So, how was India?
As you can imagine, I’ve been fielding this question quite a bit since my return. The questioner, always well-meaning, looks at me expectantly and excitedly. Curious and yet somehow certain that I had this incredible experience.
And the truth is, I did. But words like “amazing," “transformative,” “intense,” and yes, “incredible,” do not do the magical-mystery-ride that was India the least bit of justice.
The questioner again waits, asking: “Well, what happened?”
And as I consider just how to answer them. I wonder…
Should I tell them about how, within five minutes of landing, I peed on myself - feet and pant legs - attempting to use my first hole-in-the-ground toilet?
Could I impart how beautiful it was to set eyes on the Golden Temple in Amritsar with it’s alternate-dimensional feeling? It’s radiance and vibration? Could I describe how it felt familiar and yet otherworldly to be there?
Or should I begin with the 84 steps of Goindwal? The experience of chanting Japji (an epic poem to God) on every step before running back and dunking in the sacred waters and then running up to the following stair. Would I ever be able to describe the experience self-baptism and renewal? The climb towards liberation for me and 14 generations of my family line? The contrast of competition and even anger as I set about being the first one to finish? Would I be able to impart the feeling of running up the steps for a final time, after fifteen and a half hours, to rise out of the cold wet darkness into the clean and clear morning light?
And how would I explain the friendships forged? Could I even begin to express how connected I feel to these siblings of destiny discovered and united across hours of exploring, grueling and frightening travel through post-apocalyptic-like terrain in busses, caravans, and even on foot?
And speaking of being on foot, would it be appropriate to share the hell-realm experience of Patna? Walking through the streets feeling feverish and deeply sick to my stomach as I stepped over injured and crying animals, literal shit, landfills people were basically living in and the most intense gazes I’ve ever felt?
Would I ever come close to describing the scorpionic nature of the people we crossed paths with? The intensity that could bore a hole into the depths of you and see and hold all of it - the dark and the light.
Would anyone care that I had some of the most interesting conversations of my life on bus rides, in late night hotel rooms, and at random cafe pit-stops drinking bad coffee? Could I share how my mind literally felt like it opened up, a giant mallet came and shattered old thoughts and then reassembled new neural pathways to experience an upgraded “normal” and an adjusted “reality”?
And what about the monkeys on the side of the road? Would I be able to share how adorable the babies were as they ate bananas?
Or the way the Maha Bodhi (the temple built around the tree Siddhartha was enlightened beneath) literally took my breath away when I laid eyes on it early one morning? Could I share how I actually felt a kind touch on my shoulder as I meditated under the tree - yet when I turned I saw no one?
Or what about the temples? Would anyone understand the feeling of cool marble on the forehead when prostrating out of respect for the deities and high teachers of these sacred places? Could I describe the dizzying heights felt there - the way these spaces buzzed and stretched the crown of your head while simultaneously deeply grounding you into yourself and mother earth?
And where to begin with Sikkim? Would I ever be able to detail our never-ending-seeming beautiful and bumpy-as-hell rides through the foothills of the Himalayas? The emotional high-relief of a beautiful river, cascading waterfalls, contrasted with near-misses, hairpin turns, and even one-car-at-a-time-please bridges?
How to explain the first time I saw the snow-capped Himalayas under the clearest night sky? Or how I woke up early the next morning, going on zombie amounts of sleep to see the sun slowly rise to the right of the full moon over their stunning white peaks?
Could I share how I got sick? And got angry? Would it be prudent to recount my frustrations? My fears? And how on the very last day, all the negativity found a place in a sweeter neutrality and understanding of a journey of energy-hunting? How I finally began to grasp and revere the importance of not knowing the answers, and being led by something other than my egoic need for comfort? Could I share how I recognized I was just along for the ride, and not asking questions was often the way to learn and mine the most treasure?
When I think about the myriad ways I could possibly answer our initial question, I now recognize that words will always fall short. Because India, for me, was not a place of words, but a place of embodiment. A place that demands to be experienced and appreciated for the fact that its horrible beauty, its deep, uncomfortable opening will ultimately always show you the truth.
So, how was India?
I hope one day you’ll find out.