On Being A Guest and Traveling

View from our villa in Saint Agatha

We are traveling through Italy, and I have so enjoyed the beauty of this country but also the kindness of strangers and our hosts. Sarika and I have been using Airbnb throughout the trip. 

I have so loved the experience of enjoying a well-lived home wherever it may be. In the rush of leaving, we left the place orderly, but we did not wash the dishes. Later on, our host would send us a note with feedback, that it would have been nice if we had washed the dishes. She said it was requested in the house rules.

Upon learning this, I felt embarrassed and a bit disappointed in myself. If I were in any family or friends place, I would surely have washed the dishes and put the sheets into the washer, etc. But, at this Airbnb, I assumed that washing of dishes were a part of the cleaning fee for the apartment. 

I began to see that I had relied on the ethos of “transaction” of renting the apartment to set the ground rules for engaging with our hosts. We were customers and our hosts were selling a product. That being said, they did not treat us as customers, they treated us as their guests. They brought all these extra toys for Lila, and went above and beyond to help us get situated and feel comfortable. They entrusted us in their home with 300 year old furniture and a well-lived home, which was comfortable and welcoming. 

Sarika and I spoke about this and would reflect further about the role of kindness, what it means to travel and our desire to not simply be consumers of beauty and experiences. Even if we were paying for the apartment, perhaps washing dishes so the work of the cleaning service would be a little lighter that day. 

I am left thinking about my automated ways of thinking as a consumer. I am humbled by the graciousness and kindness of our hosts. And, the desire I have to practice kindness wherever we go, but the inner spaciousness to notice my assumptions and actions.

Living Life like a Pilgrimage

After my walk through the Camino de Santiago, I had the opportunity to be a guest speaker on the weekly Forrest Call. Please feel free to listen the interview here or read the write-up below by a dear friend and fellow blogger, Sarika Jain.

Inspired by a series of intriguing synchronicities while contemplating his personal journey, Krishan, on a whim, bought a one-way ticket to France, not knowing when he would return. The first part of the plan: to walk the Camino de Santiago, a 900 km spiritual trek involving steep hills, mountains and long, dusty roads; where millions of pilgrims (‘peligrinos’) had traveled over the past thousands of the years to reach Santiago de Compostela, the burial grounds of a famous sage.

Last Saturday’s Forest Call guest featured our speaker from the East coast’s quarterly Super Soul Saturday retreat. Krishan Patel had just returned from an arduous mental,physical and spiritual journey through Spain and France. He generously agreed to share insights from his experiences although he himself was still processing what he had learned.

In our super soul circle, we asked Krishan if he could relate his experience to a speech given by Nipun at a college graduation. Nipun’s speech reflected on his own spiritual journey in India, which he described by using the acronymW-A-L-K. All of us listened with great rapture as Krishan slowly shared from his heart what he had learned about himself, human nature, and life.

(W) Witness – During the journey, Krishan found, fortunately or unfortunately, that there were no distractions between his mind and body – and he had a chance to witness his thoughts and bodily activities through every circumstance imaginable: excruciating heat (which melted his glasses!), indescribable fatigue, expansive, blinding plains in every direction, loneliness, fear-filled situations and even joyful moments withfellow peligrinos.This experience proved to be meditation in action, revealing many important, and sometimes difficult, insights to him. It was also an opportunity for Krishan to witness nature and humanity in truly natural settings, making him a keen and appreciative observer to the wonders of life.

(A) Accept – Leaving the world of preferences during his busy life here in the US, Krishan found the journey to be both liberating and challenging. One key insight was that he had to accept his body through every circumstance, even if it meant overcoming his ego about what he could and could not do, physically. Another was to accept tough conditions as they appeared on the trip – relying on just a few pairs of essential clothing (sometimes wet when he put them on!), not being able to find vegetarian food along the way, flies and bees swarming around his eyes through dry patches; at one point, Krishan found himself taking a wrong turn and ended up walking along a scary, lonely highway; because he didn’t reach a village in time, he ended up sleeping on a bridge in freezing temperatures – a night which he will never forget. All of these situations proved to be tests to his natural set of preferences; slowly making him realize that accepting life as it came was his only option – this would be his path to joy.

(L) Love – During the journey, Krishan found instances of true love, one exhibited by humanity in a spirit of kinship and non-duality, especially in difficult times. During one particularly challenging stretch, his right knee began to throb with pain, and each step became excruciating. After inching along, he finally made it to a village, where he met a Spanishfather and son duo who had passed by him on the walk. Krishan honestly shared that he was hurt and even angry that they passed him by without offering to help. And so it was to his surprise when the father asked Krishan to stop by his room, sit on a chair, lifted his right pant leg above the knee, and began to massage his knee with a cream in the most loving manner, as though Krishan were his own son. As he shared this story of selflessness and true love with us, we found ourselves transforming internally, reflecting hard about non-dualistic love and the spirit of kindness.

(K) Know thyself – The trip allowed Krishan to gain a deep understanding of what his needs are. All the peligrinos and supporters along the path kept repeating the slogan “this is your pilgrimage, you do what you would like!”, reminding him that his priorities and needs came first. There were times when Krishan needed to be alone on the path, times when he enjoyed the company of fellow peligrinos, and times when he just felt like laughing or crying. In each situation, he found that understanding, expressing, and fulfilling one’s own needs are key to knowing and loving oneself. And when you love and know thyself, you are fulfilling one of the highest forms of service.

The reflections shared by Krishan inspired us all to think about ourday-to-day lives as part of a larger, spiritual journey. We were grateful to him to not only take this very important trek for himself, his community and family, but also for sharing his insights and lessons with us in an authentic and open manner, helping all of us reflect on how one can lead life more mindfully, with greater joy, love and acceptance.