I'm a California girl, born and raised. I never travelled much when I was young, I really couldn't afford to. Other than a spring break in Mexico I hadn't even left the country much. But then, in 2000, Deepak Chopra organized a group to go to India, and I felt compelled to go. I had to go, I just somehow felt the trip was a must for me.
And so I went.
What an adventure! I had been studying Ayurveda and Vedic philosophy for many years, but being in the country where it all began was magical and exciting. I loved every single moment I spent there. And I learned so much, not only about the culture and the history of this beautiful place, but about myself. India opened up a whole new world to me, and my life was forever changed after that trip.
Significantly, I took my son along with me to experience India. In India, age 14 is still pretty much considered the time of becoming an adult. In the past, when boys would reach age 14 they'd go off with their teachers and start preparing for life as a man. My son had his 14th birthday at the Taj Mahal, and I felt so fortunate that he had the opportunity to see this magnificent wonder with me. What a gift!
Fast forward to 14 years later. I've written several books, taught classes and immersed myself in the Ayurvedic lifestyle. And once again, I had the opportunity to visit Mother India. Fourteen years later! How relevant, how amazing... how perfect.
This trip was very different from the first. I felt calm, relaxed, and at home from the very start. I spent time with friends who live and work in India, so rather than feeling like a tourist, I had the chance to see what it's like to be a resident there. I went to the grocery store, and to the mall. Life in India is not unlike life here, there's just a lot more of it! More people, more cars, more commotion.
There are some ways in which India has become more "western" in its culture over the years. Technology, certainly, with just about everyone having smart phones, like we do here. But there are other ways that India is so much more thoughtful, and complex in their thinking than we are, and we could learn from this. Where the U.S. seems to have a Starbucks on every corner, India has a temple pretty much walking distance from wherever you are. There is still a strong tie to spirituality, and all the morals and ethics that go with it. These values are passed down from generation to generation right in the home, as grandparents live right down the hall from their grandchildren. Family watches out for each other still. Multi-generational homes are the norm in India.
Spirituality is where people put their priority. Here in the U.S., we have Disney World, a tribute to corporate culture, and Las Vegas, otherwise known as "Sin City." One of the largest and most popular attractions in India is Akshardham. Akshardham is a temple complex in Delhi that celebrates traditional Indian culture, spirituality, and architecture. It's free to get in, and the place is always crowded. Like Disney World there are rides with robotics, but these rides tell of the history of India, and encourage visitors to honor one another, and all of life. There's a display with all of the important reasons to "go veg" or "vegetarian" as most of the country does. Like Vegas, there is an amazing display of dancing fountains, and a show the lights and special effects. But this show talks about how we are all connected, and how we need to take care of nature and appreciate its gifts to us.
Most of the people I met in India spoke perfect English as well as their native language. There are several different languages spoken in India, depending on the region, and most people can communicate in a few of these languages also. I took a bit of German and Spanish in high school, but I'm by no means fluent in any other language. I deeply respect those who can converse in other languages. It certainly made it easy for me! I intend to go back to India, and I want to study Hindi before I go -- I think it's only fair if I at least try while I'm a guest there!
I feel very blessed to have found a group of people who share my passion for Ayurveda and in bringing it to a larger audience in the west. These friends took good care of me while we worked long hours creating a comprehensive e-course called "The Ayurveda Experience." It's filmed in India, with a Bollywood director. And it is absolutely amazing! The crew was so hardworking and kind. Everyone was genuinely happy to be a part of the team. My favorite part of the day was before we got started, we would all gather and do a "puja" or a prayer ritual with a chant and incense. The puja honored Ganesh, the Hindu god who brings good fortune to new endeavors, and it was Ganesh's picture that was the first image shot on film each day.
I think we're coming around a bit here in the west. Now alongside the Starbucks on the corner, we've also got a yoga studio. The more people see the benefits that a yoga practice brings, the more they will want to explore other gifts that India has brought to us -- like Ayurveda. Ayurveda is a sister science with Yoga, and in India, the two are practiced together. It would be unthinkable, silly really, to think of one without the other! And yet, here we are, many thinking of Yoga as merely a form of "exercise." We have a lot to learn. And hopefully we will catch on. Ayurveda is a good next step to do so. With an ayurvedic lifestyle we can be healthy and happy, in every aspect of our lives. I thank India every day for bringing this beautiful "science of life" to us!