15 January 2009

Waiting Room.


Why is it that the act of waiting around for something to happen, can be the most difficult thing we do in life? I mean, physically it’s the easiest thing to do… you don’t do anything!
Mentally though, it’s completely different; even with a meditation practice, I still find myself struggling with the anticipation and the expectation of actions that have yet to happen… it’s torture.

In the Army, we had a constant saying, ‘hurry up and wait’. There would be many times spent rushing and preparing, getting our adrenaline pumped and ready, only to find out that we wouldn’t be mobilized or needed for another 6 hours. In Basic Training, this was a very powerful tactic the Drill Sergeants would use to break so many of us down mentally so that we would be ‘pliable’ and less resistant to their authority.

In the case of waiting for the train to arrive at The Mughal Sarai railway station, it was met with additional growing thoughts of doubt and uncertainty, as the hours ticked by. We arrived at the station early as we eagerly checked to see if the trains going into Bihar were running OK.
The departure/arrival board hanging in the large station hall seemed to show every train number except for our train - 2802.
I walked over to a crowded ticket window to see a white board propped up on a chair; the scribbled information was all in Hindi and while I couldn’t read what it said, I saw our train number and understood enough to figure that this board was updating everyone the status of the backed up trains. Our train 2802 was running and would be arriving on track platform-2, but it would be 3 hours late.

I just wanted to be in Bodh Gaya already.

It’s like all my patience, especially my practice, were thrown out the window.
I was very glad to have the company of Sigrid and Karla, as I was able to have somebody watch my bag while I ventured out to explore the rail station.

I found a Chai Wallah; sipping on the sweet morning chai, I reminded myself that trains never arrive on time in India.
How I had forgotten that!?
When one gets wrapped up in the narrative of their thoughts, they often forget the logic of life. I was making it about me…

I was the only one waiting at the crowded station… because I was the only one getting on the train… right?...


The Ladies and I made our way to the crowded platform-2. Naturally, an additional hour was tacked onto the delay, just for good measure.

[It's funny as I transcribe this; I realize that I do not remember anything about the train ride... I remember that I had trouble finding my car and my berth, and that Karla and Sigrid were not in the same car as me.]

The Gaya Railway station looked completely different from how I remembered it looking… with my friends on that dark night over a year ago. As I made my way to the main entrance, I immediately recognized Nikesh.

Nikesh wasn’t at Ao Zora the night Sarah, Craig, Arleda and I went for that walk to the Sujata Stupa; the night we visited the school…
Upon returning to NYC, I received an e-mail from Nikesh, apologizing for his absence but thanking us for visiting the school.

That e-mail changed everything.

I asked the Dharma Punx Sangha if I could set up a donation box for the school, which would be left out in the vestibule; an online voting was held and a week later I found myself typing up a pamphlet, providing information about donating to the Ao Zora School.
Over the past year, Nikesh went from being a pen pal, as he continued to keep in touch with me, sending me updates and pictures of how the kids are doing; to being an admired friend, as I saw how much he believed in the school and how he would do anything for these kids.

That e-mail started something. I am back in India because of that e-mail…

Despite never having met face to face, it felt like we were old friends being reunited.
We embraced, laughing; smiles on both of our faces.
Meeting Nikesh for the first time was such an honor… by the expressive gratitude he showed, he felt the same way.

He had been waiting patiently at the station for my arrival with Tinku, one of the teachers at Ao Zora.

Tinku and Nikesh pulled out a bright orange flowered lei and placed it over my neck, welcoming me to Gaya.

I turned to my German travel companions and gave each of them hugs, thanking them… I said goodbye to Sigrid and Karla.

My new friends from Ao Zora procured an auto rickshaw, and we were off to Bodh Gaya! I showed Nikesh the mala beads, a gift he had asked Bryan to deliver to me, 6 months ago when he visited Ao Zora; he was so happy to see that I appreciated the gift.

They immediately began asking me questions about Obama and if I liked him, how the stock market and economy has affected me, what it is like living in New York City and how I enjoy my job… I felt so comfortable talking to the two of them as listened intently.
I asked Nikesh how the kids have been, particularly how Baby and Rajini are feeling; he explained to me how the whole accident had happened and how our donations had gone to getting the two girls the medical attention they needed.

Pulling into Bodh Gaya was great; similar to how it felt arriving in Sarnath, but without the sadness.

A part of my pre-trip anxiety was spent wondering how I would feel staying at the Deep Guest House again; Sarah and I started dating here.

Following Sunoch up to the 2nd floor, forgotten memories of seeing Jack’s boots, Nic’s shoes, and Sarah’s shoes next to mine, outside of our rooms, arose and faded as I walked by my empty old room; this is not why I am here.
I have things to do; having thoughts that are no longer harmful and just allowing them to come and go without trying to force them out, is so important. Controlling the thoughts can exasperate the state of the mind…
But thank goodness I’m not staying in that old room…

Dumping my rucksack on the extra bed, and grabbing the art supplies, I met Nikesh and Tinku outside and we began walking towards the school.
Crossing the long bridge over the dried out Falgu River, Nikesh’s brother, Mukesh, pulled up on a motorcycle. After quick introductions, Tinku took over the bike and asked me to climb on; Mukesh got on behind me and quickly the three of us sped off across the long sandy bridge.

Walking into the Ao Zora School this time was just as amazing as it was the first time.
The power was out and despite it being dark, the warmth of the kids quickly surrounding me was truly incredible.

(Waiting Room - Fugazi)

No comments: