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Monday, March 23, 2009

Sanskrit 101

Well, it's been a while...A couple of weeks ago I spent an amazing weekend learning the Sanskrit alphabet. Sanskrit is one of the oldest languages and today is mostly visible in Hindu and Buddhist texts. But was also used widely in scientific and medical texts as well. It is the language of yoga and yogic mantras. I shared a glorious 3 days with friends of mine from the Breathing Project, the school where we take certification classes, getting familiar with the sacred sounds.

Jo Brill, who was trained at the American Institute for Sanskrit, was our guide through the beautiful ancient language. I can't praise her enough as a teacher. She broke down our ego-ridden barriers and helped us open to the joyful experience of pure sound. With unfailing patience and grace, Jo taught us to recite the Sanskrit alphabet (a beautiful mantra in itself) and read a little out loud. I was transported to the excitement I felt as a child when presented with something new to learn. To facilitate this process Jo did not allow us to take notes. We had no choice but to focus entirely on the sounds/knowledge being transmitted to us. I have to admit to having some anxiety about note taking. I thought, "I don't know how else to learn."

Perhaps this is the one lesson I am most grateful to Jo for teaching us. I never realized how limited I thought my capacity for learning was. I also never saw how instead of bathing in the present moment of enlightenment when learning something new I sought to greedily capture the words that I thought represented that wisdom. Capture them in a book, as if that would keep them with me forever. As I look back on all the books and papers I've kept from College and try to remember everything in them I realize how false and unhelpful this method has been. Don't get me wrong. I will continue to take notes, but will also trust that I have the ability to learn and retain information on multiple, previously undiscovered levels. Thanks Jo!

It was a little bitter sweet also. I was reminded in this weekend how much I would love to go back to school and get my doctorate in Religious Studies. But as a wise friend pointed out, "Why waste so many years in school if you don't want to teach?" So true. I'm learning to keep my academic passions and turn them into personal hobbies. See? All better...well, maybe someday I'll go back to class. Regardless, it was a most lovely weekend I shall treasure forever!

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