India is a fascinating place where you always meet all sorts of interesting people. We were sitting in a grand old colonial tearoom, sharing tea with an extraordinary couple, Julie and Steve, from Kansas. For many years they had been running a clinic for disabled and handicapped children, caring for the poorest of the poor in Bombay. We were very moved by their sincerity and commitment to the suffering that surrounded them.
But we could not help wondering how they had coped when confronted with the very different cultures and attitudes of India when they arrived in the early 1970's, especially as they and their four small children began life in India in a mud hut with few amenities.
"During our early days I had been visiting a hill station when I had word that I was needed back in Madras, a bus and train journey away," Steve told us. "The next morning, riding the bus down the mountain from the station, we unexpectedly came to a halt. A long line of traffic revealed an accident between a truck and a bus, which was now blocking the road."
There were buses stopped on both sides of the accident. 'Could they not,' I asked, 'exchange their passengers, turn around and go back to where they had come from, taking the passengers that needed to get there?'
'Oh no, sir,' came the answer, 'the buses are from different companies and so they would not be able to sort out the money for the tickets and we have no permission for this.'
Then I discovered that the bus on each side was from the same company! 'Could they not exchange passengers?' I tried again.
'But no, sir,' said the drivers, 'for then each driver would end up at a destination where they were not meant to be, and there is no permission for this to happen.'
By now I had joined forces with a Swedish man who had a jeep. Together we worked out that if we filled in the ditch beside the road then the bus could be moved back off the road on to the bank and there would be enough room for the cars to get past.
'Oh no, sir,' came the reply, 'this is not possible. To fill in the ditch we would need permission and we do not have the permission to do this.'
While all this had been going on, the various occupants of the many buses and cars now waiting on each side of the accident had spread their dhotis (long pieces of cloth) and were sitting or resting quietly in the shade under the trees. Eric and I, getting extremely hot and irritated in the midday sun, were the only ones trying to get anything done. Everyone else was quite happy to let events unfold by themselves.
By now it was 1 p.m. We decided that if nothing had happened by 2 p.m. then we would fill in the ditch and move the truck ourselves. At 1:30 p.m. the police arrived, assessed the situation, gave the long awaited permission to have the ditch filled in and the truck moved, and by 2.pm we were on our way down the hill. I caught my train with a few minutes to spare."
"So how has India changed you?" we asked. "Has its innate spirituality touched you?"
Don laughed. "Of course! If presented with the same circumstances now I would simply spread my dhoti in the shade like everyone else and let the situation take care of itself!"
We remind ourselves of this story whenever we find ourselves trying to control a situation or getting worked up about something. 'Just spread your dhoti,' is like saying, 'Breathe in, breathe out, relax and let go.'
You can learn more in our latest award-winning book: BE THE CHANGE, How Meditation Can Transform You and the World, or from our three meditation CD's. Or join us and astronaut Edgar Mitchell at our workshop, at the Institute of Noetic Science in California, June 18-20.
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We just won the 2010 Nautilus Gold Book Award for our book, BE THE CHANGE, How Meditation Can Transform You And The World, forewords by the Dalai Lama and Robert Thurman, with contributors Marianne Williamson, astronaut Edgar Mitchell, Jane Fonda, and others.
We will be teaching at the Institute of Noetic Science in California, June 18-20, with special guest speaker astronaut Edgar Mitchell
Our 3 meditation CD's: Metta--Loving kindness and Forgiveness; Samadhi-Breath Awareness and Insight; and Yoga Nidra-Inner Conscious Relaxation, are available at: www.EdandDebShapiro.com
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