Journey to India: The Naked Self.

Via Sarah Ezrin
on Mar 15, 2012
get elephant's newsletter
(Photo: Erick Fefferman)

Part One: India has a way of stripping you naked.

It strips you out of your clothes, your identity, and your external self. It exposes your core, the self that is connected to the entire universe and God. In India everything is happening right in front of you. People are living and dying, smiling and crying. You are a part of it and they are a part of you.

In the West and particularly Los Angeles, we are so separate from one another. Or at least we feel separate. Western cultures are individualistic cultures, meaning that importance is placed on the individual. Whereas most cultures in Asia are collectivist, the importance is placed on the group, usually the family unit. Despite abject poverty and dire circumstances in India, there is an underlying joy amongst the people, because they are in it together.

I traveled around India for three weeks. While it was not a huge amount of time, I managed to cover some ground starting on the Southern beaches of Goa and ending at the foothills of the Himalayas in Rishikesh. I saw big cities and small towns. I saw villages made of tarps along the train tracks. And despite desperate conditions in many of these places, people were happy and smiling.

It hurt my heart to think that I get upset or angry when I get stuck in traffic or someone gets my order wrong at Starbucks. Yet here a family of ten is living with one bed, under a plastic sheet and they seem purely and truly happy.

What I realized was that despite not having many material items, these families have something much richer and deeper: each other. In the Western world, we cannot wait to individuate from our families and move out on our own.

Many people don’t just leave home, but end up leaving the city or even the state their family lives. Friends then step into the roles of family members, but as we get further into our careers and career takes precedence, relationships become less and less central.

It is no wonder that depression and anxiety are so prevalent in the Western world where people are struggling to stay afloat all by themselves. Los Angeles is a particularly difficult place to feel connected to people. Unlike New York where you are in the street and on the pulse of the city, in Los Angeles we drive alone in our fish bowls from one appointment to the next. We’re usually rushing, because traffic is so heinous and therefore too busy to hang out with people for longer than a prescribed amount of time.

(Photo: Erick Fefferman)

In India and many other Asian countries, you will see people sitting for hours just hanging out with one another. These people are comfortable with what they have; they have enough and therefore spend their free time with others.

It makes you wonder if the feeling of wanting more and not having enough that most of us have in the West is a legitimate desire to be successful or if we are just empty because of a lack of connection with others. If we slowed down and made relationships into a priority, would we still need to work so hard?

Fortunately, though we may feel alone and separate, being in a place like India is a reminder that we are really all interconnected. Energetically, spiritually and physically, we are woven together, along with the universe and God, in a very powerful way. We get glimpses of this connection when we fall in love or have children and can physically feel a tie between our self and another, but this connection is always there.

This union is yoga.



Editor: Andrea B.



About Sarah Ezrin

Sarah Ezrin, E-RYT-500, is an energetic and humorous yoga teacher based in Los Angeles. With a profound love of travel, Sarah runs around the globe leading teacher trainings, workshops, and retreats. She is a writer and regular contributor for many publications. A background in psychology and life coaching infuse her classes, which are dynamic and alignment-based. For Sarah, yoga is beyond the postures; it is about connecting to one’s brightest and most authentic Self. Life should be spent laughing with those we love and doing the things we most enjoy, like yoga! For more information on Sarah please visit her website or connect with her on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.


22 Responses to “Journey to India: The Naked Self.”

  1. ValCarruthers says:

    Loved this, Sarah. In our agenda-ridden society, where even phone calls from close friends are becoming sound bytes, India reminds us that eternity is present within every moment and there is all the time in the world for living in the fullness of Yoga.

    Just posted to "Featured Today" on the Elephant Spirituality Homepage.

    Valerie Carruthers
    Please go and "Like" Elephant Spirituality on Facebook

  2. Andréa Balt says:

    Thanks Sarah. Very evocative.

    Just posted to "Featured Today" on elephant culture.

    Andréa Balt, editor elephant culture.
    "Like" elephant culture on Facebook.
    Follow elephant culture on Pinterest & @MindfulCulture on Twitter.

  3. Omiya says:

    "Despite abject poverty and dire circumstances in India, there is an underlying joy amongst the people, because they are in it together."
    I understand your sentiments in travelling to India. But I get really upset when Westerners travel to India and write stuff like this (I was also born in N. America, but am Indian in origin). Have you asked the people living in abject poverty and dire circumstances if they have an underlying joy? I suspect they would look at you like you were crazy and then wonder if you were going to give them any of your buckets of North American money.
    Great that you loved it there. But don't minimize the sadness and despair of the lower classes in India by putting your own (wrong) interpretation on the culture or the people.

  4. omiya says:

    Apropos to my previous comment:

    "Yet here a family of ten is living with one bed, under a plastic sheet and they seem purely and truly happy."
    No. They are not.

  5. Sarah Ezrin says:

    Hi Omiya, I am not claiming that people are satisfied, or happy but there is a purity of soul that I don't feel here in the material West. I did actually speak to numerous people, all of whom said that they were okay, because they were with their families. Obviously they all want more, many want to come to the West to succeed, and they are struggling HUGELY day to day, however, even despite having so little, there is a purity of spirit and when I asked them why, many said because they are with their families. Again I'm not saying things are easy when you're poor- that'd be ignorant. I just noticed that when people are together with friends and families, hardship is A LOT easier than when people are surrounded by things and alone.

  6. Dave says:

    I have traveled to many places in the world and have had basically the same conclusion. I have also heard it in many talks from different people too.That we need our basic needs taken care of and the rest makes us either the same or less happy. I think it might be true. We have been tricked into a culture of WANT WANT WANT. Let go of want and see how you feel.

  7. omiya says:

    Fair enough, thank you for the clarification, and yes I agree, community and family is way more important in Indian culture than in North American culture.

  8. Tanya Lee Markul says:

    Posted to Elephant Yoga on Facebook and Twitter.

    Tanya Lee Markul, Yoga Editor
    Like Elephant Yoga on Facebook
    Follow on Twitter

  9. Maybe you also are 🙂 I am Australian, but I've lived in India for 10 years, and when I read Sarah's words that you've quoted, I understood that what she was saying was more that, ok, that's not a "joyful" life, by any stretch of the imagination. But in comparison to how westerners are if they had to live like that, the people of India *do*, in general, have a far more accepting, understanding outlook to life; yes, those people are unhappy, but possibly no "more" unhappy than you or I. I know a lot of homeless Indian people, I see them and speak to them all the time when I'm in Calcutta…they actually DO have a different mood and attitude than westerners have, and that's what I picked up in Sarah's words…..

  10. Yes…they have different values and put more importance on different things. It's not to say they're not always looking for material improvement. But like you say, family and community is really a huge central point of culture in India; the street families *are* a community, and they function like one…it's actually really sweet, in so many ways…

  11. I really enjoyed your article, and would encourage you to write more of your travels in India. One of my disappointments in life is how travelers always write about the negative aspects of India…which are innumerable 🙂 But there is so much more depth here just beneath the surface, and it was my own little joy to see you highlight that…nicely done, Sarah…

    (btw, which YogaWorks? Your face is familiar 🙂 My friend and teacher is Chris Stein, who has worked at YogaWorks for years, and has her own practice in Culver City….I've been to Santa Monica and a couple other YW's with her…I think I've seen you 🙂

  12. Sarah Ezrin says:

    I teach at Montana, Westwood, Center for Yoga and Westlake! So probably :)))))) would love to see you there one day!

  13. ManifestYogaJen says:

    beautiful Sarah. I cannot wait to hear more about it. xo

  14. Yes, Chris teaches at Montana and Westwood, I believe, so I would have been there with her…I'll make sure next time in LA I that I find you there 🙂

  15. […] prayer was all she had. Through all the deaths in the family, the partition of India, the move to Canada and a terrible house fire, she kept the mala close to her. It was now singed […]

  16. […] back through my journal from a recent trip to India, it is incredible to see how the entries transition from the external to the internal as the trip […]

  17. josh says:

    Beautifully said, Sarah!

  18. I agree with this as during my masters thesis research I found someone saying, "even the beggars look happy." In spite of Westerners trying to see things differently, I believe it is still glorified…re: wow, people can live like that and still smile!!

    The fact is there is sadness and despair all over the world!

    Still, Indian people DO have a different sensibility….and it probably does have to do with not identifying with material things….So I think a country like India shakes and wakes you up a bit…same as any travel in third world countries.

  19. […] among adversity challenges us and brings us closer to what feels real. And there is no doubt that India is an incredible place, and that the people and temples and culture inspire something divine in […]

  20. […] with a spiritual bent or on a quest to search for meaning to their lives. They are interested in going to India, memorize the meaning of namaste and learn to draw the om symbol. Some take classes to improve […]

  21. […] other women in the room are older than she is, mostly looking like nice Indian “aunties” with their saris wrapped around their bodies, which are their source of income. When people are […]

  22. […] the East, dying is understood as a natural part of life. Perhaps because there’s belief in rebirth, […]