Balance: GIEU India 2015 (by Zoe)

I titled this post “Balance” because each day when I reflect I find that some parts of the day were incredibly challenging, meanwhile some parts of the day made me feel so happy and grateful. Here are some examples of these “balance” pairs: We wake up VERY early so I feel sleep deprived, but then I am so happy to be watching the sun rise and illuminate the Golden Temple. We have to sit on the floor cross-legged for hours because it is impolite to point your feet at someone which hurts my back, but then as I am sitting there doing my “seva,” service, I think how amazing it feels to be sitting knee to knee with talented, giving, kind people from a different country. Another example is that every single person that enters the Golden Temple walks through the same exact little pool of water, which was a big challenge for me because I felt grossed out thinking about the 100,000 feet that soaked in this water, but I am proud to say that I have totally embraced a new mindset. Rather than thinking about what’s going to happen to my feet, I now smile and think of equality as I step through the various cleansing pools. The concept that every single person whether rich or poor, man or woman, old or young, healthy or sick, has to walk through the same water is actually quite beautiful. We are all one.

Furthermore, I could go on and on listing my so-called “balance” pairs, however the message I would like you all to take away is the following: This trip is a “Real Life” trip. We are clearly not vacationing. “Real Life” implies being willing to work hard. It implies sitting with your discomfort and facing challenges. Also, “Real Life” means that thought-provoking sights and experiences will make you question your self identity. “Am I still a good person even if I don’t give money to the beggars, especially the beggar children?” “How should I be acting as a woman here?” “What exactly comes along with White Privilege?” “How do I cope with substantially less personal space, and why do we even feel entitled to personal space?” “Are people being rude when they push me, or is that just the accepted cultural norm?” So, on the one hand “Real Life” refers to struggles, challenges, and working hard to gain strength and knowledge.

But on the other hand, “Real Life” refers to immense positivity and happiness. And this is the Balance. The peacefulness I feel when I am peeling garlic for an hour straight, despite my cramping legs and back is remarkable. In the Golden Temple, all the acts of “seva” whether that be sweeping, shining shoes, chopping vegetables, rolling dough, washing dishes, etc., are all considered meditation. Meditation, especially when I am peeling the garlic quiets my mind. The music is the heartbeat of the Golden Temple. It flows all throughout and sets the mood and the pace of my work. I feel so much mental clarity when I am at the Golden Temple, and it is the most pleasant feeling. My mind, at last, can feel still. A great skill that I am learning here is the ability to find pure joy and relaxation in even monotonous, repetitive tasks. With the right mindset and attitude, pretty much anything can be fun!

I think the best part about India is the fact that it puts me outside my comfort zone, and every single day provides a new, awesome, fun adventure. My roomate, Zara, and I hung a great wooden sign on our bedroom door this past year, “Come in, and embrace the crazy!” That’s kind of my motto here. 🙂

I apologize for the LOOONNGGGG blog post, but there is so much to say! Shout out to Mom, Dad, Sister (Emily), all of the family, and my best friends. I am so grateful for your endless love and support, which allowed me to make it to India. India is the most colorful place I have ever seen, and the sunlight is prettier and brighter than anywhere else in the world.

Love and miss you all,

This picture is the food in Golden Temple’s “Langar” (Community Kitchen)




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