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I’ve been thinking about this for the last week as I continue to recover from weird illnesses, bug bites and stomach upset (my little treasure trove of India’s farewell gifts). I ask myself, how have the last two months of stress, noise, dirt, confusion and the general edge of insanity and new levels of bitchiness improved me? Surely there has to be some benefit from the money, time and sacrifice that went into making that adventure a reality!!
So I stand here, on the other end of my “so-called” majestically spiritual, life-changing adventure, and I have learned this:
1. Life is good here in the west. Sure we face illness, money pressures, and hard work woes, but we don’t have to mould cow dung with our hands to build the homes we live in, we don’t have to beg and steal to feed ourselves and our children, most of us don’t have to pick through trash for treasures that others saw as garbage, and we don’t have to live in 24/7 chaos.
2. Our governments may be pretty incompetent at times and we may not always like what they do, but they’re not completely corrupt. If we’re in need of aid, they are not going to get in the way of others trying to help us if they are at least not sending help themselves.
3. We, here in the west, are not suffering from massive overpopulation. We don’t have to push, shove and hurdle ourselves over crowds and debris to get a seat, or even a place to stand. Our buildings aren’t crumbling down around us, or left only half built, and if they are, there are safety laws prohibiting us from living in them. Scaffolding, bare wires and metal rods are the norm in the average home/business where I was. The kids just learned to play within the rubble.
4. We are not being taken over by force and told we can no longer practice our religion. We have the right to free speech, the right to come and go as we please, and no one is dropping test missiles in our sacred lands, or refusing to acknowledge our culture.
5. Things are pretty good here. We have running water, flushing toilets, clean air, space to move about, parks, schools, hospitals, animal control and aid, freedom and democracy, the power to influence through media and social change, and most of all we have hope.
What I witnessed over the last few weeks, the poverty, the shady acts, the dirt, the poor starving animals, the noise, smells, sights that made me look away fast, shook me to the core. The monks with missing limbs, the protests, the stories from Burma, the travesties of the Chinese government in Tibet, the sheer filth of the Ganges River and then the joyous feelings of returning home to beautiful California was a lesson learned indeed.
I learned that right here, and right now, I’m the luckiest person in the world to have more than $30 in my bank account, and a fridge full of food. I’ve seen a dr. twice this week, and I am damn lucky that I could afford that luxury.
India taught me a lot indeed. I didn’t get the spiritual jolt I was looking for, nor did I find even a fleeting moment of peace and tranquility. What I did get, was a swift kick in the butt. A startling realization of how fortunate I am and that I have a responsibility to give something back to the universe that gave me so much.
I’m not really the crusader type, and I’m not even trying to save the world, but I am going to take all the benefits of living in this incredible country, and do something with it that will serve a good greater than just me, with as little impact on the environment as humanly possible.
And not for one single solitary second more of this life of mine, will I EVER entertain the idea that happiness lies somewhere else other than right in front of my face.
Caren is a certified yoga teacher, fitness instructor and author of The Fit Habit. Here she shares simple, healthy recipes, home workout ideas and practical ways to foster mind + body wellness.