When the man next to me flops onto my mat in parshva danurasana breathing like a cat being dunked repeatedly into a bucket of ice cold water, it’s hard to remain caught up in the raptures of internal happenings. But I guess that’s what practicing in a room full of people is all about– it’s easy to focus when it’s just me. But dying cat-man is a benevolent task-master, driving me to deeper levels of concentration. God bless you, dude.
Man at the coconut stand asks me what pose is my last post. Owlie-o suggests I say utplutih.
Which makes me think…
It occurs to me that maybe the reason we finish as a corpse is to remind us that we are in fact mortal, and that death is coming, along with everything else.
The first thing I do when I wake up is throw open the windows. If I sleep with them open then the mozzies get me, and then I have ankles that are swollen for a month and scarred for years (if somebody knows what mineral deficiency causes such horrible scarring from a stupid bug bite then please let me know). Around 430 the monks start singing, and the sound of the HOMMMMMMMMMMMM comes in through my little window, bouncing around my room. It’s all I can do to try and contain the rapture that this causes, watching the air vibrate with these colours (purple blue and turquoise) that are actually sounds. Then at 530 the mosque starts the morning prayers, and in the other window comes the warbling and chanting (yellow and red) and these sounds meet in the middle of my room and crash into each other and it’s a little too much for me at this point. I just kind of lie there letting my body go “ohhhmyyygooddddd”. And then after an hour or so the monks stop, and then it’s just the mosque. And then that stops and it’s just the silence, a fat and succulent silence. And then I take a bucket bath, and then Pushpa brings me my coffee, and then I sit down to write for a bit before going to practice.
I climbed Chamundi hill the other day, and there’s a temple at the top. I felt like a western woman in a movie about a western woman who goes to India. I went into the temple, took my shoes off, put my hands in the fire and wiped the fire all over my face, and then walked outside and, in true western-woman-goes-to-India fashion, looked up at the sun and smiled while a cool breeze tickled my hair. A group of Indian men approached and asked if they could take a picture with me and I was feeling so compassionate after my spiritual experience in the temple that I said yes. Profoundly changed for the better, I smiled at every single person on the walk down the hill.
Ok that’s not actually what happened. I took my shoes off and put them in my bag. The guy next to me did the same, and he was told off for taking his shoes into the temple. So I zipped my bag shut, pulled it tight next to my body, and walked in. They’re more like slippers anyway. I had to elbow my way through a group of people to stick my hands in the damn fire, and then my hands smelled like gas. The whole area smelled like urine. There were monkeys and lots of people asking for money, and lots of people asking to take photos with me, I cannot imagine why. I said yes to a girl, and all of a sudden she and all her friends are standing around me with their arms around me and I’m going to end up on somebody’s facebook page somewhere.
And then I went for a walk, and I stood on top of this hill, looking out over city. City for miles. And I thought about one of the last times I was standing on top of a hill– a couple of weeks before I left and I drove out to the Palisades to check out what was growing on the Temescal loop (and hang out in skull rock for a bit because I like that craggy old rock), and realised that I’d forgotten to take any shoes to hike in. So I just set out barefoot, since it didn’t matter. And I hadn’t done that loop in a while. Sometimes I like to take my time and stop to take pictures of things and ooh and ahh and revel in the wonders of the natural world. And sometimes I like to make every muscle in my body burn, and feel my lungs suck in the air, and the sweat pour. And it was one of those days. A man doing his daily work out commented on my lack of shoes, and I replied that I’d just forgotten my own ones. He told me that I must be very brave and I replied that I hear that a lot and then I ran. I ran up the hill. I ran so hard that I thought my legs might come off and the only thing that would keep my body going would be pure momentum. About halfway up the clouds started going really dark, and within ten minutes those big ploppy raindrops were coming down.
I stood there on top of this hill, looking out over the ocean to Catalina Island. Behind me the view stretched past downtown LA to the San Bernadino mountains (well the peaks anyway) and it occurred to me that nowhere else in the world is as beautiful as this. A city nestled in the mountains, with 4,000,000 acres of hike-able wilderness, and the primal ocean, and the craggy mountains, and the snow in the distance. And at that moment I realised that I DO like LA. In fact I love it. I love that I can stand there, barefoot, on top of a mountain, and not freeze, with the wind whipping my hair around my face, and the rain soaking my clothes, and I was the only person for miles (weak-o shoe man must have turned around). In front of me, the sea. Behind me, the mountains. All around, the wind. Yes. I am happy in Los Angeles.
The top of Chamundi hill is not like the top of a hill in Will Rogers state park. Not even close. It’s stinky and crowded, it’s too hot and there’s no breeze and all of the light glittering off the MILLIONS of windows that stretch into eternity look, at first, like looking out onto the ocean. But then I realise that it’s an ocean of houses and shanty towns and smog and traffic and mosques and monks and cows and goats. Not the sea at all. The sobering thought that I’m so far inland makes me feel a bit claustrophobic, and I have to remind myself that the wind is there, and that space is there, it’s just manifesting in a different form, that’s all.
Even still, I am not ready to leave this place, with its noises and its smells and its colours. All of the stuff I talked about before, with its yang-ness and it’s free-ness and it’s wind blowing in your hair on the back of a scooter-ness makes me feel quite manic. That freedom feeling that you only get when you’re moving really fast. Like when I drive up PCH towards Big Sur as fast as my fancy car can take me, trying to make that German suspension lose traction (I heart tiptronic), and the windows are down and the music is playing and it feels for a few hours like I have no context except the present. It’s not true of course. The context exists until I erase it. Sometimes I just wish there was a faster route than the excruciating torture I put myself through. So that’s it. I’m trying to replace the difficult path with a path of pretending it doesn’t exist. I can do better than that, I know it. But sometimes it’s nice to just pretend for a minute.