Ah, what a trip! While India is a country full of bucket list travel/tourist destinations, time spent in the sparsely populated mountain villages north of Delhi had a huge impact on me. Our guide and wonderful friend Mukesh took us to places in and around the Chopta Valley that are not found on any tour bus itinerary, and I am so grateful for the experience. Everywhere we went we were greeted with smiles from kind souls. Eight days in the mountains without WI-fi was a mental reset that I welcomed, as well as a lesson in living mindfully. Meeting villagers and farmers who live happily without smart phones, TV and all of the things we depend on for entertainment and happiness was eye-opening. While some travelers might feel sorry for people who live without the these luxury items, I often found myself jealous. Everyone we met had what they needed for a happy life- safe shelter, clean drinking water and good food. Somewhere along the lines we as a society were sold the idea that we needed much more than this to be happy. But are we happy? Being stressed out and distracted seems more common than true contentment lately.
When I guide students through a yoga class I encourage a mindful practice, where the focus is on here and the now. What I found on this trip was that village life is a mindful life. Although we visited some homes with electricity and some without, most villagers still owned cell phones, real cell PHONES- not mini pocket sized computers. This meant they could keep in touch with anyone or call for help in an emergency, but phones were not their number one priority. What were the priorities? Hands on work (hard work!) that needed daily upkeep. Plowing wheat and barley fields and gathering the harvest, milking the family buffalo to make buttermilk and butter and cooking meals from scratch (sometimes on an open fire). Some children hiked long distances to get to school. Everything they did had purpose, and to me it was a beautiful life. It made me wonder if everything we have in our lives to make it easier actually detracts from our happiness levels.
Watching the villagers made me reflect on the pace of life at home. Technology has developed at a whirlwind pace in my lifetime. It has added an insane amount of value and I LOVE being able to look up a recipe, fact or person within seconds. However, if left unchecked, we can easily live our lives in a mode of constant distraction, missing the simple beautiful moments that take place everyday. We check our phones within minutes of waking, we bring them into the bathroom to keep ourselves entertained (admit it, you've done it). We take ourselves out of the present moment in order to capture it for our social media feeds. I'm not saying anything here that hasn't been said before - nor do I suggest that we throw away our access to Internet/technology. What we need to do is be intentional with our use of it so that it doesn't consume us. How? See below for some ideas inspired by my recent culture trip.