“An obstacle course for the body and for the soul”, I think to myself as I go back to that place. In my memory, the wind has picked up in the early twilight, kicking around rusty sand and pebbles. While hard to find on a map, these arid grounds have welcomed pious visitors for centuries. Even more have come here in absentia—not with their boots, but with their minds, their remembrances, their longings to take shelter in the space where the holy meets the profane. Gazing at at the setting sun, I remember…
My anguish, an illness deep and engulfing. My life as a cosmic infection. I chanted a warped mantra: I am evil. I am vile. I must be stopped. I was a black hole that consumed light and gave nothing back. I believed that I didn’t deserve redemption. The anguish of one perilous midnight broke like a fever into a realization: I needed to put my fractured soul back together.
I packed my bags.
My recovery, an insurmountable path. I had whispered in a shaman’s ear that I wanted to be whole. Her eyes saw through me as I sat eagerly, ready for her healing. I heard nothing of the hammering drum circling my ears, and felt nothing of the wet drops of medicine spat down my back. Wisps of emotion welled within me, building and growing, substantiating into another harrowing thought: no one could help me become whole. The drum stopped. My teary eyes met hers. I was hopeless. Sain yavaarai, she uttered as I left her. Again, I packed my bags.
My rebirth, a rekindling. The bright and hot hours before sunset saw me hiking through sacred caves and performing rites at adorned altars. Perched atop a cliff was a large boulder. The stone’s uneven base formed a narrow portal—a point of transition, and a fabled site of spiritual rebirth. I slid and shimmied under the belly of the rock, cluttered thoughts jamming my senses and my body. Stuck with the weight of my maladies, I was incapable of passing through. The sun was hot and inscrutable. I strained to lift my eyes. The light shone through the open crevice like a cosmic guide. It spoke: You are not vile. You are not hopeless. Shed your doubts and come! A realization, or a feeling: we are brought into this world only once. All other times, we must find the light of redemption on our own. I wanted—needed—something better. So, I cleared my mind. I took a breath. I took a moment. I took nothing else.
In my new life, I pack light.
Sain yavaarai. Go with joy.