Sitting up in bed with my legs straight in front of me,* I tap the screen of my iPad, and it glows. I slide my finger across the screen to unlock it and curse myself for revisiting Facebook for the fourth time today.
Not much has changed. There are four new likes on one of my photos (some girl I photographed has a lot of followers) and there’s a friend request from some guy I don’t think I know.
There aren’t any long, thought-out messages from anyone I deeply care about. No dear old friends miss me either.
The one message that does pop up is an effortless four words: “Hey, how are you?”
”My God,” I think.
“I’ve become one of those people.”
The those people in this case refers to people who spend more time on Facebook than they spend engaging with others in everyday life. In my generation, most of us are one of those people sometimes or we have been at least once, and I’m bitter towards this type of connection seeking. It so often results in shallow interaction and is easily enabled by technology.
For the past four months I’ve been traveling, mostly on my own and meeting lots of new people. There have been buses, subways, trains, planes, 11-hour layovers, 10-hour flights. . .
I’ve been in Ireland, France, France, and France again, and now I’m in India.
Up to this point, I’ve not spent much time feeling lonely.
I’m usually cherish alone time. I work well without others.
But now it hits me.
Loneliness packs its punch and I’m sinking like a water buffalo, in a mud puddle, in monsoon season.
At ten at night, I’m desperately, impulsively seeking out those I love on a glowing, eight-inch flat screen.
I refresh the page.
They’re not in there.
But everyone else seems to be.
Everybody is in there “liking” everybody else and commenting.
And all I want is my mom, or my boyfriend or my sisters.
I want them all to be in there, pushing the “like” button.
And I wish there was a “love” button, but there’s not.
I refresh my Facebook page again. (Does that count as my sixth visit, or am I still at four?) The popular girl’s photo gets two more likes so I fold over the cover of my iPad and put it away.
The people I’m closest to don’t use Facebook much, and they don’t interact much by email. Even at times like this, I’m glad they don’t.
They’re how I like them; real.
I look down at my legs still in front of me.
They’re throbbing and a little bit swollen. I’ve gone from doing yoga for two hours, once a week, at the Y to living in an Indian ashram, practicing at least four hours a day.
Chakrasana (wheel pose), Dhanurasana (bow) Shashankasana (rabbit)…
I’m taught by spindly, paternal old men who gracefully nail shirshasan (doing a shoulder stand while folding their legs into a pretzel).
Ayurveda class has taught me that my left nostril breathes cool air, my right nostril fire, and that just about anything can be cured if you sleep on your back, naked.
I close my left nostril, and blow air rapidly out of my right to exhale fire for a while.
I switch nostrils and suck cool air in.
I’ve been sleeping naked.
Overall I love the shram life, but I’m tired of new; tired of adapting. I’m homesick.
I’m eating a vegetarian, India diet which means a lot of lentils and no eggs because eggs are not considered vegetarian. The food is very good but very spicy. A lot of coriander, turmeric, and curry to get used to. I’m learning poses to stimulate digestion, but that’s the opposite of what I need on a lentil diet in a third world country.
I pull out my iPad again, and think about writing a blog post titled: “Diarrhea in Monsoon Season…”
.… Everything in Indore is wet, damp and runny.
You may think that wet and damp are just degrees of the same quality, but I assure you things are wet AND damp here. On occasion something might be moist, but only if it’s vacuum wrapped, in two ziplocs, and you’re lucky. …
I decide against the post. I put the iPad away again, and again I head to the bathroom.
The roll of toilet paper that sits on my nightstand comes with me.
Toilet paper is a western thing. It’s not used here.
I’m not accustomed to going without it though, so I’m always carrying my own roll around.
I finish and set out my mat for the night meditation.
I sit in a large, dark, open room with other aspiring yogis. We wait to receive a message from the guru, Guruji Omanand.
“There are two powerful, most powerful forces on Earth,” Guruji begins, “Love and Fear. When one is present, the other is impossible.”
I sit in pretzel, eyes closed, fingertips in meditative position (Guya mudra.) I know which force dictates my life at the moment.
I don’t want to “Love the new.”
I don’t want new beds, new climates, new people. I’m scarcely in connection with the people who I’ve already got, and I’m scared of losing those connections.
I spend fifteen minutes on the mat thinking about Dad.
I haven’t done this for an extended period since he died.
And I think of my sisters, mom and nephew and I think I should be home with them.
And I really start valuing family.
I realize, it’s most challenging to focus on and theorize about detachment when I’m 8,000 miles away from anywhere I might call home.
Although I think I could make anywhere “home” these days, it’s the constant building up and breaking down of relationships and of what’s familiar that is beginning to wear on me. And to reiterate the obvious: I miss those I love.
“There are only so many new skin rashes, diets and digestive problems I can get used to,” I whisper on my mat in the dark.
“No thoughts, free your mind of thought,” Guruji says.
“Or maybe there aren’t,” I think.
“Maybe I’m learning to move beyond the body, and I’m only two skin rashes away from enlightenment.”
I lay down on the mat, begin seeing colors and then fall asleep for a while.
I rise, skip dinner and nestle into my moist, new sheets.
At 4:30 a.m., I wake up when my Skype account rings.
It’s strange and amazing how quick my mom’s voice dissolves my feeling of loneliness.
I can’t see her face, but she can see mine so I wave.
After hanging up, my inbox has a letter from John and Miss.
Jessie, Blake and Aunt Beth send some Facebook comments.
All of a sudden I don’t feel so far off from home. I find myself energized by my loved ones. I’m ready to meet more lovely people, and in the next few days, I do.
Technology is a blessing and a curse.
I know I used outside help to build confidence that (perhaps) I should have conjured from within, but I also know I’d have managed either way. Humans adapt.
I also know I’ve emerged from this one with a strengthened sense of gratitude; Gratitude for relationships here and gone, and for the ones I’m newly forming. I’m thankful for the fearlessness we pass on to each other through powerful relationships in love.
After morning yoga, I pick up my ipad and quickly loose interest. I hand it over to Barrat, (a little boy at the Ashrma) to play with. I fall behind on India posts, but join many drum circles, yoga sessions and dances of salsa-asana with new friends.
I feel more at peace by the Love near and far.
Om, Shanti, shanti, shanti.
*Disclaimer: This is dramatized creative non-fiction…“Everything written is as good as it is dramatic,” (…) “Dramatize, dramatize!” – Robert Frost