I could be nice…

By on Apr 8, 2015 in The Unruly Ascetic

Share On GoogleShare On FacebookShare On Twitter

and the nameless “you” of the internet might not ever know.



I haven’t written this sort of post in a while.  The sort of here’s-my-life-and-how-it’s-going type of writing.  I have been vaguely opposed to it, for myself at least.  I am aware of my tendency to over share IRL, so I suppose I deny myself this outlet because of the disaster potential. but I’ve had a number of requests for (or questions concerning) a new blog post and all I have is real world personal stuff to talk about.  No big debates of internet or real world policies for polite behavior need my input.  at the mo.

What then to talk about?

How about assisting Sharath for the last month?  Don’t get excited. There are a lot of things I could share about what he told me (with his big eyes rolling over the fact that I never just shut up and did my job, always ‘asking asking’) but to be honest, I don’t think I can.  I’ve already sounded off on the whole ‘you had to be there’ aspect to Sharath’s teaching and I think what I learned is best saved for my own students. That, and I probably don’t understand it and likely need some students to really see what he means.  (aside: if you want to be my student, totes let me know. I don’t really have any right now and it’s making me feel a bit pointless, you know?) Maybe once I’ve implemented his advice for a few years I’ll start a raging internet debate on “correct” ashtanga policies for how much to help students, verbally and physically. Won’t that be fun.

Truth be told though, Sharath’s eye opening nuggets of teaching policy were not the most impactful thing about getting to assist him with the first batch of Ashtanga No Limit Soldiers, the Lions of our Shala. The people who really taught and amazed me (hint: I just called them majestic cats) were the students. Watching some of these people practice, get on their mat and do their work, was inspiring. This needs to be acknowledged. The variation of attitude and expression was really awesome to see when Youtube and Instagram are so full of perfectly curated and filtered shots.

After the first week or so I got over the slack jawed ogling (because I’m pretty much a bad student and will stop what I’m doing and watch the people around me until I get yelled at, so I kind of already knew that first bit) and after a few days of “assisting” Sharath I remember that there isn’t a lot of time for watching anyway. What really struck me was that for every perfect, comfortable adjustment I offered, I also gave the world’s most SHIT help. I made it worse. I made it harder… and you know what?

Those gracious, inspiring saints did not (for the most part) swipe at me with their claws. Instead they gave me feedback, told me what I’d done wrong and admitted their own mistakes… and then, usually on another day, let me try again (gasp! can you imagine!? letting someone who fuvked it up have another go!? I barely could). I can’t begin to tell the world about how much this taught me about being a student, especially in a room with an assistant.  I have played the assistant for a few years now, with some pretty righteous teachers, and I didn’t see this generosity of spirit until I was the assistant to the teacher-of-teachers and the students are better teachers than me.  So gracious, so kind, so honest and real.

I have left Mysore feeling more inspired than ever to be a student.  To be gracious and compassionate of the lovely people who have offered to help me in my practice. To show up on my mat (and in my life) and think of those awesome examples of steadiness and realness.  I got to know a few of the seriously bad ass practitioners a little bit off the mat and they are real, whole people.  They eat pizza (and dessert!), they have kids, they watch movies and complain about being up at 3:00 am. They are not just these famous names and practices, they are not just notorious stories or slippery backbends.

IMG_5929_Small©ChristineHewittand through introductions and impressions told after the fact, I apparently have my own notoriety. I should have seen it coming, small fry with a loud mouth. Internet bossiness, combined with my brutal RBF (seriously, I thought I was smiling slightly in that picture. and this has nothing on my “serious” shala face) , means it’s even more amazing that these people let me assist them because many did not think I was going to be agreeable about it. Well, who knows what anyone thought but if I had a rupee for every time someone said “you’re nice!” like it was some kind of shock to them, well, I could have bought a couple of cookies. Maybe I don’t come across as the most approachable or compassionate of personalities (that’s my bad). I don’t like to write about vulnerable personal experiences or expound too much online about my own emotional relationship with the practice. I’m quite happy to have someone shout me down in a debate of policy or politeness, but I don’t think my heart can handle the anonymous internet devaluing my experience.

I am beginning to realize how much the internet can allow someone to become a lifeless voice, losing the dynamic personality that drives published opinions. I see from observation of other students and teachers, whom I personally know, how a deliberately cultivated internet persona can misrepresent the complex, rough edged, or oftentimes darkly beautiful parts of who we are.

Whatever the reason or the result, this season was one of eye opening realness.  It was about seeing and relishing the dynamic personalities that are drawn to this work and endless support and kindness that can come from exceptionally gifted bodies and minds. Real life people with real life struggles and successes. As a result, these few months have been defined by an acceptance of the inevitability of losing something in translation when we try to communicate in the distant way offered online.

So (since it’s the best general venue I have, regardless of how ironic) I’d like to say thanks to everyone who let me move them in Mysore, whether I helped or hindered.  and also a thanks to everyone who took the time to talk to me or work with me and see me as a real person, with all the good and bad that gets lost through the personality sieve of writing online.

I know I can be a brat, but hopefully that description is followed by “but she means well.”