What is Ahimsa? Or, How to be Sexy. • 12 January 2012

Chai craving. Starting in the pit of my brain stem, jumping through my throat to the base of the tongue, steaming phantom smells up into the sinuses and anticipatory pictures behind my eyes. Evidently, the addiction circuit is fully re-wired!

Full Mysore reboot successful. Estimated transition time: 13 days.

The particle transfer takes time. We trade out molecule for molecule, fading in as if onto the Holodeck.

At first, it’s a drug trade. Serotonin for melatonin – a few days of learning to get sleepy at 5pm, and wakeful at 3 in the morning. Meantime, my cells drain out pure Michigan tap water, pumping in coconuts, cows' milk and Kinley club soda.

My sinuses always crust over at first, trying to insulate the system from rickshaw exhaust. I give them a week to freak out, then go back to jalaneti. By now, one sinus-shower per day feels sufficient to polish the soot off my pineal gland. Though sometimes the amrit still comes down tasting like barbeque sauce, and then I hit the shat kriyas (ok, catvari kriyas) a little harder.

It is very, very beneficial to merge. Accept the air and the water into your organism (that is what we are, mostly: water and space); let yourself eat food that’s really from here (cooking at home is a great idea); walk on the streets filled with people who are always and only of this place.

In the meantime, the liminal period is buzzy. Feet way off the ground after practice, social interactions ecstatic but spacey, diffuse & directionless sexual energy. It’s insanely nice – there is so much gratitude and excitement. But, for most of us, the couple of weeks of transition also features huge amounts of more-or-less conscious suffering.

Today, ashtangis are stategizing about ways to beat jet lag. And I agree: be smart. (My complete strategy is: purchase at least 2 liters of water and drink it all, take 2 melatonin, and of course don’t eat). But come on. The confusion, disorientation and pain in our bodies upon arrival is directly reflective of the crap those flights generate for a bigger body called Earth. These flights are not free.

Our bodies are karmic hotspots. Yoga is here to make this conscious. It also gives us tools to turn down the heat – to become energy-efficient. As a part of this process, jet lag is extremely good information. Do not dismiss it, take it for granted, or drug yourself unconscious so you don't have to experience it. If you want to sensitize your nervous system to its inner and outer environments – i.e., if you want to use this for yoga – it's really interesting pay as much attention as you can when things get weird. 

If you are one of those practitioners really asking yourself "what is ahimsa" (as Sharath recommended last Sunday in conference), you probably get this already: jet fuel propels karma. There's no need to get moralistic or judgey about it: but you can simply use your body to get this information. The nervous system and the gut just start to tell you when things aren't quite right.

The ways my body-mind revolts after a long haul’s worth of radiation and recycled oxygen: well… that seems like the best information I can possibly find to inform future actions. I'll use the yogic texts too: a little while before the advent of internal combustion engines, they were telling yogis not to travel.

But my body is the primary source of my ethics now. Weirdly, the HYP says that's how it should be. Ethics are not conceptual, theoretical, religious. They arise naturally as the nervous system purifies and consciousness clears. When projections start to get out of the way, what we perceive is actually pretty good information about the internal and external environment.

Personally, here's my present feel for the situation. It's is a real pain in my ass (considering the way last week's Q-L surge has pinballed to the piriformis), but when I ask my gut about the bottom line of these winter retreats to Mysore, here's her response. "Owlio, I know you like to travel light, but it's going to take a LOT of future service to yoga to rebalance this energy."

Meh. Manifest reality is a drag. Relatively. 

I really connect with the long-term practitioners who have gotten to the point of admitting that lots of himsic (violent) activity (e.g. eating animals, indiscriminate use of natural resources) really can feel good in our singular bodies. No need to deny it. But, along with their internal body-awareness, these people’s self-definition has also grown. They are increasingly inter-connected with everyone and everything else. Since their “self” includes much of their environment (sensate if not insensate) their own human bodies aren't the only parts whose welfare matters. Far from it, considering that their bodies are extremely energy-efficient.

One confused ashtanga blogger is pushing caveman Cross-Fit morality on practitioners, advising that they deny carb cravings and consider gnawing on drumsticks because they need to "look good naked." This is so not hot. It's a magazine cover. It's a teen girl self-loathing project. It's an advertisement for diet products and everything else. It's a Protestant self-control cult.  Ultimately it's a morality that says consume whatever it takes. Me first. 

HOW unsexy. 

Having a body that only takes what it needs, and that resonates with animals and plants and cities and forests and the various layers of other humans: SEXY.

That's tantra, by the way. Building out your resonance, and building it in. It doesn't really matter what you do with that subtlety, and with the care and concern it creates in your heart. Eat meat if you want. Drink Pepsi. Put all kinds of chemicals down your drains. We all have to draw the line somewhere. Ahimsa is a sensitizing principle, for navigating an inherently violent reality. There is no pure ahimsa in the manifest realms.

But this is the thing with the long term practitioners. I watch as you keep pushing the envelope of your own nervous systems. Your "self"-awareness goes in deeper, and at the same time it extends out incredibly far. In a practical, horribly real way, plants start to feel sentient. The planet starts to feel sentient. 


Anyway. Each trip to Mysore, I try to pay attention to what I’m not paying attention to. What have I been making unconscious just to get by? Jadedness is a strong tendency in me. For now, this reminds me that I love Karen’s eyes. Today, she is like my taken-for-grantedness heat sensor. Though, of course, multiple exposures to Mysore would not fry her sensors the same way it does others of us (in some cases, people get jaded on Mysore without coming here much at all). But she is pretty zen. It’s fresh.

After all that rambling, my chai craving has died. But Karen is here for chai. Long live the chai!

Jai Mysore.