There are so many, limitless in fact, ways to see and experience the world. For a long time, I have (blissfully) been some what self-righteous about my open mind. Yes, I understood that there were many ways to interact with the material world but recently I have become acutely aware and open to experiencing another’s life and what it might feel like.
The debate I internally struggle with is how could one ever fully experience something exactly like another being. If two people go to lunch together their sensations and perceptions will add up to create two different experiences.
What has drawn me to traveling all these years is the chance to try and let go of my predetermined perceptions and otherwise mental habits of labeling and just allow a connection to form in often times, unusual and humorous settings. Living in a village in Uganda provided me with endless opportunities to do this.
I believe when the mind isn’t getting caught up in making sense of all that is happening and people are present and allow each moment to unfold, it is possible to share the same experience.
Like in my travels, I have been wondering if this is something that I could practice back home in the States. Sure, cultural similarities add ease to this practice, but at the end of the day, we are all coming from different backgrounds and life experiences.
Last weekend I went to LA for the weekend to visit an old university friend from Australia who I hadn’t seen in almost 6 years. He was there with his brother. They have always been well off but over the years the success has grown which amounted to what was a very lavish weekend. We stayed in the Presidential Suite of one of the swankiest and trendiest hotels in Hollywood. There was a pilates machines and huge Apple computer in the room!
I have been back for one month now, but it wasn’t until then that I felt some culture shock. It was amazing to be sleeping in a plush bed and hanging out in cabanas at the pool, but the contrast with my life just a month earlier was startling. We strolled around West Hollywood and strolled into stores like Cartier, Todd’s and Rolex and later dined at some serious palate pleasing restaurants.
I looked around the dinner table and felt like I was in a scene of a movie. I recalled the many meals in the village with mounds of rice, potatoes and beans. At that moment my company was my friend, his brother, a much shorter very wealthy Jewish Australian guy, a very attractive Australian Lebanese and his lady for the weekend from Dallas. The conversation, as if to mimic the life, was fast. Although there were many laughs around the table, the topics often revolved around women, money, people and business.
I observed and had my fair share of laughs; at times I would even forget that I had spent the last 13 months of my life educating and empowering women. The contradiction of life was eminent within each moment.
But what I also witnessed was that I didn’t feel uncomfortable in the situation. I also didn’t judge. Perhaps a few years ago this would have been harder to do. I would have looked at my life and what I am doing, my little bit to help the world, and then I would have categorized their life against mine. Instead I enjoyed myself and found an appreciation for all the different people in my life and the lives they choose to live.
Tonight I went to a yoga class with a woman I randomly met at Staples before New Year’s. We started chatting in the bathroom, she opened up about her life, she found out I taught yoga and that I had just got back from Uganda and we ended up exchanging information.
Turns out there is much more to her story. After nearly 17 years of abuse and assault from her husband she was able to get a divorce. He took everything but their daughter. Not long after that a Denver Police Officer started stalking her and sending her inappropriate text messages.
In fighting against what has been done to her, she has since been in jail five times and sent to a mental institution. This is just scratching the surface of her battle, but she is starting to taste freedom and liberation despite her rocky and dark road. She still suffers from PTSD but yoga helps with that. I have only spent some four hours with her but she is very kind and generous and wants to help others who have been wronged like her. I don’t know what brought us together but she is in a position now of giving back. Without knowing much about S.O.U.L. or me, she knows she wants to contribute and spread the love.
At times, it’s hard to believe the things she has experienced are real. I feel fortunate to be surrounded by loving and aware individuals around the world, but there are still many in this vast world that only embody and emanate darkness.
I am fascinated by the way the universe brings certain people in your life at certain times. Even the inability to understand why it’s happening in the present can be awe-inspiring.
Life is not always easy, but it’s always interesting.
I always felt that times of travel were the only note worthy times to write about. I think that’s changing. In my years of blogging, this is actually the first blog I’ve ever written in the US.
Choose love. Spread love.