Toxic exhaust fumes and constant horns pollute the air, panhandlers chase you for blocks (“we don’t want your money, buy us food” which is kinda a scam they have worked out with the market) and prices are on a scale perhaps depending upon some other scam-factor.
India is maddening.
I arrived Friday, and in an off-season surprise, a monsoon flooded the weekend. With the extreme weather, disturbing honking sounds & feeling like everyone wants money from me, I was on guard & felt like I was in survival mode.
Especially with the Internet not working anywhere. A few places offer it but you need an Indian phone number and, well, I think I got scammed with the SIM card I bought.
Chaos & no wifi? I could feel the tears of frustration bubbling up inside.
India was knocking out my sanity and I wanted to tap out.
And, even though I’ve been to India before, I was not prepared for the intense hustle and bustle. Especially since I just left a few weeks of staying in a quiet Tibetan Buddhist monastery in Nepal.
But luckily I had learned a new mantra in Kathmandu. So I began chanting it in my head as I walked down the streets and did a few rounds of chanting on my mala prayer beads at home. Thankfully, it helped calm me down.
Om mani padme hum. Om mani padme hum. Om mani padme hum.
With my mind occupied on the mantra, there’s less space for thoughts on resisting the environment.
I needed some calm in chaos. And THANK GOD there was a Starbucks nearby – a Starbucks with two security guards and a metal detector. I asked the security guard what they were looking for when she searched my bag and she replied, “why are you asking questions?” Eek, okay ma’am.
To be fair, I haven’t had brewed coffee or Starbucks (my fav) in months & my desire for a Grande Blonde Roast could easily turn me into a coffee bandit.
I took refuge in the Starbucks.
No wifi in there either, but least I was out of the rain and away from the panhandlers and honking for a few hours.
Om mani padme hum.
Five years ago I was taught Transcendental Meditation (TM) in India. In TM you concentrate on a mantra uniquely assigned to you. It was my first time meditating, and for me, having a mantra was incredibly helpful. Back then my mind was racing & I was just beginning to overcome my anxiety disorders.
Meditating with a mantra was key in my finding peace of mind.
But you don’t need to come all the way to India for peace of mind or learn Transcendental Meditation (I think it’s expensive in the West). You can find calm in chaos by using the mantra that is common throughout Nepal:
Om mani padme hum.
In my view, focusing on your breath is more advanced because you can get slammed with one thought after another.
So if you are new to meditating, or you have lots of anxiety, using a mantra may be your best bet.
Best of all, its free and always available. And — it’s still working for me 5 years later. So my greatest hope for you, my dear reader, is that you flirt with meditation and find some of the same mental freedom that I’ve found.
And now, I’ve found some Internet, after a wild few days in India. I’ve checked into a meditation center for 6 weeks where there’s an Internet cafe (and only minimal sounds of distant honking!). And I probably won’t use the Internet much here, but it’s nice to know that it’s available and that I won’t be totally disconnected from friends & family for months.
But don’t get me wrong, meditating is not always peaceful. But it can be fun. Especially when it’s dynamic or active like the dancing meditation I did this morning.
I like to have fun.
So that also means not taking myself or life too seriously. When registration asked if I have a spiritual name, I thought, This sounds fun! So for now, I’m Shakti LOL.
And the past three days that I’ve been at the meditation center, when people say, “Hi Shakti” I laugh. Because it takes me a few moments to realize they are talking to me. It wakes me up and has me greeting them back with a big smile. For now, Shakti is fun. Om mani padme hum!