I’ve just stepped on the train heading home after a weekend with my parents. A 4 hour train journey ahead, laden with food from my mum (including a piece of her chocolate cake!). Suddenly she asked anxiously, “How will you spend your time on the train? Do you need a book to read?” She always tells me that you never stop being a mum, and here she is again fretting that her grown-up daughter might be bored during a train ride! I reassured her that I have more than enough to occupy me. “But what will you do?”, they both persisted with the question, actually requiring an answer. Well, I have Sanskrit vocabulary, I have some notes for teaching to review, I do have a book (not the novel my mum expected, but an interpretation of the Yoga Sutras), and I have music. Then there’s always daydreaming and enjoying the countryside slipping past the window, taking me from my past life to my current life, some time just to be quiet in a way my daily life barely allows (aside from brief moments on the cushion!). I think the answer satisfied them … to a degree.
So now I’m on the train trying not to listen to a fellow passenger talk about the recent shoot and how many birds they bagged… Obviously I’m not staring malevolently across the carriage at him… Instead I’m thinking back over my weekend, recalling the walk we did in one of my favourite places — a cold, bright, wintry sky above and the flat coastal plain below, sounds of sea birds in the air and the jingling noises of the fishing boats’ rigging. Then home for lunch and some yoga with my mum (first me guiding her and answering her questions about particular asana, then her with a cup of tea watching me as I rolled through my practice), all to the soundtrack of football results loudly on the TV in the next room. This is living yoga, nothing fussy or contrived, just fitting something in where I can. My mum clearly enjoyed it too and it’s curious to observe her attitudes to her practice subtly changing and the sorts of questions she asks shifting in emphasis. I suppose my teacher sees the same changes in me and his other students. You start thinking yoga is one sort of thing to be approached a certain way and then things change until you wonder how you ever had any certainties or definitions…
The next day an early start for breakfast with my brother and my niece. Now playing not just daughter but sister and auntie. Multiple identities, each one requiring subtly different communication styles with different conversational emphases. These are all aspects of me, just as the childhood me and the grownup me are the same person. The yogi overlies (or underlies) all of these, informing how I relate to the world. I think my parents are becoming less alienated by this new preoccupation I have. It’s now a mode of being, rather than a faddish hobby. Even my brother asked me a little about it today, curious as to why increased activity would leave me feeling more full of energy than ever before. I just shrugged and offered something banal about any form of exercise being good… The sort of answer he wanted to hear and could understand. I’m still figuring out the real answer, of course.
Being with my family for a couple of days is wonderful and special — I don’t see them as much as I’d like. It’s comforting and familiar. But now also it feels an interesting balance between who I was and who I am now. Still the same yet different. And I know they see it too. I’m reminded of the thought experiment of Theseus’ Paradox from Plutarch: if you end up replacing every part of a wooden ship in the course of making repairs, do you still have the same ship at the end of it all? I’m certainly not going to claim that all my parts have been replaced by any means. I’m still self-obsessed and selfish at core, but I’ve certainly had a new paint job and my engine definitely runs differently now! Yep, the same but different. Hopefully a better version of myself emerging. And I think I’m getting a tiny bit less uncomfortable with these strange steps in a new direction.