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I have done many back bends in my yoga practice. I must however say that today’s description of it was the best. I was preparing to move into camel pose (Ustrasana) and Raya Una Datta, a Iyenger teacher, came up behind me and placed one hand on the back of my head and the other on top of my sternum. He then gave me all the typical cues. Shins, legs, torso, lift this, turn that, relax this……all of it. He was trying to get me to not engage the neck moving into or out of the pose. He then said, “lift the back body into the front body, do not lose the back body lift, relax the head into my palm, give me the head, but keep the back body lifted.” This went on for 2 minutes, but if I relaxed the neck, I would lose the lift, I could not totally give him the weight of my head. Then he paused, and in a slightly softer voice said, “Charlie, lift the back ribs up as the sun rises up in the east, and let the front ribs soften, as the sun sets in the west. And the head is the sky, not affected by the rise or setting of the sun”. At that moment I was able to maintain the lift of the spine while giving him the weight of my head. He felt it in his hands and said, “ahh, now you are the sky”.
If you cannot see with an open mind, you can not possibly feel with a compassionate heart. With no compassion in the heart, the mind will be willing to let the world suffer and die. This I see. An evening stroll through the streets of Pune, the shades of darkness have swept in. Loud sounds still swallow the silence that the night sky offers, but a cool breeze makes the evening splendid. India assaults the senses. The haze that smells part campfire, infused with spices, is constant, from dawn till dusk The eyes are bombarded with movement and colors, like a pinwheel spinning frantically in a child’s hand, I never seem to be able to take in the visual storm. Horns, whistles, engines, the steady sound of the street, like white noise, is always in the background. You also can taste the street. It sits on your tongue, whether it be the last spicy meal you ate, or the last fuel infused breath you took, its flavor is distinct, and continuous. It is however, the sense of touch that is my favorite. The people will touch you in every manner. If you stand at the foothills of the Himalayas, and gaze up, you will be lifted deep within the heart. The majestic mountain range humbles. The people of India, do the same. If you are willing to see with open eyes, you will see a people of light heart and happy soul, you will see the peaks of the Himalayas. Your western mind will be humbled.
In a shallow puddle a skinny dog drinks, surviving another day. I wander towards a small city park. A beggar sits slumped outside the gate. I pay 5 rupees to get in. He begs to feed himself, I pay to find some stillness away from the chaos of the streets. I circle the park, and glance up, noticing the apartments and homes that surround the park. Up on a window sill, I see a cat, sitting unafraid to fall and oblivious to its privilege. The beggar has no sill, he will always be on the wrong side of the pane. The line between have and have not is clear, but the questions as to its causes and solutions are as murky as the puddle that quenches the skinny dog. A fool believes himself to deserve “privilege”, and the beggar only knows his struggle. Our hearts often need tears to see and contemplate. I pause to take a breath, and with prayers I will never understand.