Fifty Plus Hours Equals Jet Lag

I feel like my journey home really began at 11 p.m. on January 11. I had just settled in to get some sleep before my flight to Kolkata from the small Shillong airport the next afternoon. That’s when the phone rang. “So sorry, madam, but your flight has been cancelled.” Well. To hell with thinking like a Hindu. My Buddhist training  about acceptance? Out the window. When I get going, my mouth can make a sailor blush and the poor man on the other end of the line got an earful.

Lesson learned. It’s easy to be a Buddhist when things go our way. I’ve got a long ways to go.

The college gates were locked. The campus was dark. My friends were gone and I’d already turned off my internet. But I knew there was a priest somewhere so I tore across campus to pound on the Father’s door. I figured a man of god had to help me.  By then I had managed to rein in my tongue. It wasn’t his fault either.

A few panicked phone calls to Rakhal and another to one of the USIEF guys in Delhi (who justifiably said, “What do you want me to do about it?”). Some rearranging, very little sleep and by 5 a.m. I was on the road to the Guwahati airport. It’s only 95 kilometers away, but because of poor roads and constant traffic jams even at that early hour the ride took 5 1/2 hours. I was grateful it was so quick. The route has taken as long as 9 hours in the past.

Then came the 13 hour layover in Kolkata where I rented a cot in the women’s dormitory with a bunch of beautiful, laughing Indian women ranging in age from 19 to 90, a bit of sleep, a 10 hour flight to Frankfurt, a quick 4 hour layover, another 10 hour flight to Denver. Six hours in the Denver airport. Then Reno and an hour and a half drive home with my son who came to get me in my pickup. When he opened the door for me, fast food wrappers, CDs, dirty socks, a pair of gym shorts and god knows what else came tumbling out into the parking lot. I kept my mouth shut. I really was glad to see him.

So I’m home again. It’s going to take some time to get the house back to my standards, but there’s nothing moldy or green growing anywhere and everything is in one piece. The animals are fine, so I’m practicing appreciation.

And I am glad to be home. I live in a small town that’s subject to a lot of kvetching. We’re in the middle of nowhere. There’s nothing to do (i.e. no shopping malls). There are two big prisons. Okay, I’m not crazy about the prisons myself, but I love it here and I love my home on the hill. I’m grateful that there are no shopping malls and I like being far from a freeway. It’s isolated and quiet, one of the last bastions of what still feels like a bit like the old west. After six months in a humid climate my lips are parched and dry, but they’ll re-acclimate. And so will I.

Yesterday a bald eagle circled the hill. Deer graze outside the back door. There’s only one other house in sight and it’s across the valley. Sunday night my sangha came over for a potluck and I realized just how lucky I am to have so much. Friends here. Friends in India. I’ve been blessed with some amazing people in my life.

When you go out into the world it changes you. Sometimes subtly. Sometimes more dramatically. But I think it always enriches you, teaches us about ourselves and makes life so much more textured and interesting.

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10 thoughts on “Fifty Plus Hours Equals Jet Lag

  1. Wow, sounds like you had an epic journey back. Glad you’re back in familiar territory, but I’m sure it’ll take some getting accustomed to.

    I enjoyed reading about your experience in India, and am looking forward to reading the next chapter of your life.

  2. Hi Jordan, I’m glad to learn that you’re home and that you’re taking in the comfort of easy mornings and the breath of crisp mountain air. There’s just as much heart in the fuel that burns your passion as there is home in the America of your backyard.
    I have always admired the wanderlust that beckons each and every one of us and have also always respected the people who grace that very same wanderlust with a heart and a mind that is always filled with the light and the warmth of a million candles burning in each and every corner of the world waiting to be called Home.
    Buddhism and Hinduism, or any other form of belief and faith are in the end a part of an essential consequence of adopting very closely related values that in turn enrich the way we see and interpret the fate and the state of affairs of the lives and the world around us. These values enrich our lives and the state of our conscience; but you should know that you are far more fortunate than many of us. Where our lives are constantly enriched by such values, in your case, YOUR LIFE enriches those very same values. And thus they begin to have more weight, more meaning, and a whole lot more essence.
    And until your next foray I am certain that we have quite a lot of learning and retrospection to catch up with as you continue to tell your tale.

  3. I am sorry to hear that you weren’t able to think like a Buddhist when faced with adversity. I started my travels about 50 years ago, and then it was by boat, and train and very often by slow vehicles even in the advanced countries of the world. There was no jet lag. Each little step of the journey was a lesson in itself. And later on, when I joined the many cars speeding from one place to another in my own country, I sorely missed the slow pace of travel, and I try to move slowly to this day, to savor the experience. One of your consolations can be that a true student looks for situations and lessons in which he is able to fill in the material that he is lacking. And in such circumstances, one doesn’t have to be embarrassed if we don’t internalize all of the lesson right away.

    • Sounds like a nice way to travel. As for not thinking like a Buddhist when facing adversity, I’ve always thought that life is a learning experience. It’s hard to get it perfect every time. Thanks for commenting.

  4. I fail to understand why or how, for a handful few of you, a certain value or virtue or principle should always fall within the conventional aspect of what you believe it to be. When Gautama Buddha left his palace and his wife to meditate and eventually renounce in Bodhgaya, he clearly never took a quill and an inkpot to propagate his idea of rules or guidelines that would serve as basic and intrinsic checkpoints for any of us to enter the faith.
    As I see it, facing adversity has nothing whatsoever to do with any kind of faith or belief or congregation or country, for that matter. The way we react or behave when faced with adversity is nothing but a reflection of what we have been through in the past and how we handled such issues. Clearly, if Jordan and Gautama Buddha were to be locked out in a small town tens of thousands of miles away from home, even the Buddha himself would have cursed the gatekeeper or his own lack of knowledge about keeping time!
    Spiritualism does not deal with tangible hardships. Or Jesus wouldn’t have entered Jerusalem riding a donkey. If there were Lamborghinis or Aston Martins or the cheaper Nissans on hire during those days, I am quite certain that Jesus would have chosen, in the least, a Nissan over a donkey.
    Spritualism deals with the cleanliness of conscience and the purity of choices. Spiritualism does not deal with the negligible crumbs that normally ensue flying around the world, but with the bigger picture of what you choose to attach yourself and your beliefs to and how you can apply the acquired virtues to solve the deeper questions in your life.
    If you were to accidentally drop a hammer on your bare feet the first natural reflex would be for you to scream out loud and curse the hammer, not immediately sit cross-legged to meditate on the pain that the forces of Gravity has suddenly put upon you, materialized by the weight of the hammer!
    The values that all of us achieve spiritually is always and constantly being reproduced in the way we interact with personal losses, detachment, relationships with people and animals and the various Gods in their various avatars. We are all humans and we are all the same. We behave and react to different situations differently. Spiritualism deals with the core values of life and the way we adhere to the basic norms of humanity, further clarified and accentuated by the way we make decisions that deal with another human being. Spiritualism is the knowledge of the fragility of life, the fragility of possessions, and the volatility of time. We are all the same and we are similar regardless of where we are and how and to who we pray. And we are also the same regardless of caste or color, all invited to enter fearlessly into our Father’s house. And if we were called one day to stand before the Supreme, we will not be judged as Hindus or Muslims or Christians or Jews. We will be judged as humans, regardless of who our Mentor is. And until that fateful day, we are free to decide, to live and let live.

    • Dear Jasper, Could it be that you don’t see it? You seem so confident about what spiritualism is, and so sure that all paths are integral… and that all religions try to tell the same story. And you follow the common denominator into the theater of the absurd, certain that Jesus would have driven a Nissan if only they’d made them at the time. Does it not occur to you that he might have driven an old jalopy of unrecognizable make, with graffiti all over it… and if so, what is the point. That everyone reacts the same when a hammer drops on their foot? Or that everyone drops a hammer on his own foot. I can assure you that not everyone drops a hammer on their own foot. And the study of Buddhism might enable you to prevent a reoccurrence of that unfortunate accident. But even so, the study of religion, and they are not all the same… despite your lumping them together as ‘spiritualism’ might open up a broader awareness which would help you to react to an accident with grace instead of screams and curses. You might choose not to blame gravity for your own mistakes, and instead sit cross-legged or on a chair of your choice, and meditate on your mind and body, and on the infinite world around you. It would take a while, of course, to reach that sort of awareness… but Jasper, I think you have it in you.

  5. I don’t know, ShimonZ. Whatever rubble I gathered as I grew somehow always managed to seem intrinsically simple and iron wrought. I know I have not traversed enough to acquire traits that are more along mainstream spiritualism but the various people that I met on the way somehow always managed to let almost all the core characteristics of such a state to permeate the generality of experience. I understand the physical strain of undergoing rigorous and meticulous degrees in order to achieve a certain stage on the seemingly long road to being enlightened spiritually. But that is somewhat like enrolling. I am talking about being spiritualists. I didn’t mean to engender confusion when I said spiritualism. I don’t know about you but I feel that the fundamental aspect of being spiritualists is always being fostered by various beliefs and religions. It isn’t hard to conceptualize a certain stage of being spiritualists because the most basic of all beliefs and faiths always begin with the most basic of the first steps of Spirituality.
    Spirituality is really a way or a manner of nurturing actions and thoughts that are always in a silent accord with basic traditions such as higher awareness, perfection of one’s own being and one’s unity with higher wisdom and God and creation. Meditation and prayer are one of the important virtues of being a spiritualist, but that doesn’t mean that they are the utmost means of overcoming the least of adversity be it grief or the hammer incident.
    It seems you may have misunderstood the hypothesis of the hammer. Nobody in their sound minds would contemplate dropping a hammer on their feet. I wouldn’t. The only other way you can have the hammer bruise your toes is if it accidentally fell on your feet. Though the perception of being a spiritualist here, in this incident would mean addressing the situation in a certain manner, the suddenness of the incident and the degree of unexpected pain inflicted would most certainly cause any average Joe or amateur spiritualist or A spiritualist to react in the most scientifically basic way of responding to stimuli. It’s just a simple and a natural law of science.
    It is easy for me to tell you that Spirituality aims at a person’s growth- both inner and outer, though outer growth would essentially mean the manifestations of such growth. Everybody knows about love, compassion and forgiveness. And everybody knows that these three things are the mainstay of such a thing as being Spiritualists. And Spirituality, in essence, is not such a hard task. As I said earlier, as I see it, Spirituality deals with life and how it fits into the mystery of purpose. Spirituality surfaces when you sit somewhere all by yourself, listening to the sounds of life that surrounds you- the air, the whistle of the wind, the lakes and seas, the warmth of the sun, the mist of the oceans, the sound of life other than your own and at the same time you wonder about the universe, your own life and where it is going and where it came from and why you exist and what will happen when you die. Spirituality also involves appreciation of things not really tangible. And just as you and I feel, others who feel the need to have a very close and quiet relationship with the deepest meaning of life are Spiritualists too.
    It would be so much easier if all of us in this world were to practice this basic characteristic of Spirituality because with time, our meanings deepen, our thoughts become clearer, and our need for higher self awareness grows stronger and stronger. And then we can meet everyone on a level platform and the ones who have achieved more can show others the path to that long awaited peace and oneness.

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