Monday, December 24, 2012

Getting where I'm going

Often the most fascinating aspect of travel isn't just the place, it's the people. Take an airport for instance, especially a large international hub. Chances are you will hear unfamiliar languages, skin colors as diverse as the rainbow, fashion across the entire spectrum. You might see displays of affection not suitable for public consumption by one standard and completely normal by another. Chat up the person sitting next to you and you could be talking to a veritable globe trotter or a first-time flyer. Watch, and random acts of kindness will unfold right alongside that stereotypical irate traveler. You never know what you're going to get, only that by being an open observer and willing participant in this amazing display of humanity, you will be influenced, and perhaps even enhanced.

Right now it's 4:20am by my body's clock but 9:20am in Amsterdam where I have my layover to Delhi. I arrived to a dark, rainy winter morning, bleary-eyed from the few hours of airplane sleep I managed to get, yet excited to step into an unknown territory. Just seeing signs in a language I can't read, foods I wouldn't regularly find at home, shops whose names I can't pronounce and all the other trademarks of a foreign airport and my bleary eyes turned bright. Even though Brad Pitt's beautiful face is plastered around hocking Chanel No. 5, McDonald's is serving up its fare and other signs of thriving American capitalism abound, I love this.

Just going to the ladies room was an interesting experience. All of us girls, no matter what the accent, country of departure or final destination, were pulling out our cosmetic cases with impressive synchronization, moisturizing faces, powdering noses, brushing teeth. The prim and proper stood side by side with the backpackers. The young with the old. Common courtesy was a given. Common custom a pleasant surprise to witness.

After a bit of meandering, I found the space my soul must've sensed even before my brain even registered it was there: the meditation center. What a beautiful haven! Walk down a corridor away from the bright lights, music and hustle of people and a calmness takes over, leading straight to a sanctuary open to all, dedicated to contemplation and compassion.

 The room is light and peaceful, with colorful glass art on the walls, a single tree, bookshelves lined with bibles and other spiritual texts in many languages, prayer mats, meditation benches and seats so you can take your pick of how to practice. I crept in quietly so as to not disturb a man sitting cross-legged and praying in a whisper. Out of the corner of my upside-down eye while practicing headstand I saw an Orthodox Jewish man bind himself with teflin. When I had completed my seated meditation I turned to see a Muslim man positioned toward Mecca, engaged in his prayer routine. Others had come and gone in the time that had lapsed, leaving behind an intangible imprint that only the subtle senses could perceive. It was one of the most beautiful, moving experiences I've ever had. All these different faiths, sharing space in one small room, worshipping and communing with the Divine, showing such respect and reverence for one another. That is the world I wish to live in, and there it was.

To think, this was just the airport! Imagine what spiritual awakening and displays of divinity are in store once I actually get to where I'm going. And on that note, off I go!

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