Yesterday I learned that if someone holds up their hand with just their little finger raised it means they have to pee.
No words necessary. This stems from the hand symbolizing the 5 elements that make up everything, and the 5th, the little pinky is water.
I also learned that if you close your eyes and pay attention and breathe in you can gain insight into your basic nature. If you breathe in more air from the right nostril you are like the sun and are more prone to anger and heat. But if you breathe in more though the left nostril you are like the moon and are calm and cool.
Which is why the breathing exercises are so important in Yoga. You are trying balance the heat and the calm using your breath. Which is also why they do those (until now what I thought of as meaningless and timewasting) breathing exercises in my yoga class sometimes –breathe in through the right and out through the left and then switch. Balance.
I learned this – and many other things as we traveled from Delhi to Agra yesterday. Our teacher- who will also be coming on this trip as one of the staff – did his best to convey as much as possible about India so we could properly understand the ancient spirituality that is present everywhere, from roadside shrines to the Vishnu statue guarding us on the dashboard.
But what I was really reminded of today was not the spiritual and healing reasons behind many of the common hand positions and breathing of yoga, or the stories of the Gods Brahman, Vishnu and Shiva, or how Ganesh got his elephant head. I admit I got lost after the 5th or 6th deity and their manifestations. And quite likely was a little muddled on the rest of it given I had been in India only 12 hours and it was 2 AM Seattle time.
What really left an impression was how deeply proud he is of India and being part of an ancient civilization and how much he wants to share his world with us and help us understand. How he interpreted our questions seriously and tried to integrate an answer that offered insight into how the world is tied together and all life is one. What a gift to have someone like that with you for 2 months as you travel in their world, who is so willing to be open and not afraid to tie things into a bigger spiritual picture.
While it may have been a little awkward, and perhaps it was not the best timing given most of were jetlagged and bleary-eyed, I absolutely appreciated the effort and look forward to learning more from him in the next two months.
Oh, and I’m a left nostril breather.