Getting to India for a yoga retreat is proving to be tougher than doing downward facing dog on a sheet of ice. Every time I get a grip on the yoga mat of my travel plans, something else comes along to shove me off-balance.
When I signed up for a two-week retreat at the Krishnamacharya Yoga Mandiram, I figured all I would have to do is fly there, check into my hotel and immerse myself in the ancient wisdoms of chanting, meditation, yoga postures and philosophy. Nirvana in 14 days and a fast-track to flexibility and serenity.
But it appears that the first lessons I have to learn are more about the journey than the destination itself.
Lesson #1: How to get a visa for India and maintain normal blood pressure.
“Be patient. Let things unfold.” advises the gentle voice in my head.
“Shut up!!” shrieks the crazy person’s voice from the opposite side of my brain as I glare at the blank face of the clerk behind the visa processing counter.
“What do you MEAN you want a copy of my airplane ticket before you can issue me a visa? The other guy told me I had to arrange my visa before I could buy my tickets!” It felt like I was trapped in visa purgatory.
With a resigned shrug of the shoulders and a shake of his head, the clerk shoos me on my way to re-learn the lessons of patience. It appears that I have not yet learned how to flow with the events unfolding before me, so the universe is teaching it to me over and over until I get it right. But why does the universe have to conduct its classes in downtown Toronto where the traffic is jammed and the parking is worth as much as my first-born son?
Oh grasshopper, you must keep jumping until you leap over bureaucratic hoops with equanimity in your mind and peace in your heart. Alternatively, you can pay a travel agent to sort it out and keep your car, and your serenity, at home.
Lesson #2: Sun Salutation vs the Midnight Cowboy
“Oh no – a single woman should NEVER be travelling alone in India late at night. It is very dangerous. Besides, it will be VERY hot, with 100% humidity, and the airport will be chaotic. No, no, that is a bad idea” says the helpful travel agent on the other end of the phone.
Cheery, chatty and a harbinger of doom, she unwittingly scares the crap out of me as she shares her personal experiences of female vulnerability in India. “Never wear your purse on your shoulder or on your back; beware of thieves and pickpockets. Make sure you have someone at the airport to meet you and pre-arrange the transfer. Don’t go out on the streets by yourself after dark”.
With her dire warnings clamoring in my head, I ditched my plans to fly with British Airways (which unfortunately only lands at 1:00 in the morning) and am now considering a flight with Air India so I can land in Chennai International in the light of day. Gives a whole new meaning to Sun Salutation.
Lesson #3: A prick is a good thing
A trip to a travel clinic is obviously the universe’s idea of another opportunity to develop serenity. After all, if you never have a chance to practice, how can you improve? And of course, if you don’t have a drug plan that covers the cost of the visit and the drugs, this too gives you the ideal moment to express gratitude for learning to detach from worldly things – like money.
Thinking that a simple prescription for Dukoral would cover me for travelers’ diarrhea, I was surprised to find out that I should also take precautions against malaria, typhus, cholera, tetanus, polio, meningitis, hepatits A and B, TB and the flu. It was beginning to feel like the only diseases left unvaccinated were for lethal attacks of teenage acne and a bad case of “the morning after the night before”.
Attempting to accept reality without judgement, I sighed, rolled up my sleeves and readied my arms for the vaccination invasion. Perhaps I should have requested that acupuncture points be used while being needled; at least I could have done an end-run on the headache I was sure to develop after this visit.
But it was soon over – as was my credit card limit – so with gratitude in my heart (there is no vaccine for that) and a smile on my lips, I left the travel clinic, my immune system locked and loaded for every ailment known to mankind.
The universe is unfolding. I am learning patience, cultivating serenity, practicing non-violence, detaching from worldly goods – and I haven’t even struck a yoga pose yet. There are many lessons to be learned on the way to India; and I have a feeling there are many more to come before ever I set foot on the crowded streets of Chennai or the yoga mats of the Krishnmacharya Yoga Mandiram.
But that’s OK. As my friend Connie frequently reminds me – it is always about the journey and not about the destination. If that is the case, maybe I should just throw out the GPS my husband bought me – this running around in circles I do whenever I’m lost must be really good for my soul.