On January 31 I boarded a flight from Dharmasala through New Delhi to Coimbatore that would trade me the multicolored fluttering prayer flags and snow-capped mountains of the north for the luscious green hills and tea plantations of the south.
The night before I was to depart on an 8a.m. flight out of Dharmasala, a group of backpackers from India, France and Brazil had showed up at the hostel. Between the intermittent lack of power and hot water, we danced north Indian “Shimla” dance, sang along to late 90s/ early 2000s American songs, and passed plates of Indian purratha and kadhi paneer.
It was just hours before I would have to leave for the airport that we noticed there was a huge snowstorm brewing outside. One of my new friends, Fahad, reassured me that he would help carry my 20-pound harmonium down to the road to the taxi stand. As we maneuvered our way two kilometers down the icy mountain at 6a.m., his selflessness and our slowly dying cell phone flashlight were the only two things keeping alive the very little hope I had of actually catching my flight.
Once we miraculously made it to the taxi, I hugged Fahad and acknowledged that I couldn’t have done it without him. It was yet another practice in surrender as my driver, Na Naa, raced down the curvy mountain road to ensure I would make my flight on time. As the car finally came to a halt, I breathed a sigh of relief for still being in one piece. “Danyavad ji!” I thanked Na Naa, scooping up my backpack and harmonium, and made my way inside the tiny airport which had only one gate.
By the time I arrived in Coimbatore eight hours later, I was grateful to catch a glimpse right away of my name on a sign held by a petite and brightly smiling Indian man, Ravi, who was sent from the Ayurveda Retreat Center to collect me. Parched and famished from a long day of travel, Ravi kindly agreed to stop for coconuts on the side of the road on our way up to the Center.
I shook my head with a smile as I watched Ravi fearlessly dart through traffic to retrieve the coconut. I could practically taste the sweet nectar as the native cracked open the hard shell fruit with a machete. When Ravi returned, I let the fresh contents dribble down my chin and poured the rest of into my empty water bottle. Ravi could see how much I was enjoying, and before I could protest, he was already off risking his life again to go fetch me another.
For the past three weeks I have been nestled at 6,000 feet in the Nilgiri mountains immersing myself in an Ayurvedic apprenticeship and practicum in traditional Indian massage, or abhyanga. Ayurveda, meaning "life knowledge," is an ancient approach to preventing disease and prolonging health through proper food and lifestyle. Abhyanga focuses on improving detoxification of the tissues, or dhatus, via swift movement and a variety of medicated, warm oils according to one's dosha, or bodily imbalance.
For two hours every day I receive lecture on Ayurvedic theory and the Hindu origins of life from Dr. Moulee, B.A.M.S., M.D., Ph.D (AYU). I am entranced by his wisdom and enjoy pondering the fundamental differences between the eastern and western approach to sex, food, and sleep through our discussions. I scribble notes frantically as new ideas make themselves known that serve to enhance future yoga and astrology workshops, private client work, and retreats.
There is part of me that is of these people… that is of this land. It doesn’t take me long to understand what someone is trying to communicate with a signature sideways wobble of the head, to find calm amidst the varying smells, sights and sounds of the bustling markets, or for my taste buds to adapt to the variety of Indian spices and masalas.
When I really think about all the moments that led me to where I am today, learning Ayurveda, traveling throughout Asia, and about to lead a yoga retreat in Bali with 15 special individuals, none could have predicted the future. Sometimes I feel myself leaving my body in order to look down and appreciate my life unfolding as it is, and end up shaking my head at just how little a role we actually play in the grand scheme of things.
The success of our journey is solely dependent upon our ability to steer close to our path and choose people, opportunities and places that guide us toward our goal. When we align ourselves with our deepest passions, we find ourselves at the exact right place, in the exact right time. When we dig and dig to find the courage within ourselves to carry on, even when all hope seems lost, we end up seeing why the difficulty was there in the first place.
We meet people who make us laugh, who inspire us to be ourselves and remind us, time and time again, of who we are at our core. That cause us to try new things and step outside our comfort zone. Who restore our faith in humanity and knock us off our high horse before the loneliness of being at the top of the mountain all alone sets in.
Time is a funny thing. Often we convince ourselves that we need more of it, when deep down we know that our defining moment has already come to pass. Conversely, when we have more time than we know what to do with, we wish it away in order to avoid the discomfort of the present moment.
As I lay here in bed writing at 2:24a.m., I like to remember that time is just a made-up number that humans use to make sense of things. But time can also be a very useful tool that helps us to frame our experience, appreciate how far we’ve come, and learn from all the mistakes we made along the way.
Recently time has taught me just how much growth can happen in one year. I find myself getting closer and closer to my true Self especially with each step I take walking by myself here in the streets of India.
All “time” ultimately does is to help us realize that we barely have enough of it before we see our material end. From that realization comes a sense of immediacy to live each moment to its fullest. Because only this moment is real… and now this moment — nothing more, nothing less.