Wholeness is preceded by faith, energy, mindfulness, union, and awareness. (Yoga Sutra 1:20)
Last month my husband and I traveled through India on a somewhat accidental (although serendipitous) pilgrimage of yoga and spirituality that unfolded in unexpected ways. India challenged and overwhelmed us at times (a 4.5-hour car ride in 100-degree heat in the poorest and most corrupt state while your belly churns from last night’s mystery meal), but its beauty and awesomeness were simply breathtaking. Traveling in a country like India is an exercise in understanding extremes: the challenges are SUPER challenges, as if swelled under the lens of a magnifying glass. The pleasures, although beautiful and mind-blowing and blissful, have a quiet, deep intensity that stay with you.
Which brings me to one word that I use to describe my experience in India: devotion. Of Hindus to their faith, traditions and rituals. A particularly moving example: M and I were hiking down Chamundi Hill, the eighth most sacred hill in Southern India (the official looking sign told us so). After stopping to peer into a path-side altar dedicated to Hanuman, we ended up on the heels of a gaggle of giggling teenage girls, dressed in their school uniforms. Like all teens these ones were speaking the universal teen language: text messaging, gossiping, laughing. The path led to a large stone idol of Nandi, a primary god and the bull that Shiva rides in Hindu mythology. As if on cue, the girls stopped tittering, tucked away their cell phones and began their prayers and rituals, touching the stone feet of the bull, receiving the red tilak on their foreheads, walking clockwise around him, all while chanting in Sanskrit. When the last girl finished, they continued on their way, giggling and teasing and playfully pushing each other.
a balancing act on the steps of Chamundi Hill
I found these girls to be inspiring. Here they walk, without chaperones nor anyone forcing them to pray to Nandi, and they do it anyway without fail and without complaint. I wonder: what am I so devoted to that I willingly interrupt my day to honor it with my full attention? This kind of devotion takes courage. What are you devoted to?
a gaggle of Mysore school girls