Moonson India is not for the faint of heart. Before the rains fall, marked by a sky slashed with fierce lightning and roaring thunder, moisture hangs heavily, pushing through skin, muscle and bone. The body feels as if it is submerged under the weight of an entire ocean and even the smallest movement requires effort.
In truth, I had gone to India with that intention in mind. I had gone looking for the limitless ocean of consciousness, which I was told I already was, yet I was soon challenged by the heat, constant diarrhoea and the rigors of having to admit I was filled to the brim with a slew of dark emotions. In short, Nirvana was not exactly the word I would have chosen to describe the state I was in.
One oppressively hot afternoon, believing I had twenty minutes grace before the heavens opened, I made my way to visit someone I admired enormously. Mr. Patel was a sinewy little man who had set up shop across the street from where I lived and for as little as three rupees, he would iron any item presented to him. Yes, iron! In unrelenting heat and humidity, he would energetically press wrinkles out of fine Indian cotton using a dense, skillet-looking iron.
Mr Patel greeted me with a broad grin, sideways shake and wobble of his head and the usual, "Very good! I am happy to be seeing you!" Then he took the scrap of paper I handed over, noting the clothes I had left with him and disappeared behind a dark curtain.
Several slow, long minutes ticked by interspersed with Mr Patel calling out, "Sorry! Looking, looking," until lightning began filling the sky, seconds ahead of ominous thunder. With that, rain began cascading down, bouncing knee-high off the dusty streets and rattling off cars and motorcycles as they raced by. A welcome and refreshing breeze blew in with the deluge, growing in such strength, the sound began shaking the room with deafening intensity.
Finally, Mr Patel appeared with an armful of beautifully pressed shirts, punjabi's and scarves dangling delicately from metal hangers. He carefully proceeded to take each one off the hanger, laying it flat and folding it with neat precision before placing it on a pile. Then gently wrapping the bundle in thick brown paper, he secured everything together with a length of fine string, knotted and tied in a pretty bow.
By the time he was done and I turned to face the door, the road was awash with knee-deep, dirty water, swirling and cascading in a torrent as it headed downhill toward a nearby village. Behind me, Mr Patel called out, "Monsoon! What to do! Must accept, must accept!" And that said, I realized, there was no option other than to take off my sandals, roll up my cotton pants and wade through the muddy brown river that had formed right outside the door.
Cautiously stepping into the flood, precariously holding my sandals under my arm, brown paper package in one hand and an umbrella in the other, I began laughing at the absurdity of it all. I had given up my job, my friends, family and the comforts of life to come to India and be with an Enlightened Master who I had hoped would show me God.
However, instead of swimming in bliss, my mind had been over-run with doubtful thoughts describing the physical, emotional and psychological distress of being outside my safe, comfort driven environment. Now, here in complete contrast, was a simple 'ironing dhobi,' happily embracing his lot, enjoying the challenges of his life and offering a profound teaching.
With the words, "Accept, accept!" ringing in my ears, I suddenly realized Nirvana was not to be found in exalted states beyond where I was right now. All that was required, was to accept whatever was presenting itself, to really welcome it in and let go of all resistance. Only then, would I be able to be at peace with all that India was generously offering, including intestinal amoebas, oppressive heat and the dramatic, unexpected and delightful wonders of monsoon.