Sunday, August 1, 2021

"But, Do You Like It?"

 The eye of the beholder is always subjective.  This is driven home to me each time I see the amazing rug collection of my friend Danny, who travels thousands of miles to search for tribal rugs from Central Asia, some of them over a hundred years old!

This thought also comes back to me with some force when I deal with my seven year old son, Nayan, who hasn't strayed from home since the pandemic began, but whose eye and mind work very differently from mine.

This was reinforced during Nayan's music class, when the teacher would ask him, "Do you like these songs?  Which song would you like to sing?  How do you feel?"

Initially I found these questions rather odd for a regular music class.  "Leaving these decisions to a child is asking for trouble," I thought.  "Nayan is just going to take advantage of this or impulsively say something that he will be stuck with, forever."

But that didn't happen.  Nayan relaxed, sometimes he didn't even reply (and that seemed to be fine with the teacher); sometimes he couldn't give his reasons very clearly.  But during this process, there developed between him and the teacher, a kind of trust and understanding.   Nayan understood and respected the fact that he would not be pushed into learning music and that he was an equal and active participant in the class.  

He began analysing the songs he was to sing, watching all possible versions of them and saying to me, "This one is too fast, this is sooo slow, this tune is not correct, this pronunciation is funny.."  All this helped him learn to listen.

It was a lesson for me on leaving certain decisions to children and trusting them to find their way through the maze of perplexing possibilities.

This struck home again last night when Nayan wandered into his bedroom to sleep on his Very Own Bed.  Within fifteen minutes, he was back by my side, snuggling close to me and saying he couldn't sleep on his bed even though his favourite bear Samatva was by his side.  "No, he was not scared.  No, he was not disturbed.  But he just couldn't sleep.."  

This has been a regular feature with Nayan but tonight something tugged at my memory.

"Nayan," I asked the next morning, "Do you like your room?"

"Hmmm.." he was not sure.  "I can't seem to sleep there."

Looking at the room, I realised that it had none of Nayan's possessions.  Not even his toys (because he usually plays in the living room).  His name (which he had proudly coloured and stuck) was on the door.    There was a picture of tigers high up, looking down at him (because I love tigers) but, apart from that, the walls were bare.  The room was usually just used for ironing clothes during the day so there were piles of clothes everywhere.

"Let's begin," I said, "By removing these clothes and putting all the things that YOU would like into this room.

Nayan pondered.  "We'll begin with the aeroplane cloud that Appa drew for me," he said.  "We can hang it above my name."

There was a very convenient little nail so we could do that quite quickly.

Now Nayan is busy thinking of the other things that he can put up.  While doing so, perhaps he will spend a little more time looking at and getting to know his little room.  And someday, he might even feel comfortable enough to lie on the bed there and happily fall asleep...

Friday, July 30, 2021

Don't Be Afraid Of Dragons

 They hiss, they spit, they bare their fangs and snap at us!  

They rise effortlessly above us and just as we hope they have flown away, they come swooping down to breathe fire once more..

I have always dreaded dragons.  There seemed so many of them- waiting to pounce on me when I was a child and they find their way still, when I am asleep - and sometimes (even worse) - when I'm wide awake.

They come in a bewildering array of forms (bringing that sinking feeling which is much more dreadful than the dragon itself) : nagging doubts, gnawing anxiety, dreaded deadlines, tugs of disappointment at things that didn't happen the way I wanted, unachieved 'targets', being the victim of dangerous road rages, vitriolic verbal outbursts, cold shoulders and more..

How, oh how do we deal with all these?  Merely shouting, "Dragons flee!" doesn't seem to help.  

One way forward, I think, is by taking it one moment (and one dragon) at a time and thinking of it as an opportunity for change and self discovery.  Once you make sense of one dragon, you realise they are all the same even if the shapes vary.  They all aim to distract you and disrupt your natural state of equilibrium.

When they succeed in doing so, everything looks bigger and harder to tackle.  So- hold on tight to your inner self, don't let it slip away and you will find your Very Own methods to deal with that particular Dragon in your life.

My seven year old son, brimming with curiosity, peers over my shoulder as I write this blog.

"I'm so happy you're telling people not to be afraid of dragons, Mummy," he says, hugging his special red and yellow dragon, Flamie Jamie.  

"Appa, are you afraid of dragons?  Don't be."

"I think I am," says his father.  "Dragons can be very scary sometimes."

"But that's not real!" exclaims my son.  "They look like they're breathing fire but that's only their mucous which comes in the winter or when they're sick.  That mucous doesn't burn you, it just stops you from seeing clearly.  And what they are asking for is just some medicine and a hanky."

Thought provoking words indeed.  Dragons lead us to despair and destruction.  To battles we wouldn't have chosen for ourselves.  But what lurks within a dragon?  A sense of loss and despair?   A world frozen so many times, it has lost the ability to appreciate warmth?  

Can we provide all that the dragon asks or secretly desires?  No (at least I cannot!). Handkerchiefs and medicinal brews are not so easy to come by (handkerchiefs in particular, in my house, seem to do the vanishing act each time I need them).

Perhaps we can begin by avoiding the usual pitfalls- those flashes of temper, gushes of dislike or cold contempt.  Let's not move away from our inner tranquility (that we have worked so hard to reach).  Hang on desperately to our place of refuge and shelter- our inner core and refuse to budge from there. Use our inner core to throw the dragons off balance as a Tai Chi master might have effortlessly done in days of yore.

The dragons may not disappear but we will feel better about ourselves.  And holding on to this feeling, we might deal with our opponents in ways better than when we were filled with hatred, rage or fear.  The dragons might even just recede,  filled with disgust at our lack of opposition, for perhaps all they wanted was a good old fight.  Perhaps we might even discover that dragons lack weapons with which to approach the deep stillness that lies within us.  The possibilities are endless..

As I think about these things, the words of Lao Tzu echo in my mind-

"...The Tao is empty, yet when applied is never filled up.

So deep it is, Ah! it seems to be the ancestor of all things.

Blunting sharp edges, resolving confusions,

Diffusing glare, uniting the world:

Such depth, Ah! something seems to exist there.

I do not know whose child it is.

It seems to have existed before the Ancestor..."

Perhaps we can use this emptiness to our advantage.  When we are empty, how will dragons find us?

Tuesday, July 27, 2021

A Little Love, A Lot of Work

 When my nephew told me last week that he had bought his own house, I was amazed at how much time had gone by.  My nephew spent several years with us when he arrived after school, from Kolkata, to attend college in Bangalore. 

This week he sent a message saying the house drains were blocked and he was having a difficult time getting them fixed.  My husband and I immediately thought,"Maybe we should have told him to check all these things before, we have had so many years of experience setting up houses.."  But we didn't want to appear to interfere.  There is a special joy that comes from settling into your first house and learning from your early mistakes.

This incident reminded me of our own last move to a lovely house on campus with exactly the same problems (tree roots had grown into the drains)- it was airy and spacious but old, unlived in and full of niggling problems.  As with all houses, this one too required a little love and a lot of work to set it right and show up its charm.

I began to think of all the houses we had changed over the years since I was married.  I first arrived in 1993, with ten bags, to join my husband in a tiny one bedroom apartment.  My husband looked at me and then at all the bags.  

"We only have space for two bags," he said.  "Send the rest back."  Then, looking at my despondent face, he relented and said, "We'll try to fit as much as we can in."

So out went our institute furniture- two metal chairs and a metal camp bed.  We put some shelves high on the wall and hauled the bags and their contents up there.  Some boxes doubled up as benches and tables and somehow we fit everything in.  This was nice because I had saved up all my student stipend to buy things for us- nothing fancy but very nice cookware, a pile of books, tons of CDs and cassettes and all else that my husband and I could happily share in our first home.

Our first home

We needed lots of light so I cut up old sarees to make curtains - they swung gently in the breeze and reminded me of my mother as they swished about our rooms.

We had a little garden and this space gave me my first lessons- on life and gardening.  I planted marigolds with gay abandon, which were torn to pieces by little children and monkeys.  We had a custard apple tree bearing the mot delicious fruit and a papaya tree which also gave the sweetest yellow papayas (nowadays a rarity).  The trouble was a Bengali neighbour living above us, who claimed right to all the papayas because they grew up close to her terrace, and she wanted all the green papayas she could get.  I was furious because I claimed ownership of the papaya tree since it grew down below, in my garden.  She claimed her right by means of seniority, I claimed mine by my fiery temper (which is now usually under control but in those days was unpredictable)..  This issue was never resolved and after a few months, she moved to a bigger house elsewhere.

Marigolds, papayas - and trouble!

Now my papayas were safe but we had problems of another nature.  The next neighbour complained bitterly of my husband's habit of inviting students home and playing music for them on the weekends.  This was hard to rectify, I think we just closed our door and windows and did our best to keep out of their way.

With students at home

Our next house was bigger, almost palatial, in comparison.  It had two bedrooms and a huge empty space on one side, overgrown with trees.  At this time, when my father visited, he bought us a plastic table and chairs (that we somehow transported home on the back of our ancient Fiat).  We placed these in our overgrown garden and had our morning meals under the trees.  There were plenty of snakes and rodents; many of them found their way into out house.  This experience really taught us the ways to animal proof our house.  My husband's hockey skills were much appreciated while chasing all these animals out.

My nephew and I organise a barbecue 

Then we moved to a first floor apartment; this was the first time we were off the ground.  I always feel very rooted to the earth and I wondered if I would ever settle into a house located somewhere in space.  But to my surprise, I loved it because every window looked into the top of a tree (filled with birds, squirrels and insects of all kinds) and there was much more sunlight.  Yes, my baby (who is very sensitive sound) would get startled and cry each time the koel sang and the most ferocious (Vespa) wasps would love to nest in out windows, sometimes stinging us- but my terrace garden flourished with the sunlight, and so did we.

Now we are in a larger house with a garden and a huge empty (overgrown!) space on one side.  I have spent months clearing the space of concrete debris from past inhabitants.  We have snakes, monkeys, rats but they are now firmly kept out of the house.  There is not much sunlight below and some mango trees keep raining mangoes on our driveway that smash into our car and that no one likes to eat.  An enormous jackfruit tree has shed its hefty fruit, completely crushing out roof outside.  But it is lovely to see so much greenery and hear so many birds.

Giant roof-crushing jackfruit

We all have our favoured nooks- my husband has set up an airy corner for his computer work that overlooks our garden with its outsize ginger lilies on which humming birds sit.  Bougainvillea sways in a corner and bulbuls love to play in between its thorny stems and he can watch all this while working.  

My son has his study table next to my husband's and his favourite teddy bear sits on a bench behind, watching every move.  

I like to sit on the terrace especially for my evening music practice, as long as I can, before the mosquitoes drive me in.  

Our bedroom overlooks the trees that grow tall and wild; in the monsoon season, the fireflies light up the darkness outside the windows.  Little birds perch on the windowsills, looking for beetles to eat and squirrels peep in hopefully trying to find an opening to enter and build their nests.  

Mangoes that no one likes to eat

We have this house for five years and next will have to move out of campus, to yet another house.  Until then, we enjoy this house, getting to know its creaks and leaks and sighs..

Friday, July 23, 2021

Thoughts, On Guru Poornima

It is Guru Poornima, the day when we remember and pay respect to our Guru- the word goes far beyond the meaning of Teacher or Master.  

A Guru is one who leads you from darkness to light (gu- darkness, ru- light).  One who shows you the way, not the end.

And so, tonight, as I use my last five minutes to type, I can only feel thankful that I met and studied with my Yoga Guru and that I can still be in touch with him though I am no longer directly practicing yoga with him.  As has often been said about Gurus, my Guru's house was a place of silent refuge for me each morning.  I would leave my worldly worries at the doorstep and focus entirely on yoga for the next three hours, feeling the calm and strength that the practice gives, slowly growing within me.

I have not much time to write, so I am pasting below a few thoughts from previous blogs of mine-

"Last week, in one of our class discussions, we wondered about the reams of writings on yoga - What is necessary? What is useful? What is desirable?- according to various accomplished yogis. This is a confusing area, strewn with subjectivity, many times topics are described in the absence of context or level of difficulty. 

Finally, our yoga teacher gave his own views, repeating several times that yoga is for those who have nothing. Nothing? Not exactly - but what he meant was that people who have already attained control over their minds, their physical selves don't really need most of these practices. 

But for the average person, physical health is necessary to carry out most of what one wants to achieve, and along with this a certain peace of mind and sense of satisfaction are desirable. For this person (which includes most of us), yoga is a simple step towards staying healthy and peaceful. 

There are many different approaches to yoga based on our specific temperaments and affinities. In a more physical sense too, all one really needs to practice yoga, is a bit of land or a part of a room, where one might be undisturbed. In addition, having a yoga mat is perhaps not asking for too much! And of course, a bit of time. But that is all it takes to begin. 

Somehow, the phrase 'for those who have nothing' stayed in my mind and I began thinking of the verses composed by Adi Shankaracharya (an eighth century spiritual preceptor) in his Atma Shatakam (the song of the self). According to the story about him, when he was eight years old, he was walking through the Himalayas in search of a guru. He met a sage (the teacher he was searching for)who asked him who he was. The young boy replied with this Sanskrit poem, of which I quote a few lines: 

"Mano Buddhi Ahankara Chitta Ninaham Nacha Shrotra Jihve Na Cha Ghrana Netre Nacha Vyoma Bhoomir Na Tejo Na Vayu Chidananda Rupa Shivoham Shivoham" 

(I am not mind, nor intellect, nor ego, nor the reflections of the inner self I am not the five senses. I am beyond that. I am not the ether, nor the earth, nor the fire, nor the wind (etc. - the five elements). I am indeed, That eternal knowing and bliss, I am Shiva, I am Shiva).

" Na Punyam Na Papam Na Saukhyam Na Dukham Na Mantro Na Teertham Na Vedo Na Yajnaha Aham Bhojanam Naiva Bhojyam Na Bhokta Chidananda Rupa Shivoham Shivoham"

(I have neither merit, nor demerit. I do not commit sins or good deeds, nor have happiness or sorrow, pain or pleasure. I do not need mantras, holy places, scriptures, rituals or sacrifices. I am none of the triad of the observer or one who experiences, the process of observing or experiencing, or any object being observed or experienced. I am indeed, That eternal knowing and bliss, I am Shiva, I am Shiva)..."

"Our Yoga class is slowly winding down, the teacher is moving to Mysore where a fresh batch of students await him. After studying with him for almost ten years (the first six involving three hour classes from Monday to Saturday, beginning at 6 a.m. sharp) there is a little tug of separation. Try as we might to emulate paths laid down by the yogis, feelings intervene at times. 

The class is almost empty now, just my husband and I and the teacher. We spend the last few days asking questions of all kinds, moving as always, towards understanding the asanas (postures) and pranayama (breath control) within our limitations. It is a time of change. 

The yoga teacher discusses teaching styles and ways to correct students. Having gone down this path for so long, we have decided to finally teach, but the details are still unclear.

We stretch, lift, inhale, relax - and occasionally collapse - some things don't seem to change! The yoga teacher is trying to convey the very essence of the practice to each of us, it seems to me. My husband is shown ways to correct difficult movements and I am reminded of the key components of the practice - focussing on the joints, breath and mind.

The mind is the hardest to deal with. To disregard its tendencies to flit about and to remain focussed on the breathing and movements is a big challenge for me. To be able to do this on my own each day - the thought is daunting but exciting as well. For this is the only way to go deeper into the practice.

But no matter what we do (or don't do), some essence of the practice always remains within us, ready to express itself at any moment we choose.."

And so today, I thank my Guru, and all true Gurus in the world, for helping their students find their individual paths and for guiding and supporting them during this process.

Monday, July 19, 2021

Questions About Commitment

 Where and how do our commitments begin?  Today I dwelt on some of my life changing commitments and wondered.  

My commitment to writing happened unexpectedly.  I always liked to write but I never thought of spending much time on it.  

Until my career as a scientist was blown apart and I decided to take a deep breath and face the blank wall in front of me.  Something would appear at some time, the question was, did I have the courage and faith to wait and see what else I could do with my life?  

Yes, I did, and I filled this time with writing - writing just for myself.  I wrote little dramas, poems, children's stories.  I wrote a book about my mother's life.  It turned out that many people wanted to read what I had written, and in due course I found myself taking this task more seriously.  A blog?  I was almost computer illiterate, but why not?  A new column for a college Science journal-  I had never before met or interviewed outstanding Indian scientists, mathematicians and engineers in different parts of the country, but this was something I chose to fill my column with.  Science journalism- yes, of course.  Judging poetry contests in colleges?  I didn't think I was qualified but the colleges seemed to think I was doing all right.

This commitment to writing continues, though I am able to spend much less time on it nowadays.  However, I realised recently that I write almost everyday in some form- especially notes and letters to friends (I do warn people that I write way too much in my letters and I often do not always expect replies).  But writing has now moved beyond work and has helped me to connect and share thoughts with many friends and acquaintances, enriching my life beyond belief.

I can say the same with yoga.  I began learning it mostly because I went through many years of ill health.  I was looking for something to strengthen and heal me from within, something I could do on my own without fancy equipment and most importantly, a philosophy I could relate to.  Yoga provided all these.  

I tried a lot of yoga classes while working- studying with teachers in several cities, reading books and attending workshops.  Nothing seemed to work the way Patanjali (to whom the earliest work on yoga- the yoga sutras - is attributed) had described.  "Do the yoga sutras really work?" I wondered.  "And if they do, can I find a teacher who can help me?"

I did find a teacher.  It was not while I was juggling between studying and running a home.  It happened during the time I was facing the blank wall and was willing to travel to any reasonable city to study with a teacher for a few months.  As it turned out, I did not have to.  There was a teacher (and in my mind, after an extensive search, there was only one teacher in the entire city of Bangalore who I could accept as a teacher).  But would he accept me as a student?  The answer, initially, was "No".

"I don't do therapy," he said.  "And you live 17 km away.  You don't know how to drive.  My asana classes begin at 6 a.m. and go on till 9 a.m.  In the beginning there is unbearable pain, which you will have to bear, and you should not take any painkillers for all this.  I think it is better you find someone closer to your house."

It all seemed intimidating but by tackling one step at a time, I managed to convince the teacher to give me a chance.  After a few days, he told me, "If students don't practice what I tell them, I just ask them to go away."  My heart leapt in shock.  "I must practice!" I told my self desperately.  This is my only chance.  

In all the ten years that I spent in the yoga class, I have in fact never seen my teacher being anything other than compassionate, skilled and patient.  Excessively slow sometimes, I thought- I spent five years requesting him to teach me pranayama (which regular yoga workshops teach in a few minutes of starting).  Anyway, it was a very enjoyable phase of learning, and when my teacher moved to Mysore, I continued at home, on my own.

My teacher did encourage me to teach but I felt I always needed to work on my own practice.  How could I are to teach people when I was not perfect?  It took me a long time to realise that what people are looking for in a teacher is not perfection, but someone who might be able to provide a way to help them.  I never organised a teaching class or looked for students.  But people did come to me for help, one or two at a time, and to my surprise, I found that I was able to apply the methods I had learnt to help them.  

When the time is right, they tell me they have learnt all they wanted to and are now self reliant in their practice.  And so, what I thought was a way to delve into myself has become means to reach out to others who may be looking for a way to get back to a natural state of well being.

Music is my most recent commitment.  Again, I am not quite sure of when I made this commitment because all I was looking for was a way to encourage my son's interest in music.  But it has begun, and though I am singing just for myself, it has already overflowed into my life - we begin the morning with music, we spend the evening in music, it provides a safe refuge when life is at its most demanding, it soothes me as I sleep- and as it does this, my reactions to the world change.  I am perhaps a little calmer, a little more rooted as I face life and - at the same time, I feel as perplexed and insignificant as I did when I began my training as a scientist.  The world of music is so vast, I know so little and am so ill-qualified- will I ever find my way through this?  

I realised today that it didn't matter.  Something inside me is already committed to this,  and it will take its own course.  I just have to sit back and trust myself and life.  As Robert Frost said -

"Two roads diverged in a wood and I - I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference."

Sunday, July 4, 2021

Smoky Rice And Imperfect Notes- A Musical Journey

 It has been a couple of months since I began my music classes.  So much seems to have changed since then.  As I dwell on this, I begin to realise that music is really a very potent form of energy.  Though we all know this at some level, we take it for granted many times.  The sense of hearing is linked so closely to our brain that the softest of sounds is capable of triggering memories, affecting moods and even altering breathing patterns.

I began my music classes unintentionally.  As I have written earlier, I was searching for a music teacher to help my little son sing.  But in the very first class, things seemed to be going according to a completely different plan.  After my son had finished his lesson, the music teacher asked me to sit down and sing.  "You must be knowing sa, re ga ma.. (notes of the octave)," he said.  

Yes, almost everyone knows that.

But not me.

My mind went back to school days when I had always been considered a poor singer in my class.  I think there were a lot of talented musicians in my class and the task of making a large, heterogeneous group sing in tune was a Herculean one for the music teacher.  So there were a few students like me, who were asked just to stand there and not really sing much.

I don't think adults mean to influence children so much but over the years this message somehow stayed and got amplified in my mind.  "I cannot sing."

While all this flashed through my mind, I was sitting before the computer during the first music class, wondering how to get out of this excruciatingly embarrassing situation.  The teacher was proceeding to explain that my son would learn considerably more if I could participate in his singing and help him during his practice.

So I began, perhaps where every music student begins, with the first note (sa).  "Apna sa khojo (search for your sa)," said the teacher, as many teachers have said to their students. Thus began my search for a note, and I had no idea where to begin.

"You are doing very well," the teacher said a few weeks later, "even though you have just begun."

Yes, I had just begun.  But was this the real beginning?  While singing, I often found my mind taking me back to the past - the time I was about six years old and I could see my mother practicing music.  I could almost hear her notes.  So the octave was not really unfamiliar,  it was just hidden somewhere inside me.  

I did not have too many more memories of my mother's singing because the next few years of my childhood were those of transition for our family as we moved from place to place.  The musical instruments were lost somewhere in transit and it seemed my mother was not able to find time to continue her singing.  My brother and I moved to my grandfather's house at some moment and singing was forgotten.

My mother passed away when I was twenty three, after a valiant battle with leukaemia.  Though it was a battle she lost, she had given us and many others around, so much strength and happiness that we did not know how to cope with her absence.  

When I began my music practice, these memories suddenly came flooding back.  I had just buried the pain, not finding a way to release it.  It sounds incredible (it felt incredible to me) but as I sang and sang, I felt the pain go.  I was closer to my mother than I had been for years.  I felt her (and my father's) presence somewhere very close to me- as if I could reach out to them anytime I wanted.  This was a big step in healing a source of continuous pain that I had been carrying about for years.

Healing rarely happens in one go.  I felt lighter and was able to practice more joyfully.  But there were other swirling patterns of negativity that I only recognised after some time.  Just as when a pond is stirred, many things seem to rise to the surface, not all at the same time.

Why was I so convinced I could never get the notes right?  What was this strange feeling of guilt telling me I was just indulging myself and neglecting important work at home?  What was the uneasiness that crept in each time I visualised myself learning from the music teacher over a long period of time?

Why, instead of discussing music, as I wanted to, did I find myself sending messages to my teacher like 'Burnt rice again because I was practicing in the kitchen' or 'Very bad headache.  Cannot record anything.'  This did not feel like 'me' but I realised gradually that it was a phase of settling in.  Something new had suddenly entered my life and I had to come to terms with it.  Life was affecting my music, and music, in turn, was affecting my life.

My husband helped tremendously.  Each time I discussed these thoughts and wondered if I should give up, he said, "This is important for you.  It's something you like to do and it is good for you.  You must continue." 

Yes, my son could manage for a little while, finding ways to entertain himself.  Yes, we ate smoky rice for a few meals and I did waste precious water by putting plates under the tap but not washing them until I had finished singing an octave.  Yes, we had to order some food when I ran out of energy. But... I did find my 'sa' (sometimes).

And with it, I discovered many other things I had never experienced before.  I perceived strongly the sense of silence that encompasses everything, the source from where music arises.  I felt I was reaching out to each note, requesting it to make its presence felt.  And to enable me to express its presence in the best way I could - with my voice.

The notes did make their presence felt, most strongly at night just before I drifted off to sleep.  

Sometimes, I hear them in between dreams and many times just before I awake.  They are perfect then because they lie unsung in the stillness.  Singing makes them imperfect but also beautiful in some way.

There is another energy that is driving me on.  Partly within me and partly outside of me, saying, "Don't give up.  Continue.  Everything will be alright."

And so I carry on, as best as I can.  I know that I am fumbling and faltering as each new step comes in sight, but I believe I will find my way.  Until then, we will just have to make do with smoky rice and imperfect notes.  My family doesn't seem to mind.

Monday, June 28, 2021

Restarting Yoga

 It has been seven years since I left my yoga practice.  Life is busy with the lockdown and I would perhaps have delayed restarting if it were not for the frequent headaches which have been plaguing me in the last several months.  I find myself wide awake at four in the morning (the result of going to bed at eight at night with my son), lying in bed with a throbbing head and nothing to do.

So yesterday, when my husband suggested I get up and try some yoga, I staggered out of bed and said, "I don't know if I have the energy," but I did try.  And it felt like coming home all over again.  I knew immediately that it was the perfect thing for me in the mornings and I must continue.  I love waking up when it is still dark and perfectly still- to feel the stillness within and not worry about matters the world is concerned with.  It is a time when all the wisdom of ancient teachers seems to hover somewhere around you, waiting to disclose itself if you are ready.

The hardest aspect of the new schedule was convincing my little son that it is okay for me to wake up at four thirty in the morning, but not for him.  Having a sleepy and irritable seven year old wandering around, following me would be disaster.  So, for now, my husband has agreed to keep an eye on my son in case he awakes, until we all get used to the new routine.

There were other complications, as I realised this morning.  How do I know when to wake up without setting an alarm, without disturbing anyone, without endlessly getting up to check the time in the dark (as you may have guessed I am not a gadget oriented person).  I usually gauge the hour by the amount of light entering our bedroom window (we get to see clouds and trees, moonlight and fireflies outside at night, which is very exciting, so we usually have no use for curtains- waking up when the first ray of light enters our room).

Last night I was so happy that I did not dwell on the specifics of early morning awakening.  This morning I woke up, ready to step out of bed when my husband told me,"It's still three o'clock.  Go back to sleep."  Sleeping was out of the question but I did my best to relax and rest.  I got up around four thirty and began my practice soon after.

It has been so long!  I am so stiff!  I know I can barely move and sometimes my back goes into a spasm, sometimes my legs cramp up- nerves and muscles all over are protesting.  But it feels the same as it always did from inside- just perfect!  I think that I will not remember the movements, it has been much too long.  But my teacher's voice and my own years of practice take over and I am soon finding my way, one step at a time- evaluating what my body needs, what the next posture I need is, how much I can stretch and so on.  For my yoga training has been with a teacher who let me learn by myself, in my own way.  It was never a group class, I was never handed an easy solution, I had to find my way through by focussing internally, with just a little guidance from my teacher.  This helps me enormously now, as my teacher probably knew it would.

He always insisted that yoga is for everyone, no matter what their physical condition - it just has to be modified to suit each person's requirements.  And so he emphasised the principles, not achieving one particular specific goal.

By the time everyone was awake, I was done with my practice, feeling energised and ready for the day.  

I am grateful to my teacher and I know he is glad I have restarted my practice.  Being the remarkable teacher that he is, he had told me,"There is no hurry.  Enjoy the time with your son, young children need a lot of attention."  But he had also told me that if I did the complete practice, my headaches should go away.  So here I am, at the threshold of another new beginning, waiting to see how it unfolds.

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