Since I’ve been in India, something significant has changed. I’ve begun appreciating the people and places of the world ever so much more than I did before.
You may recall me writing a piece awhile back called “Present Moment.” In it, I described how I was just beginning to realize that I (like many people) have a habit of putting my happiness in the future. When I get to Thailand, life will be perfect. When I get to the beach, I’ll have no complaints. When I get to the monastery, I’ll have all the answers, so I’ve just got to get there. I was in the strong habit of thinking that life would get good at some distant point in the future, when I had money, or I was on vacation, or I was meditating. When I finally DID get money, and started traveling, and began meditating in the monastery, something very disconcerting happened. I found that I still wasn’t satisfied! Now I was waiting to get out of the monastery, and move on to the next place, the next experience! Rather than curing me of the habit of waiting to live, countless hours of meditation merely allowed me to clearly see that I was waiting to live. It showed me my habit, in no uncertain terms, and then it was up to me to figure out a way of breaking that habit. I’ve been working on it ever since.
Although I have worn deep grooves in my mind that say, “In the future, when this, or that, or the other thing happens, I’ll be happy!” and although I see that there is a fundamental error in this way of thinking, I still watch it happen. Even once I knew what a mess I was in, the wheels continued to roll down the same tracks. To this day, they continue to run down those tracks, but now I’m more the watcher of the process, and less the person being taken for a ride. One such trap my mind had laid was called “India.” I just knew that when I got to India, life would change. Magic would happen. And luckily, it has. But it didn’t happen just because I got to India- it happened because I have been consistently practicing being present, and appreciating where I am.
The realization I am describing has happened in increments, and I hope that those increments grow and expand until they begin to connect on every side, becoming the healthy, joyous fabric of my life. Now that I’m in India, The Final Destination, I see that every other place I came before here was just as beautiful and wondrous. When I was leaving Thailand, my dear, beloved Thailand, there was a part of me that was relieved. Well, more precisely, it was a feeling of great excitement to get to India. But somewhere in my fevered mind, a snotty little voice was saying, “Yeah, get out of here. Thailand’s played out. Everyone’s been to Thailand, it’s old. Go somewhere new. Get to India. That’s where it happening!”
The other day, I was sitting in the apple orchards, looking out over the valley. There was this gorgeous tree right in front of me. It was tall, growing straight up out of the hillside. It had the shape of a palm tree, but its leaves were dark and glossy, and it looked more like a cedar, or a pine. It looked like something you would see in Africa. Framed against the warmer backdrop of the valley, it was stunning. I watched bees buzz in and out, and the leaves rippling on the breeze. And suddenly, something about it reminded me of the palm trees in Thailand, the way the leaves rustle way up overhead as the evening breeze blows over the island, and the jungle comes to life in its wake. My heart moved, and I felt tears in my eyes. I realized then how precious Thailand is, how unique. It is indelibly printed on my heart, and no matter how many times I go there, it will teach me something new. It is not “overplayed,” or “sold out” as my mind would sometimes have me think. It is precious, and so is every other place on earth. Sometimes, it takes getting away, getting to the furthest reaches of your imagination, before you can appreciate the simple things in your life, the people and places you may have taken for granted. I can’t even tell you how appealing my parent’s back porch sounds to me these days, hummingbirds flitting in and out of the lilac trees, Daddy’s vegetable garden coming to life, Mother cooking up a good steak dinner. Those simple things, those pieces of my heart, have been activated in a way that never could have happened had I remained within those familiar bounds and never come to India.
I was telling Drew about all of this the other day. I said, “Seattle has never sounded so good. But I also love India, and I am so glad to be here. For the first time in a long time, I’m not straining to be anywhere that I’m not. I’m happy where I am. But I do know that when I return to Seattle, I will appreciate in a way that I never did before. The mountains, the rivers, the clean drinking water, the organic produce, the camping, the rafting, the recycling!!!” He said, “Maybe you should write about it. You like doing character sketches. Could you do a character sketch of Seattle, or Vashisht, the town you’re in?” I thought about it, and I decided I would love to do that. So. I will tell you about Seattle, your own beautiful city, and I will tell you about Vashisht, the tiny town I am in. They are worlds apart, but I wonder if I might find similarities. I probably will.
So sit back, enjoy, and take a moment to appreciate the city you’re in. Whether it’s Seattle, or San Francisco, or London, or Tel Aviv… it’s easy to think that life is always happening elsewhere, that they’ve got it better, or that you’d only be happy if… But the truth is, life is right here, in front of you, and wherever you are is the best place you could be! On that note, I’m going to walk up to the gorgeous apple orchards, lie down, and set my imagination free. When I come back, I hope I have glorious stories to tell you about the beautiful city you live in, and also about some wonderful places you may have never seen!!!