INDIA, THE LAND OF WISDOM
Maggie H is a Global Explorer and Wellness Guru from Hong Kong. Among many spiritual endeavors, Maggie practices and leads Qigong meditation to help people around the world find their inner balance. Find out more about this and other Eastern Philosophy & Meditation practices every Monday on the ICBRKR blog.
When it comes to traveling to India, people usually have opposing views—they either love it or hate it. India is a big country that is densely populated. Even while riding a car along the windy mountain roads that are hours away from the nearest city, you would still be able to see more people walking on the roadside, be it day or night, than in any quiet city elsewhere.
The concept of time works differently there, so it is wise to keep a day or two as a buffer when you plan a trip. A 100 km distance on the map doesn't mean you can get there in an hour or so; depending on the road condition and the driver of the car, it could take about 5 – 6 hours, if you are lucky. One time, my taxi to the airport stopped in the middle of the highway with black smoke coming from the hood. Luckily we had padded an extra hour to make the international flight but still, it was a nerve-wracking ordeal until we reached the airline counter barely on time.
Domestic flights may or may not fly on the day or the next. Once, I had to hire a car after failing to get on the local flight for two days in a row due to some technical problems. On the second day, I was sitting in the airplane holding my boarding pass when it stopped taxiing in the middle of the runway and we were asked to get off the plane. What could have taken 2 hours and a bit by plane had taken 2 days at the airport plus 12 hours by car.
On my first trip, we — four women — spent a full day getting first class tickets hoping that we would enjoy a movie-like train ride in the first class compartment with four bunk beds. To our surprise, when we walked into our compartment, it was already packed with a dozen people comfortably settled in. What class tickets you are holding matters little when there are way more people than its capacity. After a while, everyone else reluctantly moved out except one stubborn middle-aged guy. That was not the movie we had in mind, though. According to the time table, it was a 6-hour ride but we ended up spending 12 hours on the way there and 16 hours on the way back. What amazed us the most was that nobody seemed to mind, even when the train started to move backwards at some point.
Once, I was in Dharamshala in the North and was looking forward to a personal meeting with a 90-year-old Tibetan monk. I visited his place after hearing the news that he had returned from his trip to the South. His assistant monk, who looked around 70-something years old, told us that his teacher couldn't see us because he had been on the train for 3 days so he needed a couple of days of rest before receiving any guests. I understood the condition he had been in on the 3rd class local train so I could not insist, even though I was leaving the next day.
With a bit of disappointment, I asked my teacher who had been living in India why they don't improve the system so that people would stop wasting their precious time on the road. In fact, she had asked the same question before and they questioned her back, “What would you do with all the spare time then?” Of course! My life focus had been only on reaching the destinations, ticking the box and rushing to the next, so I had not been able to enjoy the journey itself.
In India, going from point A to point B is literally a pain in the butt because of sitting for too long, but once you get to point B, it's worth all the pain. The gigantic slow-moving system is like a full-scale symphony orchestra, and it has been playing magnificent music for thousands of years with over a billion people in it. Traveling in India made me realize that my strings were too tight because they were tuned to fast-moving cities such as Hong Kong. Once I loosened my strings to the local tune, I was able to hear the full scale of the sound of wisdom with all other instruments.
Destinations are only milestones and the final destination in life is death, after which the concert ends. When in doubt, stop for a minute, listen to the background music, then adjust your strings. When the sound becomes harmonious, you will be able to enjoy the journey again.
Maggie H is a Life Cartographer, Eastern philosopher, Qigong master, Buddhist and Taoist meditator, Feng Shui practitioner, and researcher of Buddhist scriptures. She lives in Hong Kong, and regularly travels to both India and South Korea to further her spiritual growth and development. Her lifelong motto is: "benefit to all humankind."
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