“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”
When I started creating and sharing this story, I thought that it would be written chronologically, so that you could follow it as my travels unfold. Chronologically, we’re all still in Kerala, preparing to experience Christmas. In reality, I’ve travelled down the coast of the Arabian sea, flown up to Kashmir in the very north of India to experience true winter, flown to Spain to partake in a healing weekend, and am writing this in Jaipur, on the first leg of my journey around Rajasthan.
That quote about best laid plans comes to mind. As does the realisation that time isn’t linear anyway.
So here I am in Jaipur, and the reason I’ve jumped out of the timeline is to share this moment, and the moments of the past few weeks where a huge shift has been occurring.
I started this blog to share stories not only about the places that I’m travelling, but to also document what it is for me to travel outside my comfort zone, and the growth and clarity that I hoped that I would find doing so. (And don’t fear, I’ve lots of lovely stories about Kerala, Kashmir and Agra to share with you all.)
It’s been easy to share my journey through the physical world of India, but I’ve been a lot more hesitant to share my more personal inner journey. (One of the reasons for this is a fear that I will sound ungrateful for my experiences – here I am, a lone woman travelling around a foreign country, having given up her responsibilities, with the money to be able to do this, and the fact that I chose to do this – no-one forced me to. Let me repeat that – I chose to do this. If my words are perceived as sounding ungrateful then that is not my intention – I connect with my appreciation for this experience every,… single,… day.)
I’m grateful to say that there’s been a lot of what I’d hope that I’d find – courage, strength, peace – but to get to these nuggets of joy I’ve had to experience some crazy stuff. This is what it means to journey out of one’s comfort zone and it isn’t always pretty.
When I arrived back in India just over a week ago, I made my plans to travel around Rajasthan. Usually I find myself picking a city/town and finding a way to travel there without knowing how long I will stay there. Then, when I feel like it, I move on. This way I move at my own pace, listening to my own rhythm and that of the Universe. However, for this leg of my travels I did something different and booked all the trains/buses in advance, so now I have a plan for the next two and a half weeks.
Once I chose to do this, I worried if I’d done the right thing. Rather than flowing, I’ve locked myself into a plan to which I’m feeling resistance, but the hassle of navigating the Indian railway booking system on my own has been taken out of my hands, so that is one less worry that I have. And seeking the advice of a travel agent, who knows the area, has I feel given me a richer experience.
I’ve been sitting with the resistance of my choice (especially as I’m still recovering from the jet lag, feel homesick, full of worries/anxieties about the future, have a cold and would love to just hole up, sleep and rest in a sanctuary somewhere) and in this process I realise that I have to forgive myself for the choice that I’ve made. I can be extremely hard on myself and I’ve been beating myself up for making these travel plans, (which has probably exacerbated the sleeplessness and illness) rather than saying to myself, I made the best choice that I could at the time. When I’m balanced, I can say to myself that everything happens at the best time, for the best reason. So the lesson here is to accept that I made the best choice with the resources I had available at the time. And then to let that resistance go.
My journey to Jaipur didn’t start as smoothly as I’d hoped. Having been booked on a 07:15 train from Agra by the travel agent, I got to the station in plenty of time, only to find that the train was 4 hours delayed. Trying to get information on when and if the train would arrive that day was like trying to get blood out of a stone. This is one of the beauties of India – it’s an absolute lesson in acceptance and calmness. In the UK, the passenger would be informed of when the train was expected to arrive, giving them a certain peace of mind. Here, the response is “Maybe come in half an hour, maybe more delayed.” I waited for seven hours with one of my biggest fears coming true – my travel plans falling apart and having to navigate my way, completely alone, around an extremely unfamiliar travel system, in an unfamiliar place when I’m feeling my weakest. It’s here that I learned another huge lesson – just how strong I can be. A voice from my heart told me that panicking isn’t going to help, what are my alternate options? So, you’re exhausted, snotty and menstruating? You’ve got this, kid. You’re stronger than you give yourself credit for. Fake it till you make it.
So I gave up on that train, made my way across the city to the other station (Agra Fort) where there were more trains to Jaipur,… and found that all of those were hugely delayed too.
However, as I was looking in despair at the train departure board, I clocked a tall European chap heading my way, who introduced himself with “Are you travelling to Jaipur? My train’s delayed. Want to share a taxi?”
I wanted to hug him.
Had I chosen to wait longer at the other station, or even to have a cigarette when I arrived at Agra Fort (but was steered into the station by an enthusiastic rickshaw driver, bless him) I may well have missed meeting with Andreas (the tall Italian) and ended up panicking more. As A.A.Milne so beautifully put it: “You’re braver than you believe, and stronger than you seem and smarter than you think.” (Needless to say I arrived safely in Jaipur, albeit eight hours later then expected, and fell straight into bed.)
One question that arose when I came back to India after visiting Spain was “Do I actually want to come back?”. I wrote about it on Facebook:
“Arriving back into Delhi after a day of travelling. Mind doesn’t know where it is, body sits of the rooftop drinking chai and slowly allows the spirit to relax and ground in this energy, knowing that everything will be alright. Going to Spain for a week was a nice break from India, and made me realise there are certain things I really miss about a European culture. I wasn’t sure that I wanted to come back. But sat here I’m realising that it’s not about comparison, it’s about appreciating this country, this culture, this magic, the small everyday sights and allowing new things to be seen without preconceived ideas of how things are going to turn out. As I type this I can hear the hustle and bustle of the streets below but on nearly every rooftop in my view, people are sat relaxing, chatting in small groups, whistling to the flocks of pigeons that are whirling and swirling overhead. The freedom of flight, of allowing flight to happen. The freedom of allowing life to happen, moving beyond the worries of what am I doing with my life, where am I going to end up, how am I going to make my hearts desires a reality, yadda, yadda, yadda… Just for this moment I rest in the knowing that it will all work out well, even if I can’t see how. Ha – maybe this is why I don’t usually post when I’m jet-lagged! Much love to all.”
The need to figure it all out has become a pressing thought that I wake with every day, one that brings up a lot of anxiety. One thing I’ve learnt on my travels is the practise of observing the thought and not judging it or the emotion that surrounds it, but try as I might I’m finding that so hard to do at the moment. All my self-care practises seem to have gone out the window, and the only thing that helps is watching episodes of Dexter.
It’s this inner turmoil that has led me to writing this post – a need to unpack some of the baggage I’m carrying: that I’m travelling around a country I’ve always wanted to go to and it’s great, and I’m so very lucky, and there are so many adventures, and I’m learning so much about myself, and the people (for the most part) are great, and I have food in my belly, money in my pocket and a bed to sleep in,… but right now I’m tired, missing my friends and family, fed up of having a cold, desiring a home, worried about how I’ll make a living, desiring strength, desiring confidence, desiring belief in my skills,… in essence trying to find the ‘How?’ which I know is a futile exercise as it will come when it will, and that brings me to one of the hardest yet most crucial lessons that I feel that I am learning,… that of trust. Trusting in myself. Trusting in the Universe / Spirit / God / the Divine (however you want to term it).
Yesterday I went to the old city in Jaipur, more commonly known as the Pink City. One of the places I visited was Isarlate, a tower whose top stands 140 feet above the city. To get to the top, you climb the spiral,… well staircase isn’t the word,… it’s more a slope with slight ridges cut in to mimic the appearance of steps but which has been worn smooth by so many pairs of feet (just how many, I wonder!) that it’s extremely slippy in places. To me it resembled a bumpy helter-skelter. It was quiet when I got there (it seemed to be a bit off the beaten tourist track) with one bored-looking ticket inspector sat outside. Another tourist had arrived just before me and together we made our halting way up the tricky staircase-type-affair. The view at the top was amazing, and after taking it in, the guy started to head down. I heard a scuffle and bump, then a “Ma’am, I need your help”. He had slipped and dislocated his shoulder, reassuring me though that it happened quite often. He had to find a flat space to lie down, which proved tricky as the top of the tower was a two-foot wide walkway around the top of the opening of the staircase, and then I had to pull his shoulder back into place. Not quite what I, or he, had expected whilst sightseeing!
I’m happy to report that his shoulder went back into place without a problem, as usually, he said, if he can’t get it back into the socket within a couple of minutes, it freezes and he has to go the hospital. I was struck by the fortune of the situation, had I (or another person) not arrived when I did, he would have been stuck at the top of the tower without help. What conspired for that meeting to happen at that time? You can call it luck, or coincidence, for me it was an experience that highlighted that the universe flows and we have to trust in that flow. No matter how hard that may be. And we have to trust in ourselves, no matter how hard that may be too.