Why is it difficult to smile in a confusing or challenging situation? We work so hard attempting to avoid discomfort and maintain control. The outcome is a barrage of feelings that are less than desirable. Yet, we still work at holding an imaginary authority over life. India presents an opportunity for the practice of non-attachment and present moment awareness. India has an encouraging way of keeping me on my toes. This is a country where a single subject can have multiple meanings, where a head bobble means yes, no, and maybe, and where Chuckie Cheese represents more than an arcade. About twelve days into the trip, I found myself perplexed and staring at the mascot of the American kid's arcade chain Chuckie Cheese on a street market billboard. I went into the store to investigate the Chuckie Cheese product. "The cheese does not belong to Chuckie! It is not Chuckie’s cheese!" This was the response of an Indian grocery store owner after he explained how he selected the picture on his billboard by Google searching images of cheese. His intention was to advertise that he sold cheese in the store. The confusion of this ironically misplaced image made for some serious cries of laughter.
India has not always been a laughing matter for me. Traveling through India can be unsettling and disorienting. A play in polarity always seems to be in effect. I would get lost in the intense stop and go nature of the environment. Driving through the most frenetic paced traffic only to arrive at a restaurant that takes more than an hour to receive food after you ordered was jarring on my mind. The constant switch between extremes caused me to label India as a hard and confusing place. I have held on to that label since my first journey to the Motherland one year ago.
There came a time during this recent journey where I let go of clinging to my discomfort and reactions. I started observing my attachment to fear and anger. Becoming the witness of my emotions allowed me to take action: my action was to start smiling. I smiled at the crazy bus drivers, the intense street vendors, and the poverty-stricken beggars. I realized that any intense stare in India can almost always be transformed into the biggest and purest smile when I made the decision to smile.
This trip has taught me a few things about myself: I am more than my reaction to polarity and confusion. I have been able to create enough space this past month to witness my clinging to aversion. I am learning to relax in the chaotic busy streets and be patient and compassionate when my food does not come right away. Clinging only causes me to label things as hard and befuddling. Non-attachment is about letting go. Why not allow unexpected occurrences to be a joyous celebration? I find clarity in experiencing the moment rather than holding on to it. The cheese does not belong to Chuckie and the moment does not belong to me. The moment belongs to the moment. I am lucky enough to experience it. Thank you, India!