Tuesday, May 19, 2009

"Not ending, only beginning..." 

Everything is feeling fragmented, as I try to piece together a mosaic of the bits and pieces of Guruji stories I've amassed since I first met him in 2001. There is no cohesion, only snapshots right now, and that smile, kind and mischievous and boundless, and those feet, strong and hard-worked and ever-present right when you needed most.

The first lesson I learned from him was that he knows better than I think I do what I am capable of. On and off the mat. And that kind of faith (shradha, also his great-granddaughter's name) gave me the wings to manifest the impossible, with perseverance and a smile.

2002: "what do you like most about New York? "The people... the people who study, very good people... they work very hard all the time, good people."

Mysore, 2004:
First impression of the main shala was that it was one big heart-cracking open factory. He was there for the backbending more than anything else, busting open hearts and receiving us on the other side as we emerged, often shaken, always grateful.

Caught up in one of my personal dramas, after class: Guruji, I feel sad today. "Why sad?!? You think only of god, then not sad."

On shavasana: "30 minutes! [is a good amount of time]"

Humbleasana: One week at conference (the weekly satsang wherein all the yoga students congregate in their Sunday finest to sit at his feet and hear him speak or respond to questions). I am in my usual front row and center.

Addressing one of his long-time students: "What are Primary Series asanas?". Kevin embarks on the postures that comprise the series in question, gets stuck towards the end. My brain and ego are screaming oooh, I know this one, how can he miss it, he ought to know better, I can easily- my thoughts are interrupted by a booming "YOU! What are Primary Series asanas?".

For some reason, the sixty or so students assembled (including a large handful of high profile longtime practitioners and teachers) are quiet. I glance around. They look at me, the newbie, expectantly. I look up to see him, blazing eyes on me. Unnnh, "Surya Namaskar A, Surya Namaskar B, ... ?" "...?" And I'll be damned if the very first asana evades me. I have done it a few thousand times. Where is it? His face is stern but his eyes are twinkling. "Paaaa...?." "...?!?". I try again. "Paaaa... daaaa...?" He is losing patience, I see him start to glance around the room, looking for his next victim. But wait! I am the yoga geek! I breathe the practice!! "Paaadaaaa aaangusht...?" I can see he's about to summon someone else, as he challenges me. I am mortified, but determined. "padangushtasanapadahastasanautthittatrikonasanaA,B,utthittaparshvakonasanaA,B, prasarita...." I'm off, and I don't pause to take a breath in until "Utth plutthi, take rest". He is smiling. I am absolved.

He demands Intermediate Series from a certified teacher, who stumbles just once, and so it went. That week, most afternoons, you'd catch the yoga students cramming, reciting the names of the poses we dance or wrestle with, every day like a mantra, in terror of being called on, next week's conference.

He didn't talk about asana, that next week. None of us will forget the names of the shapes, anytime soon.

NYC, 2005: Last night saw the climax of Guruji and family's visit to America. The workshop completely wrung me out and spat me out and fueled and frazzled and taught and touched in ways exquisite and unexpected. It was wonder-full, from the first pink-skyed morning to the last tear-dropped evening. Friends and familiars from the Americas and beyond came to our little town for the chance to practice under the guru's eagle eye and warm smile. Did what I could, when I could, to help make folks feel warm and welcome. So glad and grateful I got to see the man I've said goodbye to in my head every time, every year, for the last four years. And for the next several many.

NYC 2006: "Special" puja anounced at the school for a Monday evening. The usual few- plus a couple more. Guruji, with his daughter and grandson, surprise us with their presence. They pray with us, receive blessings with us, sit with us. Seated near him, I receive the verbal summons: "You! Permanent here?" I scurry over, request clarification, verify that indeed, family all there [Greece]. As I've been slowly, confirming I am here. "Permanent".

He was not perfect nor infallible, and his being human, sometimes cranky or cantankerous or tough or silly or forgetful somehow made it ok to not be this perfect being, more than ok- made it a good thing.

Another thing I am still learning from him:
April 2006:
Our Guruji was here last week, teaching with his daughter and grandson, at a new window-framed light- and love-filled space. What I am learning, cultivating, hoping for, is to posess the kind of love and generosity he has for all; from the first-time drop-in to the decades-long practitioner, he is just so there for you and present in that moment, his warmth and love exploding over cultural or language barriers until it's just pure light.

So good to see so many I cross paths with, over the last five years that I've been lucky enough to have this practice, these teachings, this community, in my life. So many from all over I will keep seeing and sharing that abundance of love and gratitude for this practice, this life.

We are so very blessed.

May 18, 2009:
From David Swenson: Guruji would want us to be laughing. After all, Jois is just one letter from Joys.

Beautiful memories, and I love the quote from David Swenson.

(I have been reading your blog for a long time, think I found you over on the EZBoard where I used to go by Yogamum -- also had a blog under that name but I've switched).
Wonderful, thank you for sharing this.
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