I traveled to New Delhi, India to present at the World Congress of Psychology and Spirituality with anticipation and excitement. I had never been to that part of the world and I could hardly wait to experience as much of it as I could. I travelled with my husband, 2 children and 2 very close friends. We had no idea what we were in for but we were anxious to get there and jump right in.
Arriving into the throngs of people at the airport was the beginning of the culture shock. The sea of faces, the crowds, the new sensations bombarding the senses; it was all too much to take in immediately. I must have looked like a deer in the headlights as we left the airport and again were met with crowds of people and noise and smells and sights that were too much to absorb. It was exciting and frightening at the same time. Without a word and in amazement, we went to our Ashram to settle in for the night.
It turns out an Ashram is nothing like it’s portrayed in the movies. The familiar amenities of home are absent. The living conditions are nothing like what we expect. I was in shock once again by the foreign surroundings. I knew I could not stay there, nor could my friends and family; it was too much change too fast. In the morning we ventured out into the streets in search of a hotel that would bring our anxiety levels down and our bodies into surroundings we could recognize.
It was out on the busy street with wild dogs running all over the place, cows crossing the streets, people everywhere, and vehicles honking incessantly that I would encounter the woman that would change me forever. I was in moderate distress and completely out of place dressed in my western jeans, high-heeled boots, an Italian designed jacket and a fashionable hat. We all pulled our suitcases behind us across rough ground with rocks and garbage and chaos everywhere. I tried to keep my emotional life as calm as possible to cope with what I was seeing and feeling around me. It was then that I encountered her.
As I walked, I saw a woman out of the corner of my eye. I began to process what I was seeing and realized she lived in a little hut made of cardboard. She was probably middle-aged but looked weathered and worn for her years, likely from living on the street. Her hut was neat and organized and she swept the ground with a tattered broom as she did her morning chores. It was then that she looked up and locked her gaze into my eyes. It was then that my life changed forever. I felt a jolt of love from that woman that I cannot describe. I felt the pain of being a woman, a wife, a mother and grandmother in the chaos of living on the streets. I felt the pride for her home, for her life and her country. I felt deep concern, curiosity, joy and struggle. I felt all of this, all at the same time, in every cell of my being. This was all of life encapsulated into one split second. I have never forgotten that moment and relive it in my mind over and over again. This beautiful, tattered, life-worn woman had shown me the mystery of what life on the entire planet was all about. It’s only about love, no matter what path we are given or take to get there.
From there I went on to a lovely hotel and began to discover the true beauty that is India; the people, the food, the adventures. The strong spiritual connection that is evident everywhere with prayers and flowers and devotion. The extremes of wealth and poverty, the chaos and the calm, disease and perfect health, everything that life has to offer on the planet bombards the senses all at the same time. I fell in love with all of it and felt more alive than I had ever in my life.
I carry the connection to the woman on the street in my heart every minute of every day. She magically changed me and I am so grateful she did. She sliced my heart open so I could feel the truth of life and love. I became more human for having encountered her.
With Love to her and all who read this,
Teresa L. DeCicco, PhD is a university professor, research and author of Psychology. Her newest book “Living Beyond the Five Senses” is available at the “BUY NOW” button at the top of the page and in bookstores everywhere.
See more of her work on her youtube channel: https://www.youtube.com/user/Dreamsstudies