One night I was sleeping, or almost asleep. It was early, perhaps around 9 o’clock. I was lying on the floor of the lobby. That’s where I slept now that I lived in the Institute. Natvar had fitted out a room for me in the back of the Institute by hanging a dark yellow piece of fabric across its entrance. It did not have a window. It had a shelf for clothes and a pole to hang things from. It was about 10' x 5’.
Natvar was there the night I moved in. He was hanging the curtain and he was celebrating my arrival by being happy, by hugging me and pinching my cheek. “She’s such a good yogi!” he was saying with delight to Mark who was helping measure the fabric, set up the pole from which it would hang. Mark was smiling and echoing Natvar’s enthusiasm.
I had decided quickly to move in when Natvar announced that he was looking for a renter. Whenever Natvar asked for anything I wanted to provide it. By becoming the renter myself I would solve his problem of needing one and I’d contribute to the Institute’s monthly rent, always a big sum that had to be scrambled for. In my mind, I thought Natvar would charge me maybe $50 or $75 a month. Before I moved in I asked him how much I should pay. “$100,” he said firmly and I did not question him.
I had been back in Manhattan for eleven months, living in Scott’s upper West side apartment, first in a spacious corner room, then for a month or two in the little loft room off the kitchen for half the price. The Institute would be cheaper still.
And it would bring me closer. I was reading Baba Muktananda’s books now. I had quit my publishing job about six months ago. I had broken up with Bill, the high school boyfriend who had only interested me for a short while and though I was pretty sure he would always answer my calls he’d turned to look instead at my Vogue-model-friend Thea after our sex reached a dead end.
I moved in that January night, thinking this movement will make a big difference. It will make a statement, saying I take this yoga seriously, I am a serious student of the enlightenment which Baba made sound both easy and hard at the same time. I can prove that I’m tough enough for yoga and then I’ll get visions and I’ll be allowed into the secret garden of the truth that lies behind this false world of 9-5 jobs, marriages, divorces, children, possessions. And Natvar too will see that I am worth paying attention to. I want his attention. I am so happy when he says nice things about me, when he says how smart I am, how sincere I am. How I am making progress.
My high-heeled gold strap sandals are still with me that night as I unpack. We all laugh as they tumble out onto the floor, so out of place here. I act as if they almost don’t really belong to me anymore. They are left over from a Halloween in Los Angeles, a Halloween when I was alone and felt I had permission because it was costume night to wear short-shorts and high gold strappy sandals – attention-getting clothes not otherwise allowed. I only wore the outfit to Ralph’s the supermarket up on Sunset, late, after 11, hoping to get into conversation with someone the way my boyfriend had just gotten into conversation on a New York subway with a girl he went to bed with, but I came home alone, and only wore the shoes again on the tropical island weekend with the lawyer.
But now they are only evidence of the worldly life I am leaving behind. I won’t miss it, I thought. I must be made for yoga because this all feels so easy.
After a night or two I began to sleep in the lobby after everyone had left. I had the Institute to myself. I was its keeper. Natvar must feel better, knowing someone loves the place this much. He has started sleeping a few blocks away in Mark’s apartment. He says it’s more comfortable for him there, and I am beginning to understand that things for Natvar should be a little better than they are for the rest of us. Mark’s place has a bath tub and Natvar says I can come any time for a bath. The Institute doesn’t have such a thing.
We are roughing it. We are dedicated yogis, roughing it for the sake of something good and pure and beyond the obvious.