No hurry. No worry. Eat Curry. Ramesh Singh
The timing couldn’t have been better.
Even as I ordered the baby-bed, the one that my daughter-in-law, Shelly, had recommended, and the perfect crib-sized mattress and the organic cotton baby sheet, even as Grandpa Cam assembled the Fisher Price bouncy seat and set up the odor-controlled diaper container in the second-story guest bedroom and placed the scent-free baby wipes on the bureau changing table, even as we both cleaned and scrubbed and vacuumed and transformed our basement playroom into an acceptable bedroom suite for our son, Chris, and Diana and their two full-of-vim-and-vigor dogs, even as I wrapped the presents and packed them into boxes to mail to relatives and friends, a week earlier than my usual last-minute efforts, even as Grandpa Cam and I developed strategies for making life easier – extra rugs for boots, a basket for car keys, spaces in the house designated for quiet times – even after all of that and more, I knew that I was in the right place, last Friday evening, at Joy Center, listening to Cindy Brown share stories of her recent two-month adventure in India.
Her stories brought back my own memories of the trip that Cam and I took four years ago. And, although we stayed in the north during our nineteen days in India, in the sacred Himalayan foothill town of Rishikesh and on a trek high in the mountains near the Chinese border, and Cindy spent her two months in the far south of the country, the gifts and lessons that we gleaned were similar. During her talk, Cindy shared how India is an assault to the senses; it is the smell of curry and jasmine mingling with cow dung and rotting fruits. It is the sound of people chanting the sun up over the Ganges and the blasting of car horns and the chatter of birds and the screeches of monkeys. It is a Brahma sitting in lotus position with a look in his eyes that only comes after meditating for lifetimes and it is throngs of children reaching out to touch you and an old woman on a bridge with a begging bowl. It is bright-colored saris and silken scarves and women sitting sideways on the back of mini-bikes with their fuchsia fabrics sailing in the steaming hot breeze. It is bindis and bracelets and temples and hole-in-the-ground toilets. It is all of this, and so much more, not coming your way in an orderly fashion, in increments that you can swallow easily, but all at once, in a glorious colorful over-the-top over-stimulating meal of full-out life.
That is what I remembered last Friday evening while listening to Cindy, the assault to the senses, yes, and also the way that you give in to it, this pulsating thrumming humming drumming chanting life that is all around you and within you. On some level, I never felt in control in India; yet, in some deeper way, I don’t think I have ever been more connected to Source. As we bumbled along, Cam and I, in the backseat of the old SUV, on the two-track mountain roads at 12,000 feet, high in the Himalayas, with darkness approaching and sheer cliffs into the death-zone at our side, as the skies opened up and the windshield wipers broke down, when our guide, Ramesh, said, “No problem!” we had no choice but to surrender, to believe him, that there really was no problem. He said this often, many times a day, in the more than two weeks that we rode and trekked and walked our way around northern India. Out of our element as we tried to grasp at customs and language: no problem! So hot that our skin was breaking out in hives: no problem! So cold, we were wearing everything that we brought on this trek: no problem! A tiger sneaking into our campsite in the middle of the night: no problem! Loud and noisy: no problem! Dirty feet: no problem! Feeling queasy and a bit dizzy from the altitude: no problem! And it was true, when we opened ourselves up, really opened ourselves up to this big boisterous life where everything was true and so was its opposite, there was no problem. No problem at all. And I have never felt so alive, so vibrant, so welcoming of experience. “Bring it on, Life!” I found myself saying over and over.
And I’m suspecting that, “Bring it on, Life!”, is what I need to be saying right now. We’re heading into the holidays, the ones that I am in the midst of carefully preparing for. It’s going to be an onslaught of activity in our home, not for a weekend, or even for a week, but for nearly a month. Both sons and their women are coming to the Upper Peninsula for Christmas, Chris for nine days, and Pete for three and a half weeks, dividing his time between our house and the nearby home of his in-laws. Kudos to Grandpa Cam and I for some pre-holiday preparation. It certainly doesn’t hurt to have a game-plan, to have sleeping spaces set up, to have a seat for our bouncing-baby grandson, to have a well-stocked kitchen and presents under the tree. But I can feel something in me, something that wants to stuff it all in a neat and tidy holiday box and wrap it up with a tight little bow, something that wants to contain this experience so it doesn’t get too big, too loud, too filled with the thrumming drumming chanting Upper Peninsula-version-of-India life.
So how perfect to be reminded last Friday evening during Cindy’s talk that it is possible to think bigger, to unwrap the box of control and let the days unfold, this holiday season, in full-out living breathing color. How perfect to be reminded that it is possible to relax shoulders and say, “No problem!” when toilets clog and turkeys burn, and to mean it, to really meant it, to be reminded that there really isn’t a problem when we, like our Indian friends, let go of some illusion of perfection and find ourselves connected, instead, to the love underneath