Sunday, October 05, 2008

a postcard from yoga camp

Dear family:

Well, here I am at yoga camp. Or at least that what it felt like as our large van, full of very giggly students, bumped down the rutted, dusty road, catching against low-hanging tree limbs or stopping, then backing up, so the 60-goot-van could squeeze through the narrow, angled curve in the road. And at the end, also like camp: a staff of calm, efficient people to take us to our rooms, orient us a bit, and then ring the bell for us to gather for dinner.

Here's what I've been doing since I arrived:

Eating. A lot. We start with breakfast after the early morning practice, then have tea or fruit during the break, then lunch, then more tea and a snack in the late afternoon, then dinner. Yesterday, there were bids of $500 for the chocolate-butterscotch-oatmeal chip cookies served after lunch. Today, I heard at least three people say "what happened to all the guacomole?" Everything is organic and lots comes from the land around here. We've had stewed apples, fresh apples, and other apply things because the owner's son has an apple orchard.

Yesterday began the beginning of the Grand Experiment of No Note Taking during class. As someone who learns by writing things down (in art history tests, I could mentally "flip" the pages in my notebook looking for a date or artist), this has been rough. How will I remember everything that my teacher is saying??? Then I noticed that the woman beside me is taping the lectures with a tiny tape recorder. I asked her about it during the break and she was a bit defensive, but my goal was only to know that somewhere, there will be a transcript. And truth be told, I'm managing (I think!) to take most of it in.

Learning to chant the Gayatri mantra, a prayer/meditation to the sun. Not really just to the literal sun, but to light/restoration/renewal/power, but in a good sense, not a Presidential debate duking it out sense. Each day, my teacher adds on another little fillip. We're up to doing a sun salutation and chanting the 3 lines that we've learned at each position; doing a pranayama technique; doing some nyasam, or gestures, while chanting another chant as well as the Gayatri; sitting down to chant the Gayatri 12 times quietly to ourselves; standing up to chant a chant apologizing for any mistakes made in our chanting; thanking the four directions; and then resting/sitting/taking a quiet walk through the woods. People love or hate this process. Some people get very warm (it's a sun chant, so you do a lot of visualizing the sun in different parts of the body) and some get cranky and some get tired and some feel great. Very msyterious. Today I felt VERY VERY warm during the repetition 12 times, but wasn't sure if it was a hot flash from nervousness or the sun heating me up.

And the beauty of this place is incredible. I'm hoping that my camera arrives sometime this week so that I can take pictures. Around every corner, in every room, there is something beautiful to absorb. Not only nature - because we're far enough from the city that you can see the Milky Way at night, but the care and attention to detail in each handcrafted building or garden or stonework. There is a tiny cabin built of weathered wood, with a stained glass window on one side and windows on tow others, and it's just big enough for one person to be seated inside, to meditate or just to enjoy some quiet.

Our schedule is packed, and last night I went to sleep like a pioneer - it got dark and I turned in for the night. Even still, I'm pretty tired right now, and it's off the salt mines again (they ring a big bell to let us know to get up at 615 am or to come in for meals or head back to the gorgeous yoga building for afternoon class) for chant practice, which is phenomenal because we have in our group one of the best teachers of Vedic chant in the country, and she is taking us, line by line, syllable by syllable, through several chants.

The only thing that I could use right now is a good, hot cup of coffee. Think I'll wander down and see if I can dig one up.

Write soon - I miss you guys!

Yours, from yoga camp,

Janet

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