My commute to school leads me first around the mountain range and then straight towards it. This road, Tramway (named for the aerial tramway one can take to the peak of Sandia) isn't usually so congested but on this particular afternoon repaving work was being done and I found myself stopped in traffic for several minutes. Time to admire the mountains - their expressive faces are constantly changing depending on light and shadow, clouds and weather. When I drive back home in the dark small enclaves in the foothills glimmer below and faint stars glimmer above but the mountainous space in between is a dark blank slate covered in cloud blankets. It's as if someone has chipped away a vast piece of the sky and patched it with black.
Three days a week I spend all day at school, from early morning until 9 at night. One day I have only a night class. Fridays I have off this trimester. Long breaks between some classes are occupied by exploring the neighborhood, curling up with my notes on one of the library couches, and studying with classmates on the small patch of grass in front of the main building. Last night during a break some of us stood in the parking lot to watch the moon rise over the mountains. My classmate Jin was teaching another classmate some Tai Chi moves, two other classmates were dancing an Irish jig, another was slicing up apples with a knife and distributing them like prasad. We'd just finished our first quiz of the year. Define "life" according to Ayurveda. List the three books of the Bhrat Tryat, the "great three" authorities. What are the Principles of Creation according to Sankhya's philosophy of the descent of consciousness into matter? Name the Maha Gunas. What are the names of the Shad Darshan and who were their founders?
I love this stuff. My homework this weekend consists of reading different translations of texts I've already read several times throughout the past few years - The Yoga Sutras, The Bhagavad Gita. I have to choose a Yama and Niyama and write about what they mean to me. I have memorize the Sanskrit names for each asana of the Sun Salutation. I have to finish the first two chapters of our Medical Terminology book, practice writing and recognizing Sanskrit vowels, start a daily journal and food log. I have to continue the daily sadhana I've been doing for years anyway. I have to finish this blog post because I want to share my excitement with all of you. And I'm determined to squeeze a hike and some socialization in too. Ayurveda is all about balance.
Last night I surprised a few classmates by chanting Sushruta's Definition of Health to them in Sanskrit. Now that I'm studying Sanskrit more formally I can hear that my pronunciation is a bit off on certain words and yet, for being self-taught, I guess it's not too shabby. Though it will probably give me a near heart attack, I strongly suspect I'll be the first in class to volunteer to chant a sutra out loud since I already know a handful and am nerdishly excited about sharing them. Learning to write and pronounce the Devangari ("City of God") alphabet in a classroom is so much easier and enjoyable than the months I spent trying to teach myself at the kitchen table at home. In fact I'm surprised by how enthusiastic I am about this class - in large part due to the teacher, who I've been looking forward to studying with for a couple of years. "Mistakes" are welcome (though perhaps laughed at - kindly). We spend a lot of time laughing. In fact in every class we're reminded of how brave and amazing we are for coming out here and doing this at all, for putting our lives on hold to study a tradition so far removed from the mainstream, to be willing to undergo transformation.
"None of you are here by chance." I've heard this a lot over the past couple of weeks, confirming what I already know.
In many ways I feel like a fish who managed to jump from a fishbowl into the ocean. There's a vast amount of knowledge to swim in here and other fish to swim with. "Blow as deep as you want to blow" commands Jack Kerouac in Rules for Spontaneous Prose, and here you can blow as deep as you wish - when our Teacher comes in January he will lecture at the intellectual and emotional/spiritual level of the class. I hope we'll be going deep.
“People need to be encouraged. People need to be reminded of how wonderful they are. People need to be believed in—told that they are brave and smart and capable of accomplishing all the dreams they dream and more. Remind each other of this.” — Stacey Jean Speer