This post is divided into two parts: The nice part, and the not-so-nice part. If you want to just read the nice part, and ignore the not-so-nice part, I totally understand (The not-so-nice part consists of my own rather self-indulgent feelings about things, and may be a bit of a downer).
The Nice Part
Going to Mysore a.k.a. The World Capital of Ashtanga has emerged as a big topic in the blogosphere in the last few days. Quite a few people in the blogopshere are either in Mysore right now, or are going soon. As of right now, Skippetty and Inside Owl are in Mysore, and Claudia is going next week. The Mysore napper, who lives there, is also there. It's so wonderful that so many blogosphere inhabitants are going to be in Mysore at the same time! You all are my inspiration. Please continue to blog and share pictures and stories while you are there. Since I cannot be there physically, I will have to be there vicariously through your words and pictures :-)
The Not-so-Nice Part
A few months ago, Jason from Leaping Lanka wrote a blog post titled "Mysore Guilt", in which he reflects about his thoughts and feelings about not having gone back to Mysore for 5 years. Well, I don't suffer from Mysore Guilt, for the simple reason that I have never been to Mysore! But recently, I discovered that I suffer from Never-having-been-to-Mysore-even-though-I-have-been-practicing-Ashtanga-regularly-for-a-couple-of-years Guilt (damn! There must be a shorter way of saying this...).
Maybe "Guilt" isn't quite the right word here. "Guilt" suggests being guilty at having done something wrong or highly inappropriate, and I haven't done anything wrong or inappropriate as far as the practice is concerned (at least not that I know of). So maybe something like "Existential Angst" would be more appropriate. So, allow me to re-diagnose my condition: I suffer from Never-having-been-to-Mysore-even-though-I-have-been-practicing-Ashtanga-regularly-for-a-couple-of-years Existential Angst.
At this point, I can see the unsympathetic outsider (see my December 30th post for more details about this character) saying, "What are you Angst-ing about, you self-indulgent fool? Okay, so you haven't been to Mysore... but so haven't many other people who have a regular Ashtanga practice, and they aren't less complete people for not having done so. So what are you whining about?"
Indeed, perhaps some of you out there may be thinking the same thing, and I totally understand. But let me see if I can explain myself further. I have been entertaining the thought of going to Mysore since mid-2008, when I went to Tim Miller's workshop in Miami. At that time, I was in grad school in Florida, and even though the desire to go to Mysore was there, certain other factors were weighing against it: Can I afford to take so much time away from school when I was so close to finishing my PhD? How am I going to navigate the potential immigration hassle (I was on a student visa, and if I left the U.S., I would have to apply for a new visa back in my home country (Singapore), and then try to get myself to Mysore in time from there, and then try to get back to finish my PhD in a timely manner... arghh... my head spins just thinking about this. Sorry to bore you with these details. But I did warn you that this was going to be not-so-nice, didn't I?)
And then, in May 2009, I finally got my PhD. But then I had to find a faculty position, and leaving the country in that state of immigration limbo between student and worker would make re-entering the country very very difficult. So again, no going to Mysore. Finally, I found a one-year position in Milwaukee just weeks before the academic year started. I also had the good fortune of finding and practicing with my teacher in Milwaukee, who encouraged me further to go to Mysore. But since my position was only for one year, I had to find another (hopefully tenure-track) position before the year was out. Thankfully, I found another position (my present one in Minnesota). But my present position isn't tenure-track either. So I am on the job market again this year. Which means that going to Mysore this year will again be quite difficult to work out. I don't want to say it's impossible, because there's always a chance that I will get my job situation squared away in the next few weeks, and then I might have the summer free to go to Mysore (well, even then, there will still be issues: I'll still have to figure out a way to move to wherever my next job is going to be and take care of the assorted logistical details before I head out to India. And does Sharath even teach in the summer?)
Again, I apologize for boring you with the nitty-gritty details of my life. But I don't know of any other way to talk about the full gravity of what I'm facing. I suppose one might respond to all this by saying, "Look, Nobel, all these obstacles to Mysore that you perceive being in your life are just Maya, or illusion; they are there to test your faith. You must set a strong intention and take concrete action. And then the Maya will melt away like dew before the morning sun, and your road will be clear. So go register, and get a ticket to India right now!"
Well... I must not have the ability to see through this Maya, because as far as I'm concerned, what I'm facing and going through in my professional and daily lives right now is very very real, and as much as I try to tell myself that all this is just Maya, my brain just won't buy it!
Somebody else might also say, "What is so important about going to Mysore, anyway? So you have never been to a certain physical location in this world (Mysore, India) and practiced Ashtanga there? Big deal! And besides, it's not as if you will suddenly morph into some other-worldly being or receive some siddhi or other after you go to Mysore. So what's the deal? How do you know that your desire to go to Mysore is not just a manifestation of spiritual materialism? You know, it's like you have a "spiritual checklist": Doing Primary Series? Check. Binding in Marichyasana D on both sides? Check. Binding in Supta K? Check. Doing Kapotasana? Check. Gone to Mysore? Check. Being adjusted by Sharath? Check. And so and so forth. If having been to Mysore is just one of these many "Checks" on the list, what's the big deal?"
Well... I honestly don't know if I am a spiritual materialist. But there is something (call it a gut feeling) that tells me that my desire to go to Mysore is not mere spiritual materialism. To use a very cliched example, this is how I feel: If one wants to seriously study, say, fashion design, one would want to study with the top fashion designers and be immersed in the culture these designers live and breath. So one would want to study in Paris or Milan at some point in one's career (I really don't know if aspiring fashion designers today still want to study in Paris or Milan, or if they have found another new place to study in; I know nothing about fashion design. I told you this is a very cliched example.) So, by way of a very crude analogy, if one wants to seriously study Ashtanga Yoga, one would have to study with the "top" Ashtanga practitioner (Sharath) in the World Capital of Ashtanga Yoga at some point in one's career, right?
I can go on and on about this whole thing. But I shouldn't tax you any further with my self-indulgent rambling (thank you for reading so far). I guess I'll leave you with a few questions:
(1) Have you been to Mysore?
(2) If you have, how have your Mysore experiences shaped and informed your practice?
(3) If you haven't been to Mysore, do you feel it is important to go there some day? Why is it important (or not important) to go?
I look forward to hearing about your views on these three questions, or about anything else related to this whole issue.