The Un-Shala – Gokalum, Mysore.
by Joanna D.
Let me start, actually, by saying that I have learned a lot on this trip. 1. Pack light; it’s not really necessary to pack more than two books. 2. DO NOT book a flight that has three stops between you and your destination when you could get there in an hour direct. Seriously. 3. No matter who says the bus from Bangalore isn’t that bad… they’re kinda wrong.
I could tell you blow by blow how my time in Mysore went down (like how the first hotel I stayed in was slightly disturbing in it’s general presentation and that the amount of cigarette smoke infiltrating my room throughout the night caused my eyes to pretty much swell shut by morning) but I wont.
Once I made it into Gokalum I rented a nice room from a woman named Darshana. She told me I could call her Bunny in case I forgot the other and I told her to call me Jo, which she did, often. The following morning I woke to the sound of chanting and symbols chiming as a group of devoted individuals walked by the house at 5am. Their voices floating through the windows prompted me out of bed to start my morning practice. I moved through the sun salutations, said hello to the standing series and so on, all the while knowing that just down the road was KPJAYI, the Shala, where hundreds of students from all over the world were practicing the same sequence from the same lineage at that exact time. This is the place where my teacher’s teacher last taught. Where my teacher became a teacher. Where other teachers became teachers and returned to renew their teaching fire. Their fire for practice. And there I was, in a second floor bedroom, just out the doorway of a pale pink tiled bathroom, on my own, searching for that same thing.
Keeping my mind still enough to breathe, to continue moving was quite a challenge that first day, and the next. But, as the week progressed, even though I didn’t quite get that fire I did find something. Solidity. There’s a powerful thing in that. Solidity. I practiced every morning at the same time with growing steadiness. I felt present in my body and connected to the practice in a way I hadn’t felt previously.
One morning after practice my friend Prasad drove me to Chamundi hill on the back of his scooter and I accompanied him to the temple. As usual, I didn’t really know what to do when I was in there so I mostly watched, followed lead and tried to stay out of the way. Watching him move through, the things he touched, how his eyes moved, where he paused, what was offered and so on. So devotional and faithful. After leaving, we went to the Shiva temple just beyond. Here a man sold me a bracelet (didn’t know I was buying it until it was securely resting on my wrist), we walked through and then sat in an outdoor back section for a bit. It was nice to sit and enjoy the quiet and peaceful space together. After some time, I confessed that I didn’t know what I was doing in there and that I felt kind of silly or in the way. He just looked at me with his soft, kind eyes and said, “Whatever is in your heart you do it. There is nothing you have to do. Nothing you have to give.”
Simple and beautiful. And even though he was talking fairly specifically about the temple and offerings and what to pray for, they are still completely relevant to what was happening inside of me in that little rented room up the street from the shala.
Some images from my brief stay in Mysore. Enjoy.