It's been a few days since I've written down my thoughts, and it's really too long. I find that so much happens, at least in my head and my thoughts, that the thoughts from just a few days ago, thoughts I'd like to remember and have a record of as part of this experience, start to get pushed out of my memory. I'll do my best remember everything.
Bikram's last lecture, on thursday, contained an interesting tirade/dissertation on love. He was discussing the body and reached a natural stopping point, at which point he asked if anyone had any questions. A few simple questions were asked that he dispatched quickly, and then a very brave girl from Amsterdam stood up and asked, "You have told us that, as westerners, we fall in love and get into relationships too quickly, and thus we fall out of love and get divorced. How did you fall in love with your beautiful wife, and how did you know it was love?". I thought this was a very brave question to ask, especially considering Bikram's reaction. He practically exploded with the words, "WHO THE HELL EVER TOLD YOU I LOVE MY WIFE?". Gasps around the room of dismay. Bikram loves getting a reaction, and did not miss this opportunity. But people were feeling bold, I guess, and challenges started erupting from around the room, and even from the brave girl who remained standing. You don't love your wife? "We have nothing in common! Nothing to talk about! My parents and my guru said, you should marry this girl, so I did! Obligation! Duty! Love doesn't exist!!!" What about your children? "Obligation! Duty!" More gasps. What about Shirley Maclaine? "She and I are friends! We have more in common than uncommon. We talk about yoga, and making movies, and other things. But that's friends. There is no such thing as love!". Bikram getting louder and louder with each retort, gasps and challenges more and more audible. The room, in general, becoming charged. Nobody sleeping secretly in the back anymore.
Bikram paused for a moment, and the room did too. He took a breath, relaxed his posture slightly, and exhaled. He then described love in such a beautiful and succinct way - I will try to do it justice, but I fear that I will not be able to be as succinct. He first of all said that he would give his life in a moment if it would bring Rajashree happiness. This seemed contrary to his earlier statements. He then said that he would give his life in a moment if it would bring his children happiness. When a person has achieved self realization, and has gotten to know and understand his spirit, then that person can learn to love himself and honor himself completely. When a person who has learned to know and love themselves beyond their illusions, and they meet another person who has accomplished the same, and their spirits have their joys in common, those spirits can join to become something greater. (I wish I could remember the sanskrit words. I want to say that Atma is the spirit and Mahatma is the greater spirit formed by the union of Atmas, but I just don't know for certain). That greater spirit in turn can join with the greater cosmic spirit that ties us all together, and become yet again something bigger.
We are all children of the first spirit, and as the "family tree" of our spirits has branched and branched and branched throughout the ages, our individual spirits have grown apart, but they still all share that common root - and "spiritual love" is when those spirits rediscover their sameness in each other, remembering the single root from which they came and feeling that truly, they are one together. I was very moved by this - I don't feel like I've done it justice, and my understanding and resonation is incomplete, but still, I was very struck by this. It makes sense. It explains, or incorporates, the experience that so many of us have had wherein we feel instantly connected to someone at a glance. It explains how, as you discover and grow closer to someone else over time, you know what they're going to say before they say it, think of the same songs you haven't sung in ten years at exactly the same time. If anyone who heard this lecture remembers it differently, or had a different impression, please leave me a comment - I'd love to get a different perspective on what he said or we heard. It was such a strange and jarring experience - "LOVE DOESN'T EXIST! Here is a beautiful and succinct and limitless description of spiritual love that we all share.".
I think part of Bikram's tirade against love has to do with they syntactical imprecision of how we use the word "love" in the english language. He said, "You say you love ice cream, you love a song, you love this wallpaper, you love your children, you love your wife! What is that? It doesn't exist!". I understand what he means... you can't really define love in a specific way if you use the word love in so many different ways, and so I think Bikram's annoyance at the word has a lot to do with the fact that it doesn't translate to a specific thing, but is instead entirely contextual. So what is love? Which love? The love you have for chocolate? The love you have for your grandmother? The butterflies in your stomach when you talk to your sweetheart? The devotion you feel to your spouse?. So yeah, if we use that word "love" for everything, we steal the power of the word to mean anything specific our profound. But I like Bikram's elaboration on "spiritual love", and will think of it the next time I look into someone's eyes and tell them I love them. I wonder how Bikram feels about the word "dude".
I spoke to my mother today to wish her a happy mother's day, and it was the best conversation I've ever had with my mom. First of all, she did most of the talking, instead of me, which was really great. I don't feel like I've had a lot of opportunity to see what my mom is like as a person, independently of her role as my authority figure and my elder. She's younger than many of the people I work with and many of the people I regard as peers. She was telling me about the last few days and hours of my grandfather's life - her father. He died very recently, and she stayed by his side in Florida through much of the very end. She was telling me about how my grandfather regained his lucidity and personality, lost some of his dementia, towards the end - how he seemed to recognize her again. My grandfather was a B-17 pilot in WWII who flew 17 missions as a captain before being shot down over Germany and spending almost a year in a German POW camp. He was not badly abused, but was severely underfed. Fortunately the war ended shortly after he was imprisioned and he was liberated by Russian soldiers. He was a very deep seeming man - definitely crazy at times. Interestingly, my mom said that he used to do something that was like Yoga that he learned, and told my mother that he had learned to breathe through his feet. The more I learn about breathing, the less crazy this sounds. More than a few times recently, I have found myself asking whatever part of his spirit is in me for help getting through yoga class, and I do feel like something, very very little, opened up in me. My mother told me about all of the different ways my grandparents who have passed (and my great grandparents) have shown themselves to her, in small ways, after they departed, and the peace it gave her. These are things I would have not really heard, or at least have discarded, until really very recently - and I'm really glad I don't have to shut myself away from sharing those experiences anymore. Still, in the end the nicest part was just hearing my mom talk a lot, unaffected. It was scary hearing her talk about how she panicked in the hospice and couldn't stop crying, and it made my grandfather panic because he knew he needed to die but didn't know how to die. I felt such sadness - and still do, even now - at the thought of knowing it's your time to go, being at peace with it, but not knowing how to die. They don't teach us how do die, we never even talk about it. Bikram's guru knew how to die - when it was his time, he simply withdrew his spirit from his body. Perhaps I can learn that, for when my time comes. Thank you, mom. Happy mother's day!!!
Last, but not least - I had an experience today that drove home how much I'm changing - or returning - to some previous confidence. I have had to deal with some business matters from my former company while I've been here. Most of the interaction has been through email up to this point, but today I had to speak on the phone to further negotiate. I could not believe my own voice - I was totally calm, confident - I spoke concisely, and did not get emotionally bound up with the reactions and interactions. I stated my needs and my positions and my offers clearly, hearing my exact thoughts coming out in my spoken words, without all the confusion and jumbling I've come to expect from myself. I felt so powerful! The negotiations went so well, we reached a compromise that we were happy with - and I just felt like I was an entirely new person. I'm so excited for the next time I have to negotiate with someone, it was so much fun! And it was all the better that I really wasn't too attached to how it came out. That made things far easier to say, demands easier to state, compromises easier to stomach.
Every time I feel like I've shed the last of a skin in this yoga camp process, about 1 or 2 days later I get knocked on my ass. Let's hope, for mercy's sake, that tomorrow isn't too unkind. Bring it on, cursed Monday...