Panchali and freedom from shame.

4:30 AM the sky is very clear and I see that single Planet, like a jewel on the orange violet band of morning.

Last night I was reading, for the third time, "Palace of Illusions" by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni. This book takes a piece of the Mahabharata and immerses itself into one woman’s’ life. 

"Through the long lonely years of my childhood, when my father's palace seemed to tighten it's grip around me until I couldn't breathe, I would go to my nurse and ask for a story."

 Panchali is the wife of the 5 Pandava brothers including Arjun, the protagonist in the Bhagavad Gita. The story delves into Panchali's motivations in life and exposes her raw emotional state. The book describes how her fear and shame are the conduit through which the epic war of the Bhagavad Gita takes shape and comes to pass. 

Often I come face to face with my own shame. I had a second round of cortisone injections on Thursday. This bout of back pain has been extremely long and exceptionally trying. I came to practice on the day after the injection and realized with my first downward dog that I am not going to be able to move normally. I literally fell to my knees. In surrender, I climbed over a block and extended my back….immediate relief. Then I took my legs to the sky. I noticed students taking a peek. What is she doing? I imagined them saying? Some of them are new and in the teacher training, they have never practiced with me, what shame, I can’t move.

"Time is like a flower, Krishna said once, I didn't understand. But later, I visualized a lotus opening, the way the outer petals fall away to reveal the inner ones. An inner petal would never know the older outer ones, even though it was shaped by them, and only the viewer who plucked the flower would see how each petal was connected to the others."

I went right to standing poses. Oh yes, they felt very good and strengthening but I modified every pose, like I was a beginner. Perhaps I should roll up my mat and do this in private? I wanted to hide. I wanted to keep some sense of mystery around myself. I wanted to perpetuate the illusion that I never break. Seated was impossible so I moved to back bending, delicious and therapeutic for the musculature. My back was hanging on after the needles, trying to protect me. The muscles were busy processing the invasion and the medicine. I clumsily lifted in to an arm balance for only a few breaths. I’ll show them a better practice next week, I thought. Then as I moved into supported bridge, supported shoulder stand, supported fish, and pranayama on my back, i began to wake up, i felt free.

"The bards sing of what occurred when Dussasan took hold of my sari to pull it away, exposing my nakedness to all eyes.....Then - maybe because there was no one else who could help - I thought of Krishna. He owed me nothing; we were not related. Perhaps that was why I could fix my mind on him without being swept away by the anger that arises from expectation. I thought of his smile, the way it would appear on his face for no reason.The sounds of the courtroom faded - Dussans grunts, the whispers of the watchers. Suddenly I was in a garden. There were swans on the lake, a tree that arched above, dropping blue flowers, the sound of water falling as though the world had no end. The wind smelled of sandalwood. Krishna sat beside me on a cool stone bench, his glance was bright and tender. No one can shame you, he said, if you don't allow it."

Oh how marvelous! I suddenly began to notice, how perfect it all is. I look at the time, where has it gone? I look at my shame, where has it gone? I  could feel my body, feel my breath. I am alive. I am real. I am broken and still, I have something to offer, something to give.

As Rumi says:

"Come, come, whoever you are, wanderer, worshipper, lover of leaving, ours is not a caravan of despair! 

Even if you have broken your vow a thousand times, come

the door is round and open"

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