Today’s Reflection is about my time in India, that is coming to an end.
I have just one more day to complete my almost 3-weeks visit to India. Mostly to teach a 2-week course at the School of Inspired Leadership (https://www.soilindia.net), which is an innovative year-long MBA degree oriented around the 5 values of the school – Mindfulness, Ethics, Compassion, Diversity, and Sustainability. First time here in India. Many years of reading about this country, its history, ancient teachings, and its culture. Hearing stories. Watching movies. Though this last part, the culture, is a bit of a generalization, as many here told me – “India is not a country, it is a continent.” How very true. Even though I barely explored even my immediate vicinity, including a day trip to Agra, I can understand this phrase and the meaning it conveys. Everything is here, more extremes than the happy middle, oftentimes side by side, and it is accepted as a normal state of being.
“The greatest temptation journalists face is to regard the stories they write as their own. They are not: they are the stories of those who are involved in the events reported. It’s not the journalist who is the hero, it’s those who suffer the famines or floods, those who fight cruelty or oppression, those who govern and those who oppose them. Never do I feel this more strongly than when I walk away from natural disasters with the material recorded for what I know will be a ‘good story’, leaving the victims to their suffering.” – Mark Tully, in the opening of his “No Full Stops in India” book
While I am no journalist, these words resonate strongly with me, as I (finally) take a few days to slow down, now that the face-to-face teaching time is over. Only the gradings of presentations and final papers remain, yet I don’t need to do them quite this moment. I can take a metaphorical deep breath, slow down and step back, embracing the experience and this full-of-paradoxes country that I am in. After all, a part of what I was teaching is Whole Systems Thinking, and I will do well to practice my own teachings.
There is a sense of acceptance of “what is” in this place, more than most other places I have visited. Whether karma or something else, there is an element of calmness, presence, and flow, regardless of what is happening in the moment. Even the traffic, which is a fascinating scene of seeming chaos, flows.
I took a taxi yesterday, to visit a few places that are off the local metro line. He knows me, the driver, and I know him, because we have met before several times over the past two weeks. He invites me over for a dinner, saying that his family will be delighted to meet me. His wife, two little children, and his mother, who lives with them. Refusing would probably be an insult, and so I don’t. The experience ends up being beautiful and touching, as I sit there and watch the little kids play, while they bring me some food Pankaj’s wife just prepared. The place is sparsely furnished (an overstatement) and tiny, and is located in what appears to be a very poor and underdeveloped neighbourhood. Yet, it was obviously just cleaned. Even though my hosts speak very little English, we share some tea and then food, while the smiles and friendliness are very evident throughout. So is kindness and the honour I apparently grant them by being there, which I probably don’t fully understand. Pankaj insists that next time I come to India, I have to come with my wife and come for a proper family dinner again. “I would love to,” I promise him.
I keep thinking about the human spirit, both in general, and also about my heart opening up to the world here. Does acceptance of “what is” also means that one does not strive to more? Not of the material kind, no, though the need to have the basics be taken care of are clearly important. More in terms of fulfillment, of purpose, of a life dedicated to something greater than our individual wants and desires; what I call one’s Right Livelihood (https://www.RightLivelihoodQuest.com). Or, is it enough to “simply” feel grateful to what one has in life (and, of course, there is nothing simple about it)? I know that right now, as I keep thinking about my life back home, this sense of gratitude is vibrant and strong.
“All the greatest and most important problems of life are fundamentally insoluble.. They can never be solved, but only outgrown. This “outgrowing” proves on further investigation to require a new level of consciousness. Some higher or wider interest appeared on the horizon and through the broadening of outlook the insoluble problem lost its urgency. It was not solved logically in its own terms but faded when confronted with a new and stronger life urge.” – Carl Jung
And, perhaps, it is not an either/or question to begin with…
A sunny week to you all, inside and out.