Here we are in August already. Can you believe it? As strange as this year is, challenging, scary and wonderful, it’s leaving us like the blink of an eye.
Perhaps like you, I read the news or listen to podcasts on the times, and like cloud formations, agitation and a sense of forlorn start shadowing the unfolding of the day.
On one such morning this week, we were on the scooter heading down the mountain into town. I was ungrounded, emotionally off and very much in my head. We came upon some road construction with a lot of workers. Mostly women, in their sarees carrying buckets of stones or sand on their head while their young children are playing quietly in the pile of dirt on the side of the road. These are very familiar images here. The untouchables do hard labour for an absolute pittance, as it’s been for aeons. It added to my blueness, but when I looked in these faces, they may have looked tired and worn but their spirits were bright. It was a brilliant slap in the face of my frustration.
Millions of lower cast people of India suffer tremendously but there is no sign of the depression and anxiety like we know it in the west. They experience long and hard working days with tough conditions that break down their bodies, both young and old. Yet they still deal with what life delivers with integrity, grace and endurance. They don’t expect it to be something else.
What a teaching the light in these eyes was to my challenged mind. The agitation and suffering in me was rooted in ME and the lens I was seeing the world at that moment. The Dalai Lama says to try and see things from at least six perspectives. This was not the case that morning. I could see the influence of a western education of individualism. The premise that we strive to be the most we can be in life, including happy. That we can become whatever we put our mind to, like a fine destination. We compete against ourselves and are terrible losers. That we are the center of the Universe so when there is turbulence, we quickly lose our balance. Seeing into these eyes was a quick reminder that our independence is best achieved by practicing interdependence not individualism. We are all connected. Nothing in nature besides man thinks it exists independently.
Mother India is a great teacher in this way. The family system, devotion and connection to community not only holds the highest importance, there simply is no other way. That focus is not in the I. The I can be radiant and happy because it belongs and is part of something greater. Even in suffering, the weight is bearable in numbers. The Tibetan community is also an incredible inspiration on this front with their commitment to secular ethics. The best path to happiness is focusing on the well being and happiness of others. This is felt here in Dharamsala everyday, with everyone you meet on the street, young and old. They ooze a kindness and reverence for life that can joyously humble you in an instant.
Should similar moments of deep frustration arise for you in these crazy pandemic times where we all try to remain healthy and proactive in an ever changing world, take a deep breath and remember we are in this together.
Sending a monsoon smile in your direction,