Monday, September 9, 2013

Meditation, mountains (of garabage), and making the best out of uncomfortable situations

Being asked to pose for photos in Kolkata's Victoria Memorial Garden

I’d been in Kolkata for five days when it hit me; if I’m in India, why do I feel so far removed from the spiritual realm? As I tried to cross the busy street without being pulverized by a taxi, it seemed obvious. Kolkata is a hectic place. Though the city itself boasts much beauty, finding a time and space to be introspective isn’t the easiest of tasks. It is a little unorthodox, but only seems right that a place so opposed to my romantic view of India (Bollywood come to life!) would be the staging ground for ethereal experience.

After making it back to my hotel, I was drawn to meditate. I’m no expert, but my dabbling has often led to deep and meaningful experiences. Maybe it was finding my center after 6 days of perpetual motion, or maybe India is just that sacred of a place, but this meditation was quite profound. Within minutes I found a comfortable position (which isn’t a regular occurrence), that seemingly transformed my autonomous entity into a single drop of something greater. I was there, but only as a small part in the greater whole. Everything seemed connected. My body felt as if it had melted into my mat, with the air and ambiance of the atmosphere engulfing me. For 30 minutes I felt as if I had somehow made my way into the womb of existence. Returning to the present felt almost like a fall from grace.

After drifting back to the physical plane, life, once again, was whirl wind. That night, our local friends took us to their favorite bar. Though I’m not much for the night life, I did want to go to a place that offered live music. Like much of an Indian adventure, this didn’t end up quite how I expected. The music was sung by (relatively) scantily clad women, who our friends told us were actually prostitutes. Rupees draped in horny men’s numbers were thrown on stage, and the bouncers made sure that the right lady received the note. After uncomfortably sipping Kingfisher and trying not to make eye contact for a few hours, my night ended with consoling a local guy who fell for a foreigner who didn’t love him back.

Garbage Moutain
Though the smoke and smog left me with a pretty rough cold, I deiced to mind over matter the day and head to “Garbage Mountain,” with a friend we meet near our hostel. He was born in the outskirts of Kolkata, and the legendary mountain was the backdrop to his home. While he tried to mentally "prepare" us for the journey, what we quickly found was his small village outside of the city center was actually incredibly charming. The area was surrounded by water and greenery, and besides the mountain, the small, cobblestone walk ways, and humble brick houses were a fantastic break from the city. The local soccer match was an added bonus, and the insane tuk tuk rides with bumping bollywood songs and strobe lights made the return journey all that much sweeter.

People scavenging for recyclable or reusable scraps

a fitting ominous tree near the mountain

So how do all these experiences link together? The answer to that is why I continue to travel. I have no idea. What I do know is that with each step towards something greater, a ripple effect helps transform the world around us. It is amazing what can happen in a 24-hour period. While it is easy to see the beauty of each moment while immersed in a strange and tantalizing place, moments of centering and meditation can help us bring this lens to our everyday lives. Even if the daily grind can’t be seen as a thing of beauty, it is easier to face after realizing your actions, choices, and existence has purpose and meaning. 

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