I’m writing this post from a commune in Pondicherry. As I reflect on today’s challenge(s) and how they’ve come to fruition in unexpected and interconnected ways in the past 12 hours, it feels laughably fated that I should be sitting amongst meditation nooks and shrines, surrounded by sleeping dogs, wandering cows and goats,
and smiling hippies on bikes.
I’m sure you can guess which challenge I pulled first, and why I desperately sought backup. A pet that could travel with me for 7 days? I was sure to acquire rabies, or a permanent traveling buddy and new friend for Barnum back on the concrete streets of New York (let’s be honest, I’d fall in love with the little guy and find it impossible to let go after 7 days.) Getting a stray Indian dog through US customs, let alone across the Bhutanese border, put canine (and bovine) companions out of the question. I thought about insects but keeping track of an ant for a week could prove tough. I put my need to solve the challenge aside and figured the answer would come.
We spent the morning (I’m talking 6 am morning…) exploring Mahabalipuram’s temples and ruins. As we arrived at Tiger’s Cave, a huge stone carved cave with lions and tigers, the guide pointed out where the king used to sit to meditate. Suneesh, our driver and a yogi, summoned us up to the king’s seat and sat us down to meditate in the early morning sun. He pinched our noses shut, directed us on our posture, and stuck coins on our third eyes, as we sat and practiced our breathing to the rising sun. I fidgeted, blinked, looked left and right, stiffened and softened. “Your mind is very distracted,” he told me. “Your thoughts are all over here and there. And why is your breath so weak? It needs to be strong.” In the spirit of challenge two, I asked for help: how does one harvest a less distracted mind? A stronger constitution? Focus and discipline? (More will be revealed over the next few days, but for now I’ve been told to smile more, do yoga exercises, and practice my meditation.)
I was taken aback by the comments on my mind’s feral nature, being a fairly semi-regular meditator, but something about what Suneesh said struck a chord. As we drove through towns, past fishermen working up to their shoulders in water, and along side goats and cows, I knew something had to change in how I take care of myself mentally and emotionally. It became clearer as we settled down at Auroville, with its calm, zen hum, smiling silver-haired gurus, and blissed out backpackers. My brain at times is like an untamed wolf, howling at the oddest things and running from one thought to the next.
What if instead of adopting a wild dog, I adopted my untamed mind? What would it look like if I nurtured it, exercised and trained it, and showered it with affection like I would any pet?
Surrounded here by tamed minds and roaming animals, I’m in the right place to learn how to adopt this new pet (and perhaps to find a small goat who’s looking to hitch a ride to Kerala.) Thanks for the great challenges, Mike and Anne!