS:

● Talking in broken English. E.g., telling a student, “Five breathings” or “you do;” or dismissing class with “go home take rest” even when students just TOOK rest (which you don’t get to do after led class at the KPJAYI, thus the command).

● ALSO: A bizarre new wardrobe, involving the weirdest pants, and bright flowing silks everywhere, and—yes—bindis. Exclusine consumption of  Indian food. Defensiveness of the institution, even for things that should not be defended. Decoration of practice with various displays of Mysore-ness. Refusals and rejections of all sorts. Metonymy of India and Mysore, e.g., “I’m going to India," to mean actually "I'm going to Gokulam." Starting  most sentences with, "Well in Mysore, they…."

● Rarely (worst case scenario): conversion in to a Sharath-head. Sharath-heads exhibit (1) a groupie mentality filtered through a pseudo-religious “he’s my guru” justification scheme, combined with (2) misattribution of a level of realization that he would never pretend is the case and that isn’t necessary for him to be a good teacher.


Lack of contentment with everyday life at home. Lack of previous travel experience, especially experience in poor countries. Desire to impress others or feel superior. Mistaking new worldly sophistication with some kind of spiritual progress. And in general:  just identifying with the experience.


More experience. More practice. Compassion from people at home. Rarely, a talking-to from someone who's been through it.

Benign indicators of PME that has not escalated to PME:

● Resolutions of self. These may seem to be born of a delusional mindset but actually seem to be pretty stable. There is something to be said for taking a long time away from your old patterns and for getting really relaxed.

● Missing terribly the experience and the friends made there. Yes, it’s a college dormitory level of sociality, but it can be very good quality sociality with extraordinarily sweet people. There’s nothing delusional about loving this even if it’s highly manufactured and impossible to reproduce back home.

● Increase in respect/ decrease in cynicism for the institution. When you see that it is just a family business run on a skeleton staff, suddenly the humility and the grandeur of the enterprise come forth. Of course crazy edicts are issued to manage the spoiled hoards and of course instruction is variable and enormously expensive. Westerners are breaking down the gates, even more crazily expecting the family to be our geniuses or even gods. We did this—we imagined it and created a whole Mysore world out of it. The KPJAYI is just giving us—so generously—an anchor for us to go on creating this oddly wonderful experience.