and now for some unsolicited advice…

By on Feb 23, 2015 in The Unruly Ascetic

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Oh Mysore.  This place is tough.  We have isolated ourselves, deliberately, for the purpose of pursuing an incredibly arduous practice while closely confined with a few hundred other people going through a parallel, though totally different struggle. Is it any surprise we have the tendency to go a little mad?  In an effort to help the masses with the madness (and interject my own bossy opinions), I have compiled a list of behavioral choices that tend to be, shall we say, off putting.


Don’t be that guy.

7 things to avoid:

  1. Being self righteous: This is not your culture.  Most of the people you meet will not come from your culture. We can not take anything for granted in terms of a collective social contract.  Something that seems like unreasonable behavior is perfectly reasonable half way across the world.  Square yourself with your own choices and leave the rest to Karma. *disclaimer: I am aware that I am completely ignoring my own advice with this post*
  2. Disregarding social cues: Being far from home (and outside our culture) doesn’t mean we get a pass for being inconsiderate. We tend to allow behavior here that we would not tolerate at home. Mistakes happen, but general politeness and an awareness of other’s need for privacy will make everyone more comfortable around you. I could go into depth here, but some basic example will suffice:  don’t be on “india time” (or shala time, for that matter). wait for an invitation. find your own transportation. consider everyone when deciding how to settle a bill. don’t hit on a married guy. you know, normal stuff.
  3. Being ostentatious: Maybe your pronunciation of the opening and closing mantras are on point and will benefit others in the Mysore room to hear it.  Maybe you really value opening the chest via a wide sweep of the arms in Surya Namaskar. Maybe you need to lift into a handstand in Navasana to really challenge yourself in primary.  Maybe, but don’t. Please, just don’t.
  4. Offering asana advice: Unless the person you are advising is an actual friend who asked you, personally and specifically, for your advice on how to perform an asana, keep your mula bandha comments to yourself. Most people here are teachers in some fashion or another and chances are good that no one came here to learn from you, no matter how good or well intentioned your advice.
  5. Humblebragging: Just got a new pose? Awesome! We are (seriously no sarcasm) psyched for you, collectively.  We all love that feeling of accomplishment or acknowledgement.  We will all be genuinely happy for you if you tell us. On the other hand, slipping in a casual statement about how easy it is, whatever, you’ve been doing that pose for years… makes me want to hit you (especially because someone has been stopped there for years and doesn’t need their struggle devalued).
  6. Talking about your home practice:  No one cares what your practice is at home (read: no one is impressed by your home practice).  I get that you are feeling insecure about the fact that Sharath has not been so amazed my your perfect asana that he asked you what series you’d prefer to be working on. He hasn’t forgotten you or failed to notice you, just be patient (and see #7). No one thinks any less of you for doing primary, I promise.
  7. Expecting to be an exception:  There are exceptions to every rule, for sure.  If you show up here hoping to be one of them, you will be annoying.  You will probably get bent out of shape that no one (not me, not Sharath) is acknowledging that you’re kind of a big deal. Start at the beginning and see what happens.  Asking for exceptions could actually work, but you’ll get a reputation you might not want.

All that being said… none of it is that big of a deal.   We ALL do these things, sometimes on purpose and sometimes by accident!  It doesn’t make anyone a jerk or an arrogant prat, even if they happen to look like one from across the table at breakfast.  I know I could work a little harder to give the guy with the Om tattoos and one too many malas a break. We’re all trying to figure out how we fit in this scene where we are small fish in a big pond. Being friendly will help us all feel more secure and a little less desperate to prove ourselves.

on that note, a few bonus things that are actually okay:

No one minds if you:

  1. are genuinely excited about getting a new pose or getting split. As long as you aren’t arrogant (or faux blasé) about it, friends and strangers alike will be happy for you.
  2. cry. or struggle. or fail.  You don’t have to be good at this, physically or emotionally.  Honest surrender is beautiful and we all value it, the highs AND the lows.
  3. are totally yourself. all the quirky bits. Not everyone is going to like you and Mysore happens to be a place where people are not afraid to let you know how they feel about you.  Be real and let go of any pressure you put on yourself to be some one or some where that you’re not.