My alarm is set for 4:03 AM, but I always wake minutes before it goes off. Somehow my body anticipates it; often I drift back to sleep.
But sometimes I lie awake, smelling the crisp pre-dawn air and listening to the early hour's utter stillness, a stillness that reaches from my flat to the universe beyond.
In that hazy early hour, as sleep's touch is slow to recede, Mysore comes back to me, charged with dream energy, stronger and starker than it ever could be in my waking hours.
Scooter rides to the shala, my hands cold on the plastic handlebars, with cotton-swab clouds soaking up spilled-paint oranges, purples, and pinks in the pre-dawn sky. The chill cuts through my sweatshirt, and the streets, normally crammed full, are wide and deserted.
The puppy up the block from our house with a six-inch leash, the end of which is weighted to a pile of gravel with a cinderblock.
The other puppy who lived around the corner from the house, who used to follow me for three blocks as I walked to the shala, then three blocks as I walked home. The puppy became a dog right before my eyes! And one day doesn't follow me the three blocks home because she's stiffened in the ditch by the road, dark, stiff body sharp against grass so green and bright it hurt the eye to look at it.
The trip to the river, when we swam out to the rock crusted with dried birdshit. We were so careful not to put our heads under the water! We sunned and laughed and talked in the middle of the river, everything so clear and perfect, and I felt I could tell these strangers anything, and I could be anyone, most of all myself, whoever that may be, and it was right and true, and this was as perfect as life could be. We hopped in the passing coracle for the lift back to shore, the coracle an inverted hat woven from thick bamboo that by all rights should not have floated.
In the early morning hour, I often just get image fragments: peeing on rubble downtown, a passing truckful of workers cheering, I wave one-handed, deciding not to be embarassed; the spongy, manicured grass at Lalith Majal---so decadent on the bottom of my feet; "Every seed a longing" on the sign at Southern Star; hanging out the side door of the Shatabdi Express, watching green countryside clack by; the cool, dark finishing room at the shala and the mosquitoes waiting until headstand before striking.
There are more visitations, too, some moments so beautiful and pure they're painful to think about during the day, the sting of loss lessened by half-consciousness.
These visitations arrive sporadically, and sometimes not at all. I often think, "Was that me? Did I live that life? Was I that person?" Sometimes Mysore seems so very far away.
Something happened there, something more than consumption or vacation, something more than even the yoga practice. A way to be with none of the accumulated trappings of the "me" that have built up over the years, a way to shake off the habits, routines, and expectations that fix in amber the ideas of "I" and self.
My alarm will fire arbitrarily at its appointed time, clearing away the last of the dream cobwebs.
I know that when I go back to Mysore it won't be the same, and I know that I never visited this Mysore because it never existed. But the longing and the love remain, as I chisel and sand and heat my heart to keep it open, every moment of every day flooded with Mysore's numinous energy.