Sitting in the large conversion van, more commonly known as Saskwatch, my home of 17 years slowly faded behind me as my dad eased down on the gas pedal. It suddenly hit me that for more than two months I would be far away from my familiar home. A seeker of adventure and opportunities I’ve become, detaching myself from familiar surroundings and comfortable routine. My place in the world will never be beneath my feet but shall always be one step ahead, stretching out into infinite space. The feeling in my stomach dissolved and spread, filling me with a sense of hope in the land that lay before me.
Our first night would be spent in Birmingham, Alabama, a place where my cousin and aunt now call home. The unfamiliar and most likely problematic hotel room did little to increase my sense of hopeful anticipation but the thought of some quality extended family time was very pleasant. Two hours into our drive everything was going smoothly. I knew there was going to be many bumps in the road on our long trek to San Diego but it looked like our first day was going to be a breeze. Of course five minutes after mentioning how we were making such great time, traffic came to a halt and began to slowly creep forward.
30 minutes later we came to an exit labeled detour. It looked like half the people on the road continued going straight while the other half took the exit, deciding that more promise was held in the orange and black sign. We also saw a brighter light in the direction of the detour and took the exit. We followed several more detour signs, each taking us further and further into the countryside. The land which you see just outside of the interstate does not come nearly close enough to the beauty which a landscape contains. Rolling hills, luscious trees, and vast fields surrounded us and at times a vague outline of the Blue Ridge Mountains could be seen in the distance. The beauty of South Carolina was becoming apparent to me and the vision of my surroundings chipped away at my previously close minded interpretation concerning parts of our country.
Unfortunately the detour also became a traffic jam and my peaceful existence within our present bump in the road led to some anxiety. The time for my IC, intermittent cath, was fast approaching and I saw no signs of an appropriate place to pull over to perform the operation. Another detour sign approached but instead of turning left as it suggested along with the rest of the crawling traffic, we surged onwards. A couple miles later we found a church with a large parking lot and pulled in. After taking care of business I exited the van and breathed in the moment, what has become one of my favorite exercises to find peace. The wonderful outline of the mountains in the distance was sketched across the horizon. A cool breeze swept through the grass and across my face, but the warm sun erased any chill that I might feel. A small graveyard was at my feet reminding me of the precious life I live along with the terrifying and peaceful journey of death.
Exiting my front door was already proving to be a grand decision. Wonderful outlines of this earth were yet to come and I was excited to search for more new experiences and new visions of life on this planet. Many of you have followed along with me in my journey of self-discovery along with the tragedy and triumph. I’ve gone through many stages in outlooks and each has been a necessary step in my progression. Recently my outlook has been somewhat different and much of my previous analytical and questioning behavior on life has been calmed. At the present time I am in a much further state of complete surrender to absolute everything. I’m surrendering all my thoughts, all my emotions, and all my actions to a greater power. I’m not struggling to understand what lies beneath the surface and I’m not fighting to discover my personal yet hidden divine powers. I’m letting go of the reins.
My definition of surrender by no means should be defined as giving up but should be understood as quite the opposite. By surrendering I’m finally stepping forward into the light and allowing a wonderful divine presence to become my thoughts, become my emotions, and become my actions. I will still perform all of these things and I will still seemingly make all of the decisions but by continually reminding myself that I surrender all which is taking place within and around me, wondrous and magical things can begin to happen. Wondrous things which I once thought I could find the power to grasp and intellectually control. It’s quite possible to do so but this course of action puts me under a great deal of pressure and I’m accepting at the present time that I’m unable to obtain spiritual bliss through knowledge. This transition from knowledge-based spirituality to devotional spirituality will allow all of my desires to ultimately manifest for God I’m learning wants nothing more than to grant us everything which we desire. But only through complete devotion and surrender gives God this power. A rather radical change from the impersonal God I’ve been looking towards recently but I’m finding great peace through my devotion as well as a wonderful feeling of hope. It was Mother Meera who has helped me make this recent change of approach towards God.
We did not arrive in Birmingham until very late, far past our scheduled arrival. My aunt and cousin met with us at the hotel and came bearing gifts of drinks and food. I inhaled my aunt’s wonderful cooking with the enthusiasm of a starving child. We unfortunately were unable to get as much family time as we would have liked but it was very comforting to have supportive family in what would have otherwise been a cold unfamiliar hotel room. Then to our surprise my aunt informed us that my cousin would be traveling with us over the next couple of days, that everything was taking care of and they were not going to take “no” for an answer. Well, at first their wishes were ignored and the answer was “no”. My dad felt he was more than capable of making the drive to Houston and needed no help. My family has had the tendency to not accept help when it is offered but we are now learning that when people want to help, we should let them. We could sense that my cousin Gaurav just wanted to be of help in our situation and take part in the current family struggles, and so how we added a third companion to our travels.
Having Gaurav there ended up being a great help and boosted our confidence a bit so we decided to travel straight from Birmingham to Houston, Texas in one day instead of two liked previously planned. It was no doubt going to be a long and trying day but we knew we were going to stay in Houston for a few days and I myself would much rather make it to a destination than having to stop at a more temporary one.
The second day out on the road was once again proving to be a peaceful experience for me. At times I was filled with a euphoric feeling of peace at the realization of this grand adventure I was undertaking but other times had me yearning for solid ground to stand on. Louisiana contains much beauty and I’m sure has many fine qualities but one of them I can say is not the condition of their roads. The trouble began after we left a rest area just outside of New Orleans. My dad had taken the position of navigator and was busily talking on the phone. It sounded like a very pleasurable conversation but unfortunately the distraction caused us to miss our exit which would bypass New Orleans and before we knew it we were crossing a giant bridge leading straight into the city.
Crossing the bridge into New Orleans was a magnificent sight and a pleasant surprise after the initial frustration of missing our exit. After the bridge however my body suddenly began to lurch in all possible directions. My knees waved side to side like a limp noodles. My head shot forward and backwards and I could feel my butt rising up and back down into my seat. It was as if the ocean had turned into pavement. The van bounced along and I bounced along with it trying my hardest to stabilize my body with my arm rests, but it was no use. It was the worst road conditions I had ever experienced.
Between the moments when I wasn’t getting tossed around, I was able to see some of the devastation of hurricane Katrina firsthand. Most of the neighborhood’s looked completely deserted with many houses were still with no rooftops. Businesses were dark and lifeless and I realized how devastating that hurricane really was. A city once full of culture and life had been completely destroyed, never to fully become what it once was ever again. I’m sure it will rebuild but I cannot see it ever being the same again.
Thankfully, the road began to smooth out as we got further and further away from New Orleans. Even though the road was a little less wavelike, the time spent in the van was beginning to wear on me. It was a strange feeling however, as we reached around the 13th or 14th hour of being on the road that day. I began to fall into a strange state of mind where the stress of being enclosed in such a tiny space for so long had come and gone, and I was no longer tired for I had also surpassed the height of sleepiness. It was as if I pushed my mental state to the edge and beyond so that all that was left was a peaceful feeling of surrender. At some point during this feeling I slid my headphones over my head and put my ipod on shuffle. Every song that played seemed to be the absolute perfect song for that very moment, hitting all the right emotions, finely in tune with my vibrations. The notes resonated and spread through my body like ripples through water and at times I thought I might float away, beyond all perception.
I was quickly brought back to reality at some time or another. I think it may have been the moment traffic came to a stop as we entered Houston. Saturday night, around 11:30 p.m. we finally got to our hotel room and so ended our second day of travel. Gaurav would be flying back to Birmingham in the morning and my dad and I would be staying in Houston until Tuesday night. My experience in Houston has been enlightening and has continued to feed my newfound adventurous spirit. I will share these experiences in my next entry.