Today I bought a backpack. I'm not by any stretch of the imagination a backpacker. But today I bought a backpack to use for 4-6 months in India, which I guess qualifies me as a backpacker. Or so that's what Andy at REI told me. When I looked bewildered at the sight of my new pack (as they call it), he reassured me, "In two months, you'll know this thing inside and out." Here's hoping.
When I arrived at REI I made a beeline for the backpacks, quickly got freaked out, and headed to the clothing section instead. Eventually I got up the nerve to ask someone for help with the backpacks, and I half expected the salesclerk to take one look at me and laugh or fear for my survival. But Andy simply grabbed two packs from the wall and started talking about the position of the bag on the iliac crest of the hip. I told him that I'm a yoga teacher, and I can at least follow along when it comes to anatomy.
He filled the backpacks with pillows and weights to mimic the load I'll be carrying and then taught me how to pick the bag up off the ground, position it on my knee, and swing it over one shoulder to put it on. I followed along, and much to my surprise I didn't fall over. After walking around the store and up and down many flights of stairs, he asked me how it felt.
"Good. I think. But I don't know how it's supposed to feel. Are you a backpacker?"
He looked me dead in the eye and said, "Backpacking is my sport."
Several months ago I bought a one-way ticket to Barcelona, where I'll meet my family over Thanksgiving, followed by a one-way ticket from Florence to Bangalore. I spent hours scouring various websites for the best deals on airfare, but in retrospect that was all fun and games.
Now I sit with two-dozen Internet browser windows open, and I research travel insurance and travel safes and underwear that you can keep your passport and credit cards zipped into. I learn about vaccines and Japanese encephalitis. I read other yogis' packing lists, and my favorite suggestion is:
"Bring 5 yoga outfits you don't like. In fact, don't bring anything you like to India."
For several weeks I've been trying to secure my Indian visa, and a couple nights ago I was on the phone with someone in India again. I called, as usual, around midnight in LA to account for the 13.5-hour time difference and the operating hours of the institute where I'm studying. This time I spoke to three different people, and the last one assured me that I would receive an email with a photocopy of the document I need by today. I'm acutely aware of when the day ends in India, and it ended with no email.
When I arrived at the studio to teach a class today, another teacher asked me how I was doing. I made the mistake of telling her the truth, rather than just saying well. By the time my students started arriving I was in tears. Each student offered such kind and thoughtful words and solutions, but it only made me cry more.
Fear got the best of me. Waiting on a visa and looking at slash-proof locks isn't as pretty as buying plane tickets. But fear is often just discomfort.
There's this thing that happens in yoga postures. The moment of resistance is where the pose actually begins. And often the difference between comfortable and uncomfortable has nothing to do with the pose and has everything to do with you. How you breathe, think, and react.
One of my teachers often loudly and assertively guides her students through incredibly difficult postures and transitions, but she ends her directions by saying, "with joy."
And so it is with this. I'll breathe and keep calling India and go to a travel clinic and make some purchases on Amazon with joy. Eventually the documents will arrive and I'll be vaccinated and my pack will be organized with everything I need.
The teacher who I cried to sent me a message later that said:
"Whenever I am full of doubt my mom tells me the story of a village that didn't have rain for the longest time and so one day they gathered everyone and decided to pray for rain. Among the crowd a little boy stood with his umbrella. He believed so much that the moment they ask for rain it will come, that he brought his umbrella with him. So just grab that umbrella and trust that what you ask for will happen, and whatever happens is only the very best for you. I have no doubt everything will fall into place."
Instead of an umbrella, I have a backpack. Eventually my pack and I will be in India. For now I'll wait, with joy, for my visa.