20170101

Happy New Year!

I wanted to get better at my practice. Every day after school I would ride my bicycle from the most rural part of Baroda, where we lived, surrounded by orchards, nomadic herdsmen, and gangs of fierce monkeys, to the old city. I would ride into the insane crowd of the railway station, then on broad avenues past the grand palace of the Maharaja into the madness of the old city, and finally get to the ashram, always a tranquil oasis of calm. Once there, I would practice.

But I wasn't getting any better. I would try to get my teacher to be more involved in my lack of growth but he always seemed to be distracted when I would talk about it. One day I confronted my teacher and demanded that he tell me there and then: How could I get better? My teacher looked at me in an odd way, then keeping his eyes on me said,

"I see you ride your bicycle into the ashram every day and hop off your bike. You always do it on the right side. For a month try hopping off your bike on the other side when you arrive."

It wasn't an answer that I expected. It was a strange answer, but then my teacher was a strange man.

For a month I practiced hopping off my bike on the left side. I started awkwardly but in a few days I was comfortable with the new hopping off routine. I found myself exploring new aspects of my bicycle riding, like riding with no hands, hopping off the front of the bike, singing and whistling while riding, and even riding with my eyes closed. My bike was becoming a friend, and riding was becoming play.

A month passed. The bike routine was now effortless. As for my practice, it was no better than before. My teacher didn't seem to notice. We never talked about it again.

But something had changed. I no longer cared about getting better. I realized that life is a circle. Getting better or getting ahead simply brings us back to where we started. What really matters is not to change our practice but to change our selves; to be open to strange answers, to the unexpected. Happy new year!

Peace and love,

Abhay

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