30 hours. Call it crazy, but I love the journey from New York to Mysore. Thirty hours door to door is just enough time to sleep away city exhaustion, read a page or two, listen to an old nostalgic tune, eat some snacks, and create a space between what was and what will be. It’s that space, that chasm I treasure so dearly and look forward to each year. My friend points out that right before each visit I question worryingly, “Will I be able to go there, to get into that deep India mode?” And each year the trip is satisfyingly different and the correct “mode” attained. I’m not certain, but I have a very strong feeling that this year’s theme is Play and Practice as Play.
I’m consistently deep about my practice on the mat and off. I’m able to search inside using the breath to let go of secret hidden holdings and tensions, and peel away layer after layer of protective habit until the raw truth appears, but what about Play? Play is essential in practice and in life. The older I get, the more aware I am of the importance of Play and taking things lightly.
How fitting then, that I ended up with a copy of Gretchen Rubin’s, The Happiness Project, a perfect companion for my 30 hour journey. In The Happiness Project, Gretchen shares her year long attempt to increase her happiness using a list of personal resolutions. Some of them, like “Act the way I want to feel” (which I call “fake it till you make it”) I have been using for years and find very helpful. Others like, “Find More Fun,” “Take Time to Be Silly,” and “Lighten Up” are perfect compliments to my theme of Practice as Play.
In the book, Gretchen talks about squeezing the most happiness out of a situation by anticipating, savoring, expressing, and recalling our happiness. As our plane began it’s decent at about hour 25, I was clearly in anticipation mode. The sites, smells, and sounds of India came pouring back to me and I imagined clearly the life ahead of me: purchasing coffee at the little store and watching the man grind and weigh it, opening my trunk of treasures stored each year at the end of my trip, stepping into the shala for the first time and feeling the worn rugs under my feet.
Now that I’m here, my commitment is to enjoy each of these moments fully by being present, sharing my joy, and documenting my experience so that I will be able to look back on these happy times and smile long after I have left. This plan has already shown itself to be extremely easy mostly due to having a first time India traveler with me. Seeing India and the practice through her eyes has already opened me up to experiencing the wonder that had, I will admit, worn off a bit after 6 previous trips.
As I sign off now ready to enter a deep and dreamy India sleep, I anticipating my first yoga practice in the shala and the smile that is sure to pulse through my body as I raise my arms in rhythm with teacher’s first “Ekam, Inhale” and take my first practice in the spirit of play.