I am homesick right now. More accurately, I am husband and dog sick. When I left twelve days ago I was nervous. (Wow, has it really been twelve days already? Has it only been twelve days?) I imagined I would miss my husband at times that I felt lonely or scared. I wondered how it would be without someone I trusted completely, someone who I knew for certain loved me, there with me when I felt unsteady. There have been plenty of moments when I’ve felt vulnerable and hesitant, but in the short time I’ve been here I’ve been shocked by the amount of strength and self-reliance this place has helped me find. I realize more and more that I am brave and strong and capable. I doubt myself less and less as the days march forward. Much to my surprise it’s not when I feel weak or beaten down that I miss my husband the most; I miss him the most in the best moments. I miss having my partner to share those moments with.
Today was one of the best days. I had a really amazing practice this morning. I was able to wake up a few hours early, to the sound of the call to prayer wafting over from the Muslim neighborhood. I love waking up to that sound in my cool, dark room here. I had time to meditate, shower and enjoy one very small cup of coffee before I headed out to the shala. During drop backs, as I was being taken to my ankles, I started to panic. My brain got all fuzzy and my breath caught in my chest for a moment when the word “surrender” came to me. I’ve been thinking about it a lot since I got here. Surrendering to India, to practice, and maybe one day to life. So in that moment I did. I just surrendered to the experience and the assist. For a few moments it was completely quiet in my head. Wow. After I closed, I went out front and drank two coconuts, which still makes me smile. Then I had a lovely breakfast out with my housemate and a friend.
It was Children’s Day today, so I went to Odanadi for their celebration, which I was invited to the last time I was there. This was no ordinary trip out, though. Today I rode the scooter for the first time, outside of the tiny practice runs I’ve been doing in Gokulam. Driving of any kind in India scares the hell out of me, particularly since I’ve only been on a scooter one or two times in the states, and not in any real traffic. To an extent, my fears are totally rational. People here drive by some unseen set of rules. It’s organized chaos, and you are supposed to drive on the opposite side from what I am used to, just to top it all off. However, it’s getting quite expensive to pay for a rickshaw to take me the 15 -20 minute ride out to Odanadi and then pay them to wait before returning me home. I got the scooter a week ago, but then I hesitated. I practiced and started slowly, but then I started to drag my feet. While I’ve hesitated, my rational fears have mutated into a full blown fear monster. Just the thought of driving was making my stomach hurt. I know this feeling. I’ve been here before and it does not get better or go away. Over time, I just become more and more paralyzed and the fear migrates, oozing from one new experience to another, filling me with self doubt.
Around noon I set off. My heart was pounding and my mind went kind of fuzzy, just like this morning. Instinctively, I started to recite the Maha Mantra in my head as I made my way on to Contour Road and something really magical happened. Flow. I surrendered. I surrendered to the holes in the road and the noise and later, as I crossed over from paved roads to sand, gravel and huge ditches, I wasn’t afraid. I was cautious and aware, but the paralysis that comes with fear was gone. The monster had been banished. I arrived safely at the front gate.
Odanadi was amazing today. All the children were there, from the boys and girls homes, all dressed in colors and smiles. There were games and cultural programs and they had prepared bisi billa bath (a spicy rice and veggie dish that originated here in Karnataka) and curd. It was awesome. The afternoon was indescribably beautiful and I was honored to be there. The only thing missing was my partner to share it with and my dogs to come home to.
This morning, Sharath’s kids were in the shala for a short time and he made an off handed comment to those of us waiting to start about “no family, no fun.” I kept thinking about that all the way home. It’s really true for me. I love it here and I am eager to come back, but I will always be more eager to return home. That’s where I can always let go.