India, the Home of MindfulnessBy Patty Lowry
I am OM. And I am home. Home from an extraordinary adventure travelling in northern India that has opened my mind, my spirit and my heart.
India is a magical country. One of chaos and calm. Jasmine and jetsam. Mountains, mystics and a whole bunch of wild monkeys running amuck.
A cacophony of diversity. A mesmerizing land of extremes. Broken and beautiful. An intense sensory overload fluidic with intoxicating scents, sights and flavours, all blended amongst a kaleidoscopic culture of protocol and complete pandemonium.
Streetscapes abustle with every form of transport from bicycles and rickshas, to trucks, tuk-tuks, motorcycles, cars and scared cows. Step into the maze and mayhem of markets flush with “pop up” fruit and vegetable stands, spice and sari stalls, teacarts, and the ever-popular curbside barber stool.
The unfriendly smell of unimaginable pollution is only camouflaged by air infused with curry and incense. All the while, there is an inherent peace and tranquility wrapped in the horizon of majestic snow-capped mountains sneaking a peek at you over fathomless gorges, lush green valleys and hillsides trimmed in breathtaking ancient temples and monasteries.
As I wandered through helter skelter streets, finding refuge in tranquil temples I was intrigued by this seemingly simpatico dichotomy. I found it so interesting that in a country of such bedlam, everything seemed to simply ebb and flow in sync with its eclectic energies. There was etiquette, a conscious cadence of living that was present in every single step, breath and yes, even death-defying honk of horn.
It was there that I realized I was fighting something, defying a natural rhythm, untrusting the future before it even happened, predicting outcomes, engaging in “what ifs” and not always paying attention to the adorable monkey making eyes at me. It was there, in an experience so abundant that the only way to take it all in was one moment at a time. Ta Da!
The cultivation of mindfulness has roots in Buddhism and Hinduism, although most religions/philosophies include some type of prayer, mantra or meditation technique that helps focus our attention on the present and accept it without judgment. A purposeful practice in bringing awareness to your breath, to routine activities, and to simply enjoying the sight, sound, smell, taste or touch of something in its singleness and its entirety. A practice of the now.
The benefits of mindfulness are plentiful, starting with a sense of freedom and ease. The ability to savour the joy of life as it occurs, being fully engaged and being more deeply connected with others. It allows us to let go of worrying about the future, regrets of the past, preoccupation with success, ourselves and others, and fosters a greater capacity to deal with challenges. And if that isn’t enough, mindfulness can help relieve stress and anxiety, lower blood pressure, reduce chronic pain, and improve digestion and sleep.
Count this little Energizer Bunny in! I am making a pact with Buddha and Ganesh to practice mindfulness every day and every moment!
So this past Monday night I set the scene… laid down on my carpet beside my stone alter, placed the crystals I had bought in India on it, lit some candles, incense, put on some monk music, dimmed the lights, closed my eyes and took a long, deep breath in and out. Breathing in, breathing out. Floating like a cloud in the Himalayas. In and out. Following the sounds of chants transporting me into a blissful state of utopia where butterflies and bunnies play in my ethereal headspace, connecting me to the ever-flowing chi that fills each chakra, opening each lotus flower with serene elation. Finding my bliss, my moment. Just being. Being. Being.
Until without warning… my cat Angus proceeded to puke all over my lap. Four times in fact, Ocean Fish Delight. And I am aware in this moment. Practice. Practice. Practice.