June 22, 2011

I Witnessed a Murder During the Hanuman Festival. ~ Lauren Flynn

Photo: Ryk Neethling

I saw it with my two eyes.

Being a volunteer at the Hanuman Festival (HF) was much like getting wasted at my own party. There were many duties and I was to be ‘on’ and accessible to any approaching guest. At the same time, I was partaking in the offerings at hand – in the case of HF, the drink of choice was yoga. And it was potent. It seems like eons ago that our volunteer group first met on the back lawn of Boulder High School, bright eyed, bushy tailed and eager. We collected our wristbands and t-shirts and toured the festival grounds, learning more about our assigned duties. We introduced ourselves to each other, making eye contact, asking questions about our worldly endeavors and sharing our excitement for the upcoming weekend. Such simpler times.

I took my first class on Friday afternoon with Anand Mehrotra. I mindfully rolled out my mat, taking care to align its edges with the lines on the floor. I straightened my shirt. I fiddled with my hair. I looked around at the potpourri of both familiar and new faces. Anand entered the tent, with the amusingly cohesive combination of whimsy and focus that I’ve come to expect from an Indian yogi.  He took his seat, issued a stern “We’ll get started when you’re done talking”, glaring at us for a long ten seconds, before exploding into hearty laughter then instructing us to find our navel, straighten our spines and close our eyes.  We did.

I awoke two hours later, glancing around the room, which was suddenly full of shapes and voices – void of any discernable detail. I found myself in the middle of vendor village and might have grabbed a hula hoop. I drank some tea, received a five minute massage before collapsing into the grass in front of the music stage.  The next morning I found myself once again face to face with Anand for a hearty dose of yogic philosophy. He spoke for two hours on the hilarity of the big bang theory, the hypocrisy of Gandhi’s presence on every Indian coin and the theory of raising ones vibration to meet an opportunity for spiritual ascension that is usually heavily cloaked in struggle, unhappiness or suffering. The compassion meditation at the end of class was my final shot of spiritual whiskey. I left class and wandered out into the hall, passing a fellow volunteer who I’d worked with on Friday. I felt self-conscious, out of sorts and a little guilty about being drunk on the job. Until she looked at me quizzically for a few moments before slowly uttering “Good…..morning?….Lori!” I nodded, in a futile effort to acknowledge her attempt. We parted ways, managing to take about two steps each in our respective directions before exploding into laughter, turning around and exchanging “dude…I’m so blissed out that I have no idea what’s happening. I just keep going!”  We laughed, I moved along, finishing my afternoon volunteer duty before deciding to head to the park during my two hour break before my evening duty.

This is where the murder happens.

There I was, alongside the Boulder creek reflecting on my notes from class, my back supported by a beautiful tree that also shaded me from the evening sun. A squirrel approached to see if I had any food, then quickly went off in another direction when I told him I had nothing. I watched him scamper away and find a friend. They played and chirped with one another and I leaned back against the tree and closed my eyes.

I quickly awoke to a louder, faster chirping. I opened my eyes and glanced toward the sound to find my squirrel friend in the jaws of a husky. The husky stood, dutifully, awaiting praise for the successful capture. An onlooker stopped in his tracks, horrified at the scene. The dog’s owner approached the dog, noticeably deliberating on which was the humane choice —to release the already fatally wounded squirrel or let the play come to its inevitable tragic end a little quicker, aided by the dog. The owner chose B, which—despite its moments of pure horror—was the more humane choice than to let the animal suffer for who knows how long. I watched, frozen in horror, tears streaming down my face.

Talk about a buzz kill. I glared at the dog owner, disgusted and pissed off that he could be so careless. I cried for the squirrel. It was of extreme importance to find blame and apply it correctly. Judgment reared its seductive head and I hastily joined forces with it. I impulsively started gathering my things and shoving them into my backpack so I could run away and escape the discomfort of the moment.

Run away to escape discomfort.

Run away to escape discomfort.

Run away to escape discomfort.

Wait a SECOND! Could I, a woman who has had more addresses in the past decade than she can remember and more job changes than she cares to admit—be in the midst of an ‘a-ha’ moment? Could the universe be conspiring to provide me with the exact experiences I need to help me get out of my own way?  Could I—the yoga teacher who urges her students to “lean into the experiences that make you uneasy” be a hypocrite? Duh. Yes.

So I did something I’d never done before, in public, by myself.  I closed my eyes, brought my palms to heart center, took a deep inhale and let out a loud “AAAAAAAAUUUUUUMMMMMMMMMM”. My buzz began to creep back in. I took another sip. “AAAAAUUUUUUMMMMMMMMMM”. I became self conscious (in the paranoid way) and opened my eyes to find no one even remotely looking in my direction. (It IS Boulder, after all.)

I closed my eyes one final time, let out an aum and sat in reflection. In my re-accessed drunken state, I sat and felt. I felt the breath moving through my nostrils, felt the pain in my heart for the suffering of the squirrel. I rode the wave of that pain until it led me to compassion for the dog owner, understanding of the karma of all souls involved and amazement at the power of the neural pathways and their role in reactionary behavior.  My mind raced with memories of all the recent times in my life that I have been unforgiving and judgmental…and I took that moment to practice ahimsa – toward myself, toward those in the park and toward the very thoughts that led me there.  The lesson I walked away with from my morning class rang in my ears: life throws us experiences that are designed to help us raise our vibration. Those experiences are usually dressed in suffering, unhappiness, discord, stress…but the only thing stopping us from being in harmony with the essence of those experiences is our own resistance to the very element of the experience that our souls are seeking to transform. Trippy. Mystical. TRUE.

And right then and there I witnessed my second murder of the day: the murder of my escapism at the hands of ahimsa and I’m reminded of a song…

“Thank you India.

Thank you terror.

Thank you disillusionment.”

–Alanis Morrisette

Jai Hanuman!



Lauren Flynn cries at the sight of roadkill. She also teaches yoga in tucked away places. Visit www.facebook.com/fullcircleyogaonline instead of working.

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