One of the wonderful things about travelling and spending an extended time alone in an unfamiliar environment is that it can really serve as a laboratory for personal understanding. In essence it’s like living in a vacuum, as the normal interactions, familiar surroundings, standing friendships and community networks, convenient distractions, and daily living patterns all disappear, and what remains is a void of sorts. The void fills of course with countless new experiences, but in this new environment it’s much easier to see the effects of a change here, a tweak there, an input here, and a vacancy there.
The area where I’ve really been paying attention within this vacuum of India has been in the area of personal relationships and interactions and how my emotional state varies with changes in these relational inputs if you will. What I’ve seen has been somewhat dramatically powerful at times. In a nutshell, it’s quite amazing and surprisingly surprising (yes I meant to phrase it that way) how much my mood and more importantly my feelings about myself vary with the extent of my personal relationships and network. For my first few weeks travelling in India, I think I could fairly say that India was my lover, and filled my being, heart and soul. If you read the early posts from here, you’ll find a deep excitement and joy and amazement. Once the love affair burnt down to some still hot yet smouldering embers, when I hit the open-hearted traveller’s wall as I may begin to call it, and headed back to Tiruvannamalai to settle in and rest, the experiment really began in earnest.
Not long after arriving in Tiru, I met a sweet traveller named Claudi who was very affectionate and with whom I shared many meals and talks and simple time together. Life for me at that point was easy. At that time, I also met many other travellers with whom to share meals, walks around the mountain, and chai at our beloved chai shop. The time came for me to depart Tiru and head back to the States, but as you may have read in a previous post, my heart really wanted to stay here and I listened to that yearning. I would be remiss to say that Claudi had nothing to do with it as the thought of having a potential lover in India and exploring the possibility of relationship did weigh into the decision. Within a day or two of my deciding to remain in India, Claudi pretty much disappeared from view. Not sure if she found it easier to love someone who was leaving, or what quite happened. We still remained friendly, and to her credit, the two men I saw her spending a lot of time with were actually two of the deepest, most grounded, and attractive men in Tiru, and both friends of mine, Jorge and Jose. It didn’t really break my heart at all, but what it did do was make my comfort level decrease somewhat substantially. I began to be more curious about this phenomenon. Normally in my life I have many structures and distractions and other social networks, so this kind of reaction isn’t quite so apparent. Here though, in the vacuum of India, reactions were more magnified.
Friends came and friend went, as there is quite an easy flow of friendships made only for onward travels to interrupt their development. As they came and went, I noticed again how my comfort level with being here would correlatively rise and fall.
The retreat came and at times I would feel out of place, kind of out of the loop, as many of the travellers already knew each other. As friendships developed there, things would change. Eventually by the end of the retreat, my feelings were noticeably more positive. When I got invited by Paul to travel on to Amma’s Ashram and join a group of people going, I began to allow a deeper solidification of friendships to develop. It’s very easy being here at Amma’s as I now have many friends here and there is much familiarity already with the surroundings and my daily life, and my roommates are a joy to me. It’s the first time I’ve had roommates in India and it’s quite nice actually.
Then Shanti came back into the picture. Shanti was the sweet Frenchwoman whom I met in Pondicherry back in mid January. I had written about her before and you may remember we had discussed travelling together at some point. I had sort of dismissed that as a likely scenario for a few reasons, but we stayed in contact and she recently came to Tiru for a couple of days to visit ’Mister Ted’ as she calls me in her enchantingly sweet French accent. Shanti and I may well be meeting up in northern India at some point on this trip to travel some together. We both had plans to fly to Delhi, she to move on to Chandighar and I to move on to Rishikesh.. We’ll see what happens, but I would love to travel with her and see what happens/develops. So emotionally/psychically, I may be good to go for the rest of my time in India as it seems like having a primary romantic connection or interest seems to give me a great deal of security and comfort, and joy of course as well. Just paying attentiion. The interesting thing I notice about myself here in India, and I think that would be better phrased as ‘here with my heart open,’ is how easy it is for me to fall in love. I do it constantly. It’s all innocent enough, but there is such an openness in my heart that I find it incredibly easy to love people. I’m not sure if the women here are so beautiful, or if I’m just now seeing them that way. I’ve probably met at least a dozen women in India whose eyes I could stare into for the rest of my life (that’s one of my criterion for a life partner, FYI). And they keep popping up all over. And even back home, my heart still feels very open to CZ. It’s really a wonderful way to be. My job here at the Ashram (we are all encouraged to do Seva (service) daily here) is to serve food to people at breakfast. There is a poster behind the serving area to remind us to see the Divine in each person and to serve them in that light. What an amazing practice that is as it truly opens up one’s field of vision, field of heart-vision actually, so that it becomes second nature to simply walk the grounds here and see the Divine in all people. How can you not fall in love if you are walking around like that all the time.
I try to live my life this way, trying my best to pay witness to myself and my actions so as to not blindly continue on with repeating dysfunctional behaviors over and over again. It’s nice to see my own mind at work. Many times on this trip, I’ve simply attended to my mind as it was moving from one emotional state to another. These moods and emotions may arise as they do, but through much of my spiritual practice, I’ve learned that I am not necessarily my emotions, but I don’t have to identify with them. I can be the one who sees them, or better yet, when I’m really on my game, I can be the One who sees the seer of my emotions. Takes an important level of discipline to remember to do that, but what blissful state arise from that practice.
So we’ll see how the rest of this trip unfolds, but as far as my emotional experience within this experimental vacuum of India goes, it may be somewhat smooth sailing ahead as I have traveling companions available for the remainder of my time here, and a sweet little Shanti to perhaps meet up with under the emotionally now ever-blue Indian sky.