“Who I am? What I am to do?” Our Philosophy teacher asks us in his heavy Indian accent. These are the most original and universal questions of mankind, and our teacher has taken on the duty of slowly showing us the light. He is the taller, more smiley version of Yoda: the keeper of life’s secrets, the bestower of knowledge, master of inner thriving. But he is less focused on Do or Do Not and more focused on Surrender to Your Guru — without question. Like preschoolers at story time, we sit half-moon circled around him on our cushions as he tells us tale after tale, each one intended to enlighten us in some magnificent way. Most of the time, I sit in puzzlement, trying to dicipher his accent and unable to see how a king’s son going to boarding school is related to myself or to yoga. Other times, there are vague almost-epiphanies (usually quite delayed). Often, these stories routinely assert the same theme: if you cannot surrender to your guru, it means you are not a ready disciple. You will learn nothing, and you are nothing but a ragamuffin. End of story.
One particular day, I was quite fed up: I was sick of being told what and when to eat, I was sick of chanting daily in someone else’s language to someone else’s gods (how did I know they weren’t brainwashing us to be their minions?) and I was frustrated that my life was not magically changing before my eyes; I wanted Yoga to change me. I wanted it to fix me, to patch me up, to return me to the world whole and new and flying; I wanted all the answers and secrets to human life and apparently had expected to attain them over the course of two weeks. Not having achieved this impossible feat left me particularly moody (possibly, the estrogen levels of our mosty-female class were soaring– if crying while licking a melted chocolate bar off your fingers isn’t an indication of womanly qualms, I’m not sure what is). So, after our last course of the day, in a fiery burst of spontaneous rebellion, I bolted from the ashram instead of heading to our usual dinner of rice, beans, and veggies. With a certain air of smugness and a ha-ha-suckers mindset toward my teachers and fellow students, I made my way to Little Buddha Cafe down the road where I proceeded to gorge myself on nachos, fries, pizza, chocolate beverages and fruit.
The next day, I was too busy pooping water and projectile vomiting to attend my classes. As I lay squirming and feverish in bed, trying to groan away the nausea and hallucinations, I found myself thinking, I surrender! Abide by the teachings of diarrhea, and you, too, could become a proper Yogi disciple.
Waterfall! After the motorbike ride and a steep hike.
One of our study hangouts (although there is definitely nothing quiet about the bustling surroundings.)
Sometimes, we like to think we are quite adventerous, and certain experiences humble us into believing this might not be the case. The universe, it seems, chooses certain things to show us our true selves, such as monkeys, squatty potties, and wet tighty-whities. No, monkey, you cannot have my mango so I will chase you with my pastic chair. Oh, sqautty potty, you are so low to the ground for my Western-toilet-spoiled legs, and I cannot figure out how to “clean” myself without getting drenched (come out of the bathroom all soaked?Awkwaaaaard.) And no, little Indian man, I do not find it attractive when you wade toward me during my peaceful dip in the Ganges in your little white underwear, staring at me with your hand down your pants. Not cool, man. Not cool.
But, the soft, happy voice of our philosphy teacher comes to mind as I remember the universal questions. The world will do its work on us in whatever way it pleases while we try to come up with our ever-changing answers, and the pieces come to us as we are ready to recieve them.
Thanks for reading, and for bearing with any mistakes/formatting issues– I’m trying to get used to typing on a Kindle!