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  • Writer's pictureMadison Kolla

Start Again

Sometimes all you can do is sigh and start again.

I did a Vipassana meditation retreat - it was over a year and a half ago now- and this is the one thing that comes back to me over and over and over again... Goenka's groaning voice at the beginning of each and every excruciatingly long sit, imploring us to: "Starrrrt Againnnn. Starrrrt Againnnn. With a calm and quiet mind..."

And so now, after my sketchy Indian internet access has just caused an hour's worth of blogging to disappear into a mysterious internet black hole, never to be seen again - I am sighing. And starting again. This may or may not have been preceeded by a child-like tantrum, complete with huffs of frustration and dramatically flinging my body down onto my bed, as I decided that I had completely lost any and all will to live due to the immensity of this catastrophic disaster.

Just so you know, that lost blog draft was probably the best thing I've ever written and nothing will ever compare to it, so you may as well stop reading this now, as you'll likely be so disappointed, that you will also lose the will to live.

I am learning that everything that happens here in India is feeling a bit more intense - and significantly more dramatic - than in real life.

Maybe it's the energy/power/vibe of India itself, or the strangeness of being away from home and living within a foreign culture, but I rather suspect that it actually has something to do with the full-on intensity with which I'm doing my yoga practice. And the fact that, after having spent an hour or two every day sweating and contorting and pushing my body to its very limit - dredging up all sorts of stored feelings and emotions, crossing over every boundary of what feels safe and secure and even physically possible - you still are left with far too many hours in a day, and nothing to do but hang out with yourself.

And anyone who's ever gone on retreat - taken time away from work and family and friends and the real world - to practice meditation or yoga or prayer or whatever, can tell you that spending time with yourself, without distractions, inside your crazy mind, for any extended period of time, tends to create some drama.

Yoga is "citta vrtti nirodhah" says Patanjali.

[Note for non-yoga-philosophy-geeks: Patanjali is kind of a big deal. Part historical and part mythological figure, he took both human and SERPENT form (so cool, right?). He kinda wrote (or compiled - it's open to debate) the book that all Yoga lineages sprung up from. This is aptly named the "The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali". There are many people far far far more qualified than I am to explain them, so I will only summarize that Patanjali's contributions to humanity include: Yoga (to give people mental stability), Ayurveda (to give people physical health and healing) and Grammar (Fuck yea! Heal the people, then go all Grammar-Nerd on them! This is clearly my kind of of Adisesha). ... In conclusion, we're looking at a very well-rounded and reputable snake-deity-dude.]

So if Patanjali says: "The restraint of the modifications of the mind-stuff is Yoga." or "Shutting up your insane, problem-manufacturing brain is the whole point of Yoga.", then we can trust that he might have had an idea of what he was talking about.

I try to remember this often, throughout my day, and while I'm yoga-ing. But it's really, really hard to shut up my brain. It's hard enough to do when you're lying there, getting an acupuncture treatment, or sitting quietly with eyes closed, in a room full of people meditating. Unfortunately, neither of these are scenarios I find myself in here.

In Mysore, practicing at the KPJAYI, I am jammed into a room crowded with some of the most amazing, strong, and flexible humans in the world. And a fair number of really beautiful ones, too. Not only is this very distracting indeed, it's an outright massacre on my ego, six days a week, all before 6 am.

The first month went pretty well, despite all of this. Unlike 90% of the population here, I am not a yoga teacher. I have been practicing Ashtanga Yoga for 4 years, not the 10 or 15 that some of these practitioners have on me. I have absolutely nothing to prove. I was feeling pretty fucking lucky just to be here, to be studying under one of the best and most experienced teachers in the world. To be surrounded by the mad skills of the other practitioners here, and an environment so powerful, you have to feel it to believe it. My body was feeling good and strong and flexible.

And now... not so much. A pulled hamstring here, a dislocated clavicle there, a spine that has finally decided that folding in half backwards is not, actually, within its range of motion. Things have gotten a little more challenging. My mind has become a lot more resisting. And complaining. And whining.

But challenge is what keeps life interesting, isn't it?

And so, each morning, I drag my stiff and resisting body out of bed at 3 or 4 am.

I slam back a cup of coffee (for this is the secret elixer of the early-morning yogi).

I walk down to the Shala, and proceed with my vain attempts to touch my toes without bending my knees. If you have any idea of how bendy I usually am, you will have some notion of how humbling it is to find myself in this predicament. While people are watching. And my body is hurting. And my brain is rebelling.

And despite the mental dialogue informing me that I'm a useless poser who has no business being here... And despite my absolute certainty that THIS backbend will be the one that snaps my spine in half; that THIS forward fold will be the one to tear my hamstring completely off its attachment... It never actually is.

It's just those vritti-ing cittas creating epic, dramatic, and completely imaginary problems to distract me.

Stupid brain.


And so I breathe. And I move my body in the most imperfect of ways. And I slowly quiet my mind.

And I remember, in every moment - to Start Again. Start Again.

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