My flight to India was originally booked to fly into Chennai. The U.S. news doesn’t necessarily cover Indian events and just 36 hours before my flight, I discovered that this city is completely underwater due to the worst rains and flooding in 100 years (global warming, much?). The airport was closed and nearly 400 people were stranded there. I was feeling some anxiety about traveling to Chennai, even before I knew about the flooding, and as soon as I was rebooked to Bangalore, my fears were alleviated. What I had planned (and somewhat obsessed over) in the last month was unraveled in a matter of hours and an entirely new plan was in place with exactly no time to obsess whether or not the so-called plan was even a good one. (On a side note, this is just evidence that having fear and even some anxiety is normal, maybe even intuitive, but obsessing too much over what you think is going to happen or not happen or might happen is pretty much a waste of your energy because the thing you are so worried about probably won’t even happen. And believe me, the flooding and subsequent canceling of my flight never even entered my mind as a possible hitch.)
Bangalore sounded fine by me. Better than canceling or delaying my trip. Besides, I have been to Chennai, but not Bangalore. I finally started to get excited. I was behind schedule. The day spent un-booking and rebooking made it so that I’d be packing well into the night. I stayed up nearly all night, hoping that might help me be sleepier for the time travel.
The next morning as I was driving from Austin to Houston to catch my flight, having had only a few hours of rest, I realized that even though I was in my home state, I felt more out of place in rural Texas than I likely would in India. The irony was so apparent. The weeks leading up to my trip, I had spent some hours recalling how difficult India was for me last time. I was convinced I’d be uncomfortable and feel unsafe or unable to navigate the international travel details on my own. This is my first solo international journey. I told myself a little affirmation, “I am safe, healthy happy and everything is easy.” I also did a little Kaki Pranayama (thanks Genevieve!). It helped.
As I passed the World’s Largest Barbecue Pit on Highway 290 (it’s for sale, by the way , for a mere $350,000), I had this sense that I had it all backwards. I’ve grown accustomed to the U.S. and I am undoubtedly American, but the views and values which comprise my home state do not resonate for me nearly as much as those of the Hindu culture in India. At home in Texas, I passed cows being raised for the BBQ and in a few days time, I’d be driving next to cows who roam the streets and are worshipped in temples. Perhaps I was leaving the place where I was unable to fit in to return to the place that made more sense, for me. It is an epiphany I am still exploring.
The flight was great! I finally set foot on European soil and realized that it is fairly ridiculous that it took me 46 years to do that. I didn’t leave the airport in Germany so I am not sure it actually counts. All I can say about that is my next trip is definitely going to be Europe. That’s just how it is at this point. In fact, I knew I wanted to go back to India, but I felt like I was cheating on my European dream by coming here again before going there. Alas, the East just has it’s hooks in me in a way that the West does not. My goodness, Thailand is just across the ocean from me now, can I extend this trip somehow?
Landing in Bangalore was smooth and my hotel arranged for a driver to retrieve me. He had one of those little signs with my name on it, except his was hand-drawn with sharpies on a piece of wrinkled paper instead of printed like everyone else’s. It was cute and so perfectly me. He got me safely to my hotel around 4 a.m. I immediately FaceTimed Texas. Then I crashed super hard.
I didn’t want to go straight to the Ashram because I might as well see some of Bangalore while I am here. It is a 5-hour journey to the Ashok Tree Ashram in Tiruvannamalai. I definitely wanted to sleep before doing that. I spent a day sleeping, then an evening planning my touristy events since I had no time to do that prior to my trip given short notice of arrival in Bangalore. I decided to hire a taxi for the day and have him drive me to some temples and then to the shopping district. Today is Sunday so the local people were out at the temples and I slipped in, not unnoticed, rather without much ado. The Ganesha temple was high on my list and I arrived in time for the puja (a religious ritual combined with prayers, chanting, etc.) This was particularly special for me and it was again, in this moment, that I realized, as I was surrounded by faithful Hindu, without another white person in sight, that I was, indeed, more comfortable here than in many churches at home. Even the organized chaotic driving, the frenetic energy that only India can deliver, was so ordinary and comforting that I honestly wondered how I ever could have been concerned about my ability to handle it.
To be fair, when I came to India last time, I was a totally different person. I was resisting so much and clinging to everything in my life that this place called India was disconcerting at best; confrontational, frustrating and somewhat brutal at the worst of times. When planning this trip, that is what I imagined I was throwing myself back into. And it is, actually. But I am changed. I am in the flow now. And that’s not some BS hippie statement, that’s just my reality now. I flow. I flow with chaos or I flow with order. I am just part of it. I don’t resist. I don’t cling (well, I cling less).
I had one moment when I was finished at the Ganesha temple and I was supposed to call my driver, Mohan, to meet me. I could not remember how to dial the number and every attempt I made to call him failed. I looked around for anyone whom I might ask to help me make this call. I saw faces of many beautiful people, but none that seemed like the right person to ask. I knew I was just missing a zero or something, so I kept trying different codes. I kept getting it wrong. A little anxiousness started to creep in. I had already hired him for the day and the day had only just begun. I didn’t want to get in another cab. The road where I was to meet him was extremely packed full of people, cars, tuk tuks, and bikes and at one point, all I could hear was the incessant honking that started to make me want to scream.
Then, I realized, this is the moment. This is the moment when you stay calm and grounded despite all of the external confusion. This is the moment yoga has trained me for. Breathe. Be one with it. Move with it. Enter it and exit it. Don’t fight it. Don’t run from it. Just be with it. A solution will appear. There are so many options. Sit in this pose and take everything in. So I did. I looked at all the beauty around me. I stood in the street, with everyone else, as the cars rushed by. I turned on my data for my phone and found an email for the hotel, which had their number, written out exactly as it should be dialed. I called it. They answered and dialed my driver for me. He was there a minute later. Perfect, divine chaotic order.
The rest of the day was flawless. That affirmation works. Safe. Healthy. Happy. Easy. That’s how this trip to India is for me.
Tomorrow I take the 5-hour drive to Tiruvannamalai. I have so many reasons to return to this sacred place. I’ll save all those stories for my next blog entry. I’ll be there for seven weeks studying with Yogi Ashokananda. More about him later too. Until then, I encourage you to rediscover how you are in the flow. You already are, you know. What are you resisting? What are you afraid of? What stories are you telling yourself that may be just discomfort and unease energy that you could just set aside, knowing that it will, or it already is, ok?
I love you.