We escaped the chaos of Chennai and had an extremely comfortable bus ride to Bangalore. The area of the city we were staying was leaps and bounds nicer than the hood of our Chennai digs. We should have felt more comfortable and relaxed. The city took on a festive air as there was the National holiday of Gandhi’s birthday where we witnessed many blessings, including those for buildings and vehicles. We trekked out and saw some temples, a fort, a shopping area – all that we really had interest for. But mainly we were anxious. Anxiously awaiting.
For as long as India was on my radar as a place to explore, an experience at an ashram was too. The bits and pieces that I had learned, heard and read about ashrams had piqued my interest. I consider myself to be an open-minded person, and the thought of tapping into some spirituality, especially on a year of travel when we could possibly be ‘finding ourselves’, didn’t seem to have any red flags. In fact, really there was nothing to lose. And the timing couldn’t be better: some reflection would likely be helpful at the end of a journey where we would start thinking about our transition back to ‘real life’.
So perhaps that was part of why I was battling anxiety. Towards the end of Sri Lanka we were physically lounging on the serene beaches but mentally back in Canada. We were living in the future and already the stress with that future time was nagging at us. Scattered thoughts would race through my mind melding with worry. Would we be able to find a decent place to live? Will I get a job? How will we even handle the Canadian winter?!
But also there’s the other fear. The fear that even though we went forth and achieved the goal of this dream travel year that we had worked so hard for, had we really just made a big mistake? Would we live to regret this year, not for the incredible experiences had and friendships forged, but for the life post-trip as we re-settle? Will our lifestyle, careers, connections take a hit in exchange for this year? This was, and is, a fear I don’t like to dwell on and have been wrestling with in my mind. I am not big on confrontation, so rather than face this fear and come up with a mature and rational plan to deal with it, I’ve let it hide.
And then combine that bagful of worry with my stress of the unexpected (doesn’t all of this sound ridiculous coming from someone who proclaims to love change? Well I do; but I do agree that the process of change isn’t easy…). We looked up what to expect at ashrams and felt dubious when some of the India ashram websites listed mandatory programs, no talking, and no gender mixing. Here we were, complete newbies to the whole shebang, and a lot of those rules added to my anxiety about our impending stay at the ashram. I wanted to ‘do’ it right and get the most out of my time and experience. I wanted to do some real soul-searching, gain awareness and give my mind some peace and calm. I feared I would show up and just do things wrong, perhaps cause a spectacle that would embarrass me and have me retreating without gaining any clarity.
Thankfully those fears went unfounded. And in fact, we found life and the routine at the ashram we stayed at to be quite relaxed and flexible (To be honest, in retrospect I think I would have preferred a prescribed regimen as I think I would have extracted more learning that way). Of course our stay was in no way long enough for me to solve all my questions and worries, but I have commenced a path that will help me with them and to grow the level of calm I was able to attain while there. I feel I have a better handle on the tools that I can use to manage my stress and worry, to keep my poise and be able to move forward with a life that is fulfilling and exciting but also tranquil and serene. The experience is still so fresh, that it really is hard to explain to explain how I feel and also how things will look down the road, but I am optimistic and I only think that my time at the ashram will help me.