Tuesday, December 18, 2007

On Leaving

In 13 hours, I fly out of India. I leave India. My god. I have to admit there were times during this trip when I seriously doubted whether or not I would make it to this point. There are so many emotions running around inside of me right now that I'm finding it difficult to formulate any sort of coherent, structured thoughts. I am so excited to return home of course, but at the same time I'm also feeling a bit wierd in leaving. I don't exactly know what it is...nostalgia perhaps? No, that's not it. It's not sadness either, but more like an important chapter of my life is coming to a close, and while I'm relieved on many levels that it's over, I also recognize how valuable an experience this has been and how much this place has taught me. It's almost like, besides myself, the only witness to everything that i've been through these past three months has been India herself. All the anger, frustration, love, bitterness, joy, relief, stress...everything I've felt over the past 11 weeks has been shared between me and India. It's an odd thing. I guess I feel grateful. Grateful to India for giving me this experience, for challenging me, for sharing my experiences and emotions. Grateful to be leaving, to be returning finally to the people I love most in this world, to my comforts, to my home. Grateful to realize how much I have in this world and how much I can do to help others and myself, and grateful to feel loved by so many people that are so far away.
I'm very curious to see how my emotions and attitude change over the next 48 hours regarding India. Will it seem far away? Will I miss it? Perhaps this entire trip will just appear like a small blip in my life that doesn't fit in, or perhaps I'll feel more out of place in the Western world, surrounded by white people. I honestly don't know, but at this moment the idea of seeing people who actually know me and who know who I am and where I come from without needing an explanation...well, it sounds impossible. It sounds great.
As for now, I'm off to spend my last hours in Calcutta reminding myself (again) how much I love evrything I have, and how lucky I am to be who/where I am.
I love you all

Thursday, December 13, 2007


Every day, the first thing I do when we get outside into the frigid, unforgiving mountain cold is whip my head around behind the guest house to see if I can catch a glimpse of the Himalayas. I saw them the first 2 days I was in Dharamsala, right above me, the giant, barren rock monsters that they're famous for being, and of course every 20 minutes I would have to look and make sure I could still them. But since the snow descended in on us, it's all enveloped in endless white snowy sky. But I'm still looking. Dharamsala is great. My favorite place I've been in India so far, without a doubt. Although I've also found it to be the heaviest in terms of emotions as well. This is ironic to most people I talk to seeing as I volunteered in Calcutta for two months, but it's true. You see, I've developed (or uncovered) a huge soft spot in myself for the Tibetan people. I can't explain it, but the people, the culture, the views and traditions are the most beautiful I've seen in any culture of the world. And the fact that they are being entirely wiped off the face of the earth (some give them another 20 years) by the cultural genocide by the Chinese government brings more sadness to me than I've experienced anywhere else in India. Being here, it's almost too much for me to handle.
Yesterday Jodie and I went to a Tibetan cooking class for two hours. It was taught by this lovely Tibetan man, super patient and welcoming with us. While our momos (steamed Tibetan dumplings) were cooking one of the other girls asked him if he was born in Tibet and he got to talking about his story. He was born in Tibet and escaped when he was 23. He couldn't tell his family he was leaving, and so he and one other friend set off with only the clothes on their backs, some butter and dried yak meat and they crossed the mountains and walked for 28 days before reaching Nepal, almost freezing to death twice. When he told us this story, an unexpected lump arose in my throat and I had to excuse myself from the room and entirely broke down. Mostly because this isn't just his story, it's the story of thousands upon thousands of Tibetans living here and elsewhere, most of which still have family in Tibet that they can't contact, or who had family members die on the way over. What the Chinese have done (and are doing to this day) to the Tibetan people enrages me and saddens me so much that I can't express it. Today we went to the Tibetan museum and within 5 minutes I was in tears and had to leave and gather myself after about 20 minutes of non stop crying. It's been a long day. Yet this remains a very peaceful place, thanks to the persevering peaceful nature of the Tibetan culture. Though the heaviness now is unavoidable for me.
Other than crying since I've been here, I've been eating some delicious food (every restaurant here is amazing), going for walks, getting massages, shopping and trying to keep warm. Yesterday Pontus, Jodie and I walked to a nearby town that's literally nestled among rocks and we walked along tiny mud and rock trails and had cake and chai around a fire with some locals. It unfortunately didn't do much to get my mind off thinking about sitting by the fire at home, which I've been thinking about nonstop since the cold moved in.
I am so happy to be here, ending my time in India in such a beautiful place, but I won't lie - coming home is all that's on my mind right now. Being away from my people and my place for so long has made me realize how much a part of me my home is. And also how much I value every relationship I have in my life. I can't wait to tell you all how much I love you.
But in a week I'll be in Paris, and in two I will be home. I'm looking forward to a wonderful last week in India, and a wonderful (though painfully expensive) Christmas week in Paris with the Mays!

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Buddha Boot Camp

Great news everyone: I'M ENLIGHTENED!!!!!!! 10 days of silence and strict meditation, and here I am, the next Buddha! (Now isn;t that a frightening thought?) I departed from my beloved Vipassana center this morning with rays of golden light eminating from my brow and my right hand permanently frozen in that upright, holy, enlightened, Jesus/Buddha/other religious figures stance. Ha. I wish. So let's just say honestly, all joking aside, for those of you who have never an enema of any kind (and I hope that's most of you, sorry Austin) let me tell you they are not pretty things. I don't care what type of enema you're talking about, but in my case the past 10 days have been one giant brain enema. And not a pretty one. First of all, there is far too much to say about what I have experienced over the past 10 days of my life, and I look forward to being able to talking with you all about it face to face when I get home.This is merely a summary- an overview perhaps. In all, my feelings at this very moment are of shock in having been reintroduced to the "real world" outside of my silent bubble, relief to be done with my retreat, excitement at the thought of coming home so soon, and also of deep gratitude for what I have experienced over the past week and a half. I am so deeply appreciative that I got to have that experience and that such an amazing techniqu has been introduced to me. While it was some of the hardest 10 days I've ever had, it was also one of the more potent and worthwhile things I've done, and I literally recommend it to everyone. Everyone should have the opportunity (or rather take the opportunity) to get a good look inside their mind, no matter how ugly or difficult it may be. And let me tell you, it is much of both. It is painful. Everyday arising at 4 am, speaking not one word to a single person, meditating for 11 hours a day always inside your own mind...it it not easy. Every single day was like riding the largest emotional roller coaster I've ever been on. I would wake up resistantly, but feel peaceful and glad to be in silence, I would be able to concentrate on the technique, on my actions, and then every day about 1 pm I would become so overwhelmingly depressed with everything around me I could barely stand it. There were days when I would just cry for an hour, and days when I would be too overwhelmed with sadness to cry. And then I would bounce back up, elated with the beauty and peace in the world and entertained by my own madness. But my god, the things my brain came up with! When you stop all movement in your life, even just for 10 days, and just watch yourself, some amazing and hiden things come out that you didn't even know were there. Old complexes, old fears and problems left unresolved, insecurities, images, fantasies. Lord, I can't even describe the things that I have created in my own mind over the past 10 days. I thought about grocery stores and cooking and cereal for about 7 days straight. I thought about home nonstop, I distracted myself, I forced myself to concentrate, I had nightmares that I haven't had in years, had frightening images during mediations, had fantasies of my cabin nonstop, felt immense feelings of peace and happiness and gratitude...I felt it all. And of course, 10 days of this is only the beginning. Vipassana has been around for 2500 years, so 10 days is just the very tip of the iceburg. Although through all of that I did walk out with a sense that I have changed, that something in me has started shifting, and that I can see myself and things around me quite a bit clearer. But I also know that it will take lots of continued practice for me to feel immense reults, and I plan to continue to work on it. I know I'm leaving tons out, and most of you don't even know what the technique is or what it's aims are, but I'm too lazy and haven't heard the voices of my family or boyfriend for 10 days and need to make some calls. In all, if you are at all interested, look into Vipassana. It changes something in everyone for the better, I swear it. I also will be overjoyed to talk to each of you about it and about my experience when I return home, for I feel that will be a much better way of telling you about it. For now I'm heading up to Dharamsala today to meet Jodie and I think actually Tibetan New Year is not Decmeber 10th...oops...but she says it's beautiful and calm, so that sounds great to me!
Love to all and happy winter, I'll see you all so soon!