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Find My Heart in India by Anna C.

*[REWIND] Originally posted on We Are Juxt on August 15, 2012

Anna’s Introduction

I love stumbling across beautiful feeds and more importantly I love India.  I traveled there with my father many moons ago and fell in love instantly. When I was tagged to Jessica’s, @jessuckapow, feed I was blown away by the humanity that stared back at me from their neat little boxes. I could almost smell the markets and hear the vendors. Looking through her feed and reading  her blog brought back so many happy memories. I do hope you will take the time to soak in the sites and  sounds that are Jessica’s life.

Oh! P.S. she is an Andriod photographer! Wahoo!

A:  Anna  J:  Jessica

A: Tell me a story about India. The one that you always want to tell when people ask you about India.

J:  I was in Goa and during “the season,” as everyone calls the time between November and March, it’s flooded with tourists so during this time a contingent of what the locals call “gypsys” come to town to do their seasonal begging.  Some are rather aged, some are children, many are younger women who have infants and small children with them. A lot of people consider them a nuisance and treat them like crap, which is difficult to see.  I was sitting at my favorite falafel place and had just finished filling one of the gypsy’s bottles with fresh milk for the infant dangling at her side as a feeble looking woman with the harsh years etched into her face approached wanting money for food.  The restaurant owner, Shimon, offered her chai and a sandwich and with much appreciation she squatted under a tree to wait.  I smiled at her and she shyly smiled back at me with a toothless grin and we watched Shimon’s young daughter, Gia, play around the outdoor patio.  All of a sudden, his daughter slipped on a chair and tumbled towards the ground.  This woman, who looked like she couldn’t run from a bull if it charged down the street, bolts from her squatted position and dives to catch Gia, managing to save her from a massive thud.  She brushed off her knees as Gia wailed in shock as Shimon came out to help and the woman gently passed Gia to him.  He placed his daughter into the safety of the cushions on the floor and went back to preparing the food for the woman.  Witnessing the display of compassion from two beautiful people, who belong to different rungs of Indian society, which is very rare to see here, was incredibly touching and epitomized the goodness in humanity.  The black and white portrait I sent you, is the woman who helped Gia that day.

A: Tell me about your life right now. I know your traveling. Where have you been were are you going? Why?

J:  I don’t know if I would consider what I do “traveling,” because I REALLY don’t like the whole traveling part of traveling and I usually find a place I like, stay for a few months and suck up all I can from where I choose to live.  I’m more of a gypsy, you can say.  Since December 2010, I’ve volunteered on a bridge construction project in Lesotho, Africa, visited a number of friends in Europe and Australia, meditated and bummed around Thailand, and a few visits home to Seattle to see friends, family and tie up loose ends but a majority of my time has been studying yoga and meditation in India and I plan to stay here for rest of the year.

My first trip to Lesotho, which was only for a few weeks, in 2008, initiated a dramatic change in me. I looked around at my well paying corporate consulting job, which I was great at but hated, my recently purchased home, my car, ALL the crap I owned and thought, “what am I doing?!”  For the first time, as an aware adult, I saw people living a simple life, they had just the bare necessities and they were HAPPY and I…was not.  I received the biggest present after returning from a volunteer trip to Peru in early 2010 – my company was eliminating my job!  They offered me the option to either take the “promotion” or take severance and after a few moments of being completely bummed out, I smiled, accepted the separation package and never looked back.  I had a few little trips planned with my new freedom but there is a familiar story with most long-term travelers and it always seems to start the same way, HEARTBREAK!  All of a sudden, my planned 6-week trip to Africa turned into 3 months and now, I was planning a trip to India to throw myself into studying everything there was about yoga.

Heartbreak starts so many journeys but it doesn’t sustain long term travel.  Once you leave the comforts of everything you know, for more than a few week vacation, you taste what else this world has to offer.  You see just how small and insignificant we are as individuals and realize, globally, everyone just wants to be happy.  When you’re thrown into new challenges, new obstacles, new surroundings, unknown languages, customs and people, you also realize just how big of a foreign world you have inside yourself.  I thought I was leaving home to understand the full depth of yoga, what I’ve recently come to realize is that I actually left home to understand the full depth of ME.  India has a suction cup attached to me, the more I’m here the more I’m learning WHY I’m actually here and when I’m not here, my plans have always been about getting back here.  It’s the kind of country that will guide you everywhere you need to go, as long as you keep your eyes and heart open for all the opportunities that present themselves.  It’s such a weird and beautiful place!

A: Wow! it must be hard to be so far away. How are you using mobile photography/ social sites to connect with the people you love? 

J:  I don’t know how I would be able to do what I do without Facebook, Blogspot, Skype and Instagram.  I’m ridiculously close to my family and friends and being away from them is so difficult but I know I’m doing what I need to for me right now.  The way I view my photography is sharing my eyes with those I love and sharing experiences I wish they could have with me, in that moment.  Some of those in my world may never find it in themselves, for whatever reason, to make the changes they really want to make in their life.  Some want to join me but I know “life happens.”  I know how hard it is to break from a very comfortable routine, to be terrified of making that first step and risk leaving the security you think you’ve built for yourself, all for what… the unknown, the moment?  I’ve had so many friends thank me for allowing them to live vicariously through me but when I’m sitting on a cliff in the Himalayas, watching the thick fog dissipate to reveal the most majestic view I’ve ever witnessed, being able to snap a photo, edit it to capture the beauty and mood my eyes see and upload it to Instagram, which I’ve made my photo journal, makes me feel like they are with me.  They thank me but really, I should be thanking them.  The support and love they have all showered upon me has been a huge driving force and I don’t think I could ever thank them enough.  Sharing myself, my experiences, my stories and my lessons through my writing and my photography is the best way I know how to show them my gratitude.  I’m here for me with the full awareness that all I do for myself is only what I would love to share with everyone else.

A: India is a beautiful place. How does your life influence your photography ?

J:  My entire life, up until 2010 had been so calculated, meticulously planned and organized.  When I decided to make a change, I threw all that away and the personal transitions I’ve experienced through yoga have shifted me to enjoy the present, not brood in the past or day dream about an unknown future.  I’m no longer looking for the top of the ladder, I’m just enjoying my present stair and with each photo I take I want to capture the essence of what I’m experiencing, right then!  I toyed with the idea of having consistency to the feel of the photos I take but when I tried that, it just didn’t work.  The only consistency there is in my life is that there is no consistency, which is true in all our lives.  I want my photos to epitomize that reality and to be as true to what either I’m feeling or the environment is feeling.  Visiting foreign lands, specifically 3rd world and developing countries, ignited my passion for photography because I saw so much unique beauty in the faces, architecture and landscape, a beauty that wasn’t necessarily produced meticulously or manufactured specifically to be beautiful.  Often times I’m in places where most in the Western would view them as destitute, disgusting or ugly but finding the beauty among all the filth, the rubble, garbage, dirt, grime and poverty is where I find the magic in life.

A: One last question. Is it all worth it? Leaving everything behind, striking out on your own, and finding a new place you can call home?

J:  Nothing in the world would make me want things to happen any differently than they did.  I studied for a very short time with this bizarre-o tantra yoga teacher and while he said a lot of crazy stuff like, I should drink my own menstrual blood (ummm EWWWW!), he did say something that struck me. “Before you meet a girl, be happy.  Meet a girl and be happy.  If the girl goes away, still be happy.”   I was so happy before I met this woman, was just as happy when we met and became good friends, was just as happy, ok, maybe a lot more, when we started dating but after it didn’t work I was a complete mess.  Something was wrong with that picture and I knew it.  Everything changes, everything goes away, relationships change, people leave or they die, jobs come and go, houses are built and destroyed, cars go vroom and then go kaput (or BOOM as was the case with mine) but through it all, the ups and the downs, the highs and the lows, we should still be… happy.  This whole journey isn’t necessarily embracing my independence from others or from things because I still learn so much about myself through the relationships, of varying degrees, I have with everything, from people to my towel.  I am just learning to be completely happy with the relationship I have with myself and that’s more important than any relationship I’ll ever have with anyone or anything else.  I’ve never felt so grounded and for the first time in my life, I can’t attribute my happiness to anything in particular and it feels amazing!  So, I think it’s worth it…if I didn’t, I’d probably be doing something else.

Thank you Jessica for sharing your heart and your home with me. I am so excited to be able to travel with you through your words and photos.

To read Jessica’s travel blog go here.

To see Jessica’s photos go here. 

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Anna Cox