Shanti greetings going out to everyone once again.

Many people have been asking where the hell I’ve been the past few months. Yes, I’m alive and well, and no, I havn’t been living in a cave in the Himalayas (although I think that would have been time well spent). I have slipped back into Australia quietly and have been slowly touching base with my circle of friends and re-establishing myself into Aussie society again.
Many of you who I have already caught up with keep asking for a final journal, one that kind of rounds up my journey, the changes that it has made to me as a person and the effects that it has had on my life back home.

Paul at home on his favorite couch doing what he loves….reading.

My last few weeks in India were interesting to say the least. I was just easing into some serious Yoga training in Rishikesh when I was struck down with the worst case of food poisoning my body has ever encountered. Who knows where I picked that up but it kept me bedridden for a couple of days and depleted of energy for many days after. No real problem, because there was plenty to still see and do in Rishikesh besides Yoga, but it did keep me from getting down to Agra and visiting the Taj Mahal. I wanted that to be one of the final experiences of my Indian journey, but missing out just gives me an excuse to go back someday, right.


Leaving Delhi for a 2-night stopover in Bangkok was an amazing experience. Going from the cramped, rubbish strewn, lawless roads of India and arriving early morning to the incredibly modern airport in Bangkok, I was fascinated with the cleanliness and space of the Thai roadways and the politeness of their drivers. And, yes, I am talking about Bangkok, that thriving metropolis of hedonistic delights. It just seemed so much more developed and easier than the Indian cities. Imagine the culture shock when I touched down in Melbourne – so much opportunity and personal space to be found here, if nothing else I will always take that perspective from my trip. We really do have it good in this country.

So, now back in Australia. Back in a landscape that was parched and undertaking a slow death by dehydration when I left it back in April.
I remember all too well the week I spent on my families rural property before my departure. The dusty and scorched paddocks and the hungry cries of the livestock that had eaten virtually every blade of grass to within millimeters. Most afternoons I spent climbing trees and reluctantly hacking down the leafy branches in the hope of sustaining the cattle a little longer and quietening their hungry voices for a short while.
And now, with the drought having almost broken over the winter months of my absence, I have returned to soft sunshine, green pastures, spring flowers and a landscape of renewed vitality. I just wish we could have a solid couple of months of the kind of monsoon rain like I experienced in northern India. That would really sort out our water concerns.

Fishing in a fast stream, another unforgettable experience

My first week back in Oz I spent with my parents. While travelling over the other side of the world, I actually felt closer to my family than I have in many years. They were my main connection with home, and I really appreciated their regular contact. In Kashmir I was fortunate enough to stay with a local muslim family who were very loving and dedicated to each other. One evening I spent on their houseboat on Dal Lake conversing with the father, a sufi philosopher and deeply religious man. He spoke about the virtues of a closely bonded family and over the course of the evening I was to change many of my attitudes toward life and relationships. In fact, his words of wisdom and many wonderful quotes from the Koran made me reassess my outlook on some day having my own family and children. Kids always used to seem like such a hindrance to the better things in life, now I actually look forward to a future raising my own. Anyone who knows me well enough would be stunned by reading such a revelation coming from me. Travelling and touching other cultures and structures of belief really does make those sort of enormous changes to a person.

Further changes have come from my exploration of other religious faiths and the important lessons I have taken from them.

Already I have mentioned the lessons of family love from my Sufi Muslim friends. It was an honour to watch their devotion to Allah expressed in music and songs of prayer.
Hinduism taught me that life is a celebration that is filled with colour and vitality.
Buddhism was the closest faith I could identify with. It teaches not to seek happiness from an external source. Happiness is an internal process that can be attained through following consistent meditation practice such as Vipassana. The defining mantra of the Buddhist people is ‘Om Mani Padme Hung’, which translates as ‘Wisdom and compassion are inherently within us all’. It’s a belief that gives me much hope in the future of our world.

 

Yet, after spending valuable time within the Buddhist, Muslim and Hindu communities of India, I found that I was still unable to embrace a structured religion. Never being one for elaborate shrines or ceremonies, I always felt most at peace within myself when I was outdoors in the mountains, the forests and the isolated river banks. I particularly connected with a quote from the guru Krishnamurti – ‘When one loses the deep, intimate, relationship with nature then temples, mosques and churches become important.’ I believe it explains a lot about our human condition and what we have lost as we continue to industrialise and urbanise.

When one loses the deep,intimate relationship with nature then temples, mosques and churches become important


 

With that in mind, coming back to the raw and elemental beauty of the rural area where my family have their property truly took my breath away – I was seeing it with fresh vision, my eyes taking it in as if for the very first time. For far too long I had taken it for granted and now I find myself setting a goal to relocate there in the not too distant future. In fact, I almost didn’t return to Melbourne, such was the draw of the countrysides energy and the promise of a quiet, slower-paced lifestyle. Yet, the quiet life may allude me for a while longer, firstly I wish to return to study and the immediate supporting income that the city can provide. Regular visits to the countryside and hugging a few of the local trees will just have to suffice.

Winter at home in Australia

 


Over my lifetime I have collected much knowledge of the human condition and the skills to balance mind, body and spirit. Continuing study is a worthy investment in my eyes and I believe that will be my path over the next few years. I also have my eye on my parents farm when they decide to sell in the coming years. Between all this studying and saving, any dreams of further travel will need to be shelved. But then, the universe always has a way of course correcting, and if I’m meant to pack up my life and go again then I’m sure the resources I will need will surely fall my way. You just have to believe…

Love, light and happiness going out to all,

Paul

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Hi Mum and Dad,

Hope you are well.
I have just been through the worst case of food poisoning in my life. 48 hours of being curled up on my bed, battling a nasty fever and trying to rehydrate my body whenever I could hold any fluid down. Some friends from my guest house have been a big help, getting me medication and checking on me. The owners of the guest house have been looking after me too, with soups and light meals. In fact, if I was to have gotten sick anywhere during my time in India I would have chosen here. A travel hazard with a good ending.
I am up and about again today, although still weakened by the experience, and may continue to rest for another couple of days before I travel to Delhi. It may mean that I won’t have the time left to visit Agra and the Taj Mahal, but sometimes you have to accept that it’s the way it was meant to be. Health comes first!

Love to all back home,

Paul