Monday, February 13, 2017

I Found God In India

About two months ago I received a phone call from Ron Davis, Father of the late Jordan Davis whom I never met but feel so close to through activism. He said "Hey I see you are no longer working do you want to take a pilgrimage to India." I said yeah send me the details. Keep in mind I had recently been terminated from my job of six years and was in the midst of redefining my life. I didn't even know what this trip was about but I knew I needed to go. After many emails I was able to skype with the trip facilitator. His name is Mandar Apte' a former petroleum engineer for Shell Oil Company. He quit his job to reinvigorate non violence in America. He figured the best way to do so was to gather people who have been affected by violence, those that work in communities with violence and city leaders from across the world. My delegation included a Prime Minister, an Omsbudsmen, a former gang member, two health equity consultants, a father that lost his son to gun violence, two police officers, a film maker, a mayor and myself "The Hope Dealer". When we first arrived in New Delhi it was "Western" to say the least we were in a five star hotel with a hot shower and a comfortable bed. We went in the city and passed some underdeveloped communities but they could be stomached although sad it wasn't overwhelming. The Delhi air however was thick with smog and polluted. On Day two of our pilgrimage we viewed the documentary From India with Love that Mandar directed which detailed the first delegation from the United States to India. In this delegation was a mother of one of the Sandy Hook elementary victims Jessie. He was six years old when he was gunned down in his first grade classroom. One thing that stuck out the most for me was the statement "If Sandy Hook was not enough to change gun control in America then nothing will!!!" In that moment I knew she was right. We focus so much on the issues in society but not the people with the issues and what caused them!!! I was told on this journey we would meditate daily and learn breathing techniques that would help us with our emotions and rid us of negative thinking and negative behaviors and rather than reacting we would learn to respond. For years my friend Yolanda has attempted to get me to meditate and I declined. Had I tried it I think some of my life's happenings would have had better outcomes. I am sure by now you are wondering what the hell does meditation have to do with violence in America? Well let's imagine if everyone in the world was self aware, that even in the worst circumstances we could all just breathe. That rather allowing people and things anger us we stop and take breaths and go into silence and respond. What if everyone thought positively instead of negatively? What if we truly love our neighbors as we love ourselves? Perhaps we could then begin to see less violence in our communities because we would see others as we see ourselves. In 1959 Dr. King traveled to India to follow in Mahatma Gandhi's steps, he stayed for five weeks. This was shortly after the Montgomery Bus Boycott ended which lasted over one year. He used Gandhi's non violent techniques and well you know the rest is history. On day three of our pilgrimage we arrived late evening to Parmath Niketan an ashram where thousands travel to on spiritual journeys. When my roommate and I entered room #363 we were met with surprise. There were three beds made of wooden tables and a thin mat with thin coverings. There was no central heat or A/C, hot water, television, phone or internet. It was just us, our fears and God! We literally cried and complained all night! I am not proud of my reaction just being honest in my writings to you. It was freezing and honestly we refused to lay under the covers so we layered on our clothes and finally fell asleep from exhaustion! We complained so much that Ron decided he was going to get us a hotel room. The next day I began to reflect on the hundreds of barefoot children we passed in route to the ashram, the women and men doing hard labor simply to live and how they bowed their heads to greet us with a smile. Almost immediately I became disgusted with myself and Lakesha and I decided we could not leave the ashram. Surely God did not bring us this far to get a comfy hotel. You see you can't appreciate a room with a ceiling to keep out the cold air until you have slept a night in a room without one. Everyday we met and learned to meditate taking deep victory breaths in and out for an hour and shared our experiences. Ron opened up and shared that he had not forgiven the man that robbed him of Jordan and we all became emotional. Mayor Brede opened up and shared about his wife Judy that they'd been together for fifty five years and she was now in a nursing home with dementia. This ten day trip was the longest they had ever been apart from one another. He runs the city of Rochester, Minneapolis and wakes up every morning to have breakfast with his beloved Judy at the nursing home. He spoke so highly of Judy that I want to meet her. This was a pure, genuine display of love and we all felt closer to him because of it. For me this journey has been transforming. I flew for twenty four hours alone to another country. I faced many of my fears, traveling alone being one and walking past dogs being the other! (I have a serious dog phobia) When we walked down the streets of Rishikesh it was four or five dogs for every foot I walked or at least that's what it seemed. It came to a point where I couldn't run, I couldn't scream or panic I just had to walk past them. I gave Indian food a try which is big for me because I am a chicken tender kind of girl and I gave this breathing thing a shot. Many people see me on social media and I appear polished and professional and for the most part I am but I am also a mess inside. I get easily agitated, I am disorganized, I am always late and yes I get angry but now after experiencing God through people I won't be perfect but this journey has put things in perspective for me. I met people who have NOTHING but peace and they found that peace through God! Not from a house, a car, a man or woman but through God! They found God through loving themselves, serving others and removing themselves from the world as we know it. I learned this world will have you chasing a fasaad of happiness through people and things! When in reality none of those things really matter. God sees us for our hearts and that's where he resides. Our degrees don't matter or any of the things we seek fulfillment in yet how we love ourselves and others by making the world a better place! I plan on making a paramount difference in Jacksonville, Florida through love and service! Now that I think about it I didn't find God in India, India found God in me!!!!! In turn I am bringing my journey to you and hopefully you can join me on this journey as well. Namaste' THE HOPE DEALER