India dissolves my fears, leaves me dumbfounded and inexplicably joyful on the banks of the Ganges, a crowded train in Mumbai, a gathering of Tibetan monks in the quiet Himalayas.
The physical aspects of the place itself – nature, temples, ancient ruins, wildlife, sprawling cities – present a sensory overload. Combined with a deep-seated culture and ritual, India embodies an enchanting and addictive atmosphere if one is willing to look below the oftentimes rugged appearance.
India stares boldly into my eyes, revealing secrets I didn’t know I kept. It’s a sacred place that in order to enter, I feel compelled to disrobe from my strong beliefs about the world and my place in it, surrendering with an open heart and the mind of a seeker. It’s not that I seize to be a teacher, a writer, an economist, a “digital nomad,” a wanderluster, and all of the other labels I have picked up and held onto over the years, but that I understand experientially that I am so much more than that. This remembering allows me to dive fearlessly into life, less reluctant to change and tied any given personality.
I don’t worry about how I’m acting much, including the debilitating inquiry of how others perceive me. Not only because there’s a relative lack of Western night life and foreigners, but because I feel so grounded in who I am, the perceiver of all passing things – through the beauty, heart ache, effort, confusion and perseverance.
The experience isn’t the same for all travelers of course, and many times I see the other extreme. India asks who we are without all of the things and relationships we identify with. I feel that for some, feared by the lack of a quick response or disinterest in answering, India pushes them to latch onto their ideas, enforcing their persona in stark contrast to the perceived reality of this place. The fear of something so different works to highlight the traffic and pollution and can make people physically ill. In rejecting the “foreignness,” the person becomes a bystander of the madness instead of a participant in the subtle magic of every moment.
When I take the time to consciously listen, India points me to the tools laying around in the yard of my busy mind and stowed away in my heart. I’m directed back to my breath, reminded to stay quiet and observe, trust my intuition, and not only reflect on gratitude but practice service and express compassion.
My home away from home exercises tough love. India knows when to bring me back down to earth with a pile of cow dung, knows when to test my calm with a chaotic tuk-tuk ride, or a dozen angry-looking men staring at the only Western girl at the train station. Likewise, India picks my spirits up with so many auspicious synchronicities. While India feeds my soul with ancient traditions—devotional kirtan, yoga, meditation and spirituality—I’m enthralled by its world of extremes and tumultuous evolution in the 21st century, evident in the Bollywood hype and the changing social landscape of the world’s largest democracy.
I feel intuitively that in returning I become more grounded in love, peace and happiness and am better able to contribute positively to the world uninhibited by borders.
Overall, I love India because she takes me back to my roots, washing away everything that isn’t timelessly me so that I can stand more comfortably and confidently in my truth.