Beginning with Mustard Seeds.
There’s something about the food.
Besides spice, and mustard seeds.
Today seemed to revolve around meals.
Most days revolve around meals, I suppose. However, today in particular, we had meals of mindfulness — so to speak.
At breakfast, Steve-Ji had us check in with ourselves, how were feeling, and what we are doing to be compassionate of ourselves, specifically our supreme self. It was both surprising and reliving to find as we went around our regular table sharing our inner-lives, that we all for the most part, shared similar feelings of overstimulation, numbness from everything-all-at-once, some shared anger, frustration, an overwhelmed excitement, homesickness.
We were reminded of our humanness.
Following breakfast came the initiation lasting around three hours, that included a campus tour and a history of SVYM and advice giving and speeches and paperwork and the religious and the non-religious and introduction of teachers and jasmine garlands.
At lunch, Kevin A. Becca, and myself gathered at one table. We naturally continued on the morning’s discussion of self, and self care. At this point I don’t quite remember what was said, but I do remember us asking each other: how are you? And realizing that the answer to that, is a multi-layered, multi-answer, near-impossible question to answer in it’s entirety, we attempted to answer it anyway.
It must have been the spice in the food, fueling such exposed and honest conversation.
I don’t mean to speculate, but this type of experience is one in which we are gently forced to confront ourselves, away from whatever thing numbs us from our inner-life back home. We are all slowly beginning the confrontation and realizing that we are collectively attempting to pull back armored layers of “me” to re-find “I” among dense concealment.
Around six we left for our first concert, unsure as to what to expect, as it was apart of a Lakshmi festival, and so there would be smaller sets of performances, probably partying on till midnight. We arrived at the invocation where a woman was singing old hymns (not the Anglo-Christian, chordal, strophic kind) about the importance of teaching; passing the art of music and dance.
A totally bizarre thing to walk into, at our first concert, a day before our first lessons begin.
A long-winded lecture about the importance of Carnatic Music, that talked about the sun and stars, and technology and America, and the Maharaja’s support for the arts.
All in Kannada.
The next group began setting up onstage (take the hint man!) and finally two women peeked through the curtain and one approached the man and told him to wrap up. What followed was the point of the whole grand spectacle of a surprise lecture, in which he was supposed to sing (because you know, Carnatic Music is very important!! [which it really is, but it’s a kind of “we get it, we’re on your side” type of deal once you hit the 20 minute mark)].
It was more like some poorly performed Carnatic-Schoenberg-Sprectstimme.
I had my doubts about the quality of his singing, realizing I’ve only had limited exposure to Carnatic singing (though a fair amount throughout the last four years).
Steve-Ji’s quiet reactions during the performance and later conversation confirmed them. Next on the set list was a veena concert.
I’ve only heard sitar music and knowing I was traveling to the Carnatic region of India, I was getting pretty hype to hear the pretty metal (as in: “dude, that show was so metal!”) sounds of the veena. The veena player accompanied by a mirdangam and clay pot (which is the instrument one learns after putting in 10,000 hours of mirdangam) tore the house down. I believe I can speak for everyone in our band, when I say we all could have preferred the band to have played the 30 minutes that that one used to ramble on, only to give a sub-par performance.
After the veena concert absolutely demolished us and our remains were scattered across the floor of the performance venue, we gathered ourselves and returned home to eat and recover from that #awesomeness.
(my tone as a writer has taken quite a shift here, humm…)
We talked about our inner-lives once again, at dinner. The same three of us. However, it dissolved into my obsession of nuggets, and the Wendy’s on Plymouth (in Ann Arbor) and working our respective jobs back home. We had a much needed discussion of familiarity, clinging onto what has shaped us to this point. We are all finding how necessary it is to bare soul and truth.
And this can only continue – day seven and onward.
With a craving for fries,