My husband was so excited to see me that he wanted to throw me right back into the world of bills and schedules, taxes and house keeping. I had to explain that I just wasn’t ready for that — and not just because of the jet lag, but because India taught me how much more simple life could be. He is learning to be patient with me, for which I am grateful, because as I woke today to realize I really was in the U.S. and not in the sweltering heat of Kerala, I burst into tears. The travel day came back to me in a big whoosh and I realized just how far away from India I now was.
I can blame the tears on hormones and jet lag, but I can’t hide the fact that I feel a huge hole in the center of my chest, like a large part of me is still listening to the monkeys, sitting on the bank of the Ganges, drinking chai with a new friend and riding on the back of a scooter. The trip transformed me. I went as someone with fear stored in every crevice of my body, seeking to rid myself of it as I searched to find a sense of belonging and connection in the world. I left with a new found confidence, a confidence not ego-based but based in the heart, and as I walked the streets of Kerala in that last week I felt an overwhelming sense of belonging. I felt as though I had finally found myself, like I had finally stepped into the person I was so seeking to become, and even as the heat bore down and caused beads of sweat to pool in my lower back, my soul sighed, “Finally.”
The last night I was in Kerala I felt assured and confident that I had learned what I needed to come home and fulfill the tasks awaiting me; to continue to live my dharma. And that I would be so much stronger along this path because I had been learning what it takes to live with an open heart. Now that I’ve traveled back half way around the planet to my home, a new challenge awaits me — to overcome any grief or sadness from leaving India and to apply this new found heart-confidence into my life here.
I talked a lot in the blog about the sadness that resided inside me, in my heart, which would creep out into the blue-gray pigment of my eyes. That sadness starting lifting the first night it was brought to my attention, back in Rishikesh, through conscious processing, and with every moment of conscious awareness I let it seep out into the Mother below my feet, and I filled the remaining space with the thriving life force of India and her people. My first impression of India was of a place in chaos, with people and animals, trash and waste, food and water all mixed together in a way that made no sense in the world that was so carefully constructed back home. But as I began to watch, and to speak to the people, to accept their generous smiles, and to learn from them, I realized that what I had perceived as chaos was simply a manifestation of so many different souls living together and allowing their differences to exist as they each tried in their separate ways to fulfill their individual path on earth.
One of the many differences between my home and India is that in India, people and their differences seem to tolerate if not embrace each other as they coexist side-by-side, creating colorful and sometimes contradictory living situations. In my home, survival often means setting aside the eccentric or seemingly mundane in order to fit into a carefully constructed box labeled, “Accepted Existence.” For example, in India, a man may carry heavy jars of water, one after the other, all day long, to a tank on the roof of a house so that a tourist may take a shower. But he is not ashamed — that is his job, it makes him strong, and he takes money home at the end of the day to feed his family. He is respected. At my home, and in my experience, jobs requiring less critical thinking and more brawn are seen as inferior and not strived for. Heaven forbid I wield a hammer all day long, content, and not strive to become the lead builder. Heaven forbid I go to college for a degree I find interesting and then choose to serve food for a living. Or more personally, heaven forbid I go to school for years, accumulating awards that prove how well I over-think the most intricate of scientific topics, and in the end, I teach people how to breath, move, eat, and eliminate properly.
India showed me that either path is okay. It was something my soul knew, but the fear inside my body kept me from understanding and embracing it because I was so scared that if I chose the path inside my heart, one that may be seen as “inferior” in the world I live in, then I wouldn’t be accepted or respected. India has shown me that the only path to happiness, the only path worth living, is the one that’s in my heart. India embraced me with open arms and showed me that all paths are accepted — you simply must learn to make sense of the colorful chaos your choices create as they blow up the box around you. Because that box I am talking about — that box I find myself in so often at home — is created by fear of loving what is different. Those walls of fear are constructed around our hearts so that the ego can take up more space, and say confidently what life should and shouldn’t be. This box created of fear is essentially a creation of life void of an open heart.
I have a lot of work to do. I don’t mean to imply by the words above that my heart has opened and, hallelujah, I can stop working on it now. The work has just begun, and India showed me glimpses of what the true happiness created from an open heart could feel like all the time. I had these glimpses as I walked down those streets in Kerala, smiling greetings to those I met; when I rode down narrow streets on a scooter behind a new friend, feeling freedom in every pore of my being; when I looked into the eyes of new, native friends who had never lived a day with walls of fear surrounding him and wondered curiously where mine came from; when I stood on the bank of the Ganges and felt love and spirit swell my heart and I embraced my two soul sisters, now my Ganga sisters; and when I boarded the plane to go home, reluctance in my step and a heaviness in my body, and felt a presence come to me that said, “Go now, it’s time for you to learn to live your lesson. But keep coming back; I will always welcome you.”
I’ll be posting more pictures on Facebook and on here, and I’m sure I’ll be writing more about India as the lessons learned weave their way into my life in San Diego. Here are some pictures to recap some of the experiences had on the trip. Enjoy.