Stillness in Punjab

Background

Ever since living in Vietnam for three months in 2017, I had always been curious why I never thought to travel India in the same adventurous spirit.  I was always eager to travel and volunteer in Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam – those real backpacker vibes, but why did I not extend the same feelings to my homeland?

This curiosity stayed in my mind while I worked for my first few years in Australia.  I continued to think of India as an overcrowded, undesirable place to visit – unless it was for a family wedding.  This all changed when I met my now husband, who was from India.  Luckily, he had travelled a lot with his family while growing up, so he challenged many beliefs I had about India. He told me about the beautiful snow, rainforests, deserts – that India was the most beautiful and rich country.

I started to day dream about staying and immersing myself in Indian culture for more than a few months. How long would I be able to stay before I became bored and over it? The longest I had stayed in India was two months when I was about 12 years old.  Now I thought, if as a traveller I could stay in a completely foreign country like Vietnam for three months and start to feel at home, why not in my homeland?

In 2019, such a crossroad came, where I was given the choice of either following this faint voice in my heart, or continuing the path society had laid – with a stable job, home and family.  Listening to the strong calling, my husband and I moved to India at the end of 2019. 

Today I share how I have grown since then.

1 month into India

I felt the same excitement that always came with travel. This month went by in a blur with the bustling streets, getting to know my in-laws and winter nights with saag and makhi di roti.

Making garam masala with so many spices and even dried rose petals!

3 months into India. 

I was afraid of how I would be in the next few months, now that the novelty of travel was wearing off.  Mentally, I felt refreshed, like I had hit a reset button.  Yet at the same time, I knew this reset had only reached my mind, not the root of my being.  I knew I was not as spiritually strong as I wanted to be, and that I was still easily influenced by the world surrounding me.  I was receiving moments of pure calm, but I wanted such a spiritual discipline that this calm would follow me, no matter what was happening in my life.   

Paragliding in Manali was one of the many adventures I had this year

This was around the time of Covid-19 – lockdown, so I was at yet another crossroad – Do I count my blessings and return home, or continue following the faint voice inside, risking the uncertainty of my future?

6 months into India. 

Surrendering myself to the process of unlearning, I stopped thinking of India as a temporary place to visit and started to instead act as if I were truly living there for the next few years. I started to realize the foreigner perspective of India was so different from the actual underlying culture. Understanding the importance of routine, I started an online part time job and a hobby project for what is now the Reflection Journal. I also started this blog and my Instagram page. In this period, I felt like I was starting to really immerse myself into the experience.  On the other hand, I also felt a little nagging feeling – that I was becoming the same, busy person as I was in Australia – something had to change!

Creating the Reflection Journal was a journey of its own

9 months into India. 

I started to become more conscious and serious in my efforts towards spirituality.  I started to do more benti (prayer) for guidance, for support to help me be in such a spiritual state that I would be unaffected by whatever surrounded me. I started to feel more calm in my heart, despite doing the same amount of ‘work.’ I was starting to feel less affected by the people around me, and was feeling less need to always be busy, have a sense of control, purpose. 

This was quite a scary moment, as it was very foreign for me to let go of the sense of purpose.  Especially in western countries, the need for purpose, individuality, productivity is so highly valued and what I grew up to be comfortable in.  To let go of this made me feel anxious, but in my gut I knew it was the path forward.  I forced myself towards this path of surrender, curious as to where it would take me.

Took this picture at a farm stay in Punjab. We would spend hours in the pool, in nature, enjoying the simple things during lockdown.

12 months into India.

I don’t think I have ever felt more connected to myself ever before.  If there is one word that comes to mind – it is tandhak – coolness, stillness of the being. I know this lesson of stillness is something that will serve me for all of my years to come.  As I continue to live in this busy world – working, getting a house, starting a family, I know this inner calm and stillness will protect me from the heat of it all, as I long as I remember it. I observe my quiet mind, my calm heart and know this lesson will not be swayed by external situations.  I have a feeling that I am yet to strengthen this bond with my Self, but it is there, it won’t go away. I am curious how much more I can challenge myself. 

The more I seek hardship, the less I feel it.