You must change your life 3

obligatory tourist shot

An friend and I were g-chatting recently, and she asked why I haven’t written about India. I told her I would, but the truth is, I have been writing about it, just not in a creepy Eat Pray Love way. If you’ve read my columns recently (those fancy images in the sidebar –>), you’ll see India all over the place. But subtly, like how one line in one story can suddenly mean everything. It’s like this Rilke poem, which my new friend Angela posted recently in regards to Mysore (she has an amazing Ashtanga blog that you should read as well). The last two lines read:

“for here there is no place

that does not see you. You must change your life.”

You must change your life. So simple. So not.

I was thinking, too, about writing, about how writers are expected to narrate their lives, and how this sometimes interferes with the actual living part of the equation. I remember talking to S. about this. She was in the throes of some kinky sex romp one night, and suddenly found herself torn. She told herself she could concentrate on the experience, so she could write about it later, or she could decide to shut her brain off and savor what was happening while it was happening.

She chose the latter, ultimately, and I find myself making this choice more and more, as well. It sounds silly. Why should you have to choose at all? Can’t you do both, live and remember? And yes, of course you can, to an extent. But when you base your life on words, you interact with situations using different parts of your brain and body. In this way, every potential experience becomes something that can be exploited. Sometimes it seems like my life doesn’t exist unless I’m narrating it. This is a horrifying feeling, it’s equivalent to abusing the present. Sometimes this is the best choice a writer can make. Especially if something really unorthodox is happening. But most of the time it isn’t.

Ellie on spirituality vs circus tricks

I have been taking a lot of notes though. I’m almost finished with the journal I started three weeks ago. I’ve filled it with longing, and to-do lists, and diagrams that explain what happens to the nervous system during meditation, according to my teacher Narasimhan. (In case you’re wondering, it looks like a vertical snake getting progressively fatter, while playing the accordion.)

Everyone appears to be in love here, if not with someone than with Mysore itself, the tradition, the lineage. Each day in the afternoon, a line of fire ants endlessly make their way across the fence to the cafe where I’m staying. They can’t quite bridge the gap alone though, so they make a bridge out of other ants. I thought, there’s a metaphor there, but it isn’t important.

This week’s Dear Sugar is amazing, especially this line: “…the whole shebang is stoked by lust. Which is famously unreliable as a life plan.”

People ask me what I do for a living and I get to say “I’m a writer.” It’s been several months now, but it hasn’t gotten old. Each time I say it, I feel giddy. Each time, my heart swells, and I feel a little less alone. That’s one thing about India–I’ve been too busy to be subsumed by any one desire. It’s not like that back home. Back home, I am full of wants. Back home, I fall in love 5-6 times a day.

Stephen Elliott wrote in a Daily Rumpus email recently: “You can change, you can work on yourself in all sorts of ways. You can make small changes in motion, like powdering your nose or changing the CD while driving on the highway. Or you could park for a while and sit on the trunk and really think things through, then start walking. It just depends where you need to be, and when.”

I have nowhere to be here. I have only to be. I like that.

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3 thoughts on “You must change your life

  • Theresa

    This is sweet! You are so good with words to express your feelings and observations. I am happy you are in a good place, just being and happy to be there too!

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