Monday, May 16, 2005

Pop Goes the Bubble (?)

Am back in Yalaha (Fl), and while things sure feel different to me on the inside, they look pretty much the same. Although I greatly enjoyed my time in Dharamsala, when the time came to leave I was not sad to go . . . rode the crowded “deluxe” all-night bus 12 hours south to delhi, suffered a tire blowout as we descended from the Himalayan foothills but after an emergency midnight patchjob we were on our way . . . survived NH1 with nary a problem and pulled into Delhi at 6:15am . . .

Spent the day in 110 degree Delhi and visited the Raj Ghat, the park in which the body of Mahatma Gandhi (as well as other Indian leaders) was cremated (in 1948) . . . at the site of his cremation sits an eternal flame atop a black marble slab, on which are carved Gandhiji’s final words, “Hey Ram”, which he uttered as he crumbled to the ground, fatally wounded by an assassin’s bullets . . . across the street from the Raj Ghat is a little museum in which many of Gandhiji’s personal and historical items are on display . . .

At 12:30am that evening my flight departed India for Paris, where I spent a full day before returning home to USA . . . it was a beautiful cool sunny spring day and Paris was sparkling, it had been 25 years since I was last in Paris and I had forgotten how spaciously beautiful a creation it is . . .

Back home, what I’m most frequently asked about is “culture shock”, i.e., what’s it like being back in the United States after a month in India? . . . the expected answer is, I think, something along the lines of “Although there’s so much poverty over there, life in India and its connection to spirit is so much more “real” and “authentic” than over here,” followed by an admission of bewilderment and a condemnation of our “plastic” Western lifestyle and culture.

The truth is I’m experiencing very little culture shock at all . . . life in India is “real” and “authentic” and, while very different, life is also “real” and “authentic” in Florida as well . . . life is life, i guess . . .

But here's how I feel different: I've returned with a sense of space, feeling very much like an "observer" rather than a “judger” -- seeing and noticing the differences, but not being a part of them . . . living alongside, maintaining neutrality and not being affected in ways that get inside the head and seem to matter (yes, I am aware this probably defines “out-of-touch neurotic”) . . . and this is happening without any effort on my part, it’s just the way it is, the way i am.

India for me was an excellent place to unplug for awhile, it provided a fertile setting for solitude, quietness and insight. There since mid-April, I could have traveled a bit more and stayed longer, but felt ready to come home. There’s much I’ll miss, coming to mind as I write this are the Buddhist prayer stones, prayer wheels, prayer flags . . . in and around Dharamsala they are everywhere, colorful, calling on all the elements in nature, including man, to join in celebration of the One. It has not been easy to find ordinary words to describe all the extraordinary things I’ve seen and experienced.

So it’s nice to be home, and to test the cloistered virtue of what I’ve gained -- and lost -- during my time in India. Perhaps it's only in the busy life of community, children, friends and loved ones, with the constant trials and tribulations of everyday life, that I’ll learn if the seeming gold of my “progress” is as pure and acid-proof as it feels.

The luminous Himalaya is Nature at its most dramatically powerful and beautiful, and while it is true that Nature is the mother of every man and woman aspiring towards truth, peace and happiness, the child that wants to sit forever in his/her mother’s lap will never become an adult. To grow, one must return to the "regular" after times in the "wondrous." Over and over, if needed.

I think I’m one of those people who need to use the wild and lonely places of nature as temporary retreats. (Many of you know of my love of northern California -- the deep rugged canyons, fog, big trees, vibrant colors/scents and dramatic ocean shore -- wild country that first taught me how nature can both heal and empower if one is open.)

In addition to its deep, multi-colored spirit and culture, India provided its own “nature” places to nurture me. With eyes, ears and heart open, I tried to place myself in situations that invited absorbtion and learning. And I've now returned to the “active life”, bringing back to share whatever insights, wisdom, broad vision, peace and strength might have gotten in and “stuck.”

I believe such going “back and forth” helps create a balanced life; the social life then expresses the spiritual life, the inner will influence the outer and both will be better for the change. This coordination of spirit and matter can hurt no one, and only benefit those who experience it.

So, after a month in india i'm back in florida, feeling as though i'm armed with spirit. I’m appreciating the place I’ve chosen to be my home, the wonderful people I know and love, and the things (both pleasant and not so) that are happening. And, perhaps most importantly, by being home I’ve learned the following: that it’s not by abandoning what we think are false environments that we make our highest progress, but by abandoning false thoughts.


About halfway through my trip, I received an email from my friend Art Granoff in Petaluma (Ca) . . . as is his style, it was short and to the point, and it basically asked/challenged, “ok, now that you’re seeing and doing what you are, what have you learned and how will it change things when you get back home?”

Art, we've had some great talks and I look forward to having this one and hearing your ideas . . . I’d like to think that if changes have occurred they won't be temporary, that they’ll surface during the course of everyday activities, and we'll see, perhaps they'll even be accessible for easy discussion.

That’s “if” changes have occurred, and i enjoy the notion that, being the brunt of some cosmic joke, while i'm feeling infused with "juice" i haven't *really* learned a thing . . . which brings me to a wonderful passage from Hermann Hesse’s Narcissis and Goldmund that I think bursts the bubble best . . .

“O, how incomprehensible everything was, and actually sad, although it was so beautiful. One knew nothing. One lived and ran about the earth and rode through forests, and certain things looked so challenging and promising and nostalgic: a star in the evening, a blue harebell, a reed-green pond, the eye of a person or a cow. And sometimes it seemed that something never seen yet long desired was about to happen, that a veil would drop from it all; but then it passed, nothing happened, the riddle remained unsolved, the secret spell unbroken, and in the end one grew old and looked cunning . . . or wise . . . and still one knew nothing, perhaps, was still waiting and listening.”