By the time you are reading this, I will be in India. It is my fourth visit to the subcontinent, and somewhat like the other trips, it just kind of happened. Over the course of several short weeks in the fall of 2018, I had a number of people ask- completely out of the blue- when I was taking a group to India, and that when I did, they were in. Clearly the plan was out there, I just hadn’t heard about it yet. Synchronicity, divine timing and spirit commingled, and I was again swept (with excitement and anxiety in equal measure) into a pilgrimage beyond my own making.
In the months and then weeks before the trip, we gathered together in my home and I wrote dozens of messages and lists to help the amazing collection of women which formed itself prepare (in all the ways) for the magic and chaos that is India. To be clear, nothing can prepare you for that particular experience, but some helpful tips along the way never hurt anyone when planning for a pilgrimage of this kind.
I sent my last missive to the group one week before we left. As I was writing, it occurred to me that it was a great list for any journey, not just for India. In fact, it’s a pretty good list for this day, anywhere, and every day that follows. While some of the content is slightly different, the titles- and the spirit— are all the same. Maybe something here will meet you right where you are on your own travels through life.
Pack light. This is a great rule for traveling anywhere, and I don’t just mean bringing a small suitcase. It’s a simple reminder to be in the present. To leave the past in the past, and put down what you’ve felt the need to lug around with you for too long. Less to carry makes you more mobile, lighter, more free. And we all need more of that.
Triggers. There will be a lot of them. In India and everywhere else. When it happens, try leaning into the question, “how can I be more gentle, kind and compassionate?” To others, yes, and also to yourself.
Connection. When feeling lost, isolated or overwhelmed, ask for what you need. Reach out your hand and allow another to comfort you, steady you or help you up.
Judgement. I’ve been thinking it would be great if Patanjali had included one more yama for our adherence: non-judgement. The experience of life is infinitely richer and far less tumultuous when our go-to response to any situation is simple acknowledgment of what is, without the “good” and “bad” labels. The further we move from the edges of duality, the closer we are to center, to source; the more expansive our vantage, our lives.
No complaining. Negativity breeds and feeds on itself. How we go through life is a choice, so why not go with the best possible attitude? From the fabulous Oprah: you are responsible for the energy you bring into this space. Period and amen.
Inclusivity. Make a point to include everyone around you on your journey. Mix up the company you keep. Notice if someone seems excluded and welcome her in. If you look around and everyone with whom you’ve surrounded yourself looks and sounds just like you, it’s time to diversify. Our collective groupishness is unhelpful and unhealthy at best, and hurtful and divisive at worst.
Let go. Have you ever tried water skiing? If so, did you ever fall and forget to drop the tow rope? Even if you’ve never had the experience, you can imagine the result. In moments of chaos, turbulence, life, the best course of action is to let go. Allow Her to carry you. She will. You don’t need to drive.
Reverence. India is the place where I first began to really understand devotion, worship, reverence. Once awakened, we realize the potential for it all the time and everywhere. Breathe in the magic around you and let it open your heart to the Source of all things.
This whole life is a pilgrimage- a journey to a sacred place. Whether home or far away, we are ever moving toward the light as we walk along the path. What “best practices” are you implementing along the way?