Ahimsa and the Battle of Ego vs Intellect

It’s hard to believe we’ve been here 6 weeks already!  We still haven’t gone out much.  Other than our routine errands, there really isn’t any reason.  Our life exists in a six-block radius.  Our house, which we have decided to stay in for our full three months; the Shala; the coconut stand; the fruit vendor where we get papaya and over-ripe bananas, the supermarket that never has what we’re looking for (although I did a little party dance when they had broccoli this week); the general store for fresh milk; our egg man; and of course our neighborhood beauty parlor.   

construction in india photo

The workers making and pouring cement footings behind our house – it’s like an assembly line – all by hand

Doing laundry… yes, in the shower, where we also wash our dishes.

Vegetable market

An herb vendor

Banana stall at the fruit and vegetable market

Tikka powder mysore market image

Tikka powder at the market; used for Tilaka (Sanskrit: तिलक tilaka) a mark made on the forehead or other areas of the body. (Hindu)

Two on One

My recent full bikini and leg waxing was certainly an experience to tell you about.  Two women waited and watched as I stripped down and got up on the treatment table.  I tried to block out the questioning thought I had about how many other people had also been on the same sweaty table that day.  They both worked on me at the same time, one on my legs, the other around my tender parts.  I didn’t know which pain to focus on.  The girl doing my bikini area kept asking, “Pain?”, then she would smile and say “pretty” repeatedly… I’m not really sure what she was referring to, or if she was just trying to comfort me, but I took it as a compliment regardless.  And for $4, I couldn’t complain!  I’ve made my trips there a bi-weekly occurrence for whatever treatments I need.  Eyebrow threading is great, and the best part about it is that it’s like 50cents!

Puppy Love

If you’ve been to India, or any other developing nation, then you are aware that there are dogs everywhere. On our street alone, there are 8 that I count everyday, sleeping in the same spots.  A few weeks ago, that 8 became 14.  That’s right – puppies!  “Mama”, as I have nicknamed her, chose our front step as her nest.

My favorite pup

Mama feeding the pups

Four days ago, Mama let me pet her, just briefly on the nose.  That was a big step.  She usually runs away at any sign of human touch.  It must be the biscuits I’ve been feeding her.  That same day, she let me pick up two of her pups without a bark or growl.  She sits beside me as I watch them snuggle and rub their bellies on the ground as they walk.  Soon they will be ready for solid food and I may not be able to resist feeding them a little homemade puppy mush. The sad part is, most of them won’t survive their first year.  Competing for food, the high volume of cars that race by without a care and the not so friendly people who like to beat stray animals for fun, all unfortunately stack the odds against them.  But I will do my part.  After all, they have just as much right as we do to a good life.

We are so getting a puppy when we get home!

Mama and her best friend, another female dog

The hip bone’s connected to the knee bone…

Besides my daily visits with our new friends, my focus is on practice.  And I don’t just mean jumping around on my yoga mat every morning.

The physio I was seeing for my torn adductor didn’t turn out to be the wizard he claimed.  I fired him.  It had to be done.  Not because he wasn’t a wizard, but because when I told him that I had been icing after practice to keep the swelling down and to assist healing, he looked at me like I was a nut-ball. That day was the end of him; I have taken my recovery into my own hands.  I have very small signs of improvement and two weeks ago I picked up a good dose of tendonitis in my opposite shoulder.  Damn luck.

At first, I thought, “Just practice, they’ll go away.”  But there is a caveat.  Practice, yes,  but not the way I’m used to.  After about a week of beating myself up, which ended in periodic teary episodes, I took some time to reflect.  I know better.  My intellect and ego are in a pretty major battle.  Intellect keeps telling me to ease off and be nice to myself.  It reminds me that the most important ahimsa practice (non-violence, the first yama) is the one we direct towards ourselves.  Ego, however drives a hard bargain.  I mean, “I’m in India!  This is not the time to take it easy.  I must push harder.”  And of course, my mind jumps in every once in a while trying to mediate the two, just doing what it does best – distracting me from paying attention to the argument!

I don’t know if it was the tears, or the pain, but last week, I just decided to let it go.  I let go of going deeper, of advancing at all; in asana.  Or, shall I say, the physical execution of asana.  Anyone can look good in a posture, but the real yoga is what is going on despite the posture.  It’s not about forcing ourselves into positions just so we can look good naked.  Although, the ego is pretty good at convincing us it is.  It IS about the process; the inner development.  No one said it was going to be easy.  Anything that challenges us to give ourselves a good look in the mirror will be met with a bit of resistance.

In the words of Tiwarji:  

“The purpose is not to destroy the ego BUT the ego and the mind must become tools of consciousness, NOT the ultimate of our being. The mind can justify anything , it is fickle and unreliable.  Mind never becomes quiet.  We use the practices to help us hear buddhi (the intellect) so we become strong and move beyond it [the mind].”

And so, I practice with awareness and ahimsa, no jumping, no arm balances, no deep anything, but a lot of breath.  And I follow it with a cup of coffee while a bag of frozen corn cuts down my swelling.   Then, I go play with the puppies.

stray puppies photo

The pups at play in the “den”


3 thoughts on “Ahimsa and the Battle of Ego vs Intellect

  1. Is the tikka powder available even not around the holi festival time? (which is about March) I’m heading to India around the December-January period and would love to bring some holi powder back so my friends and I can have a colour fight, but it’s near impossible to find any info about it! What month were you travelling in? Looks like quite a fun time! 🙂

  2. Pingback: Where do slums come from, ma? | Finding Bangalore

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