I’ve eaten, I’ve prayed (involuntarily, to the cucumber gods), I’ve chanted (yup, it happened), I’ve yoga’d, and I’ve fallen in love with India. Or at least, with the relatively small part of it I’ve lived in for the past (almost) two months.
I can’t honestly say that I’m ready to go back to real life, real cold and real work, but I CAN say that I’m really looking forward to seeing my loved ones. In an ideal world, I would just ship them all over here and call it a day, but unfortunately we can’t always get what we want. Or can we? That remains to be seen.
For now, I’ll brace myself against the Christmas-time frenzy I’ve been sheltered from over here, and try to look forward to stuffing my soul with fat birds, home-cooked food, and lots of catching up with those I missed by crackling fires and eggnog.
Take note, friends with fireplaces and Rum: I’m coming for you.
I’ll spare you the long list of everything I’ll miss about India and just say that it’s pretty much everything, including the smell of burning garbage. Most of all, I will miss the simplicity of doing next to nothing in paradise except enjoying the moment and absorbing new everythings. But you know what? Despite being filled with all that I’ve learned over the past seven weeks (not to mention a shitload of carbs), I feel much lighter than when I arrived.
Through meeting so many amazing people, experiencing so many new things, overdosing on yoga, and being more alone with my thoughts than ever before (despite being constantly surrounded by people), a whole big new space has opened up in my mind and in my heart.
Through discarding so many of my “go-to” patterns of thought, and finally being able to unload a ton of “stuff” I hadn’t even realized I’d been holding onto for dear life (for the better part of my adult life), I’m left with an unprecedented lightness of being that is both new, and wonderfully foreign to me.
It feels kind of like walking into a brand new, pristine-white room, and knowing that I get to paint it in all the new colours I want. How fun is that???
Holding on so hard to notions of ourselves (how we ARE, or how we SHOULD be, or how we WANT to be) is both exhausting and futile, since the only person we’re really trying to convince is ourselves.
Letting go of these notions doesn’t mean weakness or defeat, but it entails cutting yourself some slack and enjoying things as they come, rather than constantly trying to control and construct your reality “just so”, in order to believe all the stories you create in your mind.
There’s a great line from Ally Macbeal (forgive the spelling, it’s not important), where someone asks Ally (a neurotic, charismatic, anorexic but endearing Type-A personality who constantly tries and fails to control everything around her):
“Why are your problems so much more important than everyone else’s?”, To which she answers: “Because they’re mine”.
I’ve always loved that answer. Not just because it’s fabulously witty and honest, but because I thought it was true. Doesn’t everyone? Aren’t we all right smack in the center of our own melodramas? Isn’t it normal and natural to blow up our own storylines, make them larger than life, and get so wrapped up in them that eventually we don’t know which way is up and which way is down?
While this may be natural, it’s not necessary. This dawned on me while I was surrounded by 30+ strangers who I got to know quite intimately through yoga-camp. In real life, you can know people for years and never quite understand who they really are, or what they’re really going through in their lives, once the masks we put on for the world are on. And who are we kidding?
In real life we don’t seem to have much time leftover for much, let alone other’s issues. We have a handful of people who we REALLY allow in, and as for the rest of the world, sorry, no time.
In “real life”, the pace of daily living is so fast, and there never seem to be enough hours in the day.
In the yoga compound, I was busy being consumed by my own issues, alongside my camp-mates. We were all dealing in our own ways with what we were experiencing, and eventually (due to the the 24/7 proximity we were forced to be in), we got to know each other without the usual social masks we show to the world.
Outside the yoga training, we met so many Indians and fellow travellers from all walks of life, for both short and prolonged periods of time.
The more we took the time to talk, the more I learned that despite all our differences, we are all share similarities that you would never guess if you stopped at first impressions. Everyone wants to be happy, everyone worries (including Lolita, despite his “no stress, no stress” mantra), and everyone has (real or perceived) problems.
And eventually, it hit me: my problems were NOT bigger than theirs, they were just mine. And when I took a time-out from my own internal dramas, I learned that everyone has a story, and more often than not theirs are just as fascinating, if not more, than the ones we’re constantly reciting to ourselves.
There are so many things to learn when you venture out of your own scripts, and read the ones around you.
A whole new (less self-centered) perspective comes from widening your viewpoint and taking yourself out of its center, even temporarily.
So, with my head out of my ass, I feel like I can see better. Not only do I feel lighter, but I feel recharged, re-energized, and inspired to paint that empty room in bright new colours.
Your reality and viewpoint will change, depending on how you choose to look at it. If nothing else, you always have a choice. You can choose to try to control your circumstances so that they all conform to how you (center of the universe) want it to go, or you can let go of this need and make some space for stuff you don’t even know exists yet.
If you really want to get funky, chew on this: everything starts with a thought, and thoughts can be changed.
In fact, they’re the only things in your life you CAN control, and they’re happening in the present moment. So, think of it this way: your life reflects your habits, your habits reflect your actions, and your actions reflect your thoughts.
If your mind stays open by just being in the present and putting some of your crap to the side, you’ll let a whole lot of good stuff come pouring in. And that’s the main thing this yoga bender has taught me: openness.
I won’t say goodbye to the ocean, to India, to my new friends, or to my new “deep thoughts.”. They’ll all still be out there, even though the epicenter of MY universe will be temporarily shifted to the North Pole, enjoying the winter wonderland that awaits. (Insert sarcasm here).
We can never re-live any particular experience with the same setting, actors or plot line, but I guess that’s why we invented literature, art, and movies. All we CAN do is try to stay open to the present moment, squeezing as much appreciation out of it as we possibly can, and realizing (before it’s too late) that this particular time will never come again, whatever, or wherever it may be.
So, India, this is not goodbye. It’s a definitive au-revoir, because I’m sure I’ll see you again later. You did me good. Namaste.