I had grand, cinematic style scribe dreams of writing the mother of all posts to tie up my trip to India. I would be sitting on the plane, Australia bound, looking out the window at the densely populated concrete surrounds of Bangalore airport. The smog suspended atop low rise buildings; a romantic metaphor for the feeling of being hung in between worlds. Fat tears would stream down my face as I moved from the window to the page, unfolding the melodrama of goodbye and nostalgia.
Instead, I didn’t look back (and I’m writing this almost a month after leaving). I sat back, buckled up, put on my eye mask and I didn’t feel even a child’s tug toward sentimentality and meaning as if India, and my travels through the country, were perfectly finished the minute I boarded. Which is not to say that I was in desperate need of escaping but it was time to move on and, regardless, the Osho meditation festival, held at my local beach-side cafe only meters away from my bedroom window, had just moved into the crying phase of the mystic rose meditation.
For one week, before I left, I woke to the sounds of grown men and women hysterically laughing for three hours everyday. Sometimes I heard full throngs of laughter, that became hard not to mimic, and other times I heard a few who had to uncomfortably fake laugh themselves into a frenzy of chortles and chuckles until they were belting out guffaws. The fake laugh to guffaw became my most favorite progression.
It’s really quite delightful how differently we all laugh.
However, the following week (the week I was leaving) was the crying week and for three hours everyday the same grown men and women had to cry – which, you guessed it, started out with fake crying until you could literally hear the painful whimpering of adults, curled up in fetal positions. To induce crying the guru often played epic ballads sung by Whitney and Celine. This is usually enough to send me wincing in pain, rather than tears.
If, during the laughing week, I felt motivated and sprightly as I sat there knocking back papaya juice and writing away to the sounds of other people’s joy, the crying week just left me deflated and depressed. There I’d sit wide eyed, staring out to sea, conjuring memories from 20 years ago and waxing nostalgia for heartaches and disappointments – with no emotional safety net. It had the potential for all kinds of ugly and the irony was that I wasn’t even participating in the ‘festival’ – I just wanted a Chai and now I wanted to cry into it.
Suffice to say, being audience to the sounds of fake laughing will generally induce a smile, or quite possibly your own kind of guffaw. But starting your day to an audio of fake crying, or whimpering even, to the soundtrack of “My heart will go on” is positively soul crushing. It was definitely the sign for me to go (and you know what an advocate of crying I am.)
So, there were no tears on the flight for me. But I did take the time to reflect.
Two and a half months didn’t fly by, but they didn’t drag either. I felt neither impatient or hurried or anticipatory while in India. It all simply felt perfectly momentary. Like, everything I was doing was what I was supposed to be doing and it wasn’t because of some divine intervention. It was simply because I stepped the fuck back and let shit happen a little more.
I was asked by close friends and acquaintances along the way whether it was life changing or if I felt different or transformed. I wasn’t able to answer that honestly because everything was new. Any change of life often becomes more evident when the surface we are projecting it against is familiar. “I’ll probably know if my life has changed when I go back to what I know and respond differently, or not” was my answer.
It’s hard to say why we transform or, what transforms us. Ultimately, I believe it is the leap from one perception to another but often a trigger helps, like travel.
Travel is like a fast track to a paradigm shift. It ignites the desire to seek, it fuels the urge for questions, it sparks our feeling of vulnerability. So, by its nature we are called upon to pay attention. Reactions to our comments are different, some people stare more, they stare less. In some cultures we are beautiful, in others we are not. Our humor isn’t always funny, our dress sense isn’t always cool, what we like we can’t find, we are forced to adapt again and again to something that isn’t always comfortable and yet, we persist anyway.
And, how quickly we will adapt, if we want to.
And, how quickly our wants can change if they mean a bigger gain.
So, during my travels through India, I only wanted to keep my eyes open. I wanted my days to be void of to do lists and life goals and acquiring and attaining. I wanted less push toward manufacturing experiences so I could spend my days observing and, learning life Indian style. As a result, I felt like every day was the most serendipitous day I’d had. Thoughts connected to conversations with people who had connected with my desires which sprung from dreams which became revelations. It was a ripe time for magic.
To say that India is amazing, would be to posit myself as naive. I don’t know a lot about this country, and it’s going through some pretty big transformations itself. The day I left I read about a 40 year old Swiss tourist who was gang raped while her husband, tied to a tree, was forced to look on. There is anger and aggression and oppression and old school ways which are corroding on the corners of new technologies and glitzier western influenced dreams. The next generation is in a transition not yet seen before in this country and the values, unfortunately, are being taught by the worst of what the west has to offer.
But that’s what is being reported and our news sources always want to tell us about the worst.
Besides that, it’s pretty uncomfortable, coming from the west. They don’t have the kind of conveniences we have; reliable electricity, good running water, clean streets, fast food (healthy or not). I was physically dirty everyday; the dust and dirt settles itself into everything. A strong stench is omnipresent; shit and piss and burning trash from our daily waste. Team that up with high temperatures and dense heat. But, this is real life for many people and some really love it so, if there is the need to complain then there is a bigger need to leave. And, of course, there are some very real ideologies and practices that need to change but this trip wasn’t about me changing the world, it was about me understanding it more.
That said, I experienced a quality of kindness that felt vintage and untainted. Like, this was the way kindness was when we first discovered it; egoless and free. Of everything I experienced that could change my life, I hope that this will be the one that sticks.
At it’s core, India is a country rich in spirit and blessing. Everywhere, religion and spirituality and a connection to the gods is a greater part of the conversation. Temples are more convenient that toilets here and it felt like Yoga was everywhere and yet, you couldn’t really see it because it was more about living than posing.
Of all my years in the world of yoga in the west; the hours practicing on a mat, the many workshops and training’s and therapeutics learnt and lectures on the goddesses and classes taught. It was here, in the yogic motherland, where I didn’t practice an ounce of third party led ‘yoga’, that I felt my connection to the practice. It wasn’t from a yoga journal article on accessing my prana and letting my light shine, or practicing, bikini clad, on the beach for a few instagram photos. It wasn’t learning how to perfect my down dog, or spending my time finally getting into full virasana – though all of those things are yoga too, if you connect with them.
It was much quieter than that.
My yoga revealed itself in the conversations and in the everyday. It showed up on a train from Mysore to Bangalore when the 15 year old girl, traveling with her father and sitting across from me, was unable to contain her curiosity anymore so she planted herself in the empty seat next to me. She looked at me, smiled, and then immediately leaned in and tried to read what I was reading, and writing, including my personal journal. It didn’t feel invasive, it felt endearing – like I wanted to crack myself wide open for her. After a brief conversation with me she fell asleep on my shoulder and, without even an ounce of hesitation, I wrapped my arm around her and snuggled her close. Her father meanwhile, smiled at me, and continued his passionate conversations with all the men and women surrounding us who he’d never met before. Our carriage was lively with conversation I couldn’t understand – I didn’t need to – food was being passed around and meanwhile I sat there, heart full, eyes swelling from love, holding this girl asleep while thinking that this is how we should be holding each other; in conversation, in our arms, and in our offerings. My heart cracked open more than in any back bend I’ve ever managed to get in to.
It’s been an interesting emotional journey for me. Almost without me having to do anything, I shed. Perhaps it was because I had the time to linger with myself with no interruption or familiar influence that I was able to find it. But, I was filled with nostalgia for a simpler version of myself, a self that knew how to love unconditionally and patiently.
It’s very difficult to explain this because it was simply an internal shift but I found myself just wanting to reach out more and wanting to invite people in and wanting to give more time. When children approached begging for money, I sat and talked with them and got to know their names and watched them light up as they realized I was interested in their families and who they were where, before I might have just handed them money (or not!). I wanted to stop and play with the babies on the street, and the children on the beach and the dogs walking by.
But then, the pace of India lends itself to this kind of wanting. The people want to reach out, so it makes sense that I wanted to also.
It’s slower than the west. Even in the chaos, they make time for time. When I was in a shop one afternoon and had only a few minutes to browse I told the shopkeeper that I would like to return when I ‘had more time’. He responded “Yes, please, come with time.” Not “in your own time” or “when you have time” but literally, bring time with you, like it’s something you can hold. Indians seem to do everything with time.
I am in Australia at the moment, with my family and the question now being asked is “Will you go back?” Yes, with time I will be back to India. It left an impression so deep I feel claimed.
But for now, as I reflect back and I think about what it is I came away with, it is this. There is a god, give that god whatever name you want but the easiest name to give is yours. This I know to be true. That running through us all is the most divine energy and the best way that we can keep that channel open is to be our most purest selves. We are the source and in whatever way we can; whether we make love, or paint a pictures, or walk a temple 3 times, or chant Om Namah Shivah, or forgive our enemy, or hug the first 10 people we come across or say goodbye, we must stay connected to honesty and kindness – for that is the source, of the source.
After visiting countless temples, and chanting Hare Krishna, and eating with strangers, and holding strangers and getting hugged by a guru, and finding new friends and connecting with old friends and finding a deeper relationship with my family, I feel like I literally blessed the shit out of my life.
And that was it. If India was going to teach me anything it was that: Bless the shit out of your life!