Clarity on the Temple Steps

As is bound to happen when leaving a normal life behind to discover what makes you tick; you find out. Admittedly, the post Flashback? may have been a bit misleading. Certainly, there are aspects of India that are akin to a raving party, such as the festivals or even tooling through a local bazaar, however, much of the country is focused on making a living and passing the days. My reasons for being here are also not to whoop it up, shriek like a banshee and swing from the rafters. Well, not any more than usual.

In fact, since May I’ve been calling Himachel Pradesh home. It is here, against the mountainous scenery of the Himalayas, tucked away in a monastery amidst a six-week retreat, that I fell into a rut. Nothing happened per se, or perhaps it was a handful of not-so-little-but-not-really-big, things. Either way, something’s been tossing me off a beat making everything difficult including my focus, eating habits, meditation and desire to write. Motivation flows smoothly when solid rhythms are tapping out, but maintaining the tempo when the music stops can be a test of will. It requires focus and at times, doing things I don’t feel like doing or not doing the things I do.

Whatever the trigger was, I cannot be certain but the result was swift and acute; I got scared. It’s not the first time. Grasping for the safety and security I left behind, the voice of my psyche began pumping the tactical fuel necessary to light the fire. Thoughts like, “What was I thinking?” “I can’t continue to do this?” “What is it I’m doing anyway?” raced through my head. Personal growth set in firm opposition to the obstacles necessary to achieve it; I stood mesmerized in the heated conflict, paying no attention to the rainwater I was sweeping from the temple steps. Until I looked down.

I noticed the curled green leaves floating amidst the puddles and the sun barely spreading first light from beyond the mountain peaks and rice paddies. I felt the hard broom handle in my hands and heard the sounds of tweeting birds waking. It is in this brief space that I made a choice. In lieu of the options that could potentially make me feel better, I would act on a different alternative, and do nothing. It’s not really nothing though. It’s the active process of watching the stream of thoughts without giving into the urge to do something, to make them go away. To make the feeling go away.

This can be a tricky prospect. Although intrinsically aware that frolicking through a rainbow of happy is simply not a sustainable high just as wallowing in murky puddles of sorrow will not last indefinitely, it’s challenging to avoid grasping at one and pushing away the other. These instinctual byproducts of environmental conditioning are reactions to the ever-so-ample social encouragement that we should feel good all the time. If we don’t, it’s a problem that should immediately be remedied.

The difficulty is we’ve never been taught to manage our emotions; instead, cultural programming has trained us to manually alter our moods. From food and drugs to alcohol and retail therapy, there’s a flavor of self-avoidance for everyone. Because we’ve no practice, it is not easy to hang with a funk sporting an attitude of Okay…it’s you and me today Funk…I hope you like Yoga, particularly when habitual tendencies present a copious array of colorful, escapism-based alternatives.

It’s not to say there isn’t validity to some of what rolls through our minds. There are certainly nuggets of wisdom to glean and golden ideas to polish. But if in the throws of stuffing the uncomfortable feeling into a place where it can’t breathe, any brilliance that may have been panned, is likely to be smothered.

It was during this process of staring at the tauntings of inner-doubt that something shiny did catch my attention. Tiny, yet recognizable, it was the spark of an idea. Perhaps it won’t amount to anything. Perhaps it will. Having given this sabbatical a very fair shake, it may indeed betime for a little planning. But this pointed illumination could have easily been missed entirely had I already begun washing down the discomfort with a cup of tea and bag of chocolate cookies.

~ by Christine Fowle