This trip to Mysore has been different in so many ways. A different teacher in a different space, except for led of course. A different place to live without so many facilities, no TV, no washing machine, no proper kitchen, intermittent Internet, but less than a 10 minute walk to the Shala and quieter at night which is why I chose it.
I haven’t been running around seeing things, I saw the ones worth seeing three years ago. This trip seems to have been about relaxing, settling in to the rhythm of life and meeting people. Some of the people are friends I practice with at AYL, some I’ve met in various places or last time I was here, others over the years I’ve been in touch with through cyberspace via this blog or their blog or in one case the old Yuku Ashtanga message board where we all had aliases. I seemed to have got to know them quite well despite never having met in person until this month in Mysore and in real life they are sweet people.
Nico Cooper an Aussie who lived in Mexico, has commented and emailed on this blog for a few years, I had no idea what he looked like, but luckily he recognised me in a small shop in Gokulam and came and said “hello”.
Karla Balani was a real surprise, a Californian with whom I have one mutual friend on Facebook, Shari our friend, had emailed us both to say to look out for each other. There must be over 400 students here with different start times and the chances of randomly running in to someone is pretty slim. So what a surprise on a communal table at Santosha as we both ordered breakfast and gave our names to Magda the Waitress, looked at each other and had the same thought, “are you?”. Our random meeting has led to a trip to Bylekupe and the Banyan Tree.
I didn’t know Razieh Sarmad before I got here. She’s an Iranian living with her husband in Gokulam, who does baking on the side. When she bakes she posts on the Ashtanga community in Mysore Facebook page and anyone who wants some of whatever she is baking gets in touch to order. The first time I ordered she was making sweet breads, at which point I was hooked. I like the cafes here, but by and large they all offer the same menu, so the opportunity to be able to have something tasty and different is too good to miss. The sweet breads were delicious, but a couple of days later she was making cinnamon buns, I ordered four in case they weren’t very big, we met at 9am outside Tina’s. They were still warm from the oven, the smell was incredible, two were gone by the time I had walked the few minutes back home. I now have a standing order, 4 buns every couple of days. If anyone wants great bakery in Gokulam get in touch with Razieh.
Angela Jamison and I have “known” each other a good few years without realising, first on the old Yuku Ashtanga message board, where we were all mostly posting anonymously, then via her blog inside owl and lately by email and Facebook. I knew she would be in Mysore at the same time and hoped we would finally get to meet. Yesterday at 8:15 after led class I’m quietly quaffing my third chai at Amruth when a motorbike pulls up and off jumps Angela and introduces herself. She was exactly what I expected her to be like and this morning we had breakfast and got to chat.
Clint Griffiths runs Ekaminhale.com blogs, makes videos, sells cute t-shirts and sporadically sends out a newsletter, which is how we first got in touch a few months ago after he wrote a post about coming back from injury. I replied to the post about my last two years and how the practice has been an integral part of my recovery. We had arranged to get in touch once we both got to Mysore, to meet and have a chai. Clint got in touch and not only did we meet, he’s a really nice guy, he asked me if I would do an interview, as he found my recovery from injury through the practice inspiring. I was surprised, but delighted to be asked as he usually makes videos with people like Kino and Laruga. So last Friday we spent two hours filming and recording an interview, which will be edited when he gets back to Canada and online sometime there after.
I’ve saved the most special person I’ve finally met for last. Ani Semtan is an American Buddhist Nun who works at the Tibetan settlement at Bylekupe. Her duties at the settlement don’t allow her to get out much, it’s full time with teaching the monks, performing puja, domestic jobs and being PA to Rinpoche when he visits, as he is at the minute. Three years ago Ani had a few days off from her duties, it was her birthday and she decided to visit Mysore. She had not visited the city before and was googling for information when she came across my blog and the link to the ebook map I had just published at the time. Ani was one of the first people to download my book, it was to be the start of a very special friendship. Ani got in touch to ask for more specific information and we have had an email conversation in progress ever since. I’ve learnt so much about her life at the settlement. She amazing and has also been a great support over the last two years, sending me get well emails and sending good thoughts.
When I went to Bylekupe last week Ani was too heavily involved in all the preparations for Lhosar, it would have been a fleeting meeting at best, but luckily she had a couple of free(ish) days after Lhosar and made a trip to Mysore so we could meet properly. We met for lunch at The Green Hotel and spent nearly 4 delightful hours getting to know each other in person. Meeting Ani will be the highlight of this trip to Mysore.