I recall vividly the discussion with Peter Clifford last year in Bali about the one thing we practice yoga to relieve. Monkey Mind. We all suffer from the workings of our mind. A constant stream of thoughts that jump around inside of our heads like a hyper wild monkey. It is hungry and feeds off of the attachment to thoughts. With out awareness of this condition we go through life latching on to whatever seemingly important thought enters our heads and then we instantly attract a gaggle of other jumping monkeys to join in. The thoughts will come regardless if you are aware of them or not, the trick is to let them go, only then the mind is tamed. The ultimate objective of yoga is to TAME the workings of the mental ‘chimpanzee’ through asana (postures), pranayama (breath), and dyana (meditation)… How appropriate it is for us that we are practicing the taming of mind surrounded by actual monkeys while behaving like the animals ourselves.
Some days it is easy and I float through the day feeling Ommm-tastic and light. Other days it isn’t so easy and after a few hours of class I feel exhausted from my over active mind. There is so much to think about these days… Getting married, moving “home” (wherever “home” might be)… what to DO with life… add infinitum.
We literally spend 10 hours a day in our yoga shala. 10 hours! Some of it is sat directly on the concrete floor, some of the time we sit propped up in our castles built of bolsters, pillows and yoga blocks. We practice 3 hours of asana a day and have the occasional opportunity to “monkey” around with our postures. The majority of the time is spent listening to our incredible teachers, Baskar: yoga philosophy, Natwar: Anatomy and asana, and Roshon: an entertaining, heartfelt and spontaneous flow of anatomy and his personal philosophy combined. Each teacher has a unique style that we have come to love. For example, Baskar (philosophy) spends the hour of class time telling us fables or “short” stories that have a faint link to whatever sutra (from Patanjali’s famous Yoga Sutras) we are studying. Often the stories are hard to follow but we all hang on knowing that the punch line will be well worth it. He also has a repertoire of “jokes” that are hilarious (coming out of him)… he shares them at the end of class, time permitting… we LOVE them.
JOKE EXAMPLE: There were 3 ants walking along. The first ant said, “There are 2 ants walking behind me”. The second ant said “There is one ant walking behind me.” The third ant said, “There are three ants walking behind me”. Why did the third ant say this?
Answer: He was a baby ant! Intellectually unstable he was… there weren’t really three ants there… it was a crazy talking baby ant.
There are 10 of us from all around the world taking the YTT 300 together: Hugh, Kristen, and myself (US), Veronica (Mexico), Ross (UK), Stine (New Zealand), Pricilla (Brazil), Naira (the UAE), Josh (Canada) and Chuu-I (Singapore). Then there is Faraaz, a young Indian man who joins us for our classes and has facilitated a number of his magical yoga nidra classes (yogic sleep). It’s a great group and the variety of personality types and styles of BEING have provided each one of us ample opportunity to grow. We help each other by simply being us…
So far it has been a spectacular few weeks… as I write this we are sitting overlooking the Ganges River at Devraj Coffee Corner German Bakery. There are monkeys frolicking around the wires of the bridge and a few sluggish cows that have decided to take a wander across it, unaccompanied. Ross and I wonder what business they have waiting for them on the other side. Something interesting always happens while watching the Ganges… yesterday we saw a floating body, today we saw a dramatic bull fight on the bridge in which people had to jump out of the way to avoid being pummeled by the giant animals. Oh India. We sat down at the coffee shop next to a kind man named Jim, from Tampa bay Florida. He studied yoga at Sivananda Ashram here in the 70’s. A recovering human soul… he specializes in yogic therapy for people with addiction/mental health problems, we hit it off and had plenty of things to talk about. What a coincidence/blessing to sit down next to exactly the man I needed to talk to. We had a very moving conversation over looking the river and I had to say it was for sure a huge God moment.
Tomorrow it is back to class we go, heading into the final weeks of our India trip and also ending our year long global adventure. There will continue to be plenty of time for us to practice working with our monkey minds. Just like when one gives a monkey a biscuit, it attracts more monkeys, the mind is the same, if you entertain one thought it invites others to follow. The biggest lesson I have learned so far is that I have a choice about whether or not to keep feeding my monkey mind. It has taken a long time but gradually it is getting easier to ACTUALLY follow my breath rather then jump onto any engaging or seemingly important thought that enters my mind. When I make the conscious decision to follow my thoughts, I know I can expect more hungry monkeys. Today I decide whether or not to feed the monkeys. Sometimes I do and sometimes I don’t, but today there is a choice. Thank you yoga.