Minding the Mind

Day Eight: Travel day. Today we will take a bus to the airport, board a plane and end up in Coimbatore.

Before the travel we must first meditate and do our asana practice. I suck at meditating. There, I said it. I cannot use my mind to quiet my mind. That’s like asking a five year old to discipline themselves. Just as a toddler may punish themselves by going to their room where their TV, iPad and toys are, my mind makes up stuff to think about if gets too quiet. We have a grand old time. In addition to that I somehow torqued my knee in London, so my body’s getting into the action as well. My knee says, “Hey, you should probably change position a lot cause I’m kinda tender. Oh, you know what you should do, you should make up stories about me, then tell them to me, yeah, that’d be fun, right?” And so it goes. This is why I took to yoga nidra like a fish to water. Or a sloth to wherever sloths go to move even less. Lie there, listen, don’t move, feel great. What’s not to love?

That struggle over, we head to the rooftop for yoga. This I can do, a little modified for my talkative knee but otherwise good and strong. There is a stranger meditating in “our” place. He doesn’t flinch as we all begin to gather around him. Show off. What to do? Big rooftop, flexible people, we move. Later he joins us.

Our new positioning allows us to see the sunrise over the Bay of Bengal. When someone points out the rising sun behind Swamiji, she suggests we all turn to face it for sun salutations. Our whole practice now is devoted to saluting and honoring the sun. It was beautiful.

We have breakfast, pack our things, take a photo or two and we are back in the party bus for the last time. THIS party bus. We arrive to the airport 3 1/2 hours later, right on time, and say a fond, slightly teary farewell to the two drivers who have safely maneuvered us around this part of their fair country.

Once inside the airport we encounter the usual chaos that accompanies a group is Americans in an Indian airport. There is just enough familiar to lull us into believing we know how they do things. Many of us find our edges. If India teaches anything it is that you do not have control. Of anything. Except your reaction.

We get through security with a few bags searched. A tiny Swiss Army knife is seized and electronics are inspected at length, but all is well. We pass through several other check points – at least three – to show our passports and boarding passes, board a bus and climb the five steps up into the plane. There are two seats on either side, maybe 50 rows. Jazz music plays softly from the sound system. For a moment I am taken out of the experience of India and transported back home. This is my music. Shoulders I did not know were being held aloft, relax, I think I sighed. It was the subtlest of gifts, and it may have been just for me. I accepted it with tremendous gratitude.

After a flawless one hour flight we retrieve our bags. We are on the ground in Coimbatore. It is here that Swami Divyananda spent 11 years. It is this place Sethu calls home. There is already an air of comfort about them both. We are here for four days and four nights. Much of Satchidananda’s life and work are here, I suspect we’ll learn about a lot of it. But for now, getting to our hotel is priority.

Our new bus arrives. We are told the A/C is temporarily not working. It will be fixed tomorrow. Already we are nostalgic for our last bus and drivers. However, we accept our circumstances, grateful for the ride into town.

Far now from the beach resort, we are in a very old hotel, possibly once a dormitory or hostel. Our room is big and comfortable. We have twin beds and they are made up separately but are no more than a credit card width apart. We’re on the fifth floor and our balcony overlooks what may be a courtyard, it’s unclear in the evening light, although we know we are looking down on trees. There is a patch or two of the most vibrant green fuzzy mold growing in the corners of our shower and plaster floats down from above the window to the sill beneath it.

We head to one of two restaurants here in the hotel. The differentiating factor being air conditioning. We opt for A/C. Only fluorescent lights are used throughout India so this place feels oddly lit. The center seems to have the most ceiling lights with the tables around the periphery shadowed. We choose a big table in the middle. We all order and wait. There are 10 of us at this table. One by one our meals come out. Everyone’s but mine. Deja vu. This exact thing happened at The Dreaming Tree in Thiruvannamalai. I receive my food once everyone else is done. I order off the menu, there are no special requests. I don’t get it. I want to be angry with the restaurant but it has nothing to do with them. This lesson is for me. Perhaps I am not meant to eat dinner on this trip. I can live with that.

Everyone’s experience of India teaches then something about themselves. This trip has been a little about humility for me. With my knee slightly compromised I’ve had to modify my practice, walk less and generally go slower. No one but me really knows the difference. But I feel this is the lesson. Slow down, take care. And so I have. Not receiving my meals when ordered has also been a lesson in receiving. Each time this has happened food comes to me from around the table. This group takes care of each other. No one is going hungry. No one is suffering.

As with all trips to countries so disparate from your own there are major adjustments. Some adjust better and quicker than others. A few have had minor bouts with Delhi belly (I’ll let you figure that out), others have come down with colds or an inordinate number of mosquito bites. And others are simply tired, slow to acclimate to the time change and different beds. For each issue a stranger before this trip has offered help. Imodium, prunes, cold medicine, mosquito spray, company, companionship and compassion. I think we may have all fallen in love with each other.

Finally fed, I head up to our room to prepare for bed and our first full day in Coimbatore tomorrow.

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