Conclusion, not really

Trip Start Sep 28, 2005
Trip End Feb 21, 2006

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Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Finito, home sweet home, ending of trip this is. Transitions are usually bittersweet for me; rarely do I feel completely happy or sad. I'm looking forward to laundry and sane drivers, but I'm sure random things like bucket showers and eating with my fingers will soon start to pull on my heartstrings.

I decided to blog both to update my family and friends efficiently and to have a project for all the free time. Not having to repeat the same stories after I returned home also seemed like a great side benefit. I did not anticipate that something originally akin to homework would become fun and important to me. (Once I let go of my obsessive-compulsive-English-major-editing tendencies, that is :-) Likewise, I never expected all the feedback, particularly that from people I've never met. All of it was much appreciated, more than people know.

With the forum in mind, I wanted to share excerpts from Kahlil Gibran's The Prophet, my personal bible. Different times in my life always illuminate the text in a new way. These quotes most touched me during my time in India:
"Your daily life is your temple and your religion."
"And your body is the harp of your soul.
And it is yours to bring forth sweet music from it or confused sounds."
"The soul unfolds itself, like a lotus of countless petals."
"Beauty is eternity gazing at itself in a mirror.
But you are eternity and you are the mirror."

One of the most frequent comments I've received is acknowledging the luxury of this experience. Very true, I could never deny it. But I'd also like to say that the trip resulted from much working, planning, and saving on my part. I didn't look at my calendar and my bank statement last year and say, "Gee, I've got a few thousand dollars sitting around; maybe I'll clear my schedule and go to India." On the contrary, I worked two jobs, six days a week, for two years. Those efforts don't discount that I have the luxury of realizing my goals, but nothing happened arbitrarily.

Even though I went to India alone, the experience often felt like a collaborative effort. I now understand why Oscar winners sometimes must be dragged offstage mid-acceptance speech. With that in mind, I have a cheesy thank-you list:
my parents - for enduring the frequent "So where exactly is Stephanie these days?"
Craig - for who ya are and who ya ain't
Rhonda - hello-oooh, of course
Peter - for friendship on and off the mat
Caitlin, Kalisse, Lisa, and Sara - crazy busy people who make time for me
Carla and Halle - the fortune of good friendship in Mysore
Todd - for making me feel not crazy and telling great Mysore stories
John - for navasana-loads of patience, faith, and generosity

And obviously Guruji, Sharath, and Lino, the reasons I journeyed to India in the first place.

More than anything, this experience has emphasized being mindful and present, whether on my mat or not. Some of my best memories come from the times I surrendered my expectations, judgment, and plans. Robert Burns wrote that "the best-laid plans of mice and men / often go awry." Even though his poem portrays the opposite consequences, the unexpected equally bequeaths us with better experiences than what we can anticipate.

The first blog entry was a welcome, so it seems appropriate to have some sort of ending, even though endings are just new beginnings. Nearly 48 hours after waking up "yesterday" in India, I arrived at the baggage claim in the Atlanta airport, greeted with hugs, tears, flowers, and balloons. I realized that what trumps the happiness of coming home is having people who are happy to have you back. Another passage in my journal from The Alchemist expresses my appreciation precisely:
"When you are loved, you can do anything in creation. When you are loved, there's no need at all to understand what's happening, because everything happens within you."
I don't want to spoil the story, but suffice it to say that the book reflects my life well: venturing far away, living day to day without any plans, following my heart - all for the sake of coming back to the story's beginning. And the photos, like all the people there but not there with me, reflect the times I found home in the midst of half a world away.

Stay well and hopefully I'll see many of you soon.

Ciao and namaste,
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