“Use your words,” I whisper to myself, approaching the Varanasi Chai wala (vender). Pushing up the social courage to walk on my nubby toddler legs, I take several tentative steps to move forward with my new Hindi tongue. Six months now in India and while the progress is certainly measurable, it is still only in fractions of inch.
I can think back to a time when, in my naivety, I would exclaim, “You lived in X country for a year? Wow, you must be fluent!” It has only been recently that I have been struck by a notion that I’m sure is generally recognized — we don’t truly learn anything by simple association. It takes work. And as anyone who has attempted to dive deeply into any endeavor, be it an art, music, or trade knows, lots of it.
It has been said that showing up is half the battle, and maybe it’s true that when in a prime setting where we can absorb or advance, we’re bound to do just that. However, my first months in India, I showed up every day and — nothing. So what wins the battle and does there have to be one?
Tossing this conundrum into the Amysphere, the great cosmic powers ping-ed, pong-ed and swirled the riddle, showering a celestial sequence for personal victory upon me:
Fire + Face plant + Grind = :)
“You have to have a lot ofpassion for what you do... because if you don't, any rational person would give up." ~ Steve Jobs
I admire the profundity of this quote and yet it begets another consideration. What then, ignites the fire of passion?
And then I see her — Yanchin, my host mother from Ladakh last summer who spoke only Ladakhi. Upon arrival, this old language came painfully slow for me. That was, until I met Yanchin. Upon meeting her, I knew that I wanted to know this woman. She would bravely act out what she desperately wanted me to understand about her life, struggles and joys. It was in these moments that I felt a spark and was fueled to work tirelessly to bridge the gap.
I have come to understand this as relevance — what does the endeavor mean to me and possibly to someonebeyond me? It is this fire that continues to burn in the land of Hindi where up until now, I’ve been getting by on a diet of smiles and head bobbles (I’m also working on a good head bobble).
Glowing with the flames of inspiration, why then am I not yet communing effortlessly with Mother India and her captivating children?
I’ve discovered that whether it be progressing through a yoga posture, working a foreign language, or stepping into a new adventure altogether, the willingness to give it a go, take the continued risk and possibly face plant, is a non-negotiable in navigating to the other side.I’m not saying that all personal development requires a face plant, but if we aren’t prepared to step through the doorway of ideas and into action, our growth will be stunted.
For the sequence to be complete (yes, remember the sequence), it’s time to move, crunch, and grind.
It is only through repeated working and training of our everyday muscles that our skill, confidence, and neural know-how can meld and solidify our new pathways to impending mastery. One of my very wise yoga instructors once asked us in class, “How hard of a class do you want today? On a scale of 1-10, how hard do you want to work?” Assorted answers sprang across the room. 7! 10! 2! 5. A pause. “You choose,” she said. “Every day you choose how much you are going to give to your practice, your job, your family...” Brilliant. I always remembered that and yes, it ‘s like that.
Don’t underestimate the power of a professional.
Any learned skill is riddled with intricacies and much like our physical world, the closer we get, the more details we see. While once priding myself on embodying the do-it-yourself credo, I am now embracing the sages that walk among us. Whether it be a yoga instructor adjusting my alignment with the precision of a master or my Hindi coach sharing wily methods for remembering linguistic mysteries, the unwritten wisdoms passed from experienced teacher to budding student are priceless.
My final days in Ladakh last summer with Yanchin and her family were precious, as if there were a whispering in the air of our imminent parting to come. With my eventual grasping of the Ladakhi language, I was able to finally understand in words what my host mother had said to me so many times with her eyes and expressive gestures; “You are lucky.”
She explained that because of an accident during her infancy, she was rendered mostly deaf and therefore was not sent to school. Yanchin was illiterate. Not being able to read or write in her own language, let alone grasp another, she conceded that she was limited in the possibilities existing for her in the world outside of her home. She said that I was lucky because I could learn.
~ by Amy King