So much has impacted me the last ten days – it’s hard to choose what to speak about. However it would be a loss to not write about my self discovery while roughing it at Cheyar. So I’ll start here and and let the rest come as it may. For your information, this post is in response to this article; View from the Veranda
We reunited with an Indian family we met in 2011. This time instead of splitting the group in half and spending one night in the homes of villagers, we spent three days and two nights in one home and we all slept in the same home located out in the country. We ate what they ate – mostly rice, sambar, and chutney. We had these grand meals for breakfast, lunch, and dinner all three days.
We slept on cement floors and the only thing to provide us comfort was a thin straw mat and a thin blanket. Due to the absence of a door, we were well accompanied by spiders, mosquitoes and crickets, some of who found residence around our mats for the night. That first night, many of us used shawls to cover our heads and put in head phones for fear of bugs crawling in our ears.
Our wonderful hosts had a western WC installed (see image) and running water for Indian style showers. We brushed our teeth with bottled water and spit in the bushes. We sat on a tarp on the floor next to cow dung to have tea. The tea was made with fresh cow milk everyday.
This family treated us like kings. They gave us everything they had and were happy to do it.
I rolled with it. It was difficult to be excited about this part of the journey given that I love my comforts and enjoy fine things from time to time. I don’t consider myself superficial, materialistic or elitist at all so it was extremely challenging to sit with my reactions and thoughts. I like to think of myself as open, loving, empathic and adaptable. Yet this experience showed the gaps in these qualities pretty strongly. I complained internally about the meals, the fact that my feet were dirty all the time, that my hips were bruised on both sides from tossing and turning on cement, that I was sleep deprived for two nights, freezingg cold at night, dealing with those who snore… on and on. I resented not having full knowledge of the purpose of our activities with villagers. I stopped answering questions and stopped asking them. I retreated into my turtle shell of a veranda and looked for comfort. I told myself that in just 48 hours I would have access to a hot shower and different food at the hotel. And in 72 hours I would be heading home and sleeping in my plush mattress and eating salads and driving myself to do whatever I wanted wherever I wanted. No more being car sick after 10 hour journeys in bumpy van rides, no more having to punch in a username and password every 29 minutes to get wifi to work on my phone or laptop.
And as I type this sitting in the seat of the airplane that is landing in 3 hours in LA, I feel sadness. I was very much looking forward to this, heading home. And yet I feel sad because while I am moving toward something – loved ones, comforts, control over my schedule, my car, privacy… I am also moving away from friends, beauty, raw reality, laughter, and experiences which show over and again, people are so different but we are all the same.
At the end of the three days at the rural camp, our host family came to say goodbye and we honored them with our words of gratitude. The mother, tearfully thanked us for being there, told us we were all her daughters she never had, and invited us all as guests to her son’s wedding (the place and time were planned, just need a bride). I surprised myself when tears ran down my face as I expressed to them how thankful I am for the opportunity to be challenges in ways in which I still have yet to understand. They are teachers for us even if they didn’t intend it.
The whole program was filled with teaching – not just from the obvious program leaders but from every individual with whom we engaged. It makes me think: teachers aren’t those people who simply transfer information from one source to another but true teachers find ways to cultivate learning through lived experiences. The experiential component, tied with emotional memory is the most transformational piece that creates change in people. We change when we are moved to a point where we can see ourselves for who we are and close the gap between that person and false perceptions of who we think we are. After all, isn’t this self realization? And self actualization?
As Tyler Durden said, we are not our fuckin khakis… the things we own end up owning us. As Darryl said: the human mind is capable of infinite self deception. In this camp, in India, in these 10 days I was faced with a mirror and shown the ways in which I have let my identity get wrapped up in material possessions. I am part of what I perceive of myself, and part something else. It’s difficult to see the truth. And the truth is rarely monolithic. It is not singular, simple, not only good, pretty, neat and tidy. The truth is much more complex and contains both, it contains opposites and it is hard. My truth about myself was revealed in India. It is not what I anticipated from this trip, not even close to what I asked for but it is what I got. And that is okay.