As I lay motionless in my room for the fourth day straight, peeing out of my ass, I feel an overwhelming urge to express myself, if not for something to occupy my time.
The room in which I have been quarantined is a stuffy, crap hole of a cell, surrounded by construction sites and men blaring loud classical Indian tunes from their cell phones.
This place is special for sure.
Between my s*its, headache and the looming heat that permeates the air, I feel a sense of relief that I have the time to process and be still.
My newfound best friend, Einat, staying next door, also has a parasite, so we rotate from one bed to another, discussing our latest bowel movements.
This morning, as we were forced into a state of paralysis in Einat’s room, I noticed a functioning human standing outside of her door. I called out in desperation: “eh mama, acchha nahi,” translating to something along the lines of not good in Hindi.
The woman was the mother of the guesthouse owner who spoke not a word of English.
As soon as we knew it, the entire family surrounded the bed with looks of confusion and concern. I was able to relay, with the little Hindi I know and with actions and sounds of vomit and diarrhea, that we were not well.
And it is here, in the hilarity and humility of my sickness, that my impressions of Rishikesh, Uttarkhand, begin to mold.
This was my second time visiting Rishikesh, a holy town situated on the banks of the river Ganga in Northeastern India. The previous time I visited this spiritual wonderland—historically revered for its ashrams, sages and yogis (not to mention the birthplace of The Beatles White album)—I was in a very different state of mind.
I was, for the first time in my life, heartbroken, after saying goodbye to someone I loved, knowing it would be the last time I would see him. For lack of a brighter idea, I came to the conclusion that staying at an ashram would be the next best step.
As I have been told by my wise superiors, every step we take is the step we are meant to take at the time, so I trusted that I was where I needed to be, “spiritually” speaking.
Apparently, my next step was to sit in my room, feeling ashamed of my depression in this holier-than-thou abode. As I hid from my fellow ashram dwellers—loud Indian families who joyfully chanted and prayed—I stuffed my face with chocolate and sugar and all things bad for a yogi, listening to classic rock n’ roll on my forbidden iPod.
But hey, I was finding God.
A year later I have returned to Rishikesh, one of the top ten destinations for those going through a midlife crisis.
I walk the lanes of this “sacred” dwelling, lined by temples and little shops selling mala beads and sacred hymns, promising the road to freedom, the road to enlightenment.
I pass strangers on the street, some genuine saddhus (holy men) wearing saffron robes and totting their water jugs having revoked all worldly things. Others, Westerners, just like me, carrying a blissed-out smile, walking barefoot and adorned in robes and mala beads and other holy ornaments.
Sure, there are some who I imagine have found a true sense of peace, happiness and who have reached acceptance about their past, present and future.
But I can’t help but wonder, behind the smiles, the attire, the air of ease, how much of it is a spiritual façade?
A role one feels they must fulfill in order to be accepted, in order to wander the earth without definition? Is it just another escape?
One thing is for certain: the path of love, oneness, spirituality, peace—whatever one wants to call it—is not an easy one. And, try as I may, I have found few in the so-called spiritual community willing to discuss this reality.
Who talks about the fact that during meditation they have visions of mass murder towards every Indian driver that honks in their ear? Is there anyone who admits to having the urge of sexually mounting the guy who is practicing yoga next to them? What about the reality of just wanting a freakin’ Starbucks coffee and a salad that doesn’t contain cholera?
Oh no, everything is as it should be, everything is part of the lesson and the path, we are all one. Ommmmmmmmmm. Well, guess what?
On my second visit to Rishikesh, I’m willing to admit it.
Even if it results in my being a lone, failed yogi, here it is: this girl ain’t one with it all and she wants her organic soy latte and a good lay.
In other words, what I am attempting to say is this: it is more harmful to wear a smile and play the part that we believe is expected of us then it is to be honest about the fact that maybe we don’t have all the answers to life—and that we’re trying, but there is confusion, frustration and anger.
That, in my experience, is the path…accepting exactly where we are, even if it means being helpless and in pain.
That is God.
So Julia Roberts, I take your Eat, Pray, Love and top it with a Diarrhea, Pray, Hate!
Sara Hylton is originally from Canada but her sense of adventure and lust for all cultures but her own has taken her around the world. She is a yoga enthusiast, lover of writing, photography, dancing, and all things artistic. She hopes that one day she can publish her own story. http://beautifulrisks.wordpress.com/
Editor: Bryonie Wise
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