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« Blue Fluffs her Feathers and Flies FREE!! | Main | Silence is not an option »

Not Us or Them, but rather WE 

by Kayce Stevens Hughlett

Varanasi, IndiaIt’s Monday evening and I’m wrestling with a summer cold. My daughter and I have just left the downtown theater where we’ve experienced the gorgeous 1992 film, Baraka (breath of life or blessing). Baraka presents soundtrack-enhanced footage of people, places, and things from around the world, ultimately showing the interconnectedness of everything, both tragic and vibrant. We could have watched for hours.

Exiting the Cinerama, a man sits on the ground, curled into himself with a sign that says, “This is what invisible looks like.” In that moment and now, I wish I’d squatted down and said, “I see you,” but I didn’t. {sigh}

Bhaktapur, NepalI think about the man and the movie. India. Varanasi and the burning ghats. Nepal before the earthquake. Bhakatpur and the Buddha stoopas. The pyramids of Giza, New York City, Arches National Park. Places where I have stood in awe. Times that have opened my heart to joy and also spread it with cracks of sorrow for all I have seen and experienced.

“If you put your heart against the earth with me, in serving every creature, our Beloved will enter you from our sacred realm and we will be, we will be so happy.” Rumi

In the midst of my summer cold I want to nap and I want to write. India has been on my mind for several days. Sitting with my journal, my mind is foggy and unclear. Aslan the cat tries to push his way into my lap. I need space and then I imagine the millions of people in India who may desire that every day. Or maybe they don’t even notice the closeness or can’t fathom what space is, a commodity as rare as fresh air.

My nose is stuffy. I blow and drip and remember the black snot on white tissues in New Delhi and Agra. The darkened air and sky. The incessant horn honking. The polluted Ganges now declared a living being; a living being like I, darkened by moments, alive and flowing.

Ganges, Varanasi, IndiaMonday morning, I choked on my Ohm during yoga. I wonder about this ancient practice originating in India and for a moment it seems absurd, and then I know it is essential. To calm the mind and find breath in the midst of chaos is our greatest gift. To move through an asana practice, no matter how imperfectly or slowly. To obey when the body asks to move and the mind argues, “I can’t.” My intention in practice on Monday was simply to stay. To stay on the mat and stay with myself. Pause and listen. Breathe and rest. Be grateful for my working limbs.

I need rest. I need to write. I want to remember more of India, such as the initial shock of driving into Varanasi at night, followed by the peace of walking the ghats at sunrise. Tears during a holy ceremony. Colors, orange and gold mingling with incense and pollution. It’s all there. I still haven’t unraveled my thoughts and emotions about the sadhus, the holy men, some fake and others more authentic and ethereal than I could ever articulate.

I see the drunkard in Haridwar who touched my feet in blessing then popped my forehead with the butt of his palm after I declined to give him rupees. Children on the street. The woman who rested with me on the steps to the Ganges. A palm reader. A silk merchant. My friends, Anwol and Ricky.

Haridwar, IndiaBrain fog, like pollution, slows my mind. I am here now. Trying to breathe and remember. Saying a prayer, offering a blessing of thanks and gratitude. I know that we citizens of the world are one, not us or them. I wish my beloved United States could focus on what unites rather than divides. Aslan tries to worm his way back into my space again. I push him away and acknowledge his desire to be close to me, to be loved, to be seen like the man on the street.

I’ve developed a practice of sending love and light into the places where I know not how to do anything else. Houston with its flooding and hurricane. India with its poverty and pollution. A beggar who I’m hesitant to approach. America and her divided status. Love and light. Both/And. Not us or them, but rather We.

May we all be free from suffering and filled with love and light even in the darkest of times, decisions, and disasters. May we open our eyes to see what lies before us every day.

Namaste. The beauty in me acknowledges and sees the beauty in you, our magnificent world. Love and light to you, my friend. 


How might your experience of the world change if you considered others as WE instead of Us versus Them? 

Set your timer and journal for 5-10 minutes. Notice what bubbles up. 

I'm writing a new book! It's a travel memoir that covers the road from Oklahoma good girl to risk-taking globetrotter.   In the meantime, I hope you'll take a peek at BLUE: a novel and As I Lay Pondering: daily invitations to live a transformed life

Want to explore the world and learn the art of SoulStrolling?  Sharon Richards and I are heading to Bali in May, 2018. Space available. Details here. 

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