So many realizations are flooding my consciousness right now. I am in the process of integrating the multitude of lessons from my time here in India as I prepare to return to the U.S.
As it turns out, all of the health concerns that I have been dealing with are MUCH less serious than I had thought they were. Feeling SO grateful, still SO humbled by all of this, I was crying tears of gratitude on my way back from the dentist’s office just now.
Looking at my teeth over the course of the past few weeks, it appeared as if the enamel on some of the front teeth was getting eaten away. I even thought of writing a blog post called “India is Eating My Teeth” but then thought better of it. Then about a week ago I noticed some spots on some of the back molars that looked like the beginning of cavities forming, and so (being so far from my dentist in the States right now) have been feeling quite stressed about this.
Then yesterday I met a warm, wonderful Irish woman named Eileen who is staying here at the clinic as well. My friend Martyn told me about her because she is a dentist in England, and so he thought that she might be willing to take a look at my teeth. She did take a look and immediately exclaimed in her gorgeous Irish accent, “Oh, what LOVELY teeth!!!” Which was pretty much the best thing that I could have possibly heard in that moment, given how stressed out I have been feeling. She said that actually the enamel was fine. It was just some staining (which I’m guessing must have been due to the fact that I’m eating different foods than usual here in India) that was making it appear as if the enamel was worn out.
Oh. My. GOODNESS. What a RELIEF!!! She suggested that I still keep my dentist appointment and just have them clean the teeth. She said that she really didn’t recommend having work done by a dentist that I don’t completely know and trust because one of the worst things that one can do for their teeth is to have some less than optimal work done…this can cause myriad problems later on. So this felt like the best solution possible. SO much better and simpler than going to Bangkok.
So today I went to a wonderful dentist, Dr. Taroon Giroti, who came well recommended by some Westerners living here in India, and he confirmed what Eileen had told me yesterday. He polished them up, was so kind and gentle, and said that yes, the enamel on most of my teeth is a bit thin, but really my teeth look okay. I have never felt such BLISS and THANKFULNESS in running my tongue over the smooth, healthy enamel of my teeth. I will still go to my dentist back home and have him look at the molars, but Dr. Giroti said that it’s definitely not an emergency like I had thought that it was.
Also, I saw a dermatologist a couple of days ago at a REALLY nice hospital here in Delhi. I had an incredibly positive experience, and was amazed when they charged me only 700 rupees for the consultation, which is the equivalent of about $14 U.S. I showed him the rash, and he said that it’s nothing but a simple, innocent allergic reaction. He prescribed Allegra and some allergy creams and said that it should likely be gone within a week. Never have I been so grateful to just take some basic allopathic medicine. It’s been a couple of days since I saw him, and it does seem to be getting better. He said that the red spots all over my nose were actually mosquito bites. This seemed a little odd because they are literally only on my nose, but they are going away now, so whatever they were, they are fading and I am glad.
So with all of this I am just feeling inexplicably relieved and grateful. I have been talking with another American friend who has spent a lot of time in India and she said that never has she come to India and not completely gotten her ass kicked. This country is like a cosmic washing machine, a place on Earth for intense karmic cleansing. And reflecting on all the (seemingly unnecessary) negative emotions that I have been experiencing because of my teeth and my skin issues, I am again reminded of this principle of “unstressing” which seems to be the best possible explanation for why all of this unfolded as it did. (You can click here read the post I wrote about unstresssing if you are interested.)
Radhanath Swami says, “We get suffering in life so that we become sober and listen to God’s message. All the sufferings are therefore worthwhile if we go through them in proper consciousness, because they will bring us closer to the goal of our life.”
And I ALSO realize that I have learned a GREAT lesson in not jumping to conclusions. I became so overwhelmed with worry that I ended up getting way ahead of myself in my head about this situation. This is a perfect example of the “mistake of the intellect.” According to The Council of Maharishi Ayurveda Physicians, this mistake occurs when “the intellect, drawn toward and influenced by material consciousness, loses connection with the wholeness of consciousness. This is when we stop being centered within ourselves.”
This is MAYA, the illusion in which we all dwell until reaching full enlightenment. And even THEN, we still (most likely, as far as I can tell) will not have perfect, omnipotent perception like God does. This whole world, this relative existence, is illusory, and my teeth were a brilliant metaphor for this. From my limited (read: ignorant) perspective, my teeth looked to me as if something were very, very wrong. And yet, this was not the truth.
This is not to say that sometimes there isn’t something that is actually wrong with someone’s teeth that needs to be corrected. Rather, I am simply sharing this insight that I had about how limited our human perspectives are. Only God truly knows the truth and IS the truth. Only the deepest layer of existence, Brahman, is real. And so we go through our lives coming to realize this more and more fully. Nature presents us with countless situations and learning lessons that point us back toward the truth, back toward the Self, back to what’s real. And this is God and God alone.
So back to the story of my teeth and my skin. There is another important point that I must address here. Quite a few friends and family members have been following my journey here in India, and many have reached out to me with great concern. I feel so supported and loved, and appreciate everyone’s desires for my well-being, safety, and happiness. And I am sorry if I have caused anxiety for anyone following my story.
At lunch I was talking with my friend Janet. She asked how I was doing and I told her, “I’m feeling concerned about people being concerned about me.” With a little laugh, she told me how funny that sounded to her, and she told me that actually, that is none of my business. She said that what I’m doing is just being me, just being authentic, and that I mustn’t worry about people’s reactions to this. And I felt the truth in her words.
My intention was (of course!) never to alarm or frighten anyone, but rather to share openly about my experience and thus share my journey with you. In sharing so openly about my time here in India, I’m aware that some people have felt great concern for my well-being. I have friends who literally cringe at some of the intimately personal things that I share about my life on Facebook and on my blog. And sometimes I have wondered if I’m “over-sharing.” Maybe I should keep these things to myself, rather than putting them out there for anyone and everyone to read about. I remember hearing an interview with Lady Gaga where she said, “Always be private in public.” These words have really stayed with me, and I have been contemplating them ever since I heard her speak them. This is because she is an amazing woman whom I respect, and because this is so FAR from MY way of being in the world.
But what I have come to realize is that this is HER path. Yes, some things must be kept private, of course! And also, we all have our own unique paths and so each person has their own degree of comfortabilty and desire to share their story with others. And yet, for my individual journey, I keep coming back to the same strong intuitions about why I feel compelled to share so freely.
With the advent of Facebook, blogs, and other social media platforms, we are all much more wrapped up in the stories and lives of many more people than ever before in human history (as far as we know). And many (or most) people are using these social media platforms to paint the prettiest possible pictures of their lives. Choosing the nicest, most flattering photos of themselves, their families and friends, and their travels…posting updates about the amazing experiences they are having…and so forth. And this is great! It’s WONDERFUL to share the good news, to focus on the parts that are most commonly accepted as beautiful, and to put forth the image of oneself that one chooses to portray.
Personally, I am compelled to share more of the wholeness and full spectrum of my experience. Not that this means that I feel to share every last detail, and SURELY there are parts of my life that I would never broadcast to the whole world. What this does mean is that I am inspired to post photos of my smiles as well as my tears, my triumphs as well as my tribulations, and my joys as well as my sorrows. For various reasons, something in me loves to show people my weaknesses along with my strengths. Again, this is not better nor worse than anything else, it’s just the way that I personally choose to express and share myself.
So why do I share all that I do? What it really comes down to is this. It simply feels like the thing to do. It feels right. It feels dharmic. I am compelled to share like this, and so I do.
And actually, as I have thought about it, I have come to feel that there is great value in this. I have had the experience of reading through people’s Facebook posts and thinking, “God, am I the only one going through hell right now? Am I the only one who isn’t just having an absolutely AMAZING time all the time?” Of course, the rational part of me knows that this isn’t true. I know that we ALL have our “stuff.” But sometimes in the lower moments when there is less clarity, seeing all these happy, happy posts and seeing everyone else looking like they are doing great when I feel awful just isn’t as nourishing as talking with someone else who is also having a hard time, or who has also gone through a similar challenging situation.
This is not “misery loves company.” This is simply part of the human experience. As human beings, we share our stories, and by doing so we can experience some affirmation, consolation, and validation in knowing that we are not alone in experiencing ALL of this, the full spectrum of LIFE.
The other night at dinner I was talking about this with my new friend Guy who I met here at the clinic. He was talking about how most people only really show the parts of themselves that they consider to be acceptable. Their demons are there, too, of course. The demons are on a leash, lurking in the shadows. And there is a strong tendency for people to do just about anything in order to keep others from seeing these negative aspects of themselves. But what if we were all a little more honest about how we are REALLY doing and how we are REALLY feeling? Perhaps it would be a bit of a RELIEF for most people to feel like they could REALLY be themselves and be COMPLETELY accepted for the wholeness that they ARE. Perhaps this kind of transparency could help to create more authentic, intimate interpersonal connections, and thus deeper enjoyment and fulfillment.
My friend Janet arrived here in India yesterday. And so since it was the first time I’ve seen her since I left the States, she was asking me about my experience here. I told her that there have been a lot of blessings and also a lot of challenges. And right away, with a mischievous twinkle in her eye and a playful smile on her gorgeous face, she asked me, “So, which part wasn’t the blessings?” Immediately I hit the palm of my hand on the table with great appreciation and delight. Just like this, the shift in perception is given. Suddenly we can see more clearly than we had been able to see just one moment before. This is God. This is grace.
There is more to come; there always is. The river keeps flowing forward. And only in the present moment can we experience the full value of life. We must be brave. We must be strong. We must have the audacity to look life right in the face and fully accept things as they are. This is not to say that we can’t work to shift and change things as we feel to, but right here and right now is what we have. And radical acceptance is the key to freedom.
I know that I have a long way to go before I can truly say that I am living up to these words, but I do know that I am doing my best. And I know that you are too.
I Love You… ♥
“Let the water settle and you will see moon and stars mirrored in your being.”
“A Journey makes us vulnerable, takes us from our more secure environments and commits us to the unknown. Perhaps this is why the journey has so often been our basic metaphor for life itself. Our life journey is a precarious pilgrimage, a passage through landscapes of promise and peril, a crossing from the darkness of the womb to the shadows of death. We travel in the hope that the light will not fail to guide us, that the star will not be lost, that the homecoming will be granted and Love not withheld.”
~ Thomas Merton