A lot of chitchat recently out there about Mysore and the West. I haven't been to Mysore, so I'm not going to write any overt comparisons, because I can't. That ought to chill out the fanatics both pro- and con-, whom I visualize as a sort of knife-wielding gang, ready to pounce, like banditos in a Sergio Leone film.
So get lost.
Seventh series. None of the parents in my yoga room have bare, craven striving. They have sort of a curiosity, a wishfulness to get a posture or finish a series or to pledge themselves to some imaginary "good enough," but they lack a real craven egoism that says "I AM WORTHY."
Put differently, they don't imagine themselves to be more than they are; they wonder, they can walk into the impossible, but that is not the ego that does that.
I think that this is largely (and I'm sure you know exceptions, I can think of a couple) an effect of seventh series: it opens your heart NOT in the sense of making you a sappy star-gazer (although that also happens), but in the sense of opening what I would call your Ego-Heart (you might say those two are opposites, but I've seen heartedness serving ego in my own life, so I combine the two here in a duality of EgoHeart/NonEgoHeart specifically so I can then alchemize the binary--you'll say, why do the runaround? I'd answer, because I'm writing, not acting, and the language of the "truth" of "open your heart" is not a language, and thus, the very medium of writing requires me to alchemize the illusions on which writing depends, in order to get to that "truth" which never was linguistic in the first place: can you dig it?).
I'll give you a minute to get through the meta- there.
The EgoHeart opens, and it separates Heart from Ego, and this is what I actually believe that "open your heart" means. In fact, I didn't experience this as a "heart" thing at all, but simply a sort of loss of the ego's body-identity. So "open your heart" for me, means more like "clear the ego out of the heart chakra." The nature of the heart never changed in this, it was very much that "polish your mirror" metaphor from the Sutras.
And it was in this respect that parenting was the great death of "I," but only an egoic I, and even though I knew that, perhaps, intellectually, the felt experience of it was real death. This is why I would urge people to be careful with their well-intentioned manifestoes about "burning the ego" or "beating the ego." You can't do that if your ego is still "you," because it'll hurt and you won't like it. But if you are NOT your ego, I don't see why you want to beat or burn it in the first place.
The first person you learn to be compassionate for (again, in my experience) is that ego, that "I." As your heart opens, gets clear of the ego, the first thing you feel is the tremendous pain, fear and tears of that ego, as it loses itself. And my ego fought me like a very small child, with pushing, anger, gestures of "go away!"
This is the similarity between a person undergoing this "heart opening," and a two year old: largely I was NOT the person pushed, but the person pushing. Ego disintegration caused retraction, through decades of intellectual aging, but through hardly any "emotional time." I didn't re-become an emotional child but realized that I've hardly evolved from being one in the first place.
Nothing in the West forces you to grow up, in emotional terms: I know that most of what I got as emotional "advice" (to the degree that there was any) was "get over it" and "deal with it." Even now, my emotional practice, by which I mean those tearful and cathartic and painful asana practices which come and go, is all about feeling. Feel what's true. Let it be expressed as quietly or loudly as it wants, feel it, and then it all gets better.
"But how do I USE it, how do I LEARN from it" is such an ugly self-help question.
Why can't it just be there and have that be cool?
Resist the urge to hit someone, even if that someone is Western culture's body hatred or something else like that, some systemic idiocy. Idiocy is something you shine a light on, said BKS Iyengar and probably a whole stack of other peace-minded people. This is EXACTLY the same advice I give my kid.
So what does seventh series have, maybe, in common with extended Mysore practice (and I mean, in India)?
Somewhere not long ago someone said, "Keeping a strong and sexy marriage is teaching me everything I could learn in Mysore," or words very closely to that effect. If you're my regular readership and you read in the regular places, you've seen that conversation (a couple of you were part of it).
That sentence is prompting my question, so again, you "pro and con fanatics," this IS NOT ABOUT INDIA, so FUCK OFF PLEASE. Thank you.
The rambling opening section of this post is talking about heart-opening, softening and humanizing the edges, which seems to be something that Mysore experiences also bring, particularly to authorization-craving.
I don't really care about asana achievements, and that's in large part really solidified by all the pain. I try to "keep" the yoga as a part of "old me," so that I don't have to "lose" everything, and then the yoga itself becomes the clearest, purest tunnel down to absolute pain, emotional truth, nowhere to hide. And then it wasn't about keep it/lose it, but feel it, the pain of the FEAR of the loss, the ego shrinking, pulling away, growing ever smaller, ye gods the PAIN of being that ego. But the yoga wasn't about being the ego, it was about feeling the pain all the way. This wasn't loss, it was the pain of a felt loss, and eventually, it was the pain of someone else's felt loss, that I felt nonetheless. And then it had to be about multiple bodies or else insanity.
So the yoga was never about the ego, not about losing it, not about gaining it. People mistake this, I think: for example, being stopped at a posture certainly whittles the ego, and people will say, the yoga is working on my ego, but really what's happening (if you ask me) is that the yoga has stopped being readily available for the ego's grip. A wisdom one could hope for, is the idea that it's the ego's grip that is painful, not the stoppage of posture-gaining. And then a second but not secondary wisdom would be that the ego's grip is STILL painful even in getting a posture or another series, the ego's grip is ALWAYS painful. And that's when you learn that the yoga isn't about the ego.
A tertiary wisdom to be gained there is that, eventually, nothing is about the ego. This is what I think "everything becomes guru" means.
Of course, the ego can adorn itself with anything, hold onto anything. This is why Trungpa's ...Spiritual Materialism is such a key book.
But to return to our question, is THAT what a Mysore practitioner learns, can learn? Is that how a Mysore trip and a seventh series practice can teach the same wisdom? Note that no substitution is implied here, I'm using what might well be a problematic sentence ("strong and sexy marriage teaches the same...") to work a comparison I can't say I'm qualified to make.
Speaking of said sentence: I'm failing to keep a "strong and sexy marriage," no? It's complicated: I maybe think I'm failing, but she does not. At one point she said that raising a child together is intimate, which I took to mean that this is our sum total intimacy, as engaged and as fulfilling. If that were true for her, that'd be awesome. We already know it's not true for me by a stack of miles, but that's fine, we also know I have samskaric business in that corner of the world and so nothing will be crystal clear or easy.
One could think of sexual activity as ego-indifferent, the way that yoga asana practice is ego indifferent. Pauses here, certainly work over the ego the way that stoppage at posture gaining does (or at least I think it's similar).
What if, since my asana wisdom came from pain in the asana practice (emotional pain, release, confrontation), I were to think of sexual experience as PAINFUL? Not in a kinky sense or a Surrealist sense, but in the sense in which the Sutras say, "to one of discrimination, all pleasure is an experience of pain," or more personally, in exactly the way that the asana practice is sometimes emotionally painful.
Do I not WANT those days, did I not learn to sort of crave them even if to have them over with, to welcome them when they showed, for resistance creates more pain, not less?
So not pain as a type of punishment or disincentive, but pain as a LEARNING PROCESS in which I learned to feel more clearly and molecularly, what is actually happening. And thus, not pain at all, but close attention AS TAUGHT BY PAIN. The wisdom of pain, if you will.
This is what I think that a proper (by which I mean, "not a stupid") practice of the Kama Sutra offerings would create: too often we throw our minds out the window when pleasure is involved. A wise foodie can walk the line between relish and gluttony, but risks fetishizing experience, certain combinations. A sexual "foodie" risks all the same things. But a practice of the Kama Sutra based on deferral and duration: this seems to me able to create presence and molecular awareness. Not a quick "intoxicatory shot" of pleasure or one brief meal of delight or eight minutes of joy, but hours of close connection. A general and very much CONTROLLED ride. A typical Western "Cosmo" panic about spontaneity and joy is totally misplaced here.
So not pain, but the wisdom that pain teaches: "This isn't pain, this is reality. Stop white-knuckling your identity and you can feel the real."
Can PLEASURE be treated that way? I see no reason why it cannot.