Notes from Conference with Sharath • 16 February 2012

This morning in the shala, we hit a patch of dhyana. Eye of the hurricaine, baby. What happened was that Sharath and the assistants seemed to disappear, and for five minutes we shut up and practiced.

I’m serious. Every now and then, the psychic churn of the KPJ practice room bubbles under. No more subject, object, seeking, critiquing, emoting, needing, performing, wishing—the activities by which an ego-wracked mind avoids getting absorbed. Just chop wood, carry water, put your foot behind your head, look at the tip of your nose. The absorption state in which being = doing.

Where there is fear, there is other. Take it from Ramana Maharshi. If you want to avoid merging into that storm – if you want to stay in singular droplet form, then cultivate fear and otherness. But be warned. Come February it gets harder to stay separate because the humidity in that room edges up and the all-night heat melts down knots that have been hiding out in the body. Selfhood gets slipperier.

I pretend to be naïve of the KPJAYI samskara circus. But the truth is that once your driste is on track and your awareness has opened up a little, it’s easy to read the collective mind of that room. I love this big student body and would be lost without it, but OMG its moments of stillness are rare.

Today, a “one more!” from the office door signaled our collective movement out of dhyana. Back to the shitstorm. Whenever that happens, it’s like the mothership’s dropping out of warp speed right into a meteor shower. Mayday Hanuman! Vrittis thicker than mung bean dal at Sixth Main! Throw us a line!

It doesn’t take eyes or ears to perceive the shitstorm. In fact, you have to do actual pratyhara for your natural-given sixth sense to operate properly. Get a drishti, duh. Your psychic detection device is a tiny pine cone in the center of the brain, often so fossilized in food additives that it’ll show up as a white, calcified orb on an MRI.

Yes, I got my pineal gland checked.  In Mysore, it takes 200USD and thirty minutes to get a magnetic resonance image of any body part you choose. You can just walk in off the street. So MRIs are the new henna tattoos. There are more casual MRIs, I assure you, than casual sex.

In my brain, turns out all that fluoride in the Montana water has been flaked off what Descartes called the seat of the soul. Maybe premature pranayama has its benefits. Somewhat less encouraging is observing that about one-fourth of my skull contains empty space. Hmm….

Anyway. Back to the benefits and limitations of Elvis leaving the building. On Sunday, Sharath joked that he’ll just install a video camera in the shala and watch us practice from his bedroom. That way, he can lounge around in bed and finally get more than 4.5 hours of daily rest.

I laughed so much, imagining this.

Then he said it doesn’t work like that. He said you can’t really learn this stuff from a video—though he noted that watching his DVD is better than absolutely nothing. But really, he said, you have to be in the room with your teacher for a long time. He used the word relationship, and the phrase in person, over and over. He laughed lovingly about a student who once showed up for his first visit and instructed: “Just consider me as an old student.” How funny and cute, he said. I don’t even know you.

Here I am trying to write about conference, but all I can even offer is a distant impression. To be honest, my experience of conference is mainly kinesthetic, energetic and emotional. Not verbal, really.

After a couple of months, you start to get it that the main theme of conference this season is how to be a good yoga student in India. The underlying message is: Hey guys, I know you come from lots of different cultures and are drawn here for many different reasons. That’s cool. Here’s a set of motives, inner practices and outer disciplines that will help you engage the asana practice as a limb of actual, like, yoga. It’s a 101 on being a quick study, with an implicit recognition that the scriptures warn that many students will never really get it… or will only get a small part of it and then limit their own growth with the very belief that they already know what it’s all about it.

That’s all. Been here since December this time, and that’s really all I’ve got. I mean, come on. You can’t learn about Mysore, or even about conference, from the internet. There will be no Mysore TMZ. There will be no Sharath TV. There will be no Coconut Stand Cam. Masala Dosa (hello, Rosebud) is not a cover Facebook profile for the Boss.

It takes three months to get properly disenchanted with Mysore life – to process the hype. So come for that short amount of time. Realize that yogis' lives here, outside of practice, are not really that cool. Find out that authorization is not a pat on the back, but just another posture that now you have to integrate without turning it into a neurotic ego trip, or a another decoration for your cute little spiritual-ego charm bracelet. Authorization is just a pose like any other. For some people, completing the posture means leaving your day job, making the terrible transition from sadhana to seva, and getting up at 4 in the morning for the rest of your life (hint: YOU PROBABLY DON’T WANT THAT). And finally see that the social scene is—in the words of the finest ever Mysore junkie—deeply shallow.

In other words: listen. Stay focused. This is all about practice. Take the ineffable, and see through the hype.

If, having pushed through the hype, the hurricane force of practice in this room still pulls you—if it polarizes every cell in your body from the other side of the planet and you can’t even help but screw up your life and get back on a plane—ok.

Then yes. Come back to know this room. And to be known by it in a more or less Biblical sense.

Some people—thousands of us around the world—do live in, and by, the energy of this shala. We merge with it and separate ourselves out again. We’re pulled apart by it, and then reconstituted as more efficient, transparent humans. For a few practitioners, the room’s weather system has spun the small self’s discursive mind to bits, redistributing it in equal portions throughout the entire body. Body being an, ahem, loose term.

In any case, this experience defies words. And it doesn’t fit on a screen.