The best laid plans of mice and men

Namaste. Thanks so much for all the well wishes and welcome backs!  

I’ve been on a relatively fast pace since returning from India, and really felt the need to sit in quiet reflection. I headed off to Ananda Ashram for a few days of Mauna, the practice of sacred silence.

Arriving at Ananda is like coming home. No matter where you’ve been, the ashram always takes you back, and it’s like you never left. I always pause at the old iron gates to set an intention for my stay. When I looked inwards, what came back was ‘quiet’

Classical indian singing lessons at ananda ashram

Sitting down for my first simple meal, I looked up and there was the radiant Shrimati Kankana Banerjee sitting across from me.

She smiled and said, more as a statement than a question: “You’re coming to my class tomorrow?”  Before I could even think about an answer, I felt my head nodding yes.

Turns out that Kankana is considered the best vocalist in india and she was at Ananda to teach a weeklong immersion in Classical Indian Singing.

          You can’t always get what you want.

I was a bit resistant to this idea of not just singing, but singing all-day… I mean, I made my vow not to speak for 3 days, I was committed, or rather – attached to my plan.

After some going back and forth in my mind, I finally surrendered to the new plan, the opposite of what I ‘wanted.’ That next morning, I fixed myself a really huge mug of green tea and settled in for my first lesson.

           But if you try some time.

Kankana played an ancient harmonium, and led us in stringing many single syllables into beautiful – swimming melodies called Ragas.

           You just might find. 

Practicing the Raga scales is very meditative, There’s a true sense of surrender to it  She leads, you follow, it’s simple, beautiful, and beyond mind.

My friend Kamaniya said “I didn’t see you leave, but you were gone for some time, and I saw when you came back into your body. You were different.” 

            You get what you need…

At some point, hours into the practice, I merged with the seductive sounds, sliding into a peace I’ve never experienced before. Words don’t describe this new threshold, so I’ll not even try.

Three days of Mauna practice may have been good for me, but surrender to the new plan was even better.  

I grapple with decisions sometimes. When faced with several equally nice sounding options, my mind gets all attached, looking for the ‘right’ decision. Is one ever really more right than the other?    

I’ve got this great opportunity to study with my teachers this October. It will take some effort to travel to Ohio to be with them for a few days. Planes, travel details and expenses… but mostly, being away from the students I’m so blessed to have.  

As I churn this choice in my mind, and type this, it seems I still haven’t fully grasped this lesson that surrender is best. That things tend to appear right when we need them, and often not in the tidy packages we are looking for.

To make room for them, we sometimes have to un-make our minds.  Have you found yourself changing plans midstream, how did it work out?

I’ll leave you with this beautiful video of Kankana singing:

Next Saturday August 28th is our free Open Mic Music Night at Yoga and Nia for Life.  And note the Live Music Yoga class with special Guest Tom Lena – 9am Sunday September 5th.    Om Shanti,  I’ll see you in class.

1 thought on “The best laid plans of mice and men”

  1. Thank you for sharing that, John.  For me, knowing when to make a plan and make it happen versus when to let it go and be open to what comes my way takes a lot of practice.  I sometimes think of it as a struggle between the scientist in me, who likes to dissect problems and synthesize solutions, and the artist in me, who likes to let all the light she can in her eyes without filtering or judging.  Of course, that's an overly simplistic analogy as good scientists and good artists, like all real people, are not such polar opposites; the former needs to leave room for creative inspiration, and the latter needs to select her boundaries wisely.  As a scientist and an artist and a human being, I try to be thankful that I get so many opportunities to practice finding that dynamic balance and that I'm getting better at acknowledging my own arrogance and yielding to a greater wisdom.

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