10 themes to describe my experiences in india.
the poverty, the dirty streets, the litter, the dense population, the congested traffic. people with missing limbs begging for money. animals defecating everywhere. children swarming tourists to sell trinkets. policemen with automatic weapons. people peeing, bathing, and sleeping on the streets. this is india.
i mentally prepared myself for the things i would see, the potential experiences i would have. i never dreamed i would fall in love with this place and its inhabitants. a remarkably beautiful country filled with kind, open-hearted people.
i had to learn to eat with my right hand because the left is used for washing yourself and therefore unclean. men and women shouldn’t show affection in public. cows are holy and should never be harmed. chai is served all the time.
most people i met had never traveled outside their village or seen a westerner. my yoga teacher didn’t understand going to bars for fun; alcohol is prohibited in rishikesh. i told villagers at a room to read site that i love to surf; this was translated as “playing in water”.
i asked a 10 yr old to teach me a hindi word; she taught me home. we were welcomed by the entire village at every room to read site visit, and i was invited or told almost daily to come back and make marriage in india.
people in india give no matter how little they have. at every temple, every ceremony, people donate money. whenever i met someone, i was invited to tea. i constantly saw sadhus, those who renounce all worldly possessions, give money to beggars on the street.
i had to go with an open mind and struggled to keep it along the way. i learned to eventually let go of preconceived notions and open my heart, and this led to a very spiritual experience i could have never anticipated. i also ate everything in sight and didn’t get sick until the day i left.
yoga is the union of the physical, mental, and spiritual body, not just a good workout. i practiced with a 101 yr old swami, a 25 yr old yogi, but the lessons were similar in nature: focus on the mind and meditate to develop awareness of yourself, your thoughts, and the inherent good you already possess.
i had a very surprising and deeply moving experience one day at the ashram. it may have been the sequence of events leading up to it, the ability to finally let go of my prejudices, or alignment in the universe, but all of a sudden tears were streaming down my face, and i completely understood.
“i want to be a policewoman or a teacher because these people affect change” – room to read scholar, 10 years old. comments like this validate our mission, my personal efforts, and the belief that we really can create world change.