Reflections on asana

At best, I’m a mridu student, what the purists would call a mild one. The gains in asana have been more a function of a few years and a meandering exploration rather than a strict, structured one. In practice, I am curious rather than outcome led, the shift having happened during a long period of knee rehabilitation. Many of the poses and positions I assumed then were passive, heavily propped and required long stays. It helped the body alright, I can walk long and far, sit cross legged and even attempt the odd lotus pose now. But, more than that, I learned to simply be. This really is why I return to the mat again and again.

As a raw beginner, there was a lot of doing, energetic muscular actions but with time, there has been more efficiency in quieter, less effortful movements. A certain luxuriousness of curiosity, an embracing of the unknown, an openness to experiences of the senses, the mind and textures of silence. The same asana is never the same just like the oft trodden paths I walk are never the same.

Honing a craft involves repetition, countless repetition and yet it is new every time. The nectar of any activity is revealed and received as benediction but before that one has to strive, sweat and bleed. In the few years of study, I’ve been fascinated by the very first pose that was taught, Tadasana or the mountain pose. It is a deceptively simple act of standing straight but like many fellow practitioners, I can spend an hour or more exploring and examining the actions, reactions, responses, effects and so on.

This morning was again a study in tadasana through the anatomy of the hamstrings and sartorius muscle. The very act of standing is a symphony of so many parts, each coming together to hold the body upright. Close your eyes and you begin to see how despite the seeming symmetry, there’s a favouring of one side. Sometimes, we explore tadasana through a headstand and that’s when their firmness comes into play. At others it is through being seated or in supine positions. Each approach is a bit like climbing a mountain from its different faces. The texture of a tadasana arrived at from sirsasana is dramatically different from one that is a result of seated poses like dandasana or upavishtakonasana.

What does it mean to stand tall in tadasana? What does it mean to be a mountain? Every time I think of mountains, I imagine presence quite like the trees and stones, things of the earth element. Grounding and providing a substratum for the play of life. Our feet and legs too belong to that same principle of firm groundedness. Now more than ever, we need that stability and contentment to endure what is difficult and what is uncertain. Now more than ever we need the quiet strength and elegance to stay. Names of asanas are a lovely invitation to stay with their meaning and plumb their essence into one’s actions.

Abandoned houses

Sundays have been restful days since the last couple of months. A complete day off. Sometimes, the youngling and I take off either for a long walk or a drive. Yesterday, we quickly finished stocking up a bit of fresh produce and a few essentials before heading out to the other end of town. We got a takeaway breakfast, listened to music of her choice and drove past the cantonment in our neighbourhood to the one further away in Khadki. Khadki or Kirkee as it used to be known is an old cantonment, approximately 200 odd years old. It is home to some beautiful old trees, quaint churches as well as old houses, some of them abandoned and in various stages of disrepair.

Kirkee War Cemetery

The light was really pretty around this house.

This one had a bovine squatter!

While a strict lock-down is imminent, it doesn’t feel restrictive personally since the lock-down lifestyle continues save for the restriction on walks and drives. I guess this lock and open game will continue as surges become unmanageable and hospitals run out of beds. In the hour or two that I am out, I see many screeching ambulance hurrying through red lights. The pandemic has lost its ability to shock. Now, it’s simply a part and parcel of everyday living. I suppose when the loss hits closer home, it will bring its own sorrow but else there seems to be a desensitization to its virulence.

Methodist Church

Over the centuries, we have developed some control over some diseases and have come up with tools and techniques to predict natural calamities but largely control is illusory. The planet and her natural laws are boss, we’d be smart to acknowledge that and learn to co-exist with her other creatures and the natural world at large. It seems doubtful though that we will really change if the current is any indication, not just in terms of the environment, hygiene and the likes but also in the way we live amongst our own kind.

I’ve often dwelled on death and dying to understand what it might mean to live and be alive. In yoga practice, one often ends with savasana or the corpse pose. It seems deceptively easy. How difficult can lying down with your eyes shut be but to really inhabit that pose, one has to be prepared to experience being dead. That sense of surrender is a difficult one, making it quite a challenging asana to stay in. Much of what passes for savasana is often guided relaxation and not really resting in the space of not being.

The daughter made an interesting observation that we spent more time outdoors in these months than pre lock-down. She’s gone cycling for at least an hour or two most days while I’ve gone on long walks. It’s been an immersion into the local flora and fauna and there has been a curiosity to understand more about the mini forest that is just around the corner. The woods facing my balcony have also been a rich experience ever since I moved here in December. Seeing it as a green headed space to stark browns to a verdant green again has been a meditation on the march of seasons. The balcony is a restful space and an old pair of binoculars has allowed me to enjoy watching birds and butterflies. The lushness is camouflage now and one has to sit simply for a while to notice the avian activity. I still can’t identify many of the birds, especially the smaller ones but it is interesting to find out. There are many enthusiasts who share freely of their knowledge and then good old books.

Balcony birding

The butterflies are in full form now. In fact, yesterday at one of the old ruins of a house I counted around 10 different species in a matter of 2 or 3 minutes. That compound was a large one and I suspect that the property has a well or another water source. I saw a man, presumably a wandering mendicant in an orange lungi who was putting on a shirt. In another corner of the property, a man sat on a tree with a bag next to him. Homeless people also need their makeshift homes to sit out the vagaries of the weather or people. That particular place had a section of the outer wall still standing and wooden window frames. The brickwork on the house seemed to be from a later period compared to the other ruins I’ve seen. Those bricks are much slimmer.

This property had a riot of butterflies

I found myself looking at the top left window and imagined a woman looking out from a century ago. What would her world be like? What might have she seen from behind the curtains? Did a family live there? Was it a large one or a small one, a happy one or a tormented one? Whose were the ghosts that roamed within its walls? How did the house come to be derelict? Abandoned homes and the stories they can tell. So many reasons, why they are left without pulsating bodies. But that is perhaps something best left undisturbed.

It reminds me of a few lines I wrote a couple of years back.

Abandoned Adeniums

The garden lies untended

No wild overgrowth

Just desolate dust

The Buddha, silent

The house, still

The windows, blank

The doors, unopened

No baby cries

No kitchen smells

No music of life

No singing birds

No blinking lights

Just a mute house

and abandoned adeniums

that bloom

I used to know a house like that…

Days of the body

And some days are purely of the body… Most days, I begin with a yoga class that I attend at 6 am. On a Wednesday, the mat remains open for another 2 odd hours at the end of which, I feel like I’ve finished a rather long run. I suppose it is also endurance of a kind, to work with the limitations of injury, degeneration and the likes and sculpt body shapes that have integrity and beauty.

I had two outings yesterday, one in the morning after wrapping up yoga to pick up supplies and another in the evening. Morning drives are on quiet roads to visit tree friends and watch old houses or ruins of old houses. At one time, I’d imagine homes complete with people and stories but now I see just the houses, in and of themselves. The street cruising is usually to step back into the world from being immersed in the body but today was a restless day. I let an algorithm decide the music and it turned my day into a contemplative dusk.

Some part of the afternoon was spent trying to tame a document but it just kept growing wild on me so decided to head to the woods and maybe tackle the trash. That is uncomplicated. It’s amazing how a few minutes into the trail, the mind clears up as I look at the ground and tree tops, a child in wonder. Nothing exists then except what is around me and it is all green, mostly a wilderness of weeds and bugs that clamour around the trees.

In the woods, the restlessness that I enter with disappears as I walk in between the trees. It usually begins by feeling a filling up and overflowing of something akin to love or thirst. Perhaps, they both are the same thing. Or maybe it is the call of the sap that makes this bubbling over that I don’t feel for humans. It is wordless, thoughtless, without language. After all, language only speaks of attributes and connections. It can only feebly express or rather attempt to express, it does not experience. In the case of trees, their expression is their existence. I suppose it is a good example to show what dharma might mean.

The sun was out and the skyscapes were gorgeous so I sat on a stone and basked in its light as though I were a butterfly. Elsewhere I saw a man sleeping peacefully in the shade of a tree. Dragonflies were all over the place as usual and I watched them idly, got a reasonably clear picture of one. Post walk, I still didn’t feel like I had my fill of the skies so did a quick trip to the race course and was treated to some spectacular views.

While I prefer the vaster spaces, empty roads mostly, I also enjoy the city streets and its moments, ordinary moments like the man feeding the strays, a mother tying the shoelaces of her child, a young couple snuggling on a bike on a secluded road, an old man with baggy pants and a beret waiting for a bus, perhaps? The frames are endless and exist only as a photograph in my mind. Being a human is mostly about doing and less about being for the vast majority of us. Never a still moment. Maybe it is this trait that makes all our stories possible, real and imagined.

All things wild and wonderful

The last few walks were out in the cantonment but they have cordoned off sections now, seems to be a surge in infections. It’s a common enough pattern to open and close off areas as the number of cases fall and rise. Another change is in the number of ambulances I see in a day. Earlier, I’d average sighting to once a day, these days it is 3 to 4. I don’t know if they are related to Covid 19 or not but sometimes a screeching siren insists that the virus is the culprit. People are out and about but mostly masked now. The young crowd though tends to hang out close to each other and some of them are without masks.

Lantana flowers are all over the trail now.

The youngling chooses to accompany me now and then. I must confess I sneakily nudge her in the direction of trees, hoping to see her paint the lovely peeling barks of Eucalyptus trees. Another image I’d like to see on canvas is brown earth, darkened by rains and patterned with faded leaves. Our conversations outside home end up touching various topics and it is a relief that she has a commonsensical approach to some of the burning topics of discussion right now. She’s been dabbling in a little skateboarding and its been another learning opportunity to discover the physics of it as well as understand the biomechanics of balance. She’s a bit of an autodidact so these moments are good to plant seeds for further exploration. I’m not surprised that she enjoys learning via online school as compared to classroom lessons.

Some companions today

Thanks to her and other kids, I learn how her generation views the world. It’s strange how most of my friends and acquaintances have been significantly older people or then much younger ones. I enjoy seeing life from their viewpoints, one set for stories of a time gone by and the other for how they navigate a world that is changing so rapidly. Middle age is a good mean I guess, straddling nostalgia and curiosity about the future. It’s also a time where the transition into becoming an elder begins in a way.

I found myself on the other side of a presentation by 5 teams of young people. Listening to their work, evaluating it and providing feedback they could use made me realize I’ve gotten older and am viewed as such. As a parent to a grown up and a teenager, I am reminded twice over that there comes a time you have to gracefully accept that the young have gone further than you can go and allow them to lead the way
while you celebrate their successes.

Classes opened up for the next couple of months and I think I may have bitten off more than I can chew. Despite the virtual nature, they are intense and perhaps I should have stuck to just the ones I have been attending. I’ll just have to treat it as a two month intensive. There’s been more hours in my day lately and I’ve managed to include new pursuits which also help flex those old grey cells in different ways. Personally, the pandemic has rearranged my life in a good way, simpler and more fulfilling.

And the fig begins another fruiting

The balcony garden is quite happy with the season and there are fruits getting ready. Some of the flowering plants are in bloom – raatrani, parijat, jui, ixora, marigolds and rain lilies. One of the adeniums also strayed into a bloom.

June is a week old

And just like that June is one week old! Today was a complete rest day but I was up at an insanely early hour thanks to an impossibly early night. So, a morning walk seemed like a good idea and the youngling decided to accompany me. We caught a sunrise out in the open after months. I saw the teen at a little distance and realized with a start that she’s grown quite tall! She suddenly seems more older and I think I must be too. It’s funny how the mind and body perceive age, sometimes very differently. We spoke about many things, mostly art and music, running, religion and she had questions about my life as a teenager. It’s interesting how memories lie below the surface ready to come up, quite like the dormant life that has been sprouting green all across the forest floor.

She mentioned some song and I remembered RSJ, a music magazine founded by the artiste’s father. It was one that I would pore over with a friend. Back then, the publication was novel and we would share a single copy but it was a short lived shared pleasure as life took us both different ways. The 90’s were a wild, interesting time to be a teenager; actually maybe it’s the teenage years that are wild. Thankfully, there were no mobile phones then and all that is remembered remains as sepia tinted memories rather than inerasable photographic evidence.

Since the rains, the trail has been teeming with life and it’s always in motion. All life is movement, every breath, an inhale and an exhale. Stop that movement and you cease to be, plant or animal. And yet, there is stillness in motion. I found it while running or swimming, I find it in asana as also in writing by hand or doing the dishes. It’s a different inhabiting of the body and mind, one that is not quite finite.

I almost went for a walk in the neighbourhood in the evening but changed my mind when I saw the crowds as also the disregard for social distancing and masks by many, especially the young. While it was heart warming to see them in their robustness of youth, it was also worrisome as it appeared as though they had let down their guard completely. I suppose it is inevitable after such an extended lock down and we’ll just have to brace for a new wave of infections.

This year has pretty much been written off in terms of old routine. The child’s school has nothing planned yet for the new academic year and she’s not complaining. Neither am I. Recently she pointed out that all her friends who had something that they liked doing seemed to have done ok during the lockdown. She has her art and found ways to adapt when art supplies were low. A lovely young doctor friend who was stuck in Pune began a podcast , check out Dr. Gypsy here on Gloves Off (Real doctors, undoctored opinions). A passionate doctor since the time I’ve known Dr. G and it comes through even now. We’ve shared a few runs and many coffees together.

As for me, I have spaces like this where I think aloud besides walks and yoga. Volunteering and a little work wrapped up the remaining time. While the head and heart remained steady, sleep got disrupted but that seemed more a function of packing too much in a day. I also found it difficult to watch any movies or shows, perhaps because the eyes were tired. Sometimes, it would take 3 days to watch one movie in installments! The last couple of weeks have been easier as I consciously rearranged my day to increase leisure time. And the woods have helped, as always.

Slow

The trail was wet today. We’ve had slow rain since yesterday and the mud has become soft, like a belly on which children like to rest their heads. This kind of rain is reminiscent of Pune monsoons until a few years ago. Lately, the weather patterns had changed to mimic Bombay rains, heavy and incessant which would make sludge of the trail and then dry into hard packed soil when the sun would get out. Slow, soft rain is gentle, teasing the soil to open up to receive footprints and leave clumps of soil on soles of feet or shoes, maybe with seeds that have flown from bursting pods?

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Mynas, drongos, the crow pheasant and crows (both varieties) were out in much larger numbers than usual today, they’re noisy. The cicadas were also louder than usual and I heard 3 or 4 different sounds. The strays were missing today. I didn’t expect to see too many people considering the rains but there were a couple of boisterous groups. It means more litter inevitably. Another really sad sight is the broken branches. It’s the handiwork of those who come for firewood. There are plenty of dried twigs and branches on the forest floor but those are abandoned and live ones are butchered. I suppose it makes it easier to carry. Alongside this is also the happier sight of smaller trees, the neems in particular growing near larger ones. Small rebellions of life erupting amidst the glyricidia.

As I walked about, I thought about my day until then. It began with yoga as a shared and studied practice, cooking a meal, a few working hours, a talk on handicrafts and finally the trail. All of them have one thing in common, they are slow. Yoga for me has been an extremely slow progression through various stages of fitness, injury, rehabilitation and health. Cooking is always a simple affair and from scratch. My work involves changing attitudes in menstrual health and hygiene and is a long term project. Handicrafts and handlooms are slow arts and the woods take their time in the making.

All these various facets of my living have a longish horizon and in the short term there is a chipping away at them from different angles, sort of like sculpting. Most of the time, there is very little to see as progress until one fine day, there is a breakthrough and I step back to see a whole picture rather than a part of it. Working on the part, the whole is worked upon be it body or mind. It’s the same in the making of many handicrafts and the trail is a sum of many different parts, mobile and immobile. There is the passage of time implicit in their becoming and at any stage, the shape taken by these is a sum of many different parts.

In yoga poses, it begins with very gross actions of the muscular system and progresses to quieter, internal work. Artisans working with their craft spend years perfecting their skill, beginning with learning the different tasks of their art. The forest is a continuum of birth, growth, decay, destruction and regeneration. There’s also the element of individual effort be it on the mat or of the creatures that make the green spaces.

In these times of a pandemic, it again boils down to the individual. We see it as people question their lives and choices. In today’s talk, Laila Tyabji touched upon Swadesi and it’s a word that is a separate post in itself. While there is a collective or community aspect to all of the above, it is a sum of many individuals too, be it arms and legs working together in an asana or a wood carver and block printer or then the stones and birds, insects and plants in the woods.

There is much that is terrible in the world right now both man made and nature designed. In the face of nature’s fury, one has to acquiesce and brace for impact. As to human inflicted violence, I don’t have an answer. Neither shows any sign of abating. Literally and metaphorically, this year has been stormy to say the least. But in the midst of the wildly careening world, my days are quieter. I’ve had time to rearrange my routine to have an increased component of the physical rather than just the cerebral, both in work and play. And that makes me glad to work with what I can experience with all my senses.

Maybe I’ll grow me a forest

Late afternoons have settled into a nice rhythm with a large chunk of time spent in the woods followed by a spin around the neighbourhood to catch glimpses of the gulmohurs. The trail was empty when I got there and I walked aimlessly through the dry scrub for a while. The birds were not as noisy as they usually are, the mynas sound like they’re fighting most of the time. Perhaps it was the heat that kept animal and human away, it was about 40 degrees. And maybe heat that made the mind think slow thoughts.

If ever I end up being a caretaker of a patch of land I call my own, I might just let it grow wild and become a forest. Maybe animals and birds will come to live there and if they permit, I’ll also disappear into it for some time. Letting things grow the way they are meant to means giving up the need for control and the belief that we know better. Sometimes life unfolds its wild beauty quite like that, unplanned and far more richer in texture.

Raat Ranis – these tiny nocturnal blooms are quite heady

A few years ago, I stopped trying to tame my balcony garden and let the weeds grow alongside the plants. Mostly I did nothing save water them. Over time, the mealy bugs disappeared, the plants looked happier and caterpillars came to stay and morphed into beautiful butterflies on the curry leaves. Adenium pods burst and their babies sprouted by the dozen. Lilies sprung at the root of bougainvilleas and ferns emerged from nowhere. Instead of an orderly, tidy garden, I got a piece of urban jungle right outside my room, complete with visiting feathered friends and tiny creepy crawlies.

It happened by chance and then I discovered Fukuoka and the concept of ‘mu‘. I was reminded of this thanks to a fellow blogger who mentioned one of his books today. This was around the time I worked with fresh produce and was also running long distances barefoot. There was an intersection of earth, food and body and the connections between them started becoming clearer. Some of Masanobu’s work finds resonance in the Indian texts too, especially the Taittiriya Upanishad which talks about the food sheath. Food was not just what I fed my body but also my mind. Most of my learning has been a stumbling into self-discovery through the lens of yoga. Of course, a lot of it is incomplete and sometimes completely off the mark but even that teaches.

The horse with no name🎶

It was a quiet sort of a Monday and the highlight was the two odd hours spent outdoors. Since I was driving around anyway, headed to the racecourse which has been shut since lockdown began. All the common landmarks were also firmly shut and considering the situation in this state, they are likely to remain like that for much longer than the end of the month. The streets were fairly empty and it seemed a little tense. In another time, it would have been a busy period with Eid revelry but festivals and celebrations are muted now.

I did see a beautiful sight though, a young man taking a picture of his friend clad in pristine white against a wall of bougainvilleas. It was a moment I framed in my mind for the pure joy in that face – unadulterated light. These moments make it bearable when the horrors of the world outside make the heart heavy. Today, I ended up reading a terrible account of brutality and I couldn’t get over the cruelty against a 10 year old. Destruction exists in nature too and it has a cyclical purpose to regenerate. Unfortunately, in humans, sometimes causing harm is the purpose.

Physical Labour

I must confess that during lock down, I’ve wished (more than once) that I was an essential worker. That way, I wouldn’t have needed to wait for a supplies dash to roam the streets. Mostly, it’s the insatiable desire to drink in the sights of people, places and their intersection. Today was a legit supplies day but took the car out and went to meet a tree a fair distance away. The amaltas (golden shower trees) are gorgeous and I went to see one of them on a hidden running route. Sadly, the full burst was over and there were just a few flowers left. It is a sight to behold in full bloom. I did manage to see one a few days ago on another street.

From last week

A large chunk of my week would be physical, in class or then adjusting bodies as part of therapeutic yoga. Additionally, my professional work required me to spend time on field with health workers and then there were the long solitary walks. Zoom was restricted to one client and the screen mostly to consolidate thoughts and learning. I didn’t need to have it open all day. Now, it’s the other way around and I find myself impatient for more real world work rather than working via video/ voice.

It is also tiresome to see the endless prompts for addressing a ‘changed‘ world by experts. None of them have lived through a pandemic of this scale so it’s all estimation and conjecture anyway. Some of it will come to be and many will be off the mark but that’s been the nature of projections. But I still get in on some of them to keep myself somewhat professionally relevant and speak the same language. I’m looking forward to the lifting of the lock down and getting back to some of the old work although it seems unlikely to experience it the same way considering the necessary precautions one has to take now. The hit is especially hard in yoga considering that much of therapeutic yoga requires touch. But, it’s an ancient science that has reinvented itself over the ages. Infact, it has already pivoted to a new avatar online, it will be interesting to see how it evolves.

One bag full mostly plastic cups, bottles, empty pouches etc.

In the meanwhile, I managed to get some large trash bags and sturdy rubber gloves so decided to tackle the rubbish on the trail. It was satisfying to get rid of whatever I could manage to collect from the interiors of the woods today. Much of the debris is scattered around trees which have a wide clearing around them, they’re the perfect picnic spots and so make the worst sites to clean.

All in all, it was good to labour under blue skies, a bright sun and music in my heart. Nothing like a good sweat, summers are meant for it.

Converge

A few days ago, I ended up reading bits and pieces from different books at various points during the day and there were three themes that sprang up. Dying, Forgiving and Love. I found the three again soon after in an endearing movie, A Beautiful Day in the Neighbourhood.

A cynical, jaded journalist who is known for ripping people apart is disarmed by the kindness and love of a stranger. Tom Hanks as Fred Rogers brings the gift of his complete presence to his interactions and invites people into his mindscapes of difficult emotions. He does this through the weathered puppets who have accompanied him on his journey as a host for a children’s show. The movie revolves around difficult parent-child relationships through the lens of death and abandonment. A dying father finds it necessary to make peace with his estranged son. Ultimately, an autumn funeral is one of love that finds redemption in the character of Mathew Rhys wanting to be a better dad.

Dying

About 8-9 years ago, I became interested in Indian philosophy and since then dying has had fascination as a thought for reflection. B.K.S. Iyengar’s words probably express it best, “Live Happily, Die Majestically”. It is considered inauspicious to talk about death and dying but that’s what we are heading towards the minute we are born. I’ve found being aware of mortality, my own and that of loved ones has been a way to live more intensely and joyously in the present. Now more than ever it seems urgent to reflect on what it means to die and therefore how one should live. In the context of yogasana, I remember Geeta Iyengar asking if one is willing to die in the pose? Change happens in that moment and space of a breaking point. Stick around, walk into the pain and you cross over into an unimaginable freedom.

Forgiving

Forgiving has always been a contentious word for me. Who am I to forgive anyone? But while sitting with the thought, it automatically split into ‘for’ and ‘giving’ and that made sense. Service. Giving like the flower gives, giving like the bird sings, giving like the sun shines. Giving wholly of oneself is its own reward. Often, it means just sharing our stories as they are. At the end of a life, the holding back of their ability to connect and heal don’t matter and just make for a dead weight kind of living in isolation. Vulnerability is like having the shell ripped off a soft body and the fear of being crushed is very real but it is also a taking one’s place under the sun in one’s fullness. That’s a brilliance which touches everything around it.

Yehudi Menuhin’s foreword in Light on Yoga is one of my favourite passages and a sentence in there expresses it best. “Whoever has had the privilege of receiving Mr. Iyengar’s attention, or of witnessing the precision, refinement and beauty of his art, is introduced to that vision of perfection and innocence which is man as first created- unarmed, unashamed, son of God, lord of creation- in the garden of Eden.” I’ve experienced this sense of innocence in my yoga teachers too. It’s a clarity of a clear stream in which they allow all to enter, the good, the bad and the ugly without any discrimination and with compassionate detachment. So, the stream remains unsullied even while allowing all who enter it to wash away the accumulated dust of tendencies.

Love

Love was the first theme I had encountered during the course of that reading day but while reflecting on all three, it made sense to see it as the last and encompassing the other two. My reading was from The Prophet and one of my favourite lines from that prose poem is, ‘All these things shall love do unto you that you may know the secrets of your heart, and in that knowledge become a fragment of Life’s heart’. Recently, I got a lovely note from my daughter where she spoke of a state of flow, desire, abundance, detachment all aligning themselves with one’s destiny. She ended with I love you. Three simple words and I was grateful to be the recipient of those beautiful words while also keenly aware that I haven’t been able to say it to my parents.

There’s one point in the movie where Tom Hanks asks Rhys to hold a moment for those who loved us into being. It’s a moment where the other patrons in the restaurant also pause and I found myself pausing. But, that was a hard minute. One that also flowed into thinking about who do we really know as our parents. My mother reminisces about her childhood and youth and I listen. I also listen to my daughter about her young life impressions and switch between the roles of child and parent even as the individual me relates to my family members as individuals. As I listen to my mother, it is easier to understand how a young person was shaped through life experiences and inherent attitudes to meeting them. And my daughter’s words allow me to see that process as it is unfolding.

Kindness as a mirror

In the movie, Tom Hanks becomes the kind mirror we need to see ourselves and our frailties. The puppets in his bag are a poignant reminder of our lives alluding to the way we are played by the strings of our hurts, anger, fears, victories, loves, losses and a gamut of memories and inabilities. Often, they are patterns so firmly entrenched that it seems nigh impossible to even consider the possibility of another way of expression. Tom Hanks seems too good to be true and when Mathew Rhys likens him to a living saint, his wife points out that that would make what he has seem unattainable for people! She goes on to say, “he works at it all the time, it’s a practice. He’s not a perfect person, he has a temper. He chooses how he responds to that anger. He does things every day that help to ground him… reads scripture, swims laps, prays for people, writes letters, hundreds of them.” Letters really jumped out, I find them almost a meditation that can be shared with another and they have been a constant especially in the last few months.

Lately, I’ve found that all my loves converge and compartmentalizing them into neat little web notebooks is becoming harder. They seem to spill into each other and perhaps it is time to bring them all as a singular offering. Call it the yoga of words perhaps or sound. Writing is really speaking on paper or a screen, a silent sound if you please.And I find yoga in every moment of living, in music, musings and movement. It makes for a rich living even in the bleakest of times, providing an anchor to meet whatever comes or goes with a light heart and steady gaze filled with love.

I wish you love.
I wish you light.
I wish you life.

The many moods of Water

I saw a short film yesterday, The Swimmer  and it set into play so many flashes. The poetry of Derek Mahon (he’s a discovery), the beautiful capturing of the moods of open waters and Redmond’s moment 20 miles off shore.  Just like the slashes of Mahon’s poetry, my memories of running, swimming and the sea coalesced into a private film. The lines read by the poet in the movie reminded me of a few lines I wrote to myself a couple of months back, mesmerized by the sea. 

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The water was just right, like the temperature of breast milk or maybe the fluid in the womb. Warm, alive as though it had a heartbeat. Walking through that was such a sensory immersion, the smell of salty air, the sand shifting below my feet, the touch of moisture in the air and the incredible expanse of sky and water. What if one walked into the sea to die? What would that moment feel like- the one of no return as water burns into lungs?

And one from 2017

In the meanwhile, I found pleasure in swimming while also discovering deep silences under water. The breath has started to become a friend as I let go and surrender to the flow. It is a different experience to be suspended in a medium which can either support or swallow you. As an element, it’s an interesting one to explore through its different aspects. Benign, malevolent, neutral. Three different states- ice, water and steam, all with different gunas. Water in the womb, water in our bodies and on our planet. Universally used by all that lives…  Quite like the secrets of water under open skies. They invite you to dive deep and dissolve. After all, isn’t life really a preparation for dissolution? A bit like all asana being preparation for savasana…

And another one

Winter is melting into summer, rapidly. The water in my matka is just the right degree of cool to quench my thirst. The pool waters provide buoyancy and resistance as I swim. My thoughts flow one into another until they bear no link to the original thought. I feel water everywhere…

Free flowing and stagnant.

Life sustaining and suffocating.

Terrifying deluge and gurgling brook. 

Thundering waterfall and the silence of a mother’s womb. 

Meandering rivers and gigantic waves. 

Baptism waters and bearer of ashes.

Finally, I was reminded of the movie, The Shape of Water and it’s mute beauty. But that one is a separate post.

In the meanwhile, I wait for a pandemic to spend itself so I may find my way to the ocean and submit to its incredible silence.