You were probably beginning to worry that you’d heard the last from the Ganga Benjamin-ji Express. Please forgive my silence. I’ve been distracted since returning to America, catching up on all the steak-eating, TV-watching and boozing I missed while in India.
Hari Om, it’s good to be home!
I’m in the loving arms of my parents in Kauai, Hawaii now. When I arrived here last week, my Mom and Dad helpfully tried to speed my re-entry to society by taking me straight from the airport to a Costco warehouse store. Nothing says welcome home from India like endless aisles of industrial sized plasma televisions, vodka and frozen steaks.
Fortunately my forced adjustment has slowed since we arrived at the rented house where we’re staying in a quiet grove of coconut palms, where I sit now listening to the birds and the wind in the fronds, with a green smoothie in hand, looking forward to some yoga or a run on the beach and later perhaps a long board lager with some rare ahi. As much as I miss India, I cannot complain about where I’ve landed.
I’ve been reflecting on my time in India and wondering how the things I learned during my travels will transfer to my life at home. It’s a question I remember discussing with many of my fellow yogis during our teacher training last year: how do you take a transformative experience with you into your “real” life, work and relationships? How do you make new-found equilibrium and consciousness endure? It’s easy enough to live abstemiously during the complete freedom of independent travel, especially when most people around you are trying to do the same, but as you wander the overstocked aisles of American life again, how do you negotiate the choices, the temptations?
I am hopeful that a few things I have taken with me from India will help. One of the practices, which I wrote about previously, is my on-going effort to suspend judgment, to be open to the unknown and the mysterious around me and in myself.
An extension of this, which I began to see more clearly during my yoga practice with Surinder Singh, will be trying not to make so many distinctions between different parts of my life. I think that the urge to categorize things – people, ideas, experiences – may be a very Western preoccupation. In India, while trying to learn about Hinduism, Buddhism and the origins of yoga, I would ask question like – does this belief belong to Hinduism or Buddhism? Is yoga more closely associated with this or that? The answer, often it seemed, was that such distinctions don’t really matter. I am going to try to apply this idea by not compartmentalizing so much between the diverse aspects of my own life, to create a more seamless whole.
I have loved sharing my experiences with you in this space. Writing regularly has helped me distill my ideas and inspired me to seek new experiences. It may also be helping with my de-compartmentalizing. So this is another thing I will continue to do. Though I probably won’t update with the same frequency as I did in India, and though I won’t have nearly so many pretty pictures, exotic experiences or quasi-profound thoughts to share, I am looking forward to continuing this blog.
And, with those disclaimers in mind, there is much for me (and vicariously, for you) to look forward to. I have a couple more weeks here in Kauai. Please don’t expect much in the way of profundity from me here, though I will be happy to share my green smoothie recipe with you. At the beginning of March I return to the mainland where I will do a ten-day silent meditation retreat at a Vipassana Center in Northern California. Yikes, not sure if my monkey brain is ready for this, but I will probably have more to report if I haven’t lost the capacity for speech or become so sick of my own company that I can’t stand to impose it on you. Then begins an epic cross country road trip, taking the southern route from San Francisco to New York, stopping along the way to smell the cacti, bluebonnets, and magnolias and aiming to be in New York by the end of April.
I’ll be in New York for most of the spring and summer, staying with my old friend, the fashion-photographing, home-building, stock-broking yogi Michael Lanzano at the Ledge, Michael’s alternative lifestyle compound in Westchester County, while I try to persuade Mike to host a flock of goats and attempt to solve the old dispute (first posed by Big Poppa and Tupac Shakur?): is the East Coast superior to the West Coast or should I just move back to Indiana? You will likely be able to find me at the Ledge until it gets too cold or I decide what I’m going to be when I grow up – whichever comes first.