Saturday, March 21, 2015

When you are too agitated to meditate you should eat icecream

Narasimhan surrounded by an ancient
unreadable manuscript written on
palm leaves.
Last week I learned transcendental meditation guided by Narasimhan. I first met Narasimhan in his philosophy discussions last year. He and his cousin Jayashree teach chanting of the the Bagavad Gita and the Yoga Sutras in the city four times a week. I discovered that I really like chanting  and that Jayashree is an incredibly special teacher so I returned this year. 

I haven't analyzed my love of chanting very deeply but it seems to be somewhat separate from my feelings about the texts themselves. Both the gita and the yoga sutras are texts that I have read and found alternately interesting, inspiring, problematic and confusing. None of these intellectual thoughts seem to influence my experience of chanting which I find calming and meditative but with a unique quality different from silent meditation or yoga which maybe is related to vibration and breathing.

After we chant, Narasimhan talks about philosophy. Occasionally he will teach transcendental meditation afterwards to anyone who is interested in a four day sequence - I took advantage of this last week and am so far much more into TM than I anticipated. In the past I have done assorted styles of meditation (including half of a 10 day vipassana retreat but this is another story) and found them to be mildly beneficial and quite challenging. Given this past experience, I had low expectations. I've only been practicing for a week but so far I have found TM to be very pleasant and (most importantly for me) easy. Narasimhan instructed us to meditate for only 20 minutes twice a day with injunctions such as "If you are sleepy you should stop meditating and sleep." and "If you are uncomfortable, pause, find a comfortable position and resume meditating." On Wednesday when I reported being too agitated to sit still for longer than eight minutes the night before, Narasimhan told me that in that situation I can open my eyes and take several deep breaths. If I am still agitated I can do some light stretches or gentle yoga postures. If I am still agitated after that I should eat ice cream. "We have to fool the mind into calming down" he says. Obviously I love this advice.

Classical Hindustani flute concert - one of my favorite experiences here!
I am having an odd experience in my yoga/spiritual endeavors in India. It seems that in each realm - asana practice (physical yoga practice), chanting and now meditation and my relationship to Narasimhan as a teacher there is a similar discordance between my intellectual and my physical (for lack of a better word) experience. I love meditation and find Narasimhan a compelling teacher despite the fact that just last Thursday he told us that humans are a transitional evolutionary form between animals and the divine and on Wednesday he told us that great scientists are often disconnected from emotional and physiological experiences of the world because they are focused on rational explanation. I think both of these statements are total bologna but nevertheless totally trust and respect Narasimhan as a teacher. 

This dog got covered in colors during the Holi Festival
In yoga I have some questions I can't shake about how the school is run - from high fees, the process by which teachers are "certified" or "authorized" to teach, and some somewhat objectionable (to me) things Sharath has said in conference (weekly discussion of yoga philosophy and practice with QandA at the end). Despite this, I love practicing in the shala, Sharath has an amazing presence and physical intuition as a teacher and I generally find the vibes in the shala to be genuine, honest, and caring. 

For the moment I am not really trying to reconcile these disparities. As I go on it seems like less of a problem that they are even there, which, as a life long analyzer, is a bit new and surprising though not unwelcome.  
Deer in the early morning fog in the Nagarhole national park.
We saw Elephants too! But they were too far away and in the
bush to photograph so you all get deer. 
Heard of very large herbivores - also in Nagarhole. 

1 comment:

  1. Glad to hear you're having an interesting time! I'll take this opportunity to live my life vicariously.:)
    Alex (ashtanga Seattle)