Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Calming down the mind – A diary note

(I started writing this months ago. I finished it on Aug. 29)

I had first been at the yoga camp in Bangalore in 1998-99. I visited again in 2001. The first time my mother had recently died. The second time I was on the verge of quitting my job. Both times I had no clue what path my life would take. Taking the path of yoga seemed both stupid and inconclusive. What would I ever do for money? I needed lots of it and needed it fast.
Yoga can help you earn money. However, in 1998 I wasn’t seeking a career in yoga. I wasn’t even sure what I wanted to become. In 2001, I was already a journalist, but my success had been “limited”.
This year I had the occasion to visit the yoga camp again. There wasn’t a crisis looming over me like the previous times. I was a bit ill, but I would have survived without the camp. My career is journalism had taken off and finally I was going somewhere with it. This time though I was restless at the camp. Suddenly, mediation and prayanamas didn’t seem so good.
Today, after I have left the camp, people often ask me what I benefited from it. It’s not in the end, but in the means, I like to tell them. It’s in relishing the experience. It’s like a journey to nowhere in particular. You enjoy the journey, not the destination.
But having said all this, I must also confess I didn’t relish it much this time.
Yoga, they say, is the calming down of the mind. Your asanas would achieve their end if your mind slows down a bit. But my mind was like a high-speed highway. I would wake up at an unearthly hour of 4 am to do my meditation and asanas. I would also promptly show up for the evening hour of asanas. But in between I mostly ate and read and fretted.
I don’t like conservatism. I hate organised religion. But conservatism, yoga and organised religion go together. If they don’t, yoga fails. When Osho combined his liberal ideas of free sex and communes with yoga, he failed.
On the positive side of things, I did quit smoking for 10 days. I puff again today, but those 10 days I was proud of what I had done. It’s a pity that the pull of nicotine was greater than my pride.
When I entered the camp this time, I was guilty of allowing my life to go astray. My fight with bipolar mood disorder had ended in my defeat. For the last five years, this fight has cost me a lot. Now it was costing me what I thought was my freedom.
In the camp, you can’t go on your own. You have to confirm. But I am rebellious by nature. I can’t stand routine. And the seeming ideological drivel at the camp was getting to me.
The first time at the camp, I was caught by surprise. The philosophy of yoga can be seductive. And it is essentially good. But it does have the ring of propaganda I abhor.
All through the 30 or so days I spend at the camp this year, I was constantly up against one question. What next? The easiest option it seemed was to return to my job, which I had not lost.
But after having spend eight years in journalism, two of them in training to be a journalist, I realise that work at any office is essentially non-creative. After a while, any work you do does gets tedious. When I was younger, the attraction was that I would be in a position from which I would inform and educate the world. And with luck change it a bit.
What I wanted to be never matched what I was. But in those days I was sure I would get there. Now I am not so hopeful. This isn’t a bad thing. Work could be something you do for bread and butter. You can always do things on the side. A colleague of mine spends her weekend hours at an NGO. She probably finds that more productive than her work at the office.
Let’s get back to BMD. In all the years I have combated with it, I have learned one thing. This is the one disease that I would find most difficult to fight. It requires discipline and a trust in doctors and modern medicine. I don’t have discipline. I sleep at dawn and sleep through the day. My distrust of doctors was O.K. till I was 20. I never had anything serious happening to me anyway. But after being diagnosed with BMD, I have constantly struggled to believe in my doctor.
Today, I have learned the hard way to rely on my tablets. To keep supplying my brain with the chemicals it needs. I have also learned that you can’t out think BMD. It’s like malaria minus the fever.
At the yoga camp, I tried to reform myself; to question ideals that I had stood by for years. I realised I had to change. I could not afford to wallow in things that were not good for me.
When I came back, all that remained in me was the urge to get back to work. For someone who is so undisciplined, I have surprised myself with discipline in office. It’s been weeks now since I have had trouble meeting deadlines or performing well.
The yoga at the camp did little to help me. But I like yoga if it isn’t done in a secluded place like a camp. I am going to try yoga again soon. This time in the city.

(I took a break from work late December last year till Feb-end to go do yoga. My BMD has since then recurred. My resolve to fight the disease, however, remains as high as ever.)