Mandala manduka • 15 January 2010

There is a breeze this afternoon, and high clouds. Kids chasing their dog in the park, men turning off the engines of their motorbikes to coast the last blocks down the Gokulam hills to their homes. Yesterday was the new year, and today the threshholds are still painted in the bright mandala tessellations the women made yesterday morning – using the colored chalk you always see in photos of Devaraj market. The lazy velvet cows, too, are still covered in dye, all their white spots made yellow. This afternoon I encountered a brown one, whose coat was too dark to color, but whose horns—two little crescent moons curved to point at each other in front of his eyes—had been painted celestine blue.

It’s also the day of the solar eclipse – something I’ve heard both locals and ashtangis use as an excuse for strange behavior—as well as the moon. I’m a little stunned to realize it’s the new moon—that a certain cycle is over. The last new moon I spent on the far end of the west. Slept in, caught a vinyasa flow class in Venice, took a walk along the Pacific, and went to my favorite raw food restaurant for a burger made of marinated vegetables pressed between slabs of dried onion. Packed up the car to leave the next morning for Ashtanga Across America, an eastbound roadtrip of nine states and nearly 3,000 miles, depositing us—my brother and me—finally in the frozen north. Then settling in to Michigan, holidays, work. Then a day in Paris, followed by three spacey, joyous days in Mysore – time I’d describe as blessed if that were a word I could use.

William Gibson says that souls get left behind a while, and take their own time to re-integrate with bodies after a long trip. I’d say my soul was still far out west, making its way east, if soul were a word I could use.

This morning in bed, I read a heterodox article in a neuroscience journal, arguing that consciousness arises not only from the brain but also from culture and one’s environment. Then the first pages of The Razor’s Edge, Maugham arguing in 1944 that environment largely determined character.

Not sure where that leaves me, for the moment. I have not slept much at all this week– am still flighty, disjointed, and a bit lost. I may have re-subscribed to the local gossip feed by way of adding the coconut stand and certain cafés to my ambit, but still feel out of touch with the surroundings. Maybe some good nights’ sleep and more long walks will do it.

Did a long, slow practice this morning in my apartment – more an auto-bodywork session than anything outwardly resembling yoga. My body is both open and very achey. This has never happened before; I thought the two conditions were not supposed to coincide. Like stagflation. From the outside, everything is flowing. But as I practice, it feels like the stiffest day ever. Since the bend is already there, I’m not sure what to do to disperse the ache. Maybe nothing. Maybe let it ache. It is, at least, interesting to remember in body the days when I felt like this most of the time.

Took a walk this morning, too, down unfamiliar back streets of Gokulam, up and down its hills, out to the edges of town. Two consecutive days off mean the ashtanga crew all wash their mats and hang them, alongside a towel, out windows and over balconies. Who know such-and-such a building had a student apartment upstairs? And is that tiny place a residence?  Purple or blue mats, and rugs in every color, hanging out like flags to announce expatriate residence and yogi leisure. Most buildings in the neighborhood boast either a mandala or a collection of mats, but a few on our street have both – a mandala in the street and a manduka flying from the apartment above.