Mysore is known to be the birthplace of Ashtanga Yoga. Annually hundreds of yogis from far stretches of the globe descend upon the small town of Gokulam in Mysore to practice….you see them daily…carrying their mats…queuing at the gates to get into practice…chatting about their practice after…and generally just trying to spend their 2-3 month practice time displaying the spirituality connected with the practice of yoga and which brings them to Mysore…some fail terribly but most succeed wonderfully!
I am by no means a yoga practitioner aside from Saturday mornings but I am told I qualify as a ‘karmic yogi’…where the practice of karma yoga is of service to others and the most authentic way to progress in the spiritual life…so I’ll gladly take what I am given. I have, therefore, chosen to spend my 2 months here as ‘karmic yogi’…immersed in a different sort of spirituality and exposed to a different sort of Gokulam.
This journey of mine (which I forgot to mention is my second having been here in 2010) takes place at Roopa Nagar, Bogadi – not far from Gokulam…at Karunya Mane…a shelter for vulnerable children run by Operation Shanti. I spend my days here with the kids…helping them with their schoolwork…seeing that they are behaving and keeping to their chores…occasionally doing arts and crafts with them…chaperoning them on trips…the usual stuff really that one is accustomed to as a volunteer…but why…why take this journey again?
There is no one answer to this question…only the ones found in one’s own intent for performing karma yoga…is it selfless service…is it for knowledge…is it spirituality you hope to gain…for some it is even selfishness that culminates in egocentric actions…for me personally it serves to keep reality in check.
Reality is constantly moving it’s boundaries…I thought I’d seen poverty until a visit to a home where a family of 6 lives in a space the size of your bathroom…I thought the kids I work with were protected from sexual assault only to realize that it is their very own teacher taking advantage of them…I thought mothers do not care for their children simply because they have left them in the care of someone else…until I realized firsthand the gratitude they feel when you are able to help her child…I thought I may not doing enough for them until I felt the sincerity in their voices when they say thank you and ask when are you coming again.
My only intent is to carve a true journey for myself…one that forces you to accept that reality is brutal, unfair, selfish, unforgiving, egocentric…but also that it can be beautiful, generous, giving, simple, compassionate.
I will continue my journey as a karmic yogi for as long as I remain true to my intent…be it here in Mysore…be it in another part of the world…be it in my own backyard…I go where my intent takes me.
GO M.A.D. (Make A Difference), Jo-Anne Aeria
You can connect with Jo-Anne via firstname.lastname@example.org to find out more about her M.A.Dinc project.