Today’s Challenge: An Ode to Overload and Underload

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After two weeks on the road, through dusty villages and past at least a few million people, a few thousand cows and maybe a hundred odd goats, we’ve finally settled in one place for seven days. It feels a bit like the moment after a tumultuous rainstorm, dirt drenched and churned, the air wrung out with exhaustion, and the sky soundless and weightless.

From finally taking a moment to settle, and to do yesterday’s challenge, I’m starting to realize how vibrant the past 14 days have been. Our senses were on overdrive, like helpless wanderers in a rainstorm of shimmering, shocking, honking, yelling, speeding, braking, cooking, and discarding (in all senses of the word.) We could have tried to duck under a proverbial awning and wait it out, but the beauty has been running into the storm with full abandon, and embracing that sopping exhilaration.

And now, at Ashiyana — that sigh after the storm. Nothing but pristine, natural beauty. Intricately carved Rajasthani woods and lanterns worth contemplating in and of themselves. Stone gods and goddesses surrounded by flowers and water. Calming, soothing yoga and meditation classes. Time to reflect and read in a hammock under a palm tree. Sunset swims in the Arabian Sea. A bland (detox-imposed) diet of porridge and kitchari.

“This is just ridiculous,” part of me says. “You’re in India — you only live once and you only have a few more weeks here. It’s time to find brighter colors, spicier dishes, more remote villages. Go, go, go!”

I discovered in today’s challenge (thanks, Christine Miranda, for getting me to write filter-free for 30 minutes) that while I’m seeking excitement, adventure and sensory-overload, I also want bolder, deeper and more saturated experiences. And those take time. Time to stop and uncover motivations and nuances. Time to go beyond looking to appreciating. Time to reconnect to the story and the meaning.

In a busy, New York life, it’s easy to find satisfaction in constant stimulation and to find solace in distraction. Not being stimulated or distracted is a challenge for a curious (and vata-pitta, I learned today!) girl like myself. But in order to appreciate all the spices, the noises, the buildings and people, I also need to retreat: from daily routine, my habitual thoughts, and even (I hate to say it) flavors and textures. Over the past 48 hours, those mundane things that make me bristle just a little have been deeply satisfying: the pleasure in a simple vegetable, the anticipation of what smell is going to enter my nose next, the stillness in sitting and watching a thought vanish.

Constant “more” seeking can be self defeating and unsatisfying, if unharnessed, but I suppose the same can be said for constant “less” seeking. That post-storm air is pretty great, but it wouldn’t be as rich without those fabulous rainstorms!

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