The following is a piece I wrote during Lyn Girdler's Yoga & Writing Retreat in Goa, India in January 2014. I am re-sharing in honor of having the opportunity to reunite with my dear Indian friend Kishore here in Greece yesterday:
I am settled into my Ganesh-view room at the Yoga & Writing Retreat in Mandrem. We don't have session in the afternoon and are free to explore whatever we'd like during that time. Many people on the retreat arrived to India two days ago and thus are eager to explore the beaches, markets, temples and all the other quirks that this odd little enclave, Arambol, has to offer.
I decided to stay back today. I had my first sunburn yesterday, my first real hangover this morning, and as an introvert, I feel quite backed up in all that I have to digest here in India (in more ways than one). I have been so engaged and lost in all the new content I have gained here in the past few days that I couldn't even come up with a simple intention for the retreat when prompted for it yesterday. So it felt like a good day to just sit back, rest and realign with my purposes.
About a week ago, I was at the Basho huts visiting my friend Lyn, who was staying there, and I met this Indian man named Kishore. He had a few beers in him and was making everyone laugh with his impersonations of the bullshit gurus here in Arambol. Later on, he overheard me tell Lyn that I was looking for a reputable place for an Ayurvedic treatment in Goa and he offered to take me to one in Mandrem later that afternoon. I thought about it over a long swim and, still suspicious of his intentions, decided to go along. And so I rode side saddle on the back of his bike, along the palm trees and chaotic roads, reveling in the freshness of trust in a complete stranger.
He waited on the beach for me during my hour-long treatment and then we went and had lassies on the deck of one of the restaurants nearby. We talked about everything and it was the first time that I really felt understood by anyone native to this country. Indians are beautiful with words and have a keen ability to paint life in the most profound simplicity. I wish I could have tape-recorded every word that fell from his mouth. Our conversation was not only nourishing because he understood my words, but he spoke my language on a level that I rarely find even in America. Everything that makes my heart sing is native to his land, flesh and upbringing and we connected on a hidden plane of mutual understanding and inspiration.
We traveled on and had some dinner in the attic of another local restaurant and continued to chat over vegetable briyani, paneer, yellow dhal and tulsi tea. We talked about Tantra, Tai Chi, Ayurveda, alkaline foods, our families, trials, joys and the path that infuses them all: meditation. For him, everything was meditation. "Why be a follower of Christ, Brahma or Buddha, when you can become them?" ... "My sweet, there is no need to know your future when you live with awareness." Throughout dinner, his intentions and interests became clear and I informed him of my love interest back home that I wanted to protect. He was respectful, honored where I was at, and became a deep friend over the next several days.
Kishore has been the most enlightening and transformative witness to my journey here in India thus far. He has helped me grow warm to a culture that I initially found petrifying. When I first arrived here, I was vigilant with all my self-protective strategies, constantly alternating the application of sunblock and bug repellant, using antibacterial wipes every time I touched something, inspecting every ounce of food thoroughly before I put it in my mouth. Through my time spent with Kishore, I have melted and slowly fallen in love with the charming little ways this country seems to mock any preconceived notion one has of the world. I have found myself romanced by the madness of it all.
Kishore has taught me a lot about meditation since we've met. One day, after introducing me to my new favorite meal here, warm okra salad with lemon and mint, we walked down along the shore. He told me to close my eyes and he led me, by faith and trust, as we walked from Arambol Beach back to Mandrem. I watched the sun set through my closed eyes, wrapped in the gentle evening wind, and felt warmth and light from outside and within. I felt safe, held and one with my surroundings. I felt an opening emerge from within me. Finally, I wasn't interrogating the moment to fork over its intentions, I was simply allowing it to fall naturally on my skin and guide the way.
He tells me I have softness unlike other American women. I tell him he doesn't know me. He insists. "Your energy is too sweet to be American. Americans, they are always running behind money. And they get sick because they have everything... You are different. You are an Indian, my sweet."
Since this conversation, I have been thinking about the consequences of allowing myself to embrace this softness. It is an interesting exploration; to reevaluate myself within the culture of feminine essence in India. In America, I find a strong inner resistance to express feminine qualities because, in our culture, stepping into our femininity means to step into a secondary role. It often involves being weak, small and obscure. In India, it is strength and power. It is compassion, creativity and resilience. A strong reverence for the feminine energy is integrated into the daily life and worldview. But there is also a strong fear. "In India, the men know that the women are more powerful. That is why they put so many rules on them," said the young Indian filmmaker I shared a sleeper with on my train to Goa.
In the constant exposure to goddess imagery and aura, I feel safe and inspired to set down internal chains and inhibition and explore what it means for me to become soft. To exude grace, ease and calm abidance without feeling it deprecate my sense of power, voice and strength. As a Tantra devotee, Kishore speaks the language of Shiva and Shakti quite fluently. He speaks of my feminine energy and the power I can evoke.
"You are Lakshmi, Saraswati and Shakti all in one."
I am starting to believe him.
In light and love,