Beep, beep, beep. Car horns blare. Dust settles and falls again. Dogs bark all.night.long. The traffic seemingly never ends. Sickness lurks around every corner. Rubbish on the street, all the streets. Gut-wrenching poverty abounds. Systematic interdependence as a way of life. Did I mention the dust? It is all enough to make your head spin.
Somebody told me once that life in India doesn’t hide. It’s all out there, all the time. I’ve only been here for two months, but I had to quickly hone my sanity survival skills upon arrival. Consider my experience as a sort of mindfulness boot camp: India style and I’m here now to share all of my very best tips with you. Mindfulness is the practice of presence. Easier said than done, I know but hang with me. Staying present while so many sensations are bombarding you requires work, but the effort is worth the reward.
1. USE A MANTRA
I love using mantra as a way to anchor myself in the present moment. There are no rules here, so select a word or phrase that resonates with you. I like to repeat something I desire and to project it as if already true such as, “I am thriving” or “We found the perfect nanny” (this one totally worked, BTW) or “Opportunity comes to me.“
Breathe. We carry stress in our body and often the key to feeling slightly more centered is one deep breath. The true beauty of this technique is that you can literally do it whenever and there are loads of different breathing (or pranayama) techniques to try. The easiest one? Extend your spine long with the crown of your head reaching towards the sky. Take a deep, full breath in through your nose and feel as your lungs expand. Retain your breath for a moment and then exhale fully through an open mouth. Repeat as often as needed.
3. CREATE YOUR SANCTUARY
Your home, be it humble or grand, should be an oasis of calm. Use plants, artwork that speaks to your soul, candles, diffusers, and music to craft the zen space you desire. With two small children, this is more important to me than ever. I find that they mirror my crazy so if I am losing my mind, they will as well. If I am calm, so are they (sometimes). My home is my sanctuary, and yours should be too.
Laugh often and with complete abandon. Find humor in the frustrating (shipping company, I am looking right at YOU), and you are sure to have a more pleasant experience. Many elements of living here are simply more complex, more challenging and the sooner you can laugh about it, the better. On that note, find your tribe.
Connect with other like-minded folks who can also laugh at the crazy and breathe through the mess. Connect virtually and in person. Find them at the yoga studio, the office or Third Wave. These are the people who get it, who have been there and will happily shine light on the humor even when you can’t see it. They will bring over the emergency stash of the good wine and gobble up Mysore Pak with you. They will provide a shoulder when the homesickness is just too much to bear and will entertain your kids when Delhi Belly hits your household. Connection is everything so find that tribe and love them hard.
Stay centered and stay sane but also be gentle with yourself. We all lose it at various times. It’s ok. Really. Just return to those practices that help you stay firmly rooted here in the present. And then do it again and again and again. Much like yoga, mindfulness is a practice. Remember you have a choice in what you see. Look for the magic that life in India has to offer and you are sure to see it.
What are your tried and true tips for staying centered? Let us know in the comments below.