Life Lessons From India
It is rounding towards my seventh week in Rishikesh, India. It is hard to believe how fast the time has gone. Feels like just yesterday when I arrived to this vibrant and spiritual city…
As I type this, I am sitting in my favorite café supported by a brightly stitched cushion. Flies swarm my laptop and my forearms stick to the table from humidity. Hare Rama repeats in the background and my mind drifts off like the steam from my chai. Images of the previous weeks scroll through my head.
When I first left for India, people would tell me that I would never be the same. That India would change me. I was not quite sure what that meant. Now, almost two months later, I understand. Even if you try to avoid it, India will change you. Little day-to-day distractions melt away and you are forced to face yourself. To face your thoughts. Everything is more apparent.
So as I sit and contemplate all that has changed me, all that I have learned…three distinct lessons come to mind:
1. Everything is our own perception.
The world around us is entirely created by the thoughts in our minds. What we are perceiving creates our reality. If we want to change the quality of our external world, we need to change the quality of our internal world. If we are unhappy with ourselves, we are the only ones responsible. One of my teachers in India gave a good example of this; if you are in a relationship that is frustrating you, is it really that person? Or is it your perception of them? Those who hurt us will push us back into ourselves – they are our greatest teacher. They bring out a weakness we are not willing to accept. Instead of pinning our unhappiness on someone else, if we take responsibility, we will have the power to make a change. Do not give someone else that power. All of our interactions are simply reflections. Change in and it will reflect out. If we see outside as inside – we are free.
2. The answers we seek are on the inside.
This goes along nicely with the previous point. Generally…in Western society, we look outside for answers and then try to find them on the inside. For example, we decide to be a raw, gluten free, vegan because someone told us it is the healthiest way to eat. We take others’ advice and fail to look inside to truly feel what foods most efficiently feed our body. We immediately categorize ourselves based on someone else’s belief instead of holding our own understanding. In India this is the opposite, answers are found on the inside and then project out. In essence, we were born with all the answers. We were born enlightened - but we lose it. Why? Because we do not realize this from the start. Another lesson from my dear teacher, “Spirituality is about asking questions by the self for the self.” Not about reading books or finding a guru. Reading books and other commentaries will only take us so far. The real knowledge comes from within. Surrender everything you THINK you know and have the confidence to find the answers for yourself. In the end, we are our greatest teacher and guru.
3. Put these answers to practice.
After discovering the answers from within, what do we do? Put them to practice! It is easy to believe in something, but do we actually listen and take our own advice? Do we put it to practice? This is half of the ball game. Learning through our own practice will provide us with a deeper understanding. Practicing regularly will turn our beliefs into habits. We will actually embody and emanate what we believe. Continual practice becomes part of our natural state, our individual nature. In addition, if we want good results, we must be patient. Do not hurry. These things take time…maybe even lifetimes to accomplish. Let go of attachment to the outcome. Keep practicing because it is your true nature, there are no expectations.
Therefore, my final test awaits me. It is easy to vocalize and express all that I have learned. The next challenge is putting it to practice – to truly embody these beautiful lessons. As the wise Gandhi once said, “An ounce of practice is worth more than tons of preaching.”
On to the next journey...