City Gates • 12 January 2011

An Aerial

The city is magnificent. Magnificent. There’s a golden hour every evening, between the flat afternoons and superdark nights. That hour knocks me out anyplace it finds me. But at city center it’s so dense with perfection that I just stop.

That will be enough of duality, thanks. Let’s just allow spacetime to spin eternally on this. Heaven can wait. Nirvikalpa can wait.

I round a corner and the palace gates rise up. Imperial staging is a shock and awe business, way back to the Acropolis and Angkor Wat. I’m a sucker for much of it, but Karnatakan chaos actually stops my vitals. It’s a combination of evening light I wish would never change, massive palace arches made from suffering and rooted in trash, and absorption into those vibrating, trusting loops of motor traffic. 

You know I’m trying to lay off the petroleum, but this ecstasy I’m describing requires wheels. It requires traffic—gravitating to center through the mandala of roundabouts. Still I imagine bees and maggots feel something like this, and my Grandmother suggests it’s possible on a bicycle. Ashtanga yoga sets us up for the ecstasy of nested rhythms—supposedly after a few decades, just sitting there is rhythm enough.

But you sort of have to open to it. The big rhythms need backup from the world. Mysore feels like noise and chaos sometimes, the same way the perfectly orchestrated shala has felt like chaos to me all week, after months of self-practice in the frozen north. But not only is this the most structured, rhythmic asana system in the world; we’re doing it in world’s most structured society. This is where they invented the (karmic) wheel.

Nights like this, I’m undone by the city’s ordered totality. I want to put the ashtangis on a bus and drop them alone all over town. Just enter the maze wherever: you’ll come out the same no matter what.

There’s a myth about drinking the Ganges in one gulp. Just quaff its holy rot. We're a long way from the river out here, but then again… we're not.