The Essentials of Being

India has her hooks in me like an old lover — an old lover who you’ve told yourself that you never want to be with again but who keeps re-appearing like a hungry ghost tapping on your shoulder, and no matter how fast you run you can never escape him because he is a part of you forever.

You know this and you hate it but you love it all at the same time.

This was written by Linda Karl on her blog, Linda’s Yoga Journey. I love it, because it makes me smile with humor and wistfulness at the same time; and because the comparison is oh, so true. I have been thinking a lot about what it is that draws so many people to India – often the same things that repulse others. I can only answer that for myself.

India’s rawness of life strips away the unnecessary – distractions, superficial attachments, trivial worries. Without this safety net life becomes fundamental, only the essentials of being, and causes you to be fully present in your own existence. You become lost, in order to find. Revealed are not only the blemishes and horrors of the country that might be recoiled from – abject poverty, child beggars, humans sleeping in the street like animals – but also revealed are the blemishes within ourselves, stains on our own souls. At home, these things are hidden neatly away as much as it is possible to do so.

But in India, everything is in full view; nothing is hidden. If I am repulsed without feeling compassion, my character is lessened; if I am aghast without recognizing the inequitable and appalling facets of my own culture, it is a reflection of my own true self; if I run away because it is selfishly easier than facing reality, it leaves a gaping hole in my connection to the human condition, that cloth of which we are all a part.

India shows us where our suffering lies, and in this way becomes more than anything else a teacher, if only we are open to learn from her.


In other news, the wonderful blog Surface Earth made a very nice posting about my site, as well as some other inspiring stories of people of change and hope around the world. I hope you’ll take a minute to check it out:

About Shelley Seale

Shelley is a wanderer and student of the world, yoga chick, voracious reader and dog lover. She pounds the keyboard as a freelance writer, author and publication designer, based in Austin, Texas when she isn't traipsing around the globe. Shelley has written for National Geographic, USA Today, The Guardian, The Week, Fodor's, The Telegraph and Texas Monthly, among others. Shelley has performed a catch on the flying trapeze, boarded down a live volcano, and was once robbed by a monkey in India. But she doesn’t know how to whistle.

Posted on February 25, 2008, in India, shelley seale and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. Shelley: Thank you kindly for your graciousness. We are humbled. Best to you.

  2. Hey Shelley: I was wondering if you have read the fiction book: Sold, by Patricia Cormack?

  3. I have not read it yet, but it is on my “short list” along with several others. Right now I am reading “Three Cups of Tea” about Greg Mortenson, who started 50 schools in remote Pakistan after a failed K2 summit attempt led him to an impoverished village there. A great book! And I will be reading “Sold” shortly….both of these books are in my book proposal as “comparable titles” to The Weight of Silence.

  4. Excellent! I have two copies of Mr. Mortenson’s book! One I bought another bought for me. What a story, what courage and faith. Sold reminded me of many things I have seen written here on your blog.

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