Last month I was fortunate to travel to India; a country I have yearned to experience for quite some time. It was all that I expected, and more. It is a place of extremes...extreme poverty and extreme beauty. And if you are open to it, India can teach you. I like to believe that India has taught me some lessons that I will continue to carry with me, the greatest of which being that of acceptance. 
    Acceptance is an interesting word, with multiple meanings. It can refer to the willingness to tolerate a difficult situation. But it can also elude to a sort of affirmative 
reception; a belief in an idea, a trust or a faith. I’ll begin by sharing a few of the things that I learned to ‘accept’ during my time in India: 
  • Hours upon hours of transportation delays, that will serve to make a NYC cab ride a piece of cake
  • Exactly 2 hot showers in a 10 day span
  • 6 days of my legs covered with irritating, red mosquito bites that itched with every brush of my skirt against my skin
  • Babies crying and a neighboring passenger laughing loudly for 15 hours straight, on a long flight where sleep is paramount to pass the time
  • Having powdered color thrown on my clean clothes, rubbed in my hair and face, and settling into the fabrics of my purse that I had to carry for the entire trip
  • Sleeping on a bed for 4 consecutive nights that consisted of a wooden slab topped with a thin cushion of a mattress
  • Constant nausea due to bumpy rides and frequent traveling in planes, trains and automobiles, coupled with a lack of sleep
  • Limited dining options due to the prevalence of dairy in the food, often having just a glass of juice or a piece of dry toast to tide me over until 3pm
  • Arising twice before dawn for a yoga teacher who never showed up
    So the question I ask myself is: Were these inconveniences or aggravations exactly what I needed to experience? Do we need to live without in order to appreciate what we have? Is a life of poverty the road to true richness of the soul? Is this what India wanted to teach me? Drawing from the life of Buddha, I think the answer is both yes and no. Prince Siddhartha Gautama, who later became the Buddha ("the awakened one"), was 
born to a rich, ruling family where he led a sheltered and pampered life, enjoying every 
physical comfort and pleasure he wished for. But as a young man, he began to question 
the spiritual worth of this life of excess, and so decided to give up all his possessions, 
fleeting pleasures, and emotional attachments, and he set out in search of a deeper, 
more enduring truth. He hoped to find enlightenment by completely detaching himself 
from the world. He deprived himself of food and sleep, to the point that he was close to 
starvation. However, he soon found that this path was futile, as he was weak and on the 
the verge of physical collapse...and he still hadn't achieved enlightenment. He realized 
that if he continued on that path, he would die without reaching any understanding, so 
he gave up the ascetic life and accepted a meal from a stranger. It was then, when he 
took this ‘middle way',  the life between luxury and poverty, that he finally attained enlightenment. It is said that the middle way should not be confused with passivity or a kind of middle-of-the-road compromise. It instead refers to a life of balance, and to the actions or attitudes that will create happiness for oneself and others. Taking the middle way doesn’t mean that we have to renounce all material comforts and pleasures to live a life of spiritual richness. However, we also should avoid  being caught up in material possessions, and placing our happiness in our attachment to them. It is when we truly accept, and when we believe and put our trust and faith in the universe, that we can find true happiness along our path. We can still enjoy earthly comforts, and we needn’t live an impoverished life in a village in India to feel connected to the spirit of the universe. It's within you. It’s within me. It’s within us all. We are all one. Om Shanti. Namaste my friends.