The Teachings of A Child in New Delhi
As we drove away from the 5 star hotel the conference had arranged for us, the jungle that is the roadways of New Delhi, India greets us. The lanes are only a suggestion and sidewalks serve motorized vehicles and pedestrians simultaneously. The boisterous sounds of honking horns are now but a gentle humming in comparison to our day of arrival. Within the congested traffic a little girl no more than 7 years of age approaches our car. Her tiny frame and soiled clothes were a sight of gloom in comparison to her bright smile. The gentle tapping on our vehicle window was followed by a hand to mouth gesture indicating her request for one of the basic needs for survival, money for food.
Along our travels to various parts of the world, including our hometown, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, we were not strangers to the impoverishment that people endure. However, this encounter sent an ache through my body that was powerful and demanded my attention. I was paralyzed with awe, and all I could do was stare at her innocence and then follow her little pitter-patter of movement back to the street side where the rest of her family remained.
Within days of our arrival into India, the government had passed a food security bill promising 2/3rds of the population subsidized food, however, there is much skepticism that this would not unfold as planned due to inherent flaws which are complex and multifaceted. Some feel it is just a ploy for re-election and others can see through the error of providing a country with low quality nutrients such as cereals and white rice.
Malnutrition is the problem that is improved through the right combination of amino acids, highlighting the importance of combining vegetables with grains, especially with the absence of animal protein. Some fear that this new initiative will not only fail at correcting the hunger that approximately 46% of the residence experience but also increase malnutrition and inflation by serving cheap calories and encouraging farmers to produce the same.
The little girl’s father was pacing in one direction and then the other and her mother was lying on the sidewalk covered with a blanket. The economic crisis that India currently faces has forced more and more people into unemployment and is only predicted to increase. I wonder if their circumstance was different years ago, maybe even days ago. Their clothes and other belongings were hanging on the wire fence just behind them. The little girl quickly picked up a small aluminum bowl and began washing it with the small amount of water that it contained and poured it into the street. The efficiency in which she moved was an indicator that she was no stranger to this form of labor.
As we drove passed, the tears were uncontrollable, as if the dam had opened its gates and allowed the emotions from the year past to release. The only thought that was recognizably concrete was the question why. Why is this her life? Why was I unable to give her anything but a blank stare? Why was I meant to see this? Every interaction we have here on this earth is in the form of a lesson or divine encounter. Was I able to learn the lesson of this particular interaction? What was this beautiful child teaching me today and why is she on this path?
As a witness to this perceived pain, my husband looked over at me and as our eyes met I was sure that he felt it within himself as well. We were on our way to the Jama Masjid, the largest Mosque in Delhi. As the taxi weaved in and out of traffic we held each other’s hands tightly, secretly hoping it would act as a spiritual hideaway from the pain. Was it as foolish as believing that a new sweater or brand new home could fix the un-happiness within? I would soon find out.
During the short time visiting this diverse country it has provided me with a beautiful portrait of spirituality and culture, painted on the canvas of the majestic Himalayan Mountains. Our time at Rishekesh was filled with Yoga, meditation and prayer. Every evening witnessing the Ganga Havan and Aarti on the Holy Banks just steps away from the Ashram where we are staying. The energy and devotion of the people who travel from all over India and beyond to participate in this ceremony of worship to the holy waters was inspiring and beautiful and we are grateful just to be present. The fog that hovers over the luscious green mountaintops is like a blanket, softening the glow of the sun over-head. Evening after evening I experience a sensation of calm and serenity in the background of my expanding heart.
Walking up the steps to the mosque with tears behind my eyes, I could feel the density of my physical body, as if my energy, my light I was able to experience in Rishikesh had left and all that remained was darkness. I am hopeful that the previous weeks experience of spiritual beauty can be found once again. The guard at the door covered me with a gown and directed me to remove my shoes. My hopes of feeling release and connection as I entered the temple drifted away leaving me with a sadness hovering above and all around me like a cloud of darkness. I walked towards the pond in the center of the red stone structure and closed my eyes and cried. I cried through my prayers; my prayers for understanding to see through the eyes of love, through the eyes of truth.
As my eyes fluttered open, the comforting gaze of a young girl in a beautiful green sari met them. Time paused as our eyes met and was intrigued by the familiarity in her face. What was her story? Was she wondering the same about me? A part of me felt like she knew…a part of me wanted to believe she was with me in this moment. As my gaze held her, I could feel her strength, her joyful acceptance of the present moment, a powerful innocence. She was like an angel, and I could feel my being fill with life once again. I was hopeful in this moment of relief and felt a strong desire to be present with her to share this mysterious exchange.
It is said that angels are all around us. Today I am thankful for the ability to see but mostly for my ability to listen within. I am comforted with a gentle message that seemed to be breathed through me like a soft wind. It was not given through sound or words but as an interpretation of knowing beyond the 5 senses.
“Do not cry for us…love us. Do not cry for us, but love us”.
In the taxi ride to the next destination, the Lotus Temple, I reflect on the message and feel a sense of ease, a lightening on my once heavy heart. With every in-breath I feel lighter and send out appreciation for this new- found space within me on every exhale. The architecture the temple portrayed was a representation of the metaphorical meaning the lotus flower instills. Just as the glistening flower emerges from its bed of mud, the building was a glowing display of awe immersed in the Indian Capital city. It was constructed of 27 free standing white marble clads from the Penteli Mountain in Greece joined together to form 9 petals each with its own doorway into the 40 meter tall concrete structure.
Walking towards the Lotus Temple, a place of prayer that does not distinguish one religion from another but welcomes all prayer from every faith, I am enjoying the lightness I feel from the shoulders releasing down my back, allowing my heart to open in anticipation for the unfolding experience. Prior to entry we are asked to remain silent and stay for a minimum of 10 minutes. As I placed my bare feet on the stone floor beneath and feel the vibration of the room, I am aware that 10 minutes will not be difficult to achieve. We slowly walk towards the center and find a place to sit. I am instantly embraced with a calm that surrounds my entire body like soft cotton. With every breath I feel my body move from the inside bringing me closer into the arms of this sensation. Bringing me closer into the arms of surrender.
As if I had been here a thousand times, I close my eyes and trust that the path the moment has brought me to is part of a divine plan for deeper understanding and I humbly ask that I am ready to learn. With eyes closed, I can hear the gentle release of the women behind me quietly crying and I am reminded that we are all releasing the bondage of fear; we are all working towards freedom of the mind, body and soul. With gentle breath, I send my heart towards her and surround her with light and feel my skin, my cells, and my inner essence alive in gratitude and surrender and I am for the first time in months, in peace.
It is a rare occurrence to find a love so deep and true that it’s entry guides you home, to where it originates. I am brought back to the message, “Do not cry for us, love us.” And I feel that which rests within my heart expand and move to the edges of my being and beyond. Every breath carrying the love for the little girl and her family and I wonder if she can feel it as powerfully as I. I rest here in this place between the past and the future, the place where freedom is alive merely by releasing the clenching hold we have to this life. As the release is now past tense, I am aware of a place without time, without meaning and enter an atmosphere that holds the perceptions I am now a part of.
I may not be able to articulate the reason for the little New Delhi girl’s life circumstance, but I am open to the teaching our encounter instilled. I could attempt to intellectualize and judge the circumstance with words and action, but for today I am grateful for the feeling. Today, I am grateful for the gift that she presented to me and I bow down to her in gratitude. I bow down to her in deep appreciation for igniting my heart and soul and reminding me how to love without condition, without circumstance. For, it does not matter why we are in the place we are in life, what matters is our ability to see the sameness that resides within each of us and send love anyway. As I sit in reflection on this experience, I am comforted with the knowing that I am always the space in which all arises in my reality, as are you. When we can let go of the thoughts and emotions, which are the cause of our suffering, we find freedom in the truth that love is always waiting for us. It never abandons us. It is my hearts deepest wish that the earth bound angels that expanded my experience here in India are also comforted in the arms of love and surrender.