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What Pune’s Weather Taught Me

September 15, 2017

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pc: Joel Koechlin

 

Until today I had been lucky to avoid getting drenched in Pune’s sudden downpours.  Today I went out for lunch with another and on our walk home the pleasant drizzle steadily and surely grew into a monstrous torrent.  Too much for my little umbrella to handle.  My capris were all wet as I pulled the umbrella low over my head and waded through the veritable rivers that the streets had become.  As I walked I noticed the cobbler who was calmly trying to prevent his entire business being washed away in the rain.  I noticed the fruit and vegetable wallahs covering their carts with waterproof sheets.  I noticed the coconut bhaiyya had shut shop.  I crossed the road and got on the sidewalk of the Agriculture college.

When I have the 7 am class I walk across someone sleeping on this sidewalk.  This person is always wrapped head to toe in a blanket.  I’ve never seen him stirring in his sleep.  The early morning traffic doesn’t seem to bother him.  When it rains he props an umbrella up and hopefully it keeps (at least) his torso dry.  Once when I was walking to class (in the middle of the day) a yellow snake slithered out from the bushes and, perhaps realizing that it had lost it’s way, slithered back into the bushes.  Slimy serpents don’t seem to bother this person.  I’ve seen him there after a night of nonstop torrential rain, after a hot and humid night, after the Ganpati celebrations, on a Monday morning, on a Saturday morning…

To renounce everything and find peace in a remote cave in the Himalayas is easy.  To stay ethical and honourable in the absence of temptation is no big deal.  If we want to quieten the chitta, we must accept the noise that is creating the vrittis.  If we want some rest, we must get it despite the traffic, fear of snakes, the rain or the heat.  If we need to find peace, we must do so in the midst of chaos.  Wrapped in a threadbare blanket under a tattered umbrella.  Because that’s where we need it the most.

Yoga

Lessons in Peace and Calm

September 16, 2013

Recently I had the chance of getting to know one of my students over coffee. Despite her hectic schedule this wonderful woman took me to her home and offered me amazingly good filter coffee and healthy mid-morning snacks to go along with it. She was considerate enough to ask me whether I eat once I’m done with the class and what I eat if I do. During the course of our conversation I realized that by virtue of being a wife and a mother, there were so many unavoidable responsibilities that she was loaded with, and that she probably had to juggle her schedule a bit to accomodate our little coffee break. She has two daughters in high school, a family business, older in-laws to take care of, and of course the everyday hassles of running a house. Looking at her I wondered where she got the energy from. She seemed the embodiment of ‘Ces’t la vie’…with a smile.

That day I learned from her that if you accept your lot in life with ease then you make space for peace and you are able to deal with things in a calmer manner. Having no time is the bane of modern existence, but sometimes in the middle of it all you meet some individuals who manage to stay focused and calm. These individuals are busy, have responsibilities, and with that, numerous sources of stress in their lives. Yet, they manage. How?

They create an oasis of calm and peace in which they reside and refuel. According to yogic philosophy, everything is an illusion. An event is just a combination of moments put together. Whether the event is good or bad depends on who it happens to and how that person responds to it. So if you choose to respond with peace and calm, you significantly reduce the damage caused by events over which you sometimes have no control.

The valuable insight I received from our chat over coffee:
1. There are sources of stress, worry, strain and anger in everyone’s life. Waiting for the source of stress in your life to disappear so that you can live peacefully again is in vain because there will always be something to worry about.
2. The best way to deal with life is to create reserves of calm and peace within yourself by recognizing that you need to spend time by yourself. Whether it’s going for your closest yoga class, or doing some deep breathing for 5 minutes before you start your day, or reading the paper with your coffee and watching the world wake up…whatever it is, you need to take time out for your body and mind.